บทสวดบูชาครู (คุรุโยคะ) แก่พระอาจารย์สาเกียบัณฑิต

Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen

shé ja tamché zikpé chen yang shing (เชจา ตัมเช ซิกเป เช็นยังชิง)
You who have the eye of wisdom that sees all that is knowable,
พระอาจารย์ผู้ทรงไว้ซึ่งดวงตาแห่งปัญญาอันมองเห็นทุกสิ่งทุกอย่างที่สามารถรู้ได้

dro kun gelek drubpé tukjé chen (โตรกูน เกเล็ก ดรุปเป ตุกเจเชน)
The compassion that brings about the welfare of all beings,
ผู้ทรงไว้ซึ่งความกรุณาอันยังประโยชน์แก่เหล่าสัตว์โลก

samyé trinlé dzepé top nga wa (ซัมเย ทรินเล เซเป ทบงาวา)
The strength that accomplishes inconceivable enlightened action,
ผู้ทรงไว้ซึ่งความเข้มแข็งที่ยังการงานอันกอปรไปด้วยการรู้แจ้งอันหยั่งถึงมิได้

jamgön lamé shyap la solwa dep (จัมเกิน ลาเม เชียบลา เซิลวาเทป)
Lama, you who are Manjushri in person, at your feet I pray!
พระอาจารย์ ท่านผู้เป็นพระมัญชุศรีในร่างมนุษย์ ข้าพเจ้าขอกราบแทบเท้าท่าน!

พระอาจารย์สาเกียบัณฑิต (กุงกา เกียลเซน) เกิดในปี ค.ศ. 1182 และมรณภาพในปี ค.ศ. 1251 เป็นหนึ่งในห้าของพระอาจารย์ผู้ก่อตั้งสาย “สาเกียปะ” ในพระพุทธศาสนาทิเบต ท่านเป็นพระนักวิชาการที่สำคัญที่สุดรูปหนึ่งในพระพุทธศาสนาทิเบต และถือกันว่าเป็นหนึ่งในนิรมาณกายทั้งสามของพระมัญชุศรีโพธิสัตว์ ซึ่งอีกสองท่านได้แก่พระอาจารย์ลงเชนรับจัมปากับพระอาจารย์ซงคาปา

(ข้อมูลและรูปภาพจาก http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Sakya_Pandita_Kunga_Gyaltsen )

Music and Meditation

If you a regular reader of this blog, you might perhaps know that I am also interested in music. Many posts on this blog are about music. So perhaps it’s time to look at any connection there is between music and Buddhism.

Or between music and meditation, which is perhaps easier to write about. There are now many musical pieces designed to help one’s meditation. Look at and listen to the following:

So the question is how does music really help with meditation? As far as I know no Buddhist scriptures mention anything about music as an aid to meditation. If anything the texts tend to suggest that the practitioner find a quiet place free from distractions to do his or her meditation. But music seems to be very distracting. So how about these musical pieces? Are they really distractions? Or could they be of help in one way or another?

In fact some form of music has been in used in meditation practice for a long time. Those who are familiar with sadhana practice in Tibetan Buddhism know that many rhythmic and musical instruments are involved — a lot of cymbals, gongs, trumpets, clarinets, and of course the indispensable bell that always accompanies the vajra. So the practice can be a very loud affair. But if music is a distraction, then why do they have such a big role to play?

Moreover, if one looks at Theravada, which has far more simple rituals, one does find some music in there too. In Thailand there is the tradition of telling the tale of the Bodhisattva Vessantara, who assumed the last human form before eventually becoming Buddha Shakyamuni. The story is told is such beautiful and moving voice that bring tears to many listeners. The chant is indeed beautiful music.

This is a topic which is not well understood or thoroughly investigated, I think. On the one hand, music clearly can be a distraction. Try doing a meditation in a shopping mall filled with piped in music, and compare that to a quiet place in a park. But then there is the problem of employing music in many practices.

As a musician myself, I think my musical practice and performance can be a way of doing meditation. When I play a piece like Bach, all my attention will be glued to the music that I don’t think of anything else. I kind of “lose myself” to the music. There’s no consciousness of what is going on around me, no worries whether who is doing what around me. Just the music — the harmony, the counterpoint, the sheer tone of the piano, the sensuousness of it all.

