An Introduction to Buddhism
by Chogye Trichen Rinpoche
Barcelona May 18, 2000
I would like to speak a bit about the importance of cultivating positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion, and how this will promote well being, not only in ourselves, but also in the greater world we all share.
[A Buddhist Aeon]
In order to put the Buddhist tradition into context and understand how a fully enlightened one appears in this world, it is important to know about kalpas, the aeons or cycles of time. Within a given cycle of time, there is always the formation of a physical environment of the 'outer elements', and this environment will be inhabited by sentient beings such as ourselves. A kalpa time cycle is divided according to three phases: First, there is the process of coming into being or 'creation'; next, the time span during which the environment and beings abide; and finally, the phase of cessation, where that cosmos and the beings within it disappear. A kalpa or aeon in which a fully enlightened one appears is called an aeon of light, or 'fortunate' aeon. It is fortunate because a fully enlightened one appears in the world and bestows the light of spiritual intelligence upon the beings there. In contrast, there are the dark aeons, those cycles of creation in which no enlightened being will appear. It is also said that the dark aeons are more numerous than the aeons of light.
[A Fortunate Aeon]
The particular cycle in which we now live is of a very special type, known as a 'fortunate' aeon. At the beginning of this fortunate aeon, there was a Chakravartin, a universal monarch of great power known as Tsibkyi Mugyu, or Arenemi. As ruler at an early stage in the formation of that aeon, King Arenemi enjoyed a reign of great prosperity, harmony, and well-being. This was true not only for the realm of the gods, but also for the human worlds. Although officially King Arenemi may not have had many queens, still it is said that as a great universal regent, he had thousands of queens. We are also told that these queens bore him more than one thousand princes. Due to his vast merit, merely by gesturing to one of these women and calling her his queen, she was able to bear him a son. King Arenemi gave rise to the wish that each of his sons could share among themselves the rulership of his kingdom.
In those times, there lived a Buddha, the historical Buddha of that era, just as the historical Buddha of our era is Shakyamuni. These are fully enlightened Buddhas who display the twelve great deeds of an enlightened one. The Buddha of that era was known as Mahavairochana. The king approached Buddha Mahavairochana, saying that he had fathered more than one thousand sons, and asking how he might bless each son to enjoy a worthy and meaningful reign as king. The king asked if he might offer the services of these princes to Buddha Mahavairochana, in order that his sons might bear even greater fruits of virtue. The Buddha accepted King Arenemi's request, taking the princes as his disciples. The king offered his sons to the Buddha with great aspirations, wondering in his heart when they would become equal to the Buddha himself. He asked Mahavairochana, 'When will they be like you?' The Buddha reassured the king that all of the princes, as his disciples, would one day certainly become fully enlightened ones. Over the progression of the cycles of time, it is said that an aeon of light is generally followed by a dark aeon. This particular aeon in which we dwell is known as a Bhadrakalpa, an 'extremely auspicious aeon'. At the beginning of the formation of this aeon, it is said that in the middle of the universal ocean there blossomed a one thousand petalled golden lotus flower. This wondrous lotus sprung up with such force that it reached to the heights of the realms of the gods or devas. The appearance of the golden lotus caused the gods to exclaim, "What a wonder it is to witness the blooming of the thousand petalled golden lotus! It is an auspicious omen, signifying the coming of one thousand Buddhas in this aeon." Thus the blossoming of the lotus foretold the birth of the thousand princes destined to Buddhahood.
Delighted by Mahavairochana's prediction, the king further wondered in what order his sons would become enlightened. He requested the Buddha to reveal this to him. Mahavairochana ordered that the name of each prince be written out, and the names were gathered in a cloth and placed in a vase. Then the Buddha drew names, one by one, unfolding the sequence in which each of the princes would reach Buddhahood. The first name selected, the one who would become the first Buddha of our fortunate aeon, was the one we know as Buddha Krakuchandra. The second name drawn was the one who became Buddha Kanakamuni, the second Buddha of our kalpa. The third name drawn was the prince who would be born as the Buddha Kashyapa, the third Buddha of our fortunate aeon. The fourth was the name of the individual who was to become the enlightened one of our present era, Buddha Shakyamuni. Hence Shakyamuni is known as the fourth great emancipator or liberating one. The fifth name drawn was of the one to appear as our next Buddha, Lord Maitreya. The sixth will come as Buddha Simhanada. In this way the names of each of the more than one thousand princes was drawn. It further prophesied by the Buddha that the prince whose name was drawn last, upon taking birth as the final Buddha of this fortunate aeon, was to be an extraordinary enlightened one. This Buddha would embody all the realization, qualities, and activities of all the previous Buddhas united within himself. Our present era is that of the fourth prince, known to us as Buddha Shakyamuni.
[The Coming of the Buddha of this Age]
Prior to Shakyamuni's descent into our world, he reigned in the realm of the gods known as Tushita. Whoever ruled in the Tushita heaven assumed the name of Svetakirti, and so this was Shakyamuni's name as he dwelt there. While reigning in the Tushita heaven, Svetakirti received many requests from gods as well as humans, beseeching him that he might appear in our world and manifest the twelve deeds of a supremely enlightened one. In response, he made five careful and specific observations regarding the circumstances of his future birth. These included the place in our world in which he would be born, at what time and date, as well as whose child he would be, and so forth. From these five careful observations, Svetakirti determined that he would appear in this world as a prince, the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi in the kingdom of Kapilavastu. The remains of Kapilavastu are found in southern Nepal, not far from the border with India.
