Wisdom and Compassion - Buddhist Teachings from the Sakya Tradition

Lama Jampa Thaye - Scholar and Meditation Master

Many people gathered in Bristol on the weekend of 13/14 October to receive teachings from Khaywang Lama Jampa Thaye on the famous Sakya text Parting From the Four Attachments (Zhenpa Zhidral in Tibetan). Using the short commentary by Nubkyi Rigzin Drak which interweaves this teaching with the Four Dharmas, Lama Jampa was able to complete the entire teaching in a single session.

The History of the Teaching

Lama Jampa began as always by giving some historical information about the origin of both the root text and the commentary. These histories are traditionally given at the beginning of any teaching to show that the content is from an authentic lineage. This is so that the students can have confidence that if the instructions are put into practice, they can truly propel them along the path to enlightenment.

Parting from the Four Attachments 

The root text, Parting from the Four Attachements  or Zhenpa Zhidral in Tibetan  -  is a simple four line teaching that was received by one of the five great masters of the Sakya tradition from the very embodiment of wisdom himself, the bodhisattva Manjusri.

If you have attachment to this life you are not a dharma person.

If you have attachment to the six realms of samsara you do not have renunciation.

If you have attachment to your own benefit you do not have bodhichitta.

If you have attachment to characteristics you do not possess the view.

Over time many great masters of the Sakya tradition have written and transmitted commentaries on these four lines, which in essence embody the entire path to enlightenment.

This teaching is so important because dharma can seem intimidating with many instructions given for people with different needs. This teaching gives a clear path, where to begin, what teachings to acquire, where to go next, and how all the different teachings can be fitted into this scheme, this framework.

Reflections and Meditations to Overcome Attachment

The teaching takes each of the four attachments and presents reflections and meditations we can apply in order to overcome them. Hence in order to overcome attachment to this life we meditate on its impermanence; to overcome that to samsara we meditate on its defects; to overcome attachment to our own side we go through the stages of meditation which develop bodhichitta; and to overcome our ignorance we meditate on the true nature of reality.

The Four Dharmas and the Path to Buddhahood

In order that these reflections are effective they need to become our path to buddhahood as described in the Four Dharmas. So first the practice must be genuine and not motivated by fashion or self interest; second the practice becomes the central thing in your life; third your practise becomes increasingly altruistic due to the growth of bodhichitta; and finally through the development of wisdom all veils are removed and we achieve the state of buddhahood.

The Nature of Enlightenment 

Having given detailed instructions on how to overcome each of the four attachments, and shown how this process embodies the path to enlightenment, Lama Jampa concluded the teaching with some words about the nature of enlightenment itself:

When we manage to practice all of the above, we will change our vision of the world from a distorted projection to a non-distorted projection. Your delusions become wisdom and you have changed your perceptual process: you perceive the world as it really is, with transcendental wisdom, the mind of a buddha. This is not a higher level but simply a change of vision. This is why enlightenment is possible - it is just a matter of changing our way of seeing and experiencing. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with our mind, we just have the wrong vision, we need a change of perspective, a cleansing of our perceptual processes, a dusting off of our lenses. A Buddha sees the world as it really is. Their transcendental wisdom, omniscience, truth body or dharmakaya, has no limit or centre or edge. It is beyond all dualistic perspectives and frameworks.

Through the practice of the path, the bodhisattva activities of compassion and developing wisdom leading to enlightenment, the Buddha manifests for others, not for self but for others. The sambhogakaya which is seen only by bodhisattvas on the higher levels, and the nirmanakaya which is seen by ordinary beings, both come out of the dharmakaya in fulfilment of the bodisattva vow. A Buddha is always two-fold - has both an ultimate mode and ways of appearing for others through the sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya, forever until all sentient beings are liberated. Buddhas have limitless compassion for all sentient beings until samsara is ended. We have that same potential, currently obscured by our disturbing emotions and ignorance, and yet when we arrive at our true nature we can then work endlessly for all sentient beings.

Practice that Combines Compassion and Meditation on the the Nature of Mind

In the afternoon Lama Jampa bestowed the initiation of Chenrezik Mahamudra. This initiation bestows the authority to meditate on Chenrezik, the embodiment of compassionate energy, and on mahamudra - the great seal - which is the true nature of mind. It is one of the most widespread meditation practices in Vajrayana Buddhism. This initiation is connected with the famous sadhana composed by the great Sakyapa master Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup and practised at Dechen Sakya Centres. Through meditation upon Chenrezik we quickly develop compassion, and conjoined with Mahamudra we are also benefited by meditating directly on the nature of mind.

Next Teaching - Mind Training in London

Lama Jampa’s next UK teaching will be in London on Saturday 10 November - click here for details.