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LDC Basic Dharma Program

Subject 3 : Mahayana Mind Training
Text : Dharmaraksita's

The Wheel Of Sharp Weapons

Commentary by the Venerable Sam-lo Geshe Kelsang Session 16/2001
Translated by Ven. Thubten Yeshe Gurung 16th September 2001

Verse 87:

We do not follow proper procedures of study;
We say it is needless to read the vast texts.
We feel there is no value in learning from Gurus;
We slight oral teachings and think we know best.
Trample him, trample him, dance on the head
Of this treacherous concept of selfish concern.
Tear out the heart of this self-centred butcher
Who slaughters our chance to gain final release.

There are some people who do not study well in texts or scriptures. Such people have wanted to practice Dharma but their knowledge is very limited. When somebody asks them how to practice, they merely reply to practice Refuge but could not explain very precisely how to practice Refuge. There are people who think that studying text or scriptures are just a collection of intellectual information and some people whose Dharma knowledge is very limited would claim (out of ignorance) that just by meditating on the deity is sufficient and we do not need to study the vast texts or scriptures or philosophy. They just ignore the scriptures which are very profound in meaning. There are some people, because they do not know, they think that studying the great philosophy is not necessary and that simple practice will do. There are also people who out of ignorance, do not know that the vast scriptures or philosophical texts can help us in our Dharma practice.

Therefore it is very important for Dharma practitioners to study as much as possible. For example, there are two sincere Dharma practitioners. One of them studies very well and knows how to practice, the other does not study very well about how to practice. The one who has studied very well about Dharma, all the texts and scriptures explaining on how to develop wisdom, would overcome his delusions faster and attain more realisations than the other who has not studied so well about Dharma although they apply the same level of effort to practice.

Having given this example, we must not mistaken that there is no benefit if we practice with little Dharma knowledge or do not know very well how to practice. There is still benefit even though one does not know very well how to practice but still practices. However, the important point is that if one knows very well and practices, one can gain realisation quicker and overcome the delusions faster. Therefore it is very important to read as much Dharma texts as possible and to consult others whenever we have any doubts or do not understand.

As it is mentioned in the Lam Rim that,
Although the sin of the wise one is heavy, it is light.
Though the sin of the foolish one is light, it is heavy.

We cannot take the phrase literally. We should take the interpretative meaning. Here "light" and "heavy" refers to "small negativities" and "big negativities" respectively. It means that the wise, although they may have created heavy negativities, they know how to purify them. They know lots of methods to purify the negative karmas easily by applying the Four Opponent Powers. Therefore, even if they created heavy negativity karma, they can purify them easily such that the effect or sin becomes light. But for the fools, although their sin is light, it is heavy, as they do not know how to apply the antidotes to overcome the negativities or to purify the negative karma therefore their negative karma multiplies and become heavy.

Thus, even in the context of purification, there is a great difference between one who knows how to purify and one who does not know.

When we do our purification practice daily, there is a danger of it becoming so habitual that we gradually lacks the mindfulness in the practice just like when we drink water without being mindful of it. How can we protect ourselves from this situation?

As we know that just by merely reciting the prayers or mantras, is not very effective in purifying the negative karma, in order to avoid such situation, we have to contemplate on the Perfect Human Rebirth, how precious it is and difficult it is to achieve. Also by recollecting death and impermanence, that our lives are full of uncertainties that we can die any moment. Even if we think that we are very healthy, there is no guarantee that we will still be alive an hour later. There are people whom we have seen an hour ago that we would not be able to see anymore. If we contemplate in this way, now that we have the opportunity to prepare for our future lives and to purify all the negative karmas which are the causes of all unwanted suffering. If we think in this way, that will encourage us to practice seriously and to stimulate our thoughts to engage in the practice more seriously.

Therefore it is very important that as a Dharma practitioner, even if one does not know the vast scriptures, whatever one knows for our daily practices (reciting mantras and prayers), it is very important to know the procedures properly such as how to set the motivation and so forth. If one does not know very well how to undertake the practice, then it is very important to read books related to the practice and even if one is not clear after reading the books one can consult someone who is more senior and knows better. In this way, one adds to one's knowledge on the practice and how to practice well. This is very important. Otherwise if one just practice without knowing what one is doing, sometimes there is the danger that what one may think is Dharma practice but sometimes due to mistaken motivations, does not become Dharma. Thus it is very important to study before one practice and to study as much as one can as one practices so that if one practices after knowing well, it will be more meaningful and effective.