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A recent article in the Economist explores the question why music is so important in our lives, and the answer is that music and sex are so related that musical prowess translates into more chances to pass on the genes to the offsprings. So the love of music and the pleasure derived from listening to it is perhaps hard wired into our beings. We are programmed to love music because our genes have been selected this way.  The Economist calls this the “food-of-love” hypothesis. Music and sex are deeply related to each other. The pleasures derived from music and from sex may be explainable through the same causes.

What this has to do with meditation and Buddhism is that, if music is really connected to meditation, then if the the “food-of-love” hypothesis is correct, then meditation could also be a skill which, akin to music, develops in tandem with the ability to find pleasure. The article quotes Stephen Pinker as follows:  “A brain devoted to turning sound into meaning is tickled by an oversupply of tone, melody and rhythm. Singing is auditory masturbation to satisfy this craving. Playing musical instruments is auditory pornography. Both sate an appetite that is there beyond its strict biological need.” The brain is hard wired to get pleasures from music in the same way as it does from cheesecakes. But how is this related to meditation?

Many meditators report having a lot of pleasures during their meditation. In fact the Buddha himself said that two components, “rapture” (piti) and “happiness” (sukha) are two main ingredients of successful meditation. And even though one goes to the higher stages where rapture and happiness are non-existent, this does not mean that no kind of happiness is available, because the texts say that those who have attained these higher stages of meditation are in some sense moving toward cessation of suffering. Even though the Buddha taught that this is not exactly the correct way to eliminate all sufferings, this can indeed contribute a lot to it.

So meditation seems to contribute a lot to pleasures, and the texts are clear in stating that as long as one remains in the meditative state, one in effect shuts the door from sufferings. However, the Buddha’s contribution is that this does not eliminate all possible sufferings, since one returns to the normal sufferings state once one is out of the meditation. The way toward total elimination of suffering is through realization of complete selflessness, but then a way toward such realization can be achived only through some forms of meditation, both shamatha and vipasyana. The vipasyana, or insight meditation, is also a meditation. Supreme happiness, the highest kind of happiness attainable by a human being (or indeed any sentient being), is only possible through meditation. And if music and meditation are related, then music could indeed be a way toward the realization.

But then what about music as a distraction? What happens when one practices a meditation session and the nearby house is having a wild rock party? This also can be compared with a musician who is practicing Bach while some other music is being played loudly. This is indeed a distraction, but that does not mean that music, per se, is a distraction. It depends on what we are doing at the moment.

Bhavaviveka and Candrakirti

Those who study Mahayana Buddhism perhaps know about Bhavaviveka as one who espouses the position known as “Svatantrika Madhyamika”, and that this is opposed by Candrakirti, whose position is “Prasangika Madhayamika”. All schools of Tibetan Buddhism follow Candrakirti, and the Svatantrika school is kind of denigrated by the Tibetan schools as being incomplete or as having been soundly refuted by Candrakirti.

This is an arcane issue. At the heart of the dispute is the nature of argumentation leading to the conclusion of the doctrine of Emptiness. According to Nagarjuna, no views are tenable. That is, the correct “view” of the Madhayamika is the “extinguishing of all views.” This is deeply ironic, but the intent of Nagarjuna is that the correct view is not describable through language. Since it is language itself, together with conceptualization and mental fabrication that accompany it, that is the culprit, then any view that is expressible through language in propositional or logical form is ultimately misguided.

Bhavaviveka
Bhavaviveka

Bhavaviveka was known as one of the greatest exponents of Nagarjuna’s teaching. He was a Madhyamika after all. He tried to found Nagarjuna’s teaching on a sound logical basis by constructing a system of argument purporting to show, as logical conclusion, the truth of the Emptiness doctrine. By doing this, it is necessary to posit an existence of some referents of the statements used in the argument. Without it, no logical argumentation would be possible because if you do not posit anything as putatively real (perhaps only for the purpose of the argument), then you don’t have any fixed point at which to tie up the argument, so to speak.