Just to the east of Kapilavastu there was in those ancient times a small kingdom whose capital was known as Devadaha. The two kingdoms enjoyed prosperous matrimonial bonds, with frequent marriages occurring between them. In those days, the woman who was to be the grandmother of Shakyamuni Buddha, whose name was Lumbini, dwelt in Devadaha. While Lumbini, a queen, was dwelling in the capitol city of Devadaha, she used to visit a very beautiful garden nearby, which was owned by a wealthy family. As she went there frequently, she grew to wish that she be given the garden as her own. Her husband, the king, told her, "Although I may be the lord of this land, it would not be right for me to claim someone else's garden for you. Still, if you so wish, I shall build for you just such a garden." And so it was that the king built a most unique and splendid garden in the countryside between the two cities. He named the garden in honor of his queen, and that place is known to this day as Lumbini. Queen Lumbini became the mother of two beautiful princesses. As was the custom in those times, she consulted the astrologers and soothsayers, so that she might know what future best suited her daughters the princesses. The seers unanimously predicted that both girls had the great merit to marry either a powerful ruler, or to become the mother of a mighty being who would become a supreme enlightened one. In the light of these predictions, her husband Suprabuddha, the king of Devadaha, wished to form a bond of marriage with the king of Kapilavastu, a man of great fame and reputation. As it happened, the king of Kapilavastu harbored a similar wish. Thus Queen Lumbini of Devadaha's eldest daughter, Mayadevi, was chosen to marry Shuddodhana, the prince of Kapilavastu. The marriage between Mayadevi and Shuddhodana was a grand celebration.
[Birth of Shakyamuni]
In due course, the future Buddha Shakyamuni entered into this world. It is said that Queen Mayadevi conceived her son on the full moon night of the sixth lunar month in the earth sheep year. Then, in the fourth lunar month of the following year, the year of the iron monkey, on the seventh day of the month, she gave birth to a son. The normal period of growth in the womb is nine months, yet it is said that she carried her child for almost ten months. This is the account of the gestation and birth of the Buddha as it is given in the traditional histories. After Mayadevi found herself with child, she remained for the most part in confinement away from the social activities of the royal court. But, as the time to give birth grew near, she wished to withdraw to somewhere more peaceful. When asked what place she would find more pleasing, Mayadevi proposed a visit to her mother's garden park, Lumbini, to relax and take rest. As she strolled in the Lumbini grove, the time for Buddha's birth came suddenly upon her. Just as Queen Mayadevi reached out to grasp the branch of a plaksha tree, the Buddha miraculously issued forth from her. Causing Mayadevi neither pain nor injury, Buddha was born from under her right arm. The legends of Buddha's birth tell us that from the day he entered Mayadevi's womb, all the devas and gods from the golden celestial realms watched over and protected him. It is even said that Buddha emerged from the ribs of Mayadevi's right side in the form of shimmering, scintillating golden light. Thus his appearance in this world was not by means of an ordinary birth, but was accompanied by miraculous events. We are also told how, immediately upon emerging from Queen Mayadevi, the Buddha walked seven steps in each of the four directions. Taking those steps, Buddha uttered four profound statements. The translations of these four statement is wonderful in the Tibetan language, where they reflect a play on the words for east, south, west, and north. As the Buddha took his first steps, to the eastern direction, he said, 'From here I arrive to attain nirvana, enlightenment.' The word for east in Tibetan also means 'to arrive'. Stepping to the south, the Buddha said, 'I will be in harmony with worldly understanding.' As he moved to the west, the direction of the setting sun, he said, ' This is my final birth.' And, with seven steps to the north, Buddha said, 'I have purified all my deeds in samsara, worldly existence...' playing on the word for north which also means 'purify'. Naturally, a child born in the ordinary way would never be able to walk and speak with such eloquence and dignity. Yet at his birth the Buddha strode forth in each of the four directions, heralding the event of his birth to all the world as he fearlessly proclaimed, 'I am unexcelled by anyone ever to appear in this world.' The child was raised as prince Siddhartha, and all people held great hopes for him as the future leader of the Shakya clan.
When his time of maturity had come, two fair princesses were proposed who might serve as his future queens. They were called Yasodhara and Gopaka. Both princesses belonged to highly respected and wealthy families, and there were many princes in the surrounding kingdoms who eagerly sought their hands in marriage. And so a competition was arranged, and all their suitors had to display their skills and sportsmanship, in hopes of winning such widely coveted brides. Prince Siddhartha defeated every rival and had the honor of claiming both princesses as his Queens. In this way, Siddhartha prepared to succeed his father as ruler of the kingdom of the Shakyas. Having married, Siddhartha reigned as prince of the Shakya kingdom. One day, he went on his first excursion outside of the palace and into the city of Kapilavastu. On this journey, the prince witnessed four events which would change him forever. These events brought Siddhartha face to face for the first time with human suffering, from which he had so far been carefully shielded by his father the king. Having never in his life seen such conditions, Siddhartha immediately understood that all living beings are subject to these inevitable sufferings of illness, old age, and death. As the full force of this understanding struck his mind, Siddhartha wondered how any one could pretend that all was fine in the world and carry on as if such suffering did not exist! This experience quickly caused Prince Siddhartha to give rise to a powerful sense of renunciation, and it forced him to recognize the futile nature of this world. All the activities of this life were ultimately meaningless, since all who inhabit this world must one day experience the same pains and pass away, leaving the experiences of this world to fade away like a dream. Having come to this realization, Siddhartha resolved to leave the palace life and wander in search of the truth. He sought to extract from life its essential meaning.
