Kadampa Buddhism started in India with Buddha Shakyamuni and Venerable Atisha and then spread to the roof of the world, snowy Tibet. Now it is here, in the rest of the world.
A good friend wrote something to me recently that I find pretty significant, and I wonder if any of you have anything to add?:
“A current and valid question in wider Buddhist circles is how these lineages (and the traditions that emerge from them) continue in this world when their identifiable lineage holders pass on (or resign due to transgressions, as has been evident in many of the Western-based Tibetan traditions recently.)
Our more inclusive approach of no single identifiable lineage holder, yet everyone working to hold the lineage in their hearts, is so much more in tune with modern society and more appealing to contemporary Western (and other) cultures and practitioners. I think Geshe-la was very aware of this, and how it would be much more appealing as the tradition moves forward, and thereby much more sustainable for our lineage in this world.
…. On a side note, one of the most inspiring things for me in recent years has been the almost universal response from practitioners on the passing of Geshe-la last year: “Although at one level I know he has passed from this world, in my heart I don’t feel he has gone anywhere,” as one practitioner said to me the other day. “Actually, I feel closer to him than ever.” For me, that’s how I think our lineage will continue in this world, and that’s the greatest gift Geshe-la left us all — a relationship with the actual or definitive Guru/Dharmakaya in our heart, even if many would not particularly articulate it this way, and therefore the possibility of our lineage continuing and flourishing in this world, from generation to generation.”
What is good fortune?
When Venerable Geshe-la asked his disciples to do the practice of Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka and the name mantra, he said:
It seems that if we want Kadampa Buddhism to stay — and to flourish — all over this world, then this practice is a wishfulfilling jewel for that purpose. I was really encouraged to hear this because I had been wondering for a long time about how best to guarantee the survival and thriving of our Buddhist tradition. When Venerable Geshe Kelsang gave his oral commentary to The Mirror of Dharma, he said:
One of the main reasons we need to practice Guru yoga is because we need to increase our good fortune. Why do we need good fortune? What does good fortune mean?
He went on to explain that external conditions such as a high position and a lot of wealth are not the ripening of real good fortune or merit. Even if we say to people who seemingly have it all, “You’re so lucky!”, in reality they’re not, really, because “samsara’s things” in themselves don’t lead to pure happiness, can cause problems, and in fact might even be using up their good fortune. (Depending of course on what they use it for).
So we must recognize what is real good fortune. Only the realization of meditation or Dharma, with which we can gain the ability to control our inner poison of delusions so that we achieve permanent liberation, we solve our problems, we maintain a happy mind all the time. ~ Ven Geshe Kelsang
To experience this real good fortune we need to create the potentials for it – so-called “virtuous” potentials because, as explained in How to Understand the Mind, “virtue is a phenomenon that functions to produce happiness”. We can create loads and loads of such potentials through practicing Guru yoga, in which case:
If the virtuous potentials that are seeds of Dharma realizations are increasing, our fortune is increasing. Dharma realizations are very easy. Realizations of meditation are very easy.
Dharma is a wishfulfilling jewel – for me at least I find it has been priceless in terms of making me happy and helping me solve problems more and more with each passing year, genuinely transforming the usual samsaric shenanigans of sickness, aging, annoyances, loss, etc. But Geshe-la’s point is that something that is priceless needs a lot of good fortune or merit to maintain and increase.
This means that if these potentials are decreasing or weakening, I won’t even be developing the intention to practice Dharma and, if I do manage the intention, I will find it hard to get results. If you have ever wondered, as I have, why millions more people are not interested in meditation and Buddhism when it is so incredibly practical, helpful, and profound, this might be a major reason. And it seems to explain why someone can find Dharma, think it’s great and makes perfect sense, and yet still find themselves drifting away.
Like I said, I had been thinking for a while about the greying of the NKT teachers, etc, and where the next wave or generation of really dedicated faithful Kadampas (our replacements!) is starting to appear from. Buddha gave us the product, as it were, but relatively few people are discovering it or sticking to it compared to how many people could be discovering and benefiting from it. (This is always the case, of course). So I was actually very happy to hear Geshe-la’s encouragement for us to create these potentials.
For Kadampas all over the world, I think the timing could not be better. A lot of people reading this are taking responsibility to help their little bit of the world with Dharma – thinking globally, acting locally — both at Centers and in our own daily lives and work. We are not spreading Buddhism for its own sake — the only reason we raise money for Dharma Centers and volunteer for them etc is because we deeply want people to stop their suffering and its causes and to realize their potential to be happy all the time. Delusions permitting, I believe this is the only reason why anyone should do anything at a Kadampa Center. Any other reason can make our work for the Dharma and sentient beings just (samsaric) business as usual. Agreed?!
On the outside, we’re trying to build beautiful spaces where people can gather to learn and practice the teachings, and on the inside we’re trying to gain authentic experiences or realizations so that we can be of true benefit to others; and success in all of this depends on our karmic potentials for this development.
As we do this, we are coming closer to our Spiritual Guide’s views, intentions, and actions. Therefore, “we’re of one mind” and are following the same path, dedication, and direction, which includes trying to benefit everyone everywhere through the flourishing of Kadampa Buddhism or modern Buddhism in our hearts. We will become a good example for others – just naturally as a result of our practice, not because we’re “trying” to be a good example.
New merit and old merit
Geshe-la has also given some very interesting teachings on “old” and “new” merit or good karma, which I take to mean that we don’t have to wait long boring lifetimes for the good results to ripen from our spiritual practice – we can start to experience them right now.
Whenever we perform any virtuous actions, including the seven limbs in Guru yoga for example, these actions have two functions: (1) to accumulate or store new imprints, new merit, which will cause good results that ripen in the future; (2) to cause the imprints of virtuous actions we have already accumulated in former lives to ripen in this life. Therefore, whenever we’re engaging in virtue, (1) we are creating new merit, which will ripen in the future, and (2) we are causing previous imprints, old merit, to ripen. As Venerable Geshe-la says:
“Because the ripening of old merit will make all our virtuous practices successful, including our training in Mahamudra, this proves that accumulating merit will make our training in Mahamudra Tantra effective and we will experience good results right now, right now. We often talk about karma, but what is important to understand is the karmic relationship that good karma or good actions make good results now.” ~ Ven Geshe Kelsang
Your comments, as always, are gratefully received 🙂 And click on the images to see which Kadampa Center is pictured.