Friday, September 26, 2008

Looking at Perfection… through the eyes of the Imperfect

When I look around, I do not see any sentient beings but only Buddhas. There is no suffering or pain of whatever kind. The ground is made of lapis lazuli and gold. Not a tiny speck of dust or dirt can be found. Such is the view of the world from the eyes of someone who has taken the Tibetan Buddhist highest yoga tantric vows, or someone practicing dzogchen. This includes himself – seeing himself as an enlightened being as personified by his/her meditational deity. Or, at least he is supposed to see it that way. Even for those not practicing these, you were taught to view your guru as an enlightened being who can make no mistakes. Hence, there is plenty of training methods to look at perfection in its various aspects in Tibetan Buddhism.

I need not go into the reasons or benefits of such practices, because these have been enumerated in many other commentaries and books. However, what are lacking are the precautionary advices of these practice methods of viewing everything as perfect. At this moment, I can almost hear some protests ringing out, “Oh- Are you saying there is something wrong with this practice?” The answer would be “No”. These are just some caution to be mindful of when doing these practices.

Caution # 1: Not to throw morality out of the window
Being still unenlightened, we can easily delude ourselves further by thinking that we are fully enlightened. Being enlightened, is not a ticket to immorality, even if we have achieved some levels of attainment. No matter which Buddhist tradition we are in, everybody can fall into this trap. We have read that in the state of Perfection, there is no dualistic view of good and bad anymore. And in that state, karma does not function. So, the moment we experience something extraordinary, we think that, “Oh, this is emptiness” or “This is Arhatship/ Buddhahood”. Then we think that we can sleep with anyone we like and it will be considered a “bodhisattva activity”!

If your attainment is not complete, then you will fall into the lower realms, and have to start your path all over again. Once caught in the lower realms, it is difficult to get out. Pitiful!

Caution #2: Not to throw common sense out of the window
Viewing our guru as fully realized beings is necessary for achieving realizations. This is mentioned in all Tibetan Buddhist lineages. While this is so, it does not mean we should throw common sense away, especially when we need to make certain decisions. We think everything we must check with the guru. So we make it into a habit of consulting the guru for every little thing. We start to forget we have a brain. For example, sometimes we believe too much (emphasis on too much) in consulting the Buddhas or deities or even lamas using oracles or other divinations. Even simple things we consult divination, instead of using common sense. You consult divination on whether property A is good or not. It turns out no good, and you go seek another property. Divination turns out no good again, and you seek another. This is not the right way.

The right way is to have property A, B & C ready for selection. But before that, we should evaluate using common sense. Eliminate the choices rejected using common sense. Once we have narrowed down our choices, then if you are still undecided, then only you seek divination. However in seeking divination, you should still inform the deity/lama that you have considered X, Y & Z and have rejected Z due to this and this reason. Yes, I think it is important to inform the deity/lama everything that happened. This is because you can still check using divination whether the one you had rejected was right or not. But the deity/lama must tell you a compelling reason for you to re-accept back that choice which you had earlier rejected using common sense. Otherwise, you ask the deity/lama to select X or Y only.

In seeking divination, especially on worldly matters, such as which property is good, which job is suitable, which person should you select, etc etc, perhaps it is better to consult our own common sense. There are other situations when we view things around us as “perfect or divine” but at the same time must never lose focus of the conventional truth where common sense operates in many aspects.

Caution #3: Not to expect others to view ourselves as “perfect” too.
There are people who are very devoted to their gurus. Then one day they become monks/abbots themselves, or directors/presidents of Buddhist centres. On a subtle level, without consciously knowing it, they may develop this expectation that their members need to see them as “perfect” too. So, when they do not get this subtle expectation fulfilled, they get annoyed and start exercising their “authority” or they and their members get into an argument. But this subtle expectation can develop in everyone, not just monks/leaders of Buddhist centers. Bottom line: those who are practicing it should view others as perfect, but they themselves should NOT expect anyone to view them as perfect. You should not tell someone else to view you as “perfect”. There is only a very fine line separating “divine pride” from “arrogance”; the former can easily degenerate into the latter.