[Leaving the Palace]
The young prince had a faithful attendant known as Chanda, and he had a most excellent horse known as Kanthaka. Siddhartha summoned his attendant and ordered him to prepare his mount. Bidding his wife and infant son farewell as they lay asleep, he stole from the palace in secrecy, under cover of night, lest his subjects learn of his departure. Prince Siddhartha ordered his attendant to grasp the tail of his horse Kanthaka, who then miraculously bound over the walls of the palace compound and into the city. It is said that the four great guardian deities of the directions offered their service to Siddhartha, each lifting one hoof of the horse and spiriting them off through the air, until at last they brought them to the place known as Vishuddha stupa, the 'stupa of great purity.' It was there that the prince formally abandoned the life of a householder and adopted the life of a total renunciate. Seizing a blade, he cut off the length of his hair, as a sign that he had parted from all attachment to this world. Siddhartha discarded his princely garb, his gown and ornaments. It is said that hosts of gods and devas magically appeared all about him, offering him the robes of a spiritual mendicant. Donning these garments bestowed upon him by the gods themselves, he declared, 'I have renounced worldly life in order to seek the path to enlightenment.'
Now Siddhartha pondered carefully the nature of the path he sought. He understood that all the Buddhas of the past had reached enlightenment through ascetic practice. He knew with certainty that there was no way for him but to follow the same path. Siddhartha resolved to practice the ascetic way, making a solemn vow of fasting, and abstained from all food for six years. He further determined to remain motionless in meditation, and so it was that he sat continuously for six years without moving. This period of Siddhartha Gautama's life has come to be known as the six years of asceticism, of unbroken, solitary meditation practice. This is how penances led him to the threshold of enlightenment, on the banks of the river Niranjana. During these six years of fasting, Siddhartha also kept a vow of noble silence. He did not speak to anyone, but remained absorbed in the silence of meditation. Once, as he sat motionless and speechless, some local cowherds came upon him, and wondered if he were a human being or a statue. They went so far as to poke burning irons into his ears, but Siddhartha showed not the slightest reaction. In this way he demonstrated the greatest determination to succeed in his meditation and austerities.
Now Siddhartha Gautama's mother had passed away seven days after giving birth to him, and she was reborn in the land of the gods known as the 'realm of the thirty-three.' As a deva of this realm, she possessed some limited clairvoyance, and was able to see that her son from her previous life, Gautama, was undergoing great hardships. As this goddess, the former Mayadevi, wept for Siddhartha, her tears fell miraculously from the celestial world, forming a small pool in front of the meditating Buddha. In response to this, the great meditator Gautama broke his silence, just one week before he was to attain enlightenment. He spoke out reassuringly to his mother, saying, 'Although I have gone through these ascetic practices of unimaginable difficulty, yet I still have not reached my goal. I have only one week before I will gain enlightenment. Then I will repay your kindness, and will come to teach you in the near future.' In this way, his mother was the first person for whom Gautama broke his vow of silence, just prior to attaining enlightenment. Completing his six years of meditation, Siddhartha arose from that place, setting out on foot for what would come to be known as Bodhgaya, the diamond seat. Thus he came to arrive before the great Bodhi tree there. He knew that this was indeed the very place where all the past Buddhas, such as Krakuchandra, Kanakamuni, and Kasyapa, had attained enlightenment, on the very seat he himself now approached. In deepest reverence, Gautama bowed before the vajra seat and then took his place upon it, leaning his back against the Bodhi tree. Upon that very throne of enlightenment of the Buddhas of the past, Siddhartha repeated the greatest act of all of history, achieving complete enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya. Gautama had spent six years meditating on the banks of the Niranjana, and had come to the diamond seat of Bodhgaya to finish his meditation training. He entered again into seated meditation at dusk of the full moon night. Terrifying hosts of mara-devils and evil beings swarmed about him in a jealous frenzy. They threatened him with fearsome apparitions, brandishing terrible weapons and hurling them at him in rage and envy. These demons had great power and were able to destroy whatever they set themselves upon. Yet due to the invincible power of meditation, compassion, and loving kindness emanating from Siddhartha, they could not defeat him. Now only hours from gaining enlightenment, in a meditation of unassailable stability, he transformed all that was flung at him into celestial flowers. He suffered not the slightest harm. Thus conquering and subduing all the mara-devils during the period of dusk on that night, then continuing on through the middle watch of the night he remained in the deep samadhi of meditation. Finally, at the early dawn which followed that full moon night, he gained complete and perfect enlightenment, samyak sambuddha. Having attained enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama, now the Buddha, entered into the most sublime and indescribable state of bliss and emptiness which is the enlightened state. In this profound condition he gave rise to a great wish, thinking, 'How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings could share in this realization which is now my own.'
