In praise of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s presentation of modern Buddhism


Click on the image for your free gift!

(I guess this particular article is directed mainly at Kadampas, though I hope the rest of you find it a bit interesting too.)

Have you had a chance yet to download your gift ebook of Modern Buddhism?! It’s wonderful that it is completely free, because reading and practicing all the instructions in this book is, I think, like reading and practicing all of Buddha’s essential teachings on Sutra and Tantra.

My teacher Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has presented Kadampa Buddhism with mind-boggling skill. For example, in the “old days” (circa early 1980s), we all practiced the long sadhanas (prayer booklets) that took hours because that is all we had; also we arguably had more time as we had less aggressive distractions. Now Geshe Kelsang has provided his students with short practices such as Heart Jewel, Prayers for Meditation or, most recently, The Yoga of Buddha Heruka, which nonetheless contain absolutely everything. In his books and live teachings, he has encouraged us to dive straight into the very essence of Buddha’s teachings from the beginning, and then unravel it all backward.

From the get-go, practitioners are now encouraged to meditate daily on bliss and emptiness, which is the ultimate Buddhist meditation and actually contains every meaning of the spiritual path (included in the so-called “five seeds” of renunciation, bodhichitta, the wisdom realizing emptiness, and generation stage and completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra). We truly learn to sow all five seeds together and reap their results together, as advised by Geshe Kelsang’s teacher’s teacher, Je Phabongkhapa. This is the real union of Sutra and Tantra as taught by the Kadampa tradition’s founder Je Tsongkhapa

But at the same time we are encouraged to learn and deepen our experience of all these five seeds (and their components) by gradually receiving teachings on all the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra, which are taught in authentic and practical detail in 22 outstanding books and on the three study programs worldwide. This is skilful (a) because it shows a complete understanding of how little time (and patience!) we have, and how we cannot and will not wait for years to get to the essential point, and (b) because starting at the end and working backwards is the very best way for us to practice! It truly brings the future result of our spiritual practice into the present path, making it happen now, not some time in the ever-receding future. (See this article for how simply to relate to our best and purest potential whenever we practice.)

Whenever we are connected to a peaceful mind we are connected to Buddha’s mind. It is connecting with our Buddha nature. We need to associate with that potential, get there, and stay there. We want to liberate our peace, our love, our compassion, our wisdom so they expand and pervade the universe. We are removing the obstructions from our Buddha nature.

I think of Modern Buddhism as being our modern-day Kadam Emanation Scripture. It is a magical, blessed book as it can be read on so many different levels. If you are just getting interested in Buddhism, you can download the book for free and find out all about Buddhism in general and bliss and emptiness in particular. Then, if you wish, you can slowly but surely gain a more extensive understanding of all these subjects through more reading and meditating on the other books. And people who have been around for a while say they find Modern Buddhism exceedingly helpful in presenting the very essence of everything they have already learned.

“We need modern ideas, but we also need ancient wisdom. If we deny ancient wisdom we are making a big mistake.” ~ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

It is possible to take Geshe Kelsang’s presentation for granted if it is all we have known. However, just from my relatively short experience of how things have evolved in the past 30 years, let alone taken in the historical context of the presentation of Buddhism over the past 2500 years, I am aware that it is uncommonly skillful. Geshe Kelsang is a spiritual genius, wielding Manjushri’s wisdom sword to cut through the labrynthine complications of modern living and modern mind-sets — all the more miraculous given his entirely unwired background (it’s safe to say there was no Tweeting in Tibet…).

But do you agree that each of us could do with thinking about how to keep these teachings alive ourselves by figuring out how to practice effectively in our own modern wired life? Can we, the Smartphone generation, learn to meditate?! Can we gain all the same realizations as our predecessors?! Geshe Kelsang has done everything in his power to help us, so what do we need to do from our own side? If we can figure this out together, then we can repay the kindness of Geshe Kelsang’s and of his teachers all the way back to Buddha, and make sure there is hope for future generations.