Summing up, the road to complete Buddhahood is fraught with danger and pitfalls. Many people have started the journey but few have actually completed it. Many people fall by the side ways into the lower realms, or get distracted along the way and got stuck, or even back-tracking (i.e. walking 3 steps forward but not realizing he/she is walking 4 steps backwards after that). As there are many levels of attainments, it is also easy to fall into a trap when we think that we have reached the final level, when we have not.

Just take my Buddhist friends as example. I used to have a group of 5 or 6 friends closely dedicated to the Buddhist path. I went "cuckoo", 2 others stopped any serious practice after high school. Even my own sister, who was a committee member in the school Buddhist society, stopped any serious Buddhist study and involvement after marrying a Christian. So, I am speaking from experience. I have seen many serious practitioners who are not on the path anymore. So, now when I see beginners or seniors being so anxious in their practice and critising other traditions, I just wonder whether they themselves will complete the path or not.

Humility, constant self-checking and obtaining guidance from someone whom we know “had gone there and been through it” are vitally ingredients for a successful completion of the spiritual journey to PERFECTION.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tsongkhapa and Lama Zopa got bashed again

Well, they got bashed at again. But Pabongkha Rinpoche probably got the worst. I have attempted to defend the dignity of Tsongkhapa and was successful but the critics disliked it. In the past, they had "taken action" on me before for similar actions of defending my lineage masters. Recently they "took action" again without warning me. But it is okay, no problem for me. What matters is I feel sad my lineage gurus got bashed. And it is unwarranted that the Gelug lineage lamas got bashed. And worst, they are misusing HH Dalai Lama's comments to "hit back" at Pabongkha Rinpoche and Lama Zopa. For example, they said Pabongkha Rinpoche had brought more damage to Gelug lineage than good and implied those of his lineage such as Lama Zopa had been defiled by his dogyal practice and sectarianism too by being in his lineage. They also criticised that Lama Zopa took a long time to give up that dogyal practice. Clearly disappointing Gelug bashing.

These "people" have increasingly becoming sectarian themselves. They are trying to be self-righteous. They have clearly lost their focus. At a time when Buddhism is facing onslaught by other religions, you would think that Buddhists would be able to come together and think as one. Remember I use the words "think as one"; not "practice as one". The latter is difficult and might be impossible, but it is vitally important to think that we belong to the same Buddha Sakyamuni family. Outwardly, think as one, innerly practice on individual basis. But no - some people donot think like that. They regard that they have achieved high yogic attainments, so much so that they could detect other lineages' "questionable comments", even though Tsongkhapa's texts and commentaries on emptiness never deviaded from the Madhyamaka exposition by Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti.

So, I suggest us Gelugpas should not be taking Tsongkhapa's words for granted. We should check. Buddha Sakyamuni in essense gave this mesage long time ago in the Kalama Sutta, "Check my teachings". So, us Gelugpas must not fall into the trap that others might have fallen into.

Objectively check his teachings and when we have realised his teachings for ourselves, then only we can slay the demon of delusions forever. When we are able to understand his teachings within ourselves, without depending on any texts, then probably one of us will be able to reply to Gorampa's criticism of Tsongkhapa. And settle once and for all, the debate of two truths.

I pray that we may be able to do this!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Realising the precious human rebirth

According to the Lam Rim teachings, the precious human rebirth is the very first to be taught both in the short and long versions of the Lam Rim (after the need for a spiritual teacher) . In doing the Lam Rim contemplations, this is the very first realisation to be gained in a series of realisations; hence the term "graduated path". (side note: however, some of these realisatons can be gained simultaneously, for example: you may gain realisation 1 to 3 one after the other, but realisation no. 4-8 you gained it all at once; it all depends on individual basis)

In doing the contemplations on precious human rebirth, we have to analyse and debate with ourselves why this is considered the precious human rebirth. In Buddhism, it is like this. We donot just simply accept the buddha's or any of his subsequent disciples' teachings. We question it, we seek until we obtain satisfactory answers to all our "whys". It is not just an intellectual exercise, but to implant an unshakeable spiritual conviction.