[Request to Teach]
Buddha wished that it were possible to share his discovery with every being, yet he realized that sentient beings were far too deeply immersed in ignorance to join him there. And so he spoke to himself these famous words: "I have found a Dharma which is like nectar; it is noncomposite clear light, profound and peaceful, and beyond conceptual elaboration. Were I to explain it, others would not understand, and so I shall remain in the forest without speaking." Having said this to himself, he vowed to remain in silence for seven years. The Buddha dwelt in the state of contemplation, abstaining from any teaching role. Brahma, the great sovereign of the universe, and Indra, the lord of the gods and angels, knew that the great enlightened wisdom of a Buddha was now manifest in this world. Brahma appeared and offered to the Buddha a thousand-spoked golden wheel and Indra offered the most rare clockwise spiraling conch shell. These supremely auspicious tokens of veneration they offered to the Buddha, beseeching him to turn the wheel of Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. In response to this majestic supplication made by the lord of the universe, Brahma, and Indra, king of the gods, Buddha Shakyamuni consented to turn the wheel of the teachings. Over the course of the rest of his life, Buddha Shakyamuni set in motion what are known as the three great turnings of the wheel of Dharma, the wheel of the teachings.
[Turning the Wheel of Dharma]
The first turning of the wheel took place in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi. Buddha initiated the first turning with his central theme of the four noble truths. The collection of teachings of the first turning of the wheel of Dharma are known as the Theravada, or commonly held precepts. The Theravada teachings mainly focus on what are known as the four great seals of the Dharma. The four seals are:
The Buddha tells us that all compounded phenomena, everything that is composed of various elements and factors, is transient, impermanent; it does not last. Second, we are told that all phenomenal experience is of the nature of suffering. Third, the Buddha concludes that there is no self to be found in the phenomenal world. Fourth, the Buddha reveals that nirvana, liberation, is peace. These four teachings became the primary concerns of the first turning of the wheel of Dharma taught by Buddha Shakyamuni, set in motion in Varanasi.
From the second turning of the wheel of Dharma came the teachings belonging to the Mahayana or great vehicle. This turning was initiated in the Indian city of Rajgir, at a place known as the vulture peak, a hill said to resemble a flock of vultures. There the Buddha taught the Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom Sutras. These sutras are of varying lengths, such as the one hundred thousand verse sutra, the twenty thousand verse sutra, the eight thousand verse sutra, and so on. All of these teachings reveal the truth of emptiness, that all phenomena, everything that appears to be, actually lacks any inherent, true existence.
The third and final turning of the Wheel of Dharma focused on the subtle, definitive meaning of the Dharma. Though the Buddha expounded a myriad of teachings, he himself contemplated the effectiveness of each of these teachings. He pondered how people would interpret the teachings, and tailored his message to suit the minds of his listeners. In this way, there came to be what are known as the commonly understood teachings that follow the provisional meaning, and then also what are known as the teachings that reveal the definitive or ultimate meaning. In the third turning of the Dharma wheel, Buddha made the distinction between the ultimate meaning of the Dharma and the commonly held, interpretive meaning. These discourses were given in the ancient Indian town of Vaishali. Vaishali became famous in the sutras as the place where a monkey made offerings to the Buddha. The complete Dharma spoken by Lord Buddha is said to total eighty-four thousand teachings. These serve as direct remedies for the eighty-four thousand emotions or concepts with which sentient beings may be afflicted. Of these, Buddha taught that there are twenty-one thousand defilements all beings can experience which relate to greed, desire, and attachment. As an antidote for these obscurations, Buddha taught twenty-one thousand discourses on the Vinaya, the higher training of moral and ethical precepts for lay persons and ordained monks and nuns.
Buddha Shakyamuni further distinguished twenty-one thousand types of negativity associated with aversion, anger, and hatred. As a remedy for these afflicted states of mind, Buddha gave the twenty-one thousand teachings of the sutras. As the antidote for the defilements arising based on ignorance, Buddha taught the twenty-one thousand discourses on the Abhidharma. In addition, a further twenty-one thousand talks were given which discussed the defilements of attachment, aversion, and ignorance as they function in common with one another. In this way, Buddha gave direct remedies for all the eighty-four thousand defilements experienced by sentient beings. When considering the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma, one may wonder where and when the Buddhist Tantras were taught. The tantras are related to the third turning of the wheel of Dharma.