So this is Bhavaviveka’s strategy. He is known to criticize the work of Buddhapalita, who claimed, on the contrary, that it was actually impossible to found Nagarjuna’s teaching on any logical argumentation because no fixture was possible. Then Candrakirti came about after Bhavaviveka’s time and defended Buddhapalita, thereby refuting Bhavaviveka in his celebrated works, Madhyamakavatara and Prasannapada.

We don’t have all the time and space to deal adequately with this dispute here. Works abound on this topic. My goal here in this post is to point out that perhaps Bhavaviveka has been unjustly portrayed in the scholarly literature, and perhaps the distinction between the Prasangika and the Svatantrika might not be as great as sometimes mentioned.

The strategy of Buddhapalita and Candrakirti was different from that of Bhavaviveka. Instead of attempting to formulate an argument aiming to establish as logical conclusion the truth of Nagarjuna’s Emptiness Doctrine, they employ the strategy of reductio ad absurdum. No positive statement is made. Any posited statement at all is deduced to get at their conclusions and these conclusions would be shown to be contradictory, thereby refuting the posited statement. This is the standard method of the reductio. The idea is that, since according to Nagarjuna no statement can be defended (“extinguishing of all views”), no posited statement can be allowed which is necessary to construct a positive argument purporting to prove the Doctrine. So no positive argument. Everything that is asserted of anything is refuted completely.

Candrakirti
Candrakirti

In fact both sides can’t avoid their own paradoxes. Bhavaviveka has to answer how it is possible to posit fixed statement in order just to argue that no fixed statement is possible. Candrakirti, on the other hand, also has to say how it is possible that understanding anything through language is possible at all. No fixed category, no fixed meaning. Furthermore, the reductio itself is a form of an argument, so in order for even the reductio to work, some fixed categories have to be presupposed too.

The typical answer is that one has to bear in mind the distinction between the conventional truth (samvrtti-satya) and the ultimate truth (paramartha-satya). But this is equally applicable both to Bhavaviveka and Candrakirti. So it appears that their disagreement is only superficial and deep down they completely agree on the import of Nagarjuna’s and in fact the Buddha’s teaching. Since emptiness is very difficult to spell out through language, one either has to remain silent, or if one ventures out loud, one has to be willing to accept the paradoxes.

Ten Wholesome and Ten Unwholesome Actions

I am now translating Deshung Rinpoche’s oral commentary — The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception, which is published by Wisdom Books into Thai. The process has taken quite a long time because I am so busy with other commitments, so I can spend only a few minutes each day for the task. Nonetheless I plan to do it everyday (as far as possible) so that the completion is not too distant in the far future. This is my usual working plan — when you do a big task, try to pare it down into manageable chunks and do it one by one. Sooner or later the big task will be completed.

This is what I have been doing. The book is a long one, more than 500 pages, consisting of more than fifty chapters. I have now completed around 25 chapters. So this is almost half way, so at this rate the whole book should be finished not many months from now.

What I would like to write about here is Deshung Rnpoche’s teaching on the ten wholesome and unwholesome actions. This is a very important set of teachings by Lord Buddha which many in Thailand do not seem to pay much attention to. In Sanskrit it is kusalakarmapatha (minus the diacritical marks), or the path of wholesome action. This consists of ten items that those who practice the Dharma need to do in order to achieve the goal of Enlightenment.

For those who did not this already, here are the ten unwholesome actions (the wholesome ones are just opposites of these):

  1. Killing
  2. Stealing
  3. Committing Sexual Misconduct
  4. False Speech
  5. Divisive Speech
  6. Harsh Speech
  7. Idle Speech
  8. Covetousness or Envy
  9. Ill Will
  10. Wrong View

The ten unwholesome and wholesome actions are often taught in the context of karma. That is, those who vow to achieve Buddhahood in order to be able to help furry sentient beings across need to perform all the wholesome actions and avoid the unwholesome ones. This is absolutely necessary. Also, Theravadins also need to do the same, for without the wholesome karmas incurred by performing these wholesome actions, achieving nirvana is absolutely impossible.

