Lama Jampa Thaye recently gave his first Buddhist teachings in Prague, the beautiful capital city of the Czech Republic. The teachings were on Shentong, the view of Buddha Nature as expounded by the great nineteenth century Rime master, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.
Bodhi Path Buddhist Centre Prague
Lama Jampa was invited by Prague Bodhi Path Buddhist Centre to give teachings on the Shentong (Buddha Nature) teachings. Shortly before, founder of Bodhi Path passed away in 2014, he requested Lama Jampa to teach on this subject at his centres. Each year since then Lama Jampa has been fulfilling this wish by visiting Bodhi Path centres around the world.
An Introduction to Receiving Buddhist Teachings
Lama Jampa began the teachings on Friday evening with a detailed examination of our motivations for receiving the teachings, our conduct and attentiveness during the teachings, and our efforts to study and realise what we have received. He explained that, from the point of view of Shentong, the aim of all of this was simply to uncover the naturally present qualities of wisdom, compassion and power and stressed that however complex the teachings were, we should not lose sight of their transformative purpose.
Teachings on Buddha Nature
On Saturday and Sunday Lama Jampa began teaching the text ‘The Rays of the Stainless Vajra Moon - A Guide to the Great Madhyamaka Shentong View’ composed by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in the nineteenth century. The text is a guide to how to first develop the most profound view of reality through both intellectual reasoning and second to turn that into experience by progressive stages of meditation practice.
The text began with an explanation of the meaning of the title . Lama Jampa indicated that Tibetan texts commonly have two titles, the first as somewhat poetic and the second as statement of the subject matter. He then gave a short introduction to the Madhyamaka as the highest philosophical view of the four systems of tenets within Buddhism and gave a brief introduction into the differences between the rangtong ‘self empty’ and the shentong ‘empty of other’ forms of this. As for the poetic title, ‘the rays of the immaculate vajra moon’, this is a synonym for Buddha Nature itself, indestructible and unaffected by any of our obscurations, always shedding light to show us how to remove them.
The Sources of the Buddha Nature Teachings
The text is organised into three main parts. The ﬁrst covers the sources from which it arose and Lama Jampa explained that although the teachings can be examined and understood through reasoning, knowing the origins of a teaching and the greatness of the line of masters that transmitted it helps us to develop confidence that it is authoritative. With this knowledge we are more likely to study the text with a strong heart.
A Brief Overview of the Buddha’s Teachings
Lama Jampa explained that to give a complete overview would take twenty years due to the extent of the Buddha’s teachings, so in this case he would give a brief one. Without understanding the context of the shentong teachings as one of many teachings that the Buddha gave we will not be able to understand them correctly. In particular Lama Jampa talked about the ‘Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma’ in terms of the different views of ultimate reality presented in each. He showed clearly how these three sets of teachings relate to one another and to the intellectual and motivational capacities of the students. This section concluded with a detailed presentation of the lineages of the shentong teachings within Tibetan Buddhism.
Guidance in the View of Buddha Nature
The main section of the text covers the view according to the sutra tradition followed by the view according to the profound mantra tradition. The section on the sutra tradition also has two parts: what is to be understood and what is to be practised. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s text begins with reference to both worldly and profound views, which Lama Jampa explained as referencing the two truths: conventional and ultimate respectively. The teachings clarify that correct understanding and conduct within the context of conventional reality are both a necessary pre requisite for meditation on the profound view and also the basis for realisation of that view
The next section of the text proceeds towards the view of ultimate reality via a process of deconstruction of the less profound systems found within Buddhism, taking us from the views of the Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha of the Hinayana schools, through the Yogacarin and the Common Madhyamaka. Lama Jampa explained that, for the shentong system, even this latter view is not ultimate as it still leaves space for a subtle clinging to concepts.
The teachings at Bodhi Path Prague were translated directly into Czech by an experienced dharma translator.
An Introduction to Buddhism for Students at the New PORG Grammar School in Prague
On Monday Lama Jampa was invited to speak about Buddhism at the New PORG Grammar School as part of their study of World Religions. It was a wonderful hour with these bright and curious young people. The questions ranged from 'Why do Buddhist monks wear orange robes?' to 'Do Mahayana Buddhists deny themselves Nirvana?'. The students seemed to really appreciate hearing the answers from somebody that looked just like them, no orange robes in sight!
Lama Jampa has kindly agreed to return to Prague at the same time next year to continue with the teachings.