[Oddiyana & King Indrabhuti]
During the course of Buddha's life and activity, many of his disciples had reached various levels of realization. It is even said that whenever Buddha moved from one place to another, these disciples would fly in the sky, spreading their golden dharma robes like wings. In this way they might move from eastern India to the western regions, from south to north. In the western region of India was a kingdom known as Oddiyana. In Buddha's time, the King of Oddiyana was Indrabhuti, who was the same age as Buddha, having been born in the same year. One day, as the king and his ministers were enjoying the palace gardens, a vast flock of monks flew by in the sky above them. Indrabhuti asked the wise elders among his ministers, 'Who are they, and how can it be that they fly through the sky like birds?' A senior minister replied, "Your majesty, we dwell in western India. I have heard that in eastern India there is the kingdom of the Shakyas, out of which arose the miraculous display of a prince known as Siddhartha. He is said to have renounced his kingdom and become an enlightened one. These must be some of his disciples in the skies above." Astonished, King Indrabhuti exclaimed, "This is remarkable. How can it be? If even the disciples demonstrate such miracles, what a wonder the master himself must be! Might someone go and invite him to come to us?" The elder minister answered the king, "Your majesty, there is no need to physically travel there. If those possessed of great faith and devotion make fervent, heartfelt prayers, the Buddha will know and hear their prayers through his omniscient wisdom. If you wish, pray thus, and invite Buddha to come here and teach you." Hearing this, King Indrabhuti composed a famous verse of supplication, acknowledging the Buddha as the leader and guide of all sentient beings, and asking to be included within the Buddha's protective wheel of refuge. At this very time, Buddha Shakyamuni was residing in Rajgirha. He summoned various disciples, such as the Bodhisattvas Manjushri and Vajrapani, as well as the realized Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, all of whom had the ability to fly with him. The Buddha told them that on a coming full moon day he would go to the western kingdom of Oddiyana at the invitation of King Indrabhuti. Those who were able to fly were invited to accompany him there. In this way the Buddha and his disciples came to arrive at the palace of Indrabhuti, King of Oddiyana. Buddha reached Oddiyana with these disciples and an assembly of the guardian kings of the four directions, as well as Brahma, Indra, and many of the gods, such as had never been seen before. King Indrabhuti could not believe his eyes when he saw that even the great lords of the celestial realms moved in the entourage of the Buddha. The Buddha addressed King Indrabhuti, "For what purpose have you invited me here?" Indrabhuti replied, "You are a prince of eastern India, and I am a prince of western India. We are even of the same age, and yet you are such a sublime one. Please teach me how to become like you. This is my only request." Hearing the king's request, Buddha replied thus: "If you wish to attain the same state as I, then you must abandon all worldly attachments and all the pleasures of the senses. Without renouncing the qualities of sensual experience and practicing the ascetic way, without this kind of renunciation, it will not be possible to attain liberation." Now King Indrabhuti was an extremely astute and intelligent person. He knew that the profound depth of the Buddha's realization must include methods that would allow one to attain liberation without abandoning the qualities of the senses. The king responded, "Lord Buddha, I have been spoiled by living my whole life in such luxurious surroundings. At this stage of my life, how can I give up my queens and elegant lifestyle? Even if I must be born as a fox or a dog that feeds on excrement, I cannot abandon all attachment to sensory pleasures. Neither can I abandon the responsibilities of my kingdom. Please grant me a teaching that does not require me to do so." Hearing the king's genuine plea, Buddha replied that he did indeed possess such a teaching. The Buddha consented to impart the esoteric teachings of the Vajrayana, the diamond vehicle of Buddhist Tantra, in particular the teaching of the tantric Buddha in the form of Guhyasamaja.
In addition, Buddha offered the transmission of all the empowerments of the Anuttarayogatantra to King Indrabhuti, including those of all the major tantric emanations of the Buddha such as Kalachakra, Hevajra, and Chakrasamvara. As Buddha bestowed these transcendent initiation ceremonies, the king, being possessed of unusually sharp faculties, was actually able to spontaneously accomplish and attain each stage and level of realization transmitted by the Buddha during the course of the empowerments. At each successive stage of empowerment, Indrabhuti instantly gained the same realization that a successful practitioner of that stage would enjoy. At the moment of the supreme phase of initiation known as the fourth empowerment, King Indrabhuti entered the highest level of enlightenment, and was able to simultaneously demonstrate all the miraculous displays of a fully enlightened one. This story from the life of the Buddha clearly shows us that people of keen intelligence may practice the Vajrayana diamond way and accomplish its vast benefits. One may follow the example of disciples of the Buddha such as King Indrabhuti and enter the path through the tradition of major Vajrayana initiations which began in Oddiyana.
In another region of India not so far away was the southern kingdom of Dhanyakataka, the 'place of heaped rice.' This is a place that attracted scholars, yogins, and mendicants from a great variety of spiritual traditions. It was a famous dwelling place for those who wished to spend most of their time in meditation and prayer. Dhanyakataka was known as 'heap of rice' in reference to the abundance of hermitages and meditation retreats which covered the mountainside. It was at the magnificent stupa of Dhanyakataka that Buddha Shakyamuni imparted the world-renowned tantra known as Kalachakra. This empowerment attracted the Kulika rulers of Shamballa, a kingdom near Uddiyana, to attend as its honored recipients. The kingdom of Shamballa is said to have unique inhabitants; although they are human beings, they are said to have been and to be more intelligent and with far more acute faculties. They are even said to have had wings! The king of Shamballa at that time, Suchandra, traveled to Dhanyakataka to receive the Kalachakra initiation from Buddha Shakyamuni.
[The Three Vehicles]
One could give infinite details regarding all the boundless activities of the Buddha, but this will suffice for now. Here we merely wished to give a brief account of the turnings of the wheel of Dharma, to summarize the history of the Buddha's teaching career. The paths outlined by the Buddha in his teachings are grouped into three principal vehicles. The first is the vehicle of the Theravada or 'elders', which is mainly focused on the path of renunciation and follows the teaching of the four noble truths.