Intellectual understanding is really useless. For instance, we can easily forget the precious human rebirth when we indulge in endless love affairs, not giving up even though the person you are "madly in love with" had said to you umpteen times that he/she is not interested in you. You go through all kinds of pain and torture to win his/her heart. If this is a bad example, let me give you another. OK. In a traffic jam, we often forget the precious human rebirth. Instead of taking the time when we are stucked there to recite mantras mentally - ie, doing your daily mantra commitments during traffic jams, we get angry and hone constantly, or we just let out thoughts fly meaninglessly. If we have realised the precious human rebirth, and if we cannot as yet renounced the world, then we will seek jobs that at the least will give us time to go for retreats and pilgrimages.

So, realising the precious human rebirth is important in order to not forget our direction in life and to put real meaning into all of our actions. Realising the precious human rebirth is the foundation of all dharma practice. But the converse may not be true, ie. people who are practising dharma maynot be someone who had realised the precious human rebirth. That is why there is a saying that practising the dharma may be just another worldly action if we donot first gained this realisation of the preciousness of human rebirth. There are so many people who are practising the dharma, but how many have truely realised the precious human rebirth?

So, how to gain this realisation? As per Lam Rim, we have to contemplate the rarity of human rebirth by analysing how rare it is compared to other types of rebirth, and supporting it by examples from the sutras or observances from life experience. We do it daily until the rarity and preciousness of our being sinks deeply in us. And even without the need to contemplate or supporting examples, we will be aware of it always. When is it that it is considered that we have gained the realisation of precious human rebirth? Is the answer - when we practice the dharma? Not exactly. This is because persons who are practising the dharma donot necessarily have realised the precious human rebirth. BUT - putting it the other way around - persons who have realised the precious human rebirth do always practised the dharma. See the difference? So, the answer is "We have realised the precious human rebirth when we recognised that we have only this ONE and ONLY chance to make good of our precious rebirth as a human with no defects and with the opportunity for dharma practice". As long as you think you have the chance to come back as a human again, then that is as long as you will procrastinate and delay your dharma practice and thus, have not realised the precious human rebirth.

In order to be considered you have gained this fundamental realisation, you need to truely see the rarity of the turtle who surfaced once in an aeon and be able to poke at the yoke floating on the wide ocean. Remember that it is not an intellectual exercise as I have said and I am repeating again. The believe must sink inside you deeply!

In the beginning, some of the signs and symtomps of gaining this realisation is that you may wake up in the morning feeling greatly joyful of this once and only chance - more precious and much more rare than getting a gold medal at the Olympics - then you may be seized suddenly by fear. You may feel that death may happen to you soon and hence, you would have lost this precious human rebirth. (Note that the latter is actually another Lam Rim realisation, i.e. of impermanence and death but it could happen at the same time when you realised the precious human rebirth). After realising this preciousness of human rebirth, you would not unnecessarily endanger yourself or involved yourself in dangerous activities that would increased your chances of death happening sooner. It is no longer a case of self-cherishing or attachment to life anymore, rather you think that you need to make the most of this short yet precious existence that you have.

