In our Universities we put the most emphasis on learning the material, be it anatomy , calculus or physics, the emphasis is on learning the subject and much less is placed on the process of learning itself as well as the conditioning factors that make learning possible.
This however is not so in Buddhist pedagogy because of a single crucial reason- Lineage. Rather than leave what enables learning in the background, the Buddhist way is to place it at the forefront of our attention as fastidiously maintained as a jewelry display because without a teacher,1 the immediate link in the Lineage that has reached you, the transmission of Buddha’s Wisdom would not be possible.
A metaphor that shows how important lineage is to learning and practicing Buddhism is the passage of a candle flame passing from one candle to another. Through a lit candle an unlit candle can now shine brightly on its own. Without a flame to ignite the wick the candle will never light at all, no matter how many books it reads.
This is how the wisdom of Buddhism has been transmitted for 2633 years and must continue to be transmitted in the years to come, from master to student to the next generation of students to the next generation and so on. Like seeds of a tree growing into a new tree making more seeds that grow into new trees for as long as the conditions which contribute to growth remain in this world.
An unbroken lineage ensures that Buddhas wisdom will ripen into fruit within students mindstreams, igniting in their minds a light of wisdom that grows brightly enough to exhaust their phenomena in the blaze of enlightenment.
Without receiving the blessings of an authentic lineage it is difficult to be of true help to beings. Help is measured by the degree to which it helps beings to become happy. The fruit of Buddhist practice is enlightenment, which is true happiness, a happiness that does not evaporate with circumstance and change into a less pleasant state.
The goal a practitioner should strive to reach is the one Buddha Shakyamuni attained, a bliss utterly stable and unchanging. All of Buddha’s teachings have the state of enlightenment as their culmination and were given only with this result in mind. This is what is meant by “practices of an authentic lineage”.
Practicing a spirituality that originates from the purity of enlightenment is the best way to ensure your practice will result in the unsurpassable- true cognition free from all veils of the two obscurations. For example a being who has a good heart but no hands will be limited in ways to help others. In the same way practicing Buddhism without receiving and maintaining the blessings of the lineage will limit the degree one can use the teachings to benefit ones fellow mother-sentient beings.
It is the lineage that enables to help because it is only through lineage the true wisdom arises. When a student wishes to become a doctor to help cure sickness first he goes to medical school learns everything required and once he has learned properly opens a practice to heal illness. Someone who tries to practice medicine without proper training is a fraud and often harms more than helps.
In the same way someone who wishes to heal the illness of the ignorance at the root of all negativities in this world has to properly study and learn the methods of transforming ignorance into wisdom. Methods for eliminating ignorance is what all the Buddha’s teachings are. Once properly schooled, with a teachers affirmation of your competence and authorization for you to teach you will be truly able to help others eradicate their misperception and ignorance.
The Shedra that Lopon Osel will direct at the University will consist of two streams of the Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, the Longchen Nyingthig lineage and The commentary on the New Treasures of Dudjom. Both are revealed lineages with powerful blessing and methods. The Text Words of My Perfect Teacher will be our main text, which we will study thoroughly.
Our practice text will be the Dudjom Tersar Ngondro and we will read through A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar, its commentary as a basis for clarifying the Vajrayana view and discussion at the end of each Shedra session.
The Longchen Nyingthig Lineage begins with the great Tibetan Saint Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam.1308 – 1364. The greatest author of the Dzogchen Teachings, he authored the Seven Treasures and The Trilogy of Rest and Ease regarded by all Authentic Lama’s as some of the deepest treasures of the Nyingma Lineage. He practiced with such purity and commitment to the yogic way that his example and writings were genuine shining examples to all yogic practitioners in Tibet.
When the cowherd Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798) read Longchenpas writings he had faith in him equal to that of a fully enlightened Buddha and prayed resolutely to him. Lonchenpa appeared to him in a series of three visions in which he transmitted the Cycle of the Longchen Nyingthig teachings as well as a complete knowledge of the Nine Yanas of Buddhism as they are classified in the Nyingma School.