Deshung Rinpoche taught that the results of performing the unwholesome actions are of three kinds, namely the fully ripened result, the result that is similar to its causes, and the prevailing, or dominant result. The first one is easy to understand. Doing the unwholesome actions can be a contributing cause to being reborn in one of the lower realms, i.e., as a tenant in hell, as a hungry ghost, or a non-human animal. The second type of result is quite interesting. By committing the unwholesome actions, one is likely to experience the same type of action over and over again. Suppose you steal something from somebody, a result of your action will be that the likeliness will increase that you will be in an environment that is conducive to your performing the same type of unwholesome action again, such as an environment where you will be encouraged to steal. Furthermore, you will also experience the inclination to perform the same type of action again. Suppose you stole something rather frequently in your past lives, chances are that in this life you will find yourself in a situation that makes it likely that you will steal again. This will only perpetuate the unwholesome karmic pattern, so that it will become more and more difficult for you to get out of this.

The third type of result is rather scary. By committing the unwholesome actions, you will find yourself in a situation where the physical environment itself is a cause of suffering. By committing the unwholesome acts, it is likely that you will be reborn in a desolate place where there is little food or drink, where the land is very harsh, and so on.

To underscore the importance of performing the wholesome actions and its role in achieving Liberation, Deshung Rinpoche has the following to say:

If the practice of these ten wholesome deeds is conjoined with the special Mahayana practices of bodhicitta (the bodhisattva’s vow to win enlightenment for the benefit of all beings), it will become not only a cause of higher rebirth but a cause of attaining perfect enlightenment as well. Similarly, if the practice of these virtuous deeds is conjoined with meditation on emptiness, which sees the true nature of phenomena, so that you perform such deeds with insight into the empty nature of everything, then you will accumulate transcendent merit, which becomes a cause not merely of rebirth in the higher realms but of buddhahoold itself.

This shows clearly that the ten wholesome/unwholesome deeds are very important indeed, and as such they function as a necessary stepping stone toward Nirvana and Enlightenment, as eventual Buddhahood. Deshung Rinpoche also recommends that you dedicate the merit obtained through performing the ten wholesome deeds to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. This will much expedite the journey.

HH Phakchok Rinpoche’s Visit to Thailand

Starting this Monday (June 16), His Holiness Phakchok Rinpoche will start his series of teachings and empowerment in Thailand. Here is the program:

Mon 16 June: The Great “I”
Place: Grand Ballroom, 11th Floor
Tawana Hotel
Time: 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Tue 17 June: Healing in Buddhism
Place: Mongkolnavin Conference Room, Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital
Time: Registration starts at 11:45 a.m. Lecture 12:15 to 13:45, including Q&A.

Thu 19 June: Vajrasattava Empowerment and Teaching on “Accumulation of Merit”
Place: Boudhagaya Hall

Time: 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Registration starts at 5:00 p.m.)

Sat-Sun 21-22 June: Teaching on Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation
Place: The Forum Park Hotel
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

I have known Phakchok Rinpoche for some time, as Thailand is one of his favorite places for a visit. Last time he gave a two-day teaching at Chulalongkorn University, an event organized by the Thousand Stars Foundation. He talked about mind training and how to do meditation in the style of Tibetan Buddhism. This was very good for Thai Buddhists, who were not at all familiar with Tibetan Buddhism and how to do meditation from another tradition rather than their own. This was really an eye opener and a very beneficial start of a dialog between the Thai and Tibetan traditions of Buddhism, which Rinpoche himself has been advocating for quite some time.

This time Rinpoche’s teachings will be much more wide ranging. He will start out with a talk on “The Great ‘I'”. Well, this is simply the root cause of all the sufferings that bind us with samsara. Then he talks about how the teaching of the Buddha could help with those with health problems. He will give the talk at the Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital and I am sure many patients and others will benefit a lot. Then on Thursday he will talk on how to accumulate merit and bestow an empowerment of the Buddha Vajrasattva. Vajrasattva is the Buddha of purification and the two topics fit together very well, as merit accumulation needs to be accompanied by the Vajrasattva practice of cleansing away our bad karmas in order for the merits to be most effective.

Then the highlight of his visit this year will be a teaching on Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation. Gampopa was a student of Milarepa, and he was the one who combined the monastic tradition transmitted by Atisha and the yogic tradition of Milarepa. So Thai people are really fortunate to be able to listen to this teaching.

Those of you who happen to be in Bangkok and would like to know more information please contact Khun Jarunee at jamjuree99 AT yahoo.com or download this file.