[Mahayana: Loving Kindness]
The quintessence of the second vehicle, the Mahayana or great vehicle taught by Buddha Shakyamuni, comes down to two central practices, the practice of loving-kindness and the practice of compassion. Let us try to understand together the meaning of these. As an example of loving-kindness, we can reflect on the kindness received from our own mother until a feeling of gratitude and appreciation naturally arises. We can reflect that from the day we were born into this world, we were utterly helpless, and could have easily been abandoned. Yet our own kind mother protected us from every danger, fed and clothed us, taught us what to do and what to avoid. She gave us everything we needed, sacrificing her own needs for ours. To help loving-kindness grow inside of us, we contemplate the kindness received from our own dear mother. With this in mind, we give rise to the genuine wish that she be happy, and further generate the wish that we ourselves be able to provide her with the causes of happiness. From this benevolent wish, we proceed to cultivate a very creative, positive energy of loving-kindness. In so doing, we both increase our affection for others and strengthen the wish to repay the kindness shown to us by our own mother, the wish to amplify her happiness. This is what is known as loving-kindness. Anyone can reflect on this example, and then begin to extend the feeling they generate through remembering their mother's kindness to include other living beings.
Similarly, compassion arises when, through appreciating the kindness and love shown by one's own mother, one feels indebted to her and finds it impossible to bear the thought of her suffering and undergoing hardships. We never want to see her experiencing any troubles or difficulties. If such situations befall her, one would make sincere efforts to rescue her from even the smallest infirmity, from even the most trifling circumstance that might cause her pain. We learn active compassion by empathizing with the sufferings of our own mother and by truly trying to reduce this as well as to eliminate whatever is causing her pain. Active compassion is the wish and intent to relieve others from misery and from whatever is causing them anguish. These two are the very core of the teachings of the Mahayana, the great vehicle, which is the Buddha's second turning of the wheel of the teachings. No matter what esoteric meditations of the Vajrayana one may engage in, we must base ourselves in the essence of Mahayana Buddhist teaching, the practice of loving-kindness and compassion. This will lead to a point where we are actually able to renounce our own self-interest in favor of cherishing the welfare of others. This is genuine altruism. Even if one is not quite ready or able to adopt such a noble attitude, we train ourselves step by step to really consider what will help others as much as we look out for our own welfare. You really can try to be an instrument of happiness for other living beings, even in the smallest ways. It is equally important that we never ignore or turn a blind eye to any causes that might bring suffering to others. As long as there is suffering, and it doesn't need to be yours, it still needs to be resolved or healed. One who has this attitude is able to develop an active or engaged compassion. If there is happiness in a family or between a couple, this happiness hinges for the most part on how loving, caring, and giving the family members and partners are toward one another. It does not depend on their accumulation of wealth and their material success. It is exactly the same as far as the well being of one's community, as far as the level of happiness in the greater world around us, is concerned. Whether or not a leader can set a good example that others can follow depends for the most part on how much they really care about others. It depends on how giving he or she is able to be when conducting their daily affairs. This type of leadership sets a noble standard that people will admire and will naturally wish to emulate. It cannot help but benefit us if we are able to live according to the teaching and practice of loving-kindness toward whomever we share our lives with. Whether we are at home or out in the world, if we show more love and empathy for others, we will find more happiness in our lives. If individuals are able to dedicate themselves to a life of loving-kindness and compassion, then such people will make a great contribution to the well-being of the world, as a whole, to the cause of peace and happiness.
What is called 'world peace' only depends on how the citizens of the world behave toward one another. Love and compassion lead to the happiness of the individual, and this will naturally bring about a peaceful world. Although in this particular lifetime each of us has received the kindness of our own mother, this does not mean that there is only one person to whom we should feel indebted. It has been said by the Buddha that there have been countless occasions on which we have been reborn. We ourselves have experienced births in all the six realms of existence, in every possible situation, in every possible circumstance. In each of these lives, we have had a kind mother, so in fact we are indebted to all of those mothers just as much as we are to the mother of our present life. Bearing this in mind at all times can lead us to genuine concern for other beings. Due to our involvement with the karma of this present life, we cannot recognize around us those who actually were our previous mothers. Even so, we still can choose to conduct ourselves so as to repay each of them for all the good they have shown us. This is the way to develop loving-kindness. There is great variety among the different religions in regard to how to approach the spiritual path, as well as concerning their doctrines and their assertions of what is true. But one thing that we can find in common is that all religions promote love and compassion and caring for one another. Without a doubt the spirit of Christianity is the same as that of Buddhism in promoting and upholding the value of love. The Christian teaching says that god is love, and, remembering this, one should show love toward others. This must be the most essential belief of Christians, and they try to practice it in their daily lives. It is no different with Buddhism. The Buddhist teachings guide us in how to treat one another. They teach us to understand and resolve for ourselves the moral and ethical choices we make, since only these choices will become the causes for whatever results we ourselves wish to achieve. This practice of mindful attentiveness to one's conduct emphasized in the Buddhist teachings encourages us to cultivate beneficial causes. These good causes arise from our intention to benefit others. Any deed that is performed with a good intention to benefit others will eventually bear fruits of happiness. This will come about due to what is known as the law of cause and effect, the law of karma. Whether one believes in God, or whether one believes in the law of cause and effect, both teach us to be good people. It is doing good which promotes the happiness of others. When we ourselves shun and avoid negative conduct, the suffering of others is also avoided. Both views accept the same fact, that we ought not to do things which create the causes of unhappiness, and that rather we should sow seeds of virtue that become causes for the happiness of others. All religions teach love between oneself and others, and that one ought to be a source of benefit to others rather than being a cause of pain for them.