What is the benefit of this realisation? Need I say more? The entire path will open up to you once you have gained this basic Lam Rim realisation. On this note, I would like to share with you one secret on how to cure the most cronic illness... without having to do any pujas or spend huge amount of donation or money in medicines. If you are on the brink of death, you need to answer this question properly and honestly : -


Maybe, you answer - "well, I am still young". Is that a good answer? No. Why shouldn't young people die? They are not exempted, you know? So, you try to give another better answer. You go on until you realised that it is our own attachment to this body, or attachment to persons or family that we think we need a cure. These are not really satisfactory answers. The truely satisfactory answer is:

"We need a cure because we have this one and only chance for dharma practice. If I am dead, I would not be sure of another human existence...unless of course, someone can guarantee me of another rebirth as a human (not just any human, but human with opportunity to meet with the dharma again) or rebirth into Amitabha Pure Land. So, since no one can give me this guarantee, please give me a little more time. ..." and then you go on to tell the Buddha what you will do if you are given a specific extended time. 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years... whatever - Specify the time that you need and what you WILL DO during that extended time. For example, you promise to attend retreats or complete 1,000,000 mantras of whatever deity, or promise to study the entire Lam Rim. IF you have gained this realisation of preciousness of human rebirth, chances are you will be spared from untimely death and your wish will be granted. By whom? Not the Buddha; but by yourself actually. Your destiny and karma have changed due to your changed attitude upon gaining the reliasation. That is why karma is not something unchangeable. Destiny is not engraved in steel and iron.

But it can only happen if you truely have realised the preciousness of human rebirth. Basically, we cannot cheat the Buddha. It's either we have the realisation or we don't. Our illness will also not be cured if our illness is at an advance stage, or we are obstructed by heavy karma. So it makes perfect sense to gain this realisation ASAP before we are diagnosed with any potentially terminal illness. (re-edited on 19 Oct 2008)

I took a long time to finish this blog. Completed it only on 5 Oct 2008. And it will take a longer time before I realise what I have written. I am not sure where all those words came from...hehehehe... beats me!

ANYWAY, TAKE CARE! May all sentient beings be able to benefit from this blog! :)

Lama Zopa's miracle at Lawudo (Part 2)

Yesterday I went to MPH boostore at Gurney Plaza, and to my surprise and shocked, I could nto find the Feng Shui World magazine anymore at the usual place they put the mags. After just less than one week, I would think they will be a lot left still unsold. That's usually the case with the previous issues. MPH Gurney Plaza is my frequent haunting place..hahahah! That's how I know these things.

After searching around, I found the mags placed on a wall rack - and only a few mags left. Those still left unsold are also those with its corner pages bend/folded. After I saw the mag, I basically wrote a short synopsis of the miracle part to my Buddhist forum friends and also here in my blog. After reading it, they went to snap up those mags. That's the only logical explanation for the quick sales of this latest edition of Feng Shui World. Aunty Lillian should pay me sales commission! Hahaha - I'm just joking. I am happy for her because I know she donates a lot of her profits to the Buddhist temples and other charitable causes.

Even though people accuse her of commercialising fengshui, clearly she has benefitted more sentient beings than most of us. She has also brought many western people to be interested in Buddhism and learn about Buddhism. To her critics, I want to ask - just how many non-Buddhists have you introduced to Buddhism? Buddhism is about benefitting others, and if we are unable to benefit others, why are we making effort to stop someone who can? Unless we can do better than her, we should not be so quick to make negative judgements about her work on Feng Shui.

Dharma Ending Age

This is what is going to happen if Buddhists donot protect their own faith by practising and understanding dharma properly. Understanding dharma is important because we can practise all the dharma we want but if it is done improperly or without the right understanding, nothing will come out of our practice. And then we will fault Buddhism for failing to bring liberation, and then turn to another religion. Read this extracted from

Mongolians pray at the Living Word Christian Church, an evengelical church with around 1000 members in Ulan Bator. It is located in the UB Palace, a large complex that on weekend nights is a nightclub and bar. (By Michael Kohn / Special to The Chronicle)

Buddhism losing fast in Mongolia
by Michael Kohn, San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2008

Ulan Bator, Mongolia -- Mitch Tillman is an unlikely savior. Six years ago, the Baptist missionary languished in an Alabama jail, facing a prison sentence on drug charges. Today he builds hospitals, feeds street children and saves souls in Mongolia.

