Tribute to Geshe Dawa Part Three

 

The current Tara Institute in Mavis Avenue Brightonimages

One of my fondest memories is of Geshe Dawö, following a 1983 teaching in Tara Institute (Crimea Street), sitting on the edge of the table, chatting and laughing with students while joyfully swinging his legs up and down in unison as might a mirth-filled radiant child. How could someone, anyone, be so utterly loving, so precisely alert, yet so unfathomably relaxed?

Another: while sitting with a small number of students in the gompa during a teaching, a strange young man at the very front suddenly jumps aggressively up and starts to rush towards Geshe Dawö who is teaching from the throne. In a flash, and before we have had time to move, Geshe Dawö extends his right arm with fingers shaped in the wrathful fist mudra of Vajrapani and the young man freezes in his tracks, folds, then sinks to the ground. Of course he is not really injured but, for security’s sake (this being wild drug-fuelled East St Kilda), we escort him gently from the gompa and the discourse seamlessly flows on.

 

IMG_0808

Carved crystal Green Tara in afternoon light

 

This post continues my personal tribute to the Venerable Geshe Dawö [1] whose Tukdam [2] meditation finished on the 18th October 2017. The funeral was conducted on the 24th October.

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.51.46 pm

 

MY OWN FIRST BEGINNINGS

I first met my precious teacher the Venerable Geshe Dawö (who was Tara House’s first resident teacher) at a Guru Puja (along with Geshe Doga, then resident Geshe at Atisha Centre and Lama Zopa Rinpoche who was touring Australia) in the small wooden church in Sandhurst Town, Bendigo, at the end of Lama Zopa’s retreat in June/July 1983. This somewhat surrealistic venue had been picked because the small gompa at Atisha Centre was too small to accommodate more than a handful of students.

So the long and short of it is: I met my three main Tibetan Gurus in this lifetime in a reconditioned wooden church in a mock Australian gold-rush wild west street-scape called Sandhurst Town, a theatrical tourist theme park complete with steam train, boiled lollies and souvenirs for children,  cages of sulphur-crested cockatoos, emus,   galahs and kangaroos,  all situated within a stone’s throw of Eaglehawk, an outlying suburb of  Bendigo, regional Victoria. And why not, you say? Life is like a dream! Lama Yeshe, the founder of the Foundation for the Preservation for the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) and hence instigator of Tara House and Atisha Centre (and many other centres worldwide during the hippy return diaspora from Nepal and India) had earlier conducted a Mahamudra Retreat in this church during his Australian tour of 1981.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 4.10.44 pm

Sandhurst Town in 1981. Every bit a fake booming tinsel town complete with swaggering armed bush-rangers,  primitive wood-burning eucalyptus oil-distilleries and mock-ambushes and comically-violent rifle-shots to thrill the kids.  

Over the next three and a half years I attended both Geshe’s teachings as much as was physically possible. As I sped backwards and forwards between Melbourne and Bendigo it seemed as though I had Dharma protectors as wings on either side! Even after Geshe Dawö returned to India in late 1984, I continued my contact for his great kindness in nurturing my (still) fledgling Dharma practice–something that could not and should not be forgotten.

It is in this way that I come to write, from the bottom of my heart, the third part  of this obituary to a great Dharma pioneer and teacher. See Tribute to Geshe Dawa and Tribute to Geshe Dawa part two). Indeed, I hesitate to call it an obituary as that presumes an ordinary view of life and death and Geshe Dawö was certainly not in the slightest “ordinary.” Indeed, it is said that he was a manifestation of Tara. Certainly, he very discretely held the close and rare experiential lineage of Cittamani Tara and introduced many fortunate Australian students to this practice. But, for our sake, it would appear he chose to appear as the kindest, most gentle, most sweetly spoken “ordinary” monk imaginable. So it was impossible not to wonder how such tender yet irresistibly powerful magnetic energy might come about. It poured from him as naturally as light from the sun.

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 5.13.19 pm

Rather than grieve, let’s step back into the very early days. Then we can better celebrate our fortune in having either met Geshe-la, or having benefitted from the great and always expanding legacy he has left not just Tara Institute, but countless students in Australia, India, Tibet and, indeed, the world.

TARA HOUSE MILLER GROVE, KEW

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 5.11.55 pm

Tara House Miller Grove, 1980. The bus conveyed newly arrived Vietnamese refugees (not unkindly called (at least then), boat people. They were visiting on one of their Buddhist holy days. Buddhist centres of any description were in short supply back then.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 4.06.00 pm

Puja, Tibetan New Year’s Eve, Tara House, Miller Grove ,June 1980.