[Kindness & Compassion]
It is important to see that these teachings of loving-kindness and compassion are not some sort of formal doctrine that one has to profess loyalty to or belief in. They are concerned with the way we live. What determines our happiness or lack of it is what we do with ourselves. We can conduct ourselves in a way that shows care and concern for whatever sufferings we see around us, however small or apparently insignificant. We see suffering in the lives of others, and we wish that they did not have to experience such discomfort and unhappiness. We wish that we ourselves might be instrumental in the relief of their suffering. We also wish that they will be happy, and that we ourselves can help them to be happy and add to their well-being. For example, in the lives of a couple, if each partner wishes the best for the other, and each wishes that the other not have to experience pain and misery, then there will be greater harmony between husband and wife, between partners. Likewise, if such a relationship exists for example between an employer and those who work for him or her, this promotes happiness in those situations where some are in a leadership role and others are following their directions. It is through each individual who assumes their share of this basic responsibility to other beings and conducts their relationships based on love and compassion, we are able to make our world a different place. People speak about world peace. Peace only comes about when people are extending love towards one another. These are essential points of the Mahayana Buddhist teaching.
Having understood what is the basis of the Mahayana or greater vehicle of Buddhism, one may now ask where the Vajrayana, the esoteric tantric vehicle, fits in to the Buddhist tradition. Vajrayana, the diamond vehicle, is a branch of the Mahayana tradition. If one has developed a good basis of loving-kindness and compassion, one may make use of methods which are the special skillful means of the Vajrayana. The benefit of these methods is that they provide a far more skillful and much swifter means of attaining enlightenment than can be gained by relying on the other vehicles on their own. It is said that even if one follows the perfection of wisdom or Prajnaparamita of the Mahayana, still it will require three incalculable aeons to attain enlightenment. On the other hand, resorting to the skillful methods of the Vajrayana diamond vehicle, it is taught that it is even possible to attain enlightenment in one lifetime. There have been a great number of practitioners of India and Tibet who through following Vajrayana Buddhism have indeed attained complete enlightenment in a single lifetime. It is for this purpose of greatly accelerating the path to enlightenment that the Vajrayana vehicle is available as a special means within the great Mahayana vehicle. If one has a heart that overflows with love and compassion as a stable foundation, then resorting to esoteric practices will guarantee rapid spiritual development. In this way, one may gain the capacity to benefit so many more sentient beings so much more quickly.
Within the esoteric vehicle of the Vajrayana, there are four general levels of tantras or scriptures. The highest, ultimate of these four is known as Anuttarayoga tantra or 'Highest Yoga' tantra. The Anuttarayoga tantras themselves are classed as Father tantras, Mother tantras, and Non-dual tantras. In the category of Non-dual tantras, there are only two scriptural traditions, that of Buddha Hevajra and that of Buddha Kalachakra. In order to understand a little bit about Buddhist tantra, let us consider for example the tradition of Kalachakra. The empowerment of the Kalachakra tantra has been widely given throughout the world in recent times.As a non-dual tantra, Kalachakra is the quintessence of all the Anuttara, or Highest Yoga tantras. Kalachakra itself is divided into four types of tantra, giving us an elaborate framework to understand the specifics of the tantra. First there is the outer Kalachakra. In large part, these sections are concerned with visualizing and meditating on the Buddha in the form of the meditational deity Kalachakra, and chanting his mantra.
Second comes the inner Kalachakra. Inner Kalachakra addresses itself to applying the profound internal meditations upon the subtle channels, vital winds, elements, and essential drops which make up the subtle or psychic body. The third section of Kalachakra, secret Kalachakra refers to meditating upon and within the ultimate meaning of the truth of emptiness. The fourth subject within Kalachakra is 'other' or 'alternative' Kalachakra, and relates to the study of and meditation on the outer cosmos of our realm of existence. Alternative Kalachakra teaches us how all the physical appearances of this world are the manifestation of our collective karma. In this way, it teaches us the causes that bring about this universe. Alternative Kalachakra describes the outer universe and how it directly corresponds with, and reflects, the inner propensities and karmic vision of all the beings within this universe. Thus the Kalachakra tantra contains the deepest meanings of four types of tantras all within one single tradition. Due to its profound meaning and the blessing it carries, it is very good if one can receive the Kalachakra initiation or at least the oral transmission of the mantra of Buddha Kalachakra. As an example of the power and benefits of mantras of the Highest Yoga Tantras of the Vajrayana, it is said that by merely hearing the sound of the Kalachakra mantra, with the proper attitude and faith, many difficulties and obstacles are removed for us. If you take the opportunity to recite the Kalachakra mantra during the course of your life, this will allay outer obstacles and create peace within you. Even reciting the mantra once definitely has the power to pacify one's afflictions and promote a general sense of happiness and well-being.
"There are many who have attained the wisdom arising from the study of the Scriptures. There are some who have attained the wisdom arising from contemplation of the Dharma. There are few who have gained wisdom arising from meditation. His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche is one who has attained all three wisdoms. One should consider oneself fortunate just to meet him, which is in itself a great blessing."
~ His Holiness Kyabgon 41st Sakya Trizin
About the Author
His Eminence Kyabje Chogye Trichen Rinpoche is head of the Tsarpa sub-school of the Sakya tradition. He was born in Tibet in 1919 in the Kushang family. He was recognized by His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama and enthroned at a young age as the throne holder of Nalendra monastery in Tibet. His Eminence is a very learned Buddhist scholar and a great practitioner. So profound is his power that water blessed by his breath has been known to dissolve gall stones and kidney stones, etc.