Your turn: In the comments, I would love to hear if and how you are all using modern-day methods to stitch Buddhism into the fabric of your daily life and make actual progress.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Whenever we are connected to a peaceful mind we are connected to Buddha’s mind. It is connecting with our Buddha nature. We need to associate with that potential, get there, and stay there.

    Wonderful Truth, thanks. Just one thought isn’t it ‘Kadam Emanation Scripture’ you said ‘Ganden Emanation Scripture’? Hope this helps. Love Jangchub :)

  2. Judy Riley says:

    Modern Buddhism is a supreme gift from a Great Jewel of a teacher – dearest Geshe-la. But how eloquently expressed by you L. Your joy & faith shines through this article. We miss you in Liverpool. With love & prayers, Judy xxx

  3. This sums it up for me, hope you don’t mind if i use this when i teach Wed nite?

    “Whenever we are connected to a peaceful mind we are connected to Buddha’s mind. It is connecting with our Buddha nature. We need to associate with that potential, get there, and stay there. We want to liberate our peace, our love, our compassion, our wisdom so they expand and pervade the universe. We are removing the obstructions from our Buddha nature.”

    thank you for your encouragement and inspiration

    cindy xo

  4. Hi Thanks for this blog and the more rare picture of Geshe-la. I’ve just returned from a day raising money for Gen-la Dekyong’s public talk in Liverpool this coming week at Kailash Buddhist Centre on the Wirral. Meeting this great master and listening to his teachings saved my life. It is truly awe inspiring and truly humbling what the compassionate mind of one great bodhisattva can do for all of us struggling with our modern human lives. He even sends me an inspiring, kind and wise Teacher to help and cherish me as I make my steps along the wonderful path to real happiness. He gives us all everything we need and the teachings answer all our questions. I can’t believe my good fortune and really wish every one else can find the same happiness Geshe-la has given us all.

    Please keep sharing your insights.

    • HI Jan, thank you so much for posting. You’re right, it is amazing what one person can do if their heart and mind are in the right place. What we could *all* do once we get it together!

  5. Thankyou for this, i’m so inspired every time i read one of your blogs.

    I try to keep a soft mind and not get too tight (graspy) about things. It’s quite hard for me most of the time, but i find that staying close in my heart to my Spiritual Guide makes everything come naturally. Staying close to my Spiritual Guide makes everything grow and come alive, like a lotus flower in the bright sunlight. By trying every day to put Buddha’s wisdom into practise, i’m finding a life of meaning and happiness. Life is wonderful because my guru has blessed me with such kindness. Just beholding Modern Buddhism is a kindness beyond my imagination. I think we don’t fully realise the extent of our spiritual father’s kindness till we ourself become enlightened.

    Thankyou again, i really appreciate your hard work and dedication.

    stephen xx

  6. I agree with every word. After trying to absorb everything I could about emptiness for several years (granted, that wasn’t very much) I was advised to read Heart of Wisdom. It was like reading a textbook after being used to entertaining novels, but I realised quite quickly how clear his description was and I actually began to understand what the other books were talking about. I had wondered how I might actually practice Buddha’s teachings, and then I was introduced to Joyful Path of Good Fortune which put everything into a coherent context. Universal Compassion helped me to transform my daily experiences, suffering, into something meaningful without having to apply any effort, just a little faith. And I briefly saw how being on a study program could efficiently deepen my understanding. Geshe-la understands how much we struggle with the many distractions of a modern lifestyle and has adapted the Dharma even for a pitiful mind like mine. And I hope that his skill is far deeper than I realise.

    • You are mentioning here three of Geshe-la’s very first books, and these masterpieces contain all the stages of the path to enlightenment. But as if that wasn’t enough, he went on to write 20 more!!

  7. Hi Luna,
    I am taking my Buddhist faith into all the worlds I dwell in, in different ways to suit the different needs in those worlds

    In my job which involves working with business leaders through coaching and team engagement, I increasingly introduce them to meditation and mindfulness exercises, to help them manage stress, help them with relationships with their colleagues and to help them with re finding life-work balance and meaning in their lives.