For Christian missionaries like Tillman, Mongolia is the new El Dorado. Since communist rule ended in 1990, some 60,000 Mongolians have turned to Christianity, according to records kept by Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, other Protestant churches and Catholics.

"A lot of my friends were becoming Christian, so I decided to learn something about the faith," said L. Chimgee, 18, a student at Ulan Bator's Technical University. "I went on a weekend retreat to a Christian camp in the countryside. It was a lot of fun and I felt a real sense of community. So I joined the church."

Tillman, who was acquitted of cocaine possession in 2002, believes prayers secured his freedom. Once out of jail, the Chattanooga native sold his auto body business and moved to Mongolia where his father, a Baptist pastor, had established a mission.

"As Mongolia enters a new era of freedom and democracy, people are looking for something different," said Tillman, a 53-year-old father of six, whose family includes three adopted Mongolian children. "They are looking for hope and a better life for their children. I think that Christ will give them that."

Monks alarmed
But the campaign to convert Mongolians has set off alarm bells in the ancient hallways of Gandan Monastery, the nation's largest Buddhist complex with 800 monks. Senior monk Khunhur Byambajav says he is concerned that fewer Mongolians are coming to his monastery.

"It's a problem of money. (Christian) missionaries have money to build schools and educate young people. They entice them by various means," said Byambajav, referring to gifts offered by churches such as food, clothing and scholarships to study abroad. "We cannot financially compete, but we have to try, otherwise we won't have enough young people becoming Buddhist."

Tillman's Harbor Evangelism International, for example, operates two hospitals, an orphanage, a soup kitchen and an alcohol recovery program in a country where alcoholism is rampant even among some Buddhist monks, some observers say.

"Our Mongolian Buddhist monasteries are weak," said L. Odonchimed, a former member of parliament. "They get money from people but don't give much back. Missionaries give things away for free and help people - that is what a religious organization should do."
Unregistered groups. Byambajav says he is most concerned about unregistered Christian groups, which he says indoctrinate children, convince Buddhists to burn religious articles and even destroy stupas (a mound-like structure that symbolizes enlightenment). "There is no control over these groups and no one is paying attention to what they are doing."

In a nation that separates church and state like the United States, Byambajav has asked the government to make Buddhism the state religion. He argues that the nation needs a law giving monks state funds and allowing the teaching of Buddhism in public schools.

"We sent a letter to the government to change the law on religion, but foreign religious organizations are very strong and wealthy," said Byambajav. "They influence the decisions of politicians because they give them money. So it puts us at a disadvantage."
Back to Buddhism

Odonchimed, the former legislator, agrees that many Mongolians are attracted by the services offered by church groups. But he predicts they will be eventually ignored as the nation's economy develops.

"As time passes, people will have less need for these missionaries and they will be forgotten," he said. "Most people will turn back to Buddhism."

In the meantime, the Federation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, an Oregon-based nonprofit Buddhist organization, is using a Western approach to win converts. The group has opened schools in monasteries and at its center in Ulan Bator.
"Mongolian religion needs to adapt to modern times," said Ueli Minder, the Swiss head of the federation. "Young Mongolians have little knowledge of Buddhism because the monasteries don't teach the faith to laypeople. It's our goal to help people understand the roots of the culture and the religion."

Western methods
Byambajav says Gandan monastery is also using Western methods, including a radio program, and plans to open several private schools and launch a television station.
Minder, however, concedes that Buddhist monks are facing a daunting challenge when going up against Christian missionaries: proselytizing is an alien concept for most of them.

"It should not become a missionary religion, but we need to have a strategy to overcome the negative propaganda of the past and the propaganda of missionary work," said Minder. "The lamas (Tibetan/Mongolian monks) need to learn to defend their beliefs ... regain the people's confidence."