Now we come to the second part of the verse. As a Lam Rim practitioner (or any Dharma practitioner), it is very important to receive any discourse or the oral transmission from someone who holds the lineage of the teaching or the discourse. If one receive such teachings from a guru who holds the lineage of the particular teaching or oral transmission, it is very beneficial for the disciples when they practice. They will easily receive the blessings and it will be quicker for them to develop realisations because of the blessings of the unbroken lineage which is passed down from Buddha Shakyamuni. In the second part of the verse it is mentioned that one need not rely on the spiritual masters. There are some practitioners who study the philosophy and are quite intelligent, would think that they do not need to rely on the spiritual masters. They think that they can teach themselves and others. Although they may be able to teach others, there will not be much blessings compare to those who have the lineage of the teachings.

Although we might have received the oral transmission from a qualified lama but we do not understand as the transmission is in Tibetan. Is it not as effective?

It is still effective although you do not understand the language.

Verse 88:

We fail to explain what the 'Three Baskets' teach,
But instead dwell on theories we have made up ourselves.
We lack deep conviction and faith in the teachings,
Whatever we say leaves disciples confused.
Trample him, trample him, dance on the head
Of this treacherous concept of selfish concern.
Tear out the heart of this self-centred butcher
Who slaughters our chance to gain final release.

There are people who whenever they teach others, just made up some teachings by themselves, which are not related to the Three Scriptural Teachings as taught by the Buddha. Since they are not well educated in the Buddha-dharma, they do not convey teachings related to the Three Scriptural Teachings which emphasise on ethics or morality, development of single pointed concentration and the development of wisdom. Some claimed their teachings were Pure Vision or Treasured Teachings that were hidden in order to cheat others.

From Padmasambhawa, there were the 'Terma' teachings which were found later. These teachings are OK, are they?

The 'hidden treasure' of Dharma by Padmasambhawa is a perfect (without mistake). It was prophesised that at certain time some specified people would take out these Dharma and they would practice. That is the genuine Dharma treasure.

However, His Holiness mentioned that even in Tibet, there are people who made up some fake Dharma treasure. These people used the little knowledge they have on Dharma to compose texts and hide or buried under the ground. Then they pretend to have dug the texts from the ground and claimed that these are the Dharma treasures. The 'false theories' refers to those people who made up the fake Treasured Dharma. We also believe that Padmasambava is the emanation of Je Tsongkapa. Padmasambava prophesied that there would be a monk called Losang Dragpa who would spread the Dharma.

The Cittamani Tara Puja that we do every month is related to the Highest Yoga Tantra tradition. This tradition comes from a great Lama known as Dagpa Dorje Chang who is one of the previous Pabongka Rinpoche's tutor. When he went to the Potala, he had a vision of Green Tara, who taught him the Cittamani Tara Puja. Such teaching is also called Pure Vision teachings.

Although Lama Tsongkapa himself received many visions of deities and Buddhas, and had received many teachings from them; in his works and texts, he never mentioned that they were pure vision teachings. All his teachings were related to the Buddha's teachings that can be derived from the Kangyur and Tangyur (commentaries of the great Buddhist pandits).

How is not being able to study well related to self-cherishing? Does it mean that if we lessen our self-cherishing then we would be able to study better and teach better?

Due to our failure to follow the proper procedures in our study, we condemned the vast scriptures or the philosophical scriptures and that is not helpful to our practice. This is caused by self-cherishing. The reason why we are not able to study the Dharma well it is because we are distracted by the happiness of this life or worldly affairs. Again, this distraction is caused by self-cherishing. Since we did not study well, we might claim that the vast, profound scriptural texts are not useful to practice. Such kind of condemnation or belittling is caused by self-cherishing.

Will lessening of self-cherishing improve our study? Is it like an indicator? If our study does not improve, does it mean our practice of lessening self-cherishing is not enough?

Since self-cherishing prevents us from developing or enhancing our good qualities such as making offerings, practice and being generous and good hearted. When we reduce our self-cherishing, we would be encouraged to help other sentient beings, to make offerings, to be generous and kind hearted thus our Dharma practice will progress automatically.