His Eminence has bestowed the precious Lamdre teachings upon many beings including great masters such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin. The precious Lamdre is the most vast and profound Dharma teaching of the Sakya tradition, which is unique in containing the complete path from the beginning until the stage of enlightenment. Many distinguished monks have completed three year retreats under his guidance and direction.
In addition to His Eminence's stature among Tibetan lamas, His Majesty King Birendra of Nepal awarded His Eminence "Gorkha Dakshin Babu", a tribute which has never been awarded to a Buddhist monk in Nepal before.
His Eminence has written many books and articles about Dharma. He has given extensive teachings and inaugurated centers in many parts of the world. His Eminence established a monastery in Lumbini, the birth-place of Lord Buddha and Jamchen Lhakhang Monastery and retreat center in Boudha, Kathmandu which houses an exquisitely beautiful statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha.
On 22 January 2007, at around 6 AM, at his Drubkhang residence in Narayansthan, Kathmandu, His Eminence has decided to rest his intent into the dharmadhatu.
May everyone receive the blessings of His Eminence through the practice of Guru Yoga, and may His Eminence always remain with those who have faith in him. May His Eminence send forth countless further emanations for the sake of sentient beings, and may His Eminence be swiftly reborn among us and continue to guide his faithful disciples!
Teachings and books in English by His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche
1) "History of the Sakya Tradition" by Chogay Trichen, translated from Tibetan into French by Ven. Phende Rinpoche and Jamyang Khandro and from French to English by Jennifer Scott; 1983, Ganesha Press, Bristol.
2) "Gateway to the Temple" by Thubten Legshay Gyatsho, translated from Tibetan to English by David Paul Jackson;1979, Patna Pustak Bhandar, Katmandu, Nepal
3) "Fortunate to behold" by Ngawang Khyenrab Legshe Gyatso, the 26th Chogye Trichen, translated from Tibetan to English by Cypus Stearns; 1986 Sahayogi Press, Katmandu, Nepal
4) "The profound Pith Instructions on Mind Training & Compassion" by His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, translated from Tibetan to English by Lama Choedak; 1999 Jamchen Lhakang, Kathmandu, Nepal.
5) "A Short Sadhana of Guru Hevajra" by His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, translated from Tibetan to English by Cyrus R. Stearns; 1999 Jamchen Lhakang, Kathmandu, Nepal.
6) "Parting from the Four Attachments" by Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, 2003, Snow Lion Publications
Seeking Blessings From The Guru
Glorious great Root Teacher precious one
Seated in a lotus on my head
Having graced us thru' your kindness, great
Bless my body, voice and mind I pray
The Music that Evokes Compassion
A Supplication to the Lord of Lamas
Root and lineage gurus who bestow siddhis,
Peaceful and wrathful yidam deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, and so forth,
By the powerful blessings of the truth of these infinite sources of refuge,
May the intention of our wishes be accomplished.
In the sky of the aspirations of Powerful Speech (Ngawang),
The fully manifested Wisdom (Khyen) mandala is Supremely (Rab) perfected;
Radiating the hundred-thousand white light rays of the Lucid Exposition (Lekshay) of your speech,
Spiritual friend of the Ocean (Gyatso) of Buddha’s Teachings (Thubten),
To you we pay homage.
Emerging from the glacial Kailash mountain,
The streams of the four great rivers of the authentic whispered lineage
Swirl in the Manasarovar Lake of your secret heart,
To the hooded Naga King of instructions for disciples (lobshay), we pray.
Outwardly, you are adorned by the training of gentle discipline,
Inwardly, your mind stream is filled with bodhicitta,
Secretly, you always remain in the profound two stages,
We pray to the Vajra Holder endowed with these three (trainings).
During this time when beings are obscured by the darkness of the five degenerations,
If you rest in the spacious expanse of peace,
Who will be our lord and refuge, our guide through the dark night?
Oh sole refuge, out of your great love, heed us from the spacious expanse.
And so, Lord Protector, please do not forsake your promise
To dispel the darkness of the decline of the teachings and beings in this degenerate age.
Lord Protector like the sun, we pray that your marvelous supreme emanation
Comes swiftly, rising over the upper slopes of the eastern mountains of noble lineage.
Oh wishfulfilling jewel, throughout our garland of lives,
May we respectfully hold you near as the adornment of our crowns.
May you always sustain us with the nectar of your speech,
And though we attain enlightenment, may you remain with us as the Lord of the Family.
Glorious Lama, Embodiment of all Refuges,
By the blessings of your great wisdom, love, and power,
And by the strength of our single-minded prayer of heartfelt longing,
May this be accomplished according to our wishes!
At the time when the omniscient, holy crown ornament of the holder of the lotus, our supreme guide of incomparable kindness, all-pervading lord of the mandala, the great Vajradhara Chogye Trichen, Ngawang Khyenrab Lekshay Gyatso, Tashi Drakpai Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo, was demonstrating the dissolution of his body of form (rupakaya) into dharmadhatu, I, the Sakya Trizin of the Drolma Podrang, Ngawang Kunga, made this aspiration with the highest of intentions and with single-minded reverence, while emanating cloudbanks of offerings during the Guru Puja in the assembly gathering at Rajpur, in order for the whole assembly to be able to offer their appeal.