    Through Medicine for a Happy Life, I offer simple introductions to Buddhist based meditation, for groups of people including a recently a group of people including those on my doorstep in my village (see http://www.medicineforahappylife.co.uk)

    And as a facilitator for Universal Wisdom Education (see http://www.essential-education.org/) I can play a small part in introducing modern ideas rooted in Buddhist wisdom to bring mindfulness based experiences such a 16 Guidelines for Life to a wide range of people and communities, who might not necessarily find more traditional approaches accessible or acceptable.
    with love, Paul

  8. Set reminders on phone to repeat vows, remember to cherish others more than self, dissolve into emptiness, and act as if we are already an enlightened being. I enjoyed the pic of Geshe-la on the porch in younger days.

  9. Sarah says:

    I love this article (and the wonderful photo of Geshe-la!!!) Gen Choma said recently that many people do pujas while on flights. Put Offering to the Spiritual Guide, Vajrayogini Self-Initiation, or Quick Path to Great Bliss on your iPod!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I really love what you say about diving into the very essence and then unravelling it all backwards. That really IS bringing the future result into the path! And now with the new special six month TTP, Geshe-la really couldn’t have made it more simple for us. He has, as you said, done everything he can from his own side to meet us where we are. It is up to us to now generate the wish.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Have Heart Jewel as a playlist on my iPhone. I generated silence and mixed in Tsing-Pa bells to time meditations and preparatory breathing. Recently acquired The New Meditation Handbook on CD. The meditations have been added to my iTunes collection and I insert whatever meditation I want to work on before silence in my Heart Jewel playlist. Besides this I play the meditation CDs in my car regularly. When I’m trying to memorize a meditation I repeat the CD multiple times while repeating the Lamrim instructions out loud to myself while driving. I just noted today to a Dharma friend how delighted I am that Geshe-la shared Modern Buddhism with us via ebook. A Facebook acquaintance recently texted me inquiring about Buddhism due to my example and I was able to direct them to the download link. They texted that they have been enjoying it immensely. :-)

  12. Thanks so much for this wonderful article…it would be great to be able to repay the kindness of Geshe Kelsang… This book is something so profound and valuable, it really is a miracle that touched our minds …This reflection really touched me and I hope in my daily practice every day take it into consideration.
    I can only say, I feel very lucky …. and I hope i might be able to appreciate this unique opportunity.

    • This book has already been downloaded over 100,000 times. That is quite something, given what a “miracle” it is.

      • Sean Robsville says:

        And of course it can get into places where traditional dharma teaching methods could never reach, due to remoteness, cultural hostility etc.

  13. These are ‘modern miracle powers’ we’re using now, isn’t it. We learn can learn so much on-line, and reach out to so many people, promoting Geshe La’s pure Dharma. I feel most fortunate to be able to do this.
    Thanks for the reminder Luna.

  14. I am in Foundation Program and we are studying “Meaningful to Behold”. When I find a quote from Geshe-la or “Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” that emanates with me I post it on my Facebook status. I also post from other Kadampa Center Facebook pages, Vide’s and Vajra Sister’s page, and your statuses, blog and updates as well. I also share the entire blogs when I can.

    Both my Buddhist and none Buddhist friends love my posts. They tell me that they look forward to reading them since a majority of Facebook posts are negative, depressing, or rude. (sad and true). Some have told me that my post changed their day to positive or that my post was exactly what they needed to hear that day.

    My son and I also volunteer at a pet rescue. I post pictures and videos for our rescued kids and let people know when they have been adopted.

    We need happiness and light more than ever in our world now.

    • Facebook is so interesting — it can suck up so much time if we’re not careful, and yet it can also provide a supportive and much appreciated global community, especially if we use it to encourage and help each other. (For example, just yesterday I put up a status update asking people to pray for Mark Tole, the original temple architect at KMC Manjushri, who is very ill in hospital, and within 24 hours a great number of people had responded.)

  15. Thanks for this great article! What an amazing Vajra Master who shows such an amazing example of what a modern day Bodhisattva can do.

  16. Blue Garuda says:

    A very thought-provoking and welcome analysis. Thank you. :)

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