In the November Tara House for Wisdom Culture newsletter of 1979 we read:

The Tara House we have come to know and love had its humble beginnings in Palmerston Street, Carlton and grew into the house in Miller Grove, Kew. Throughout those first four years the House grew largely as a result of the enormous energy consistently maintained by a very small nucleus of people. Their efforts have just brought our precious Lamas to Melbourne and held two successful courses at Tara Institute, our new retreat centre….The House at Miller Grove is not big enough to serve the community’s needs, Lama said. ‘We need a big house with twenty rooms and lots of gardens and a beautiful temple where people can worship twenty-four hours a day. Everyone welcome.’

Lama Yeshe has offered to send us a resident Geshe and translator, probably within six months so we must have the new centre ready. A Geshe is a Lama who is perfectly qualified to teach all aspects of Dharma, having studied and meditated for up to thirty years and undergone rigorous examinations. All the teachings and spiritual guidance we need would be available in Melbourne in the immediate future. This is an incredible opportunity to have powerful Dharma energy right here.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 4.04.13 pm

 Geshe Dawö and translator Kalsang Tsering, newly arrived in Australia, January, 1980

The rest is history. Our precious history. To continue the account in my own words,  following repeated personal requests by Lama Yeshe, in February 1980 our first resident teacher, Geshe Dawö (then aged fifty) and first resident translator, Ven Kalsang Tsering, arrived at Miller Grove, Kew. Note, we are not yet at 3 Crimea Street, East St Kilda, let alone 3 Mavis Avenue East Brighton. This is still hippie territory complete with tie-dye kaftans and purple fungus in forgotten coffee cups. And the fact that the newsletter had to explain what a “Geshe” was, speaks poignant volumes to the scale of our own, well, unexplored “freshness.”

Speaking of meeting Geshe Dawö for the first time, Neil McCarthy, candid in his absolute naivety, wrote:

“Kalsang Tsering answers the door and radiating courtesy and happiness welcomes me inside. There seems to be nobody else home as he leads me down the hallway. Reaching the end we veer right into a small bedroom. The walls are bare, and it is sparsely furnished with a low chest of drawers, two functional wooden chairs, a single bed jammed into a corner and one Geshe cross-legged on top of it.

Now I’m reeling, with my bearings and familiarities missing. It’s even impossible to pass the time in idle chatter and perfunctory formalisms whilst trying to anchor myself but I try my best asking those predictable questions about when they arrived in Melbourne and following up with equally banal comments about the weather.

However, even in the time afforded me by those stalling moment I am able to let some first impressions form and even though I am nervous in their company and in the cultural gulf between us, I am overwhelmed by their warmth and friendliness.”

During this interview, Geshe Dawö noted how he had received an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama prior to travelling.  His Holiness had advised that he should “come to understand the foreigners’ mental outlook so as to render the teachings more accessible.” “Because Australians are very kind people” and “because they are interested in learning Buddhism” Geshe Dawö felt that “it would be good to be with us.” Kelsang added, “For these reasons Geshe chose to come to Australia. While he lived at Sera he only studied and wasn’t of much benefit to other people. If his teachings will be good for Australians he will accept whatever his own life might be like.”

 

A RICH CATALOGUE OF TEACHINGS

In this fortuitous way, Geshe Dawö, aided by the often wryly acerbic Kalsang, began sharing those teachings that were “of most help to people in daily life.” The range of topics covered over the next three and a half years is both radical in its pioneering ambition and phenomenal in its scope:

These included: Lo Rig [Mind and Cognition] 1981; Lo Jong [Thought Training] 1981; Vipassana [Special Insight], 1981; Commentary on Tsongkhapa’s Three Principles of the Path, 1981; Patience, 1981; Bodhisattvacharyavatara [Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life],1981-2; 1984; Drup ta [Tenets], 1981-2; Twelve Dependent Links 1982; Nagarjuna’s Ratnamala (Precious Garland) 1982; Lam Rim, 1982; Wheel of Sharp Weapons 1981 and 1984; Preliminaries of Guru Yoga, 1982; Stages and Paths, 1983; Nyung Nye Commentary and Eight Mahayana Precepts, 1983; Four Noble Truths, 1983; Dorje Sempa, 1983, Twenty One Taras, 1983; lama Tsong Khapa Guru Yoga 1983; Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