Christianity in Buddhist Mongolia
Until religion was banned in 1921 by a Communist regime, most Mongolians followed Tibetan Buddhism. New freedom following the collapse of communism in 1990 legalized Buddhism and reopened monasteries. But it also opened the gates to outside faiths.
Currently, 50 percent of Mongolians are Tibetan Buddhists, 6 percent are Shamanist and Christians and 4 percent are Muslims. About 40 percent say they practice no religion, according to CIA data.

The challenge to keep the Buddhist faithful from converting to Christianity is hampered by language. Monks chant in Tibetan, which most Mongolians do not understand. Christian sermons and bibles are given and written in Mongolian.
According to records kept by church groups operating in Mongolia, there are 60,000 Christians - a 20 percent increase over the past eight years. The government keeps no statistics on religious affiliation.

In the capital, Ulan Bator, where half the nation's Christians reside, according to a U.S. State Department report, churches are located in prominent neighborhoods, including a five-story Mormon tabernacle situated next to the city's most luxurious hotel. Residents can also watch Christian programs via Eagle TV, a satellite channel funded by American Protestants.
U.S.-style revivals are also common, including charismatic pastors giving fiery sermons to packed halls. These services include rock music, flashing neon lights and high-tech videos beamed across large screens. Clear plastic boxes overflow with donations and teens can sign up to participate in rural "Jesus Camps."

"It's a release from the status quo," said American Baptist minister Mitch Tillman. "For so many years they were under Buddhism and then they were oppressed by communism. They want something new and they find it in Jesus Christ."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life is precarious

Not knowing what's gong to happen to me, nowadays I feel espcially precarious. I feel at anytime something bad is going to happen to me. Something terrible. Hence, subconsciously I tell myself I need to be careful at every moment. I need the blessing from the Guru-Triple Gem at every moment. That's how precarious my life had become. And yet, many times I had become careless. And on some issues, where I donot know how to handle, they have become a source for breaking of precepts for me. How terrible!

I pray that everything goes well for me and all sentient beings!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Precious Guru's miracle at Lawudo

During a trip to Lawudo, the birthplace of the lama said to be the previous incarnation of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lillian Too and the others in Rinpoche’s entourage witnessed a miracle that confirms beyond doubt the faith many of Rinpoche’s students had in him. This was related in the most recent issue of Feng Shui World magazine. I was there at the bookstore and flipping it through, my eyes somehow zoomed into that particular paragraph. (Definitely it was due to my karma that I had the opportunity to read such miracle occurrences!)

This is roughly the story, which is only one small part of the entire account of Lillian Too’s journey with Rinpoche to Lawudo recently. At the end of their journey to Lawudo, on the last day, the group and Rinpoche was ready to leave that mountainous area. A helicopter was supposed to come and picked them up early in the morning at 7am. But that morning, the cloud is very dense and weather was cold. No helicopter could land in such a condition. Everyone was worried, including Lillian Too. A few of them were busy burning juniper to clear obstacles. But Rinpoche was just sitting there, silently, deeply in meditation and prayers. Then suddenly, out of the blue, the dense cloud just parted into two – like the Red Sea (using the words of Lillian Too). I could imagine it is like the huge gate of heaven opening to allow the clear blue sky and the rays of sunlight behind the dense clouds to be seen. Then the sound of helicopter could be heard and soon those on the ground can see the helicopter approaching from the “gate” in the sky. It soon landed and Lillian Too wanted to thank Rinpoche for the “miracle” in the sky. But Rinpoche just smile and appeared wanting them to hurry up to board the helicopter. To Rinpoche, he does not want any thanks at all. He just want to benefit people selflessly. It must take off before the “gate” closed. Very soon they took off and the dense clouds closed off the “gate”. Whether the “opening of the gate” was due to Rinpoche’s own “force” or the doing of one or more deities or protectors there, clearly they have done it due to huge respect they have for Rinpoche. I personally do not think Rinpoche needed to do anything, his protectors will do the job of clearing the sky for him. So, once again we have read of a true account of an incident that will deeply enhance the faith of many, especially his students.

This is roughly the story in my own words. For the actual words of Lillian Too’s story, you need to refer to the magazine. But please take note, it is not my intention to advocate the magazine in this forum or fengshui. Just wanted to share the story here, especially the miracle part, because I know there are many people who attend and listen to Lama Zopa’s teachings even though you may not be Gelugpas. So, this story will add to other accounts of other lamas and Rinpoches. Every student definitely has his/her own story to tell of his/her own lama. Rejoice when we hear such stories! :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Venerable Yin Shun's Lam Rim text

After being ignorant for a long time, my karma has ripened now and now have met with Ven. Yin Shun’s version of Je Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim or Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation. I did not know that in the Sutrayana or Paramitayana tradition of Mahayana (or more commonly referred to as Eastern Mahayana), they also have their own Lam Rim. And it is fantastic to know that Ven. Yin Shun had studied many Tibetan texts including Nagarjuna’s and Chandrakirti’s Madhayama texts and Je Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo. In fact this book – The Way to Buddhahood – was based on Ven. Taixu’s commentaries as well as the Lam Rim Chen Mo. That is why the contents of the book is remarkably similar to the Lam Rim Chen Mo. Ven. Yin Shun even arranged it according to the lower scope, middle scope and higher scope of the Great Vehicle but he expanded the three scopes in a modern context. I did not read all of the book but realized that Ven. Yin Shun’s commentary showed his deep insight towards the various schools of Buddhism and I felt that he particularly understood the “One Buddha Vehicle” concept. In his own words, he tried to “…interconnect all the Buddhist teachings and return them to the One Vehicle”. Some Buddhists only know how to talk about it but he understood it precisely. I find his scholastic ability exceptional and I feel this book is indispensable, especially those in the Chinese Mahayana tradition who wishes to adopt a proper study of the Buddhist path.

However, I take exception to Ven. Yin Shun’s commentary in the Preface, “… Thus in the Dharma common to the lower people, (Tsongkhapa) held that “mindfulness of death” was an important entrance to the Way. Actually, without being mindful of death, one can still practice the good deeds, … Thus, the method for beginners emphasizes both practicing the ten good deeds, (without abandoning the affairs of daily life) and following the right deeds of the Human vehicle to enter the Buddha vehicle, instead of emphasizing practices of renunciation such as mindfulness of death.”

Actually when Tsongkhapa and other Tibetan Masters talked about “renunciation”, they are not referring only to physical renunciation, i.e. “abandoning the affairs of daily life” as Ven. Yin Shun puts it. Tsongkhapa clearly saw the necessity to develop a true understanding of emptiness at least intellectually before embarking on tantric practice. And before one could develop that understanding, Bodhicitta is a necessary ingredient. But before Bodhicitta could develop, developing a mind of renunciation is a pre-requisite. But developing renunciation, is not only becoming monks and nuns or going to the deep jungle or mountains. More importantly, Tsongkhapa was referring to the renunciation of the mind. Only when we have a true appreciation of renunciation, can we truly embark on the ten good deeds and abandoning the ten non-virtuous deeds.

But as a modern Buddhist scholar, I feel Ven. Yin Shun’s emphasis on not abandoning the affairs of daily life is important. In these modern times, it is not uncommon for Buddhists to become disheartened about modern life and think that it is better to just leave the worldly affairs and becoming a monk/nun. Different Buddhist masters have different roles to play at different times. Tsongkhapa’s world was different from Ven. Yin Shun’s. Overall, I think Ven. Yin Shun’s Way to Buddhahood (WTB) is an indispensable guide I would like to have in addition to Lam Rim Chen Mo (LRCM). Some things that are not explained in LRCM are explained in WTB; not because Tsongkhapa donot know about these, but rather Ven. Yin Shun was explaining it from our current contemporary way of practices and modern contexts. Such a Buddhist master like him are a rare gem. I do not know why it took me so long to establish karma with him!?