The Longchen Nyingthig teachings condense the crucial points of the doctrine that the great Vidyadhara Padmasambhava brought to Tibet at the behest of Tibet’s King in the 8th century C.E. In fact, Longchen Nyingthig is translated as Heart Drop of the Vast Expanse and condenses the immeasurable texts of Dharma into crucial points that practioners like us being of limited intellects can incorporate and use to reach the enlightenment Buddha and other sublime beings have attained.
Though he never studied in a Buddhist University through his faith in the Lineage and reliance on his Guru Longchenpa, Jigme Lingpa would often astound the scholars of Dharma throughout Kham Tibet with his inclusive, erudite and unmistaken knowledge of the Dharma during debates and discussion. Jigme Lingpa had four students who carried the banner of the Nyingthig throughout Tibet.
Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu, Jigme Thrinley Ozer, Jigme Ngostsar Tenzin and Jigme Kundul Namgyal. Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu, when the time came for the culminating meditations of the Vajrayana path, left his teacher Jigme Lingpas physical company and making his way up a windswept hill in Kham Tibet, sat in a depression of earth on the hillside and remained in meditation until attainment, soon locals began to bring him offerings,
he remained in meditation eventually disciples from Tibet over realizing the great merit to be gained from studying with a true master like Jigme Gyalwe Nyuge pitched their tents around his place of meditation and requested teachings from him.
One of these students was Dza Patrul Rinpoche who received the teachings on the preliminary Ngondro practices 14 times. At his own disciples requests patrul wrote these instructions exactly as his teacher had given them to him and titled the work Kunzang Lamai Shelung or The Words of My Perfect Teacher.
This record of Gyalwe Nyugu’s instructions on the Longchen Nyingthig Preliminaries will be the core text of our Shedra and a thourough knowledge and commited practice of this teaching, as it is a text of authentic lineage, can most certainly lead to full enlightenment. Patrul Rinpoche also practiced with uncompromising commitment to the teachings in utter simplicity and reliance on his teacher. Wandering over Tibet by foot,
teaching when asked and nurturing the disciples who sought him out. He had been recognized at his birth as a speech emanation of the Indian saint Shantideva and had grown up with the responsibility for a large monastic community in his thirties to truly practice Dharma he said farewell to his home community and wandered as a yogi meeting and studying from great teachers like Do Khyentse and finally his root Guru Gyalwe Nyugu.
His teachings are clear and of great benefit and our aspiration is to provide an environment that allows students here in Salt Lake City imprint them deeply in their minds through the three practices that arouse wisdom, Learning, Contemplation and Meditation. By composing Words of My Perfect Teacher,
Dza Patrul preformed a great kindness to all practicioners by presenting the key points necessary for realization in a precise, concise and practicable way. The collection of Buddha’s teachings is immense, consisting of 108 volumes as well as countless commentaries called shastras by subsequent Dharma Masters.
To learn incorporate this corpus is quite beyond the capacity of ordinary beings like most of us who have limited cognitive and retentive abilities and so what we need is a concise form that still includes what needs to be realized that we can put into effective practice. This is precisely what Dza Patrul has in his kindness provided, an oppurtunity to reach the fruit, limited though our minds may be right now.
Buddha’s teachings always manifest in a form appropriate to the student, teachings are tailored to the students capacity some appropriate for one student while differing teachings may be necessary for another. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Lopon Osel’s teacher authorized and assisted the Padmakara translation group’s efforts at rendering Kunzang Lamai Shelung in English as he felt it was a shastra that would be most helpful to Dharma Students in our times.
The Words of My Perfect Teacher originated from the Lineage, it does not consist of Dza Patruls original ideas instead he thouroughly learned and practiced his teachers instructions as they were given and transmitted them to the next generation of Dharma Practicioners.
Lopon Osel has received the teachings and instructions on Kunzang Lamai Shelung from many teachers while studying Dharma in Nepal and India. First from Khenpo Drimed Ozer. Drimed Ozer was a discliple of Shechen Kongtrul of Tibets Shechen Monastery in the 19th century.
