Saturday, March 20, 2010

a string of pearls

Back in Dharamsala, back to the rhythm of days lived inside texts and out, the two complementing each other better than ever. Among the several texts whose worlds I've had the great fortunate and true joy of spending time in recently is Je Gampopa's Dharma for the Community: A String of Pearls. This text records a series of teachings given by Gampopa in the 12th century in Tibet to a large gathering of disciples of various levels. Because it is not a literary composition but the record of oral discourses, it is a rare opportunity to connect quite directly with the voice and personal teaching style of this great master. The main disciple of Milarepa, Gampopa combined the Kadampa lineage of teachings - characterized by a focus on renunciation and compassion, and a flair for pith communication that cuts straight to the heart like an arrow - and the Mahamudra teachings so rich in meditative techniques and emphasizing a ritual-free spontaneous presence of awareness. A physician who lost his children and wife when all his medical knowledge could not save them from a local epidemic, Gampopa brought his own personal intensity of practice to the integration of these two lines of transmission, and founded the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

I share below just one of the many passages from this magnificent text that have stopped me in my tracks as I translate:

To awaken to buddhahood, in the beginning you need a wish to work for the aims of sentient beings. To awaken to buddhahood, in the middle you need to work for the aims of sentient beings. In the end, once you have awakened to buddhahood, there is nothing but working for the aims of sentient beings.

སངས་རྒྱ་བར་བྱེད་པ་ལ་དང་པོ་ཡང་སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་དོན་བྱེད་པར་འདོད་པ་ཅིག་དགོས། བར་དུ་ཡང་སངས་རྒྱ་བ་ལ་སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་དོན་བྱེད་པ་ཅིག་དགོས། ཐ་མ་ཡང་སངས་རྒྱས་ནས་སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་དོན་ལས་བྱར་མེད་པའོ།