Since reducing self-cherishing is so important, could Gen-la please clarify how do we reduce self-cherishing step by step. As the two methods of 'Seven Point Cause and Effect' and 'Exchanging Self for Others' are very advance methods, how do beginners like us, who also wish to reduce our self-cherishing, practice?

There are two methods to generate bodhicitta - Seven Point Cause and Effect Instructions and Equalising and Exchanging Self with Others. The second method is for practitioners with sharper faculties.

We can empathise that, like us, other sentient beings wish for happiness and do not want suffering. Thinking like this, we can practice Equalising and Exchanging Self with Others.

Also, to generate compassion, we need to rely on sentient beings who are suffering. As we feel unbearable while seeing sentient beings suffer, we can develop compassion. After we have generated the great compassion, we assume the responsibility of taking all sentient beings to Buddhahood. With such thoughts, we have to engage in the practice of the Six Perfections. Each of the practice on the Six Perfections relies on sentient beings as objects of practice. For example to practice generosity, we need sentient beings as objects to give to.

In addition, our current state of Perfect Human Rebirth is also due to the kindness of sentient beings because it is due to having observed morality that we can achieve such rebirth. In order to observe morality, we need to have sentient beings as objects that we refrain from harming.

It is difficult for us to practice in this way, however, we can contemplate on the faults or disadvantages of self-cherishing and the advantage of cherishing sentient beings. If we contemplate regularly, we can develop the attitude to cherish sentient beings more.

Therefore it is important to realise the disadvantages of self-cherishing so as to reduce it. The biggest obstacle that self-cherishing cause us is that it prevents us from achieving the state of liberation and the omniscient mind. If we think of the small problems cause by self-cherishing, such as a businessman who enjoys good profit all along until certain year when the economy suffers and he could not make as much money. He experiences great dissatisfaction not because he does not have enough money to feed himself and his family but because of his dissatisfaction. All these senseless dissatisfaction is useless. Sometimes, our self-cherishing can also cause us to get angry without any reasons. When we get angry, we will create a lot of negative karma. If we are able to see the disadvantage and faults of self-cherishing that it gives us a lot of problems and sufferings, we will not be influenced by self-cherishing and engage in any activity that is caused by self-cherishing. Even when sometimes we lost control and fall under the influence of self-cherishing, we would subsequently regret our deeds and purify the negative karma. In this way, we can reduce our self-cherishing gradually.

Verse 89:

We do not despise actions unwise and immoral,
Instead we dispute and attempt to pick flaws
In the excellent teachings and great masters' works.
Trample him, trample him, dance on the head
Of this treacherous concept of selfish concern.
Tear out the heart of this self-centred butcher
Who slaughters our chance to gain final release.

There are people who claim to be Dharma practitioners but engage in actions that are immoral, unwholesome or negative. They always try to find faults and dispute with the pure practitioners and those who give genuine teachings.

Verse 90:

We are never embarrassed when acting disgracefully,
Only respectable deeds cause us shame.
Trample him, trample him, dance on the head
Of this treacherous concept of selfish concern.
Tear out the heart of this self-centred butcher
Who slaughters our chance to gain final release.

There are people who when engage in unwholesome actions such as when they successfully cheated others or when they beat others to death, they think that they have done great things instead of viewing such actions as faulty. These people ought to be ashamed or feel remorseful of their deeds but instead they rejoice at their wrong deeds.

For example, when our relatives or friends give up the luxury in their life and live on meagre food and clothing, we ought to rejoice at their effort in giving up the enjoyment of life to practice Dharma as their lives become meaningful. But instead we feel ashamed or embarrassed to acknowledge them (due to their wretched appearance) when asked by others if we are related to them.

During Milarepa's time, he was practicing all the time that he paid no attention to his clothes which had in fact become tattered and was revealing his body. When one of Milerepa's relative saw this, the relative offered to mend his clothes as he found this embarrassing.

Milerepa rejected his offer and told him that he should not feel embarrassed with Milerepa's torn clothes but to be ashamed of his own embarrassment. This is because Milerepa is a great Dharma practitioner who has renounced all his worldly affairs and practiced sincerely. He has become an object of veneration. Although the offer made by Milerepa's relative was sincere, Milerepa pointed to him that one should not mistaken what to be embarrassed and what not to be embarrassed.


Note on authentication

Jacqueline Lam prepared the original typescript from the tape recording. Pek Chee Hen checked and edited the typescript.

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