He also received this teaching from His Root Teacher His Holiness Dilgo Kheyntse Rinpoche who transmitted the Patrul Ka-bum (collected writings) to him in 1987, from other Khenpo’s and from Khenpo Pentse Pema Sherab, also a fellow student of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Lopon Osel’s Root Guru was a reincarnation of Jigme Lingpa. Kyabje Khyentse had many direct visions of the deities of the Nyingma sadhanas such as Palchen Dupa and began to teach the Dharma in Tibet when his teacher Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, who was often referred to as the Primordial Buddha,
instructed him that because of his profound mediation experiences he must begin to instruct disciples and transmit the precious teachings he had inherited. Kyabje Khyentse then began to teach disciples in Kham Tibet before the 1959 diaspora and afterwards in Nepal, India, France, Bhutan, and N. America among other places. Rinpoche’s blessing and influence continues undiminished, he is the source of the wisdom we will be learning and developing in the Shedra.
Words of My Perfect Teacher will be the core teaching of our Shedra because it is a text indispensible for any Ngondro(preliminary) practice, however the Ngondro we will introduce students to is from the Dudjom Tersar, also a stream of the Nyingma Lineage. This is because this Ngondro is concise enough to be practicable in the context of a modern life.
This Ngondro is a revealed Terma revealed by Dudjom Lingpa ( ) Terma teachings occupy a very special place in the canonic Nyingma Teachings. The basic teachings of the Nyingma are known as the Ka’ma they originated as translations of the Tantras current in India brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava in the 8th century C.E.
However in his wisdom the Guru recognized that practitioners in the future as times continued to degenerate would need teachings tailored to the times they lived in, updated teachings and sadhanas that would allow them to progress in the shifting spiritual landscapes of the future.
To address these needs, he and his primary student, the consort Yeshe Tsogyal concealed the Termas (Dharma Treasures) throughout Tibet and in the fabric of phenomena to be revealed in the future by advanced practitioners known as Tertons. Many of the Tertons would be reincarnations of the Guru’s twenty-five primary disciples.
The Terton Dudjom Lingpa, who revealed a complete cycle of Terma’s was prophesied by Padmasambhava. He prophesied that his dissciple Kechung Lotsawa would be reborn as a white clad yogi. This was Dudjom Lingpa, whose renown spread throughout Kham and Tibet and revealed a vast number of Terma which he received in visions directly from Guru Padmasambhava himself as well as Yeshe Tsogyal.
The Dudjom Tersar Ngondro being one of these. The special quality or the Dudjom Tersar cycle is that since their advent in Tibet in the 19th century, the Yogi’s who practiced these teaching attained significant positve results. These terma teachings have been phenomenally effective.The result of the Vajrayana yogic practices is the rainbow body, where a practitioner transforms his gross phyiscal body into a body of rainbow wisdom light.
These practioners bodies are then pure manifestions of the wisdom light of the Three Kayas. There are many documented cases of practitioners who attained the Rainbow body dissolving into light as the end of their lives. Such was the case of in tibet in 1960. Among the practitioners the Terma revealed by Dudjom Lingpa we know of 13 practitioners who achieved the remarkable result of the rainbow body, their bodies vanishing in continuous outpouring of light as they left this world.
Besides the amazing attainment of 13 rainbow bodies, practitioners of Dudjom Tersar have attained many positive results signs through their practice of the Tersar. Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche of the twentieth century and supreme head of the Nyingma was the reincarnation of Dudjom Lingpa. Dudjom Rinpoche’s root teacher was Gyurme Ngedung Wangpo. Gyurme Ngedung Wangpo was student of three great masters, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamong Kongtrul, and Dudjom Lingpa, he was a Vidyadhara of the lineage.
Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche transmitted the entire cycle of the Dudjom Tersar to his Son Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche from whom Lopon Osel has received the transmission of the Dudjom Tersar Ngondro as well as the Tibetan text of its commentary. Dungse Thinley Norbu has also authored a commentary explaining the practice of the Ngondro titled A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar which we will also be studying to aid our practice and view during the Shedra.
It is especially fortunate to be able to be able to study these texts with a direct connection to the Longchen Nyingthig and Dudjom Tersar Lineage reaching back to their source through the link of only a few generations of exceptional Nyingmapa teachers. We also plan to teach in the future mainly from texts revealed by H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche which he has passed on to Lopon Osel.
Read more in the The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava.