The purpose of the spiritual path is, in the Buddhist sense, to help uncover the true nature of our mind. This true nature, while adventitiously obscured by the continual stream of thoughts and emotions that makes up our everyday consciousness, remains totally untouched by these thoughts and emotions – ever pure, brilliant and limpid.
The Tibetan tradition has handed down a series of powerful practices of inner transformation that purify the superficial afflictions plaguing our mind, that enhance our spiritual progress and that reveal the precious qualities of our own mind. These practices are called the uncommon preliminaries: they are preliminaries in that they provide the foundation for our spiritual development, and they are uncommon in that they facilitate the recognition of our mind’s true nature.
Part I of this course explores the following practices: Refuge, Bodhicitta, Maṇḍala Offering and Vajrasattva Purification.
Part II will deal with Guruyoga, Transference (Phowa) and Chöd.
Going for Refuge
What does ‘going for refuge’ mean in the Buddhist context? When facing problems in our lives, we often experience the need to find a protection from these difficulties. Some turn to various forms of therapy, etc., as a source of solace. However, from a Buddhist perspective, whereas these may be useful on a temporary basis, they cannot replace the undeceiving refuge of the three jewels (the Buddha, his teaching and the community of practitioners) and the ultimate refuge of knowing one’s own mind. We will examine the various levels of ‘going for refuge’ in Buddhism and explore what this means concretely in our lives.
Generating the Enlightened Mind
Generating the enlightened mind (bodhicitta) refers to the altruistic attitude of compassionately striving for the benefit of all sentient beings. It means fearlessly asserting our responsibility towards others in the light of the interconnectedness of all beings. In concrete terms, its practice revolves around the four immeasurables of compassion, loving kindness, joy and equanimity.
Expanding the infinite potentiality of bountiful qualities: Maṇḍala Offering
In order to progress swiftly on the spiritual path, we need the right conditions to come together. These conditions create the optimal inner environment for our practice, and they depend on the accumulations of merit and wisdom. Merit refers to the sum of wholesome actions performed by our body, speech and mind. Wisdom refers to the real understanding of the way things are.
An easy method to accrue these accumulations is the maṇḍala offering, which also helps us overcome attachment and greed. In this practice we meditatively offer a symbolic representation of the entire universe with all its splendours and riches to the Buddhas and enlightened masters. The maṇḍala offering has outer, inner and secret levels: outwardly we offer the universe, inwardly we offer our possessions, loved ones, etc., and secretly we offer our body and our deepest insights.
Dispelling negativity and discovering innate purity: Vajrasattva Purification
All of us sometimes make mistakes; when we do so, we are often tormented by an uncomfortable feeling of guilt. However, this guilt does not in the least help us to make amends for our past errors, but merely serves to burden our minds with a sense of heaviness and darkness.
The practice of Vajrasattva is a very powerful method to purify the negativities and difficulties of our past: making use of visualization and mantra, this practice allows us to recognize our past mistakes, to purify the stain they leave on our mind and to regain the sense of our innate purity. It is also a practice of healing whereby we regain wholeness.
Attuning to the Master’s Wisdom Mind (Guruyoga)
The master, or mentor, is our living link to the lineage of masters who have preserved and transmitted the teachings, a lineage which goes back to the Buddha himself. He is at once the personal face of the lineage as it flows down to us, and the impersonal embodiment of a wisdom that is timeless. The master is the externalized mirror which reflects the inner master, allowing us thereby to recognize the ultimate nature of our own mind.
In the practice of Guruyoga (Attuning to the Master’s Wisdom Mind) we invoke the blessings of the lineage and of our own root teacher, and merge our mind with the wisdom mind of the master. The practice of Guruyoga is a powerful method to recognize the innate wisdom nature of our mind.
Transferring consciousness and preparing for death
Phowa (‘transference’) is a powerful method which enables one to transfer one’s consciousness to a pure field at the time of death. There are many levels of transference. By becoming familiar with this method during our lifetime, the moment of death is no longer something to fear, but rather becomes a moment of spiritual triumph and liberation.
Cutting through self-grasping: Chöd
The root cause of our suffering is self-grasping. Although our mind is not a stable monolithic entity at all, but rather a continuum of fleeting moments of consciousness, we tend to ignore this and to reify our experience of ourselves into something very solid: this becomes our ego, which we mistakenly believe to be our true identity. Based on this fundamentally flawed assumption, we indulge in various forms of behaviour which cause suffering to others, thereby incurring karmic debts since time without beginning.
The practice of Chöd (gCod) is a powerful method that employs profound meditation and ritual to cut through the illusion of self-grasping and our numerous attachments, and to repay our karmic debts. It works by cutting through the attachment we have for our most cherished possession: our body and embodied sense of self. It rests on the principle of recognizing our interconnectedness with others, as well as on an understanding of the emptiness, or absence of self-nature, of all phenomena and of what we believe to be our selves.
Recommended reading: Patrul Rinpoche, Words of my Perfect Teacher, Yale University Press, 2010.
The course is intended for advanced students who are seriously interested in the subject and who are committed to attending the courses, as the classes build upon each other.
Teacher: Lama Jigmé Namgyal
Dates: Mondays from 7.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.
September: 18, 25
October: 2, 9, 23
13, 20, 27
December: 4, 11, 18
(Due to the travel agenda of Lama Jigmé changes in dates might occur during the course).
Place: 1, rue Charlotte Engels L-1482 Luxembourg
Language: English (occasionally translated from Tibetan into English by Dylan Esler)
Price: €180 (€162 for regular members, €90 for students/unemployed/retired, free participation for donating members). The price includes all sessions on the above indicated dates. Fees shouldn’t be an obstacle. Please contact us if there is a problem.
Registration: Register by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please pay by bank transfer to the Centre’s account:
IBAN: LU79 1111 2413 8246 0000 / BIC: CCPLLULL,
Centre Culturel Tibétain, Asbl
Reference: Monday Course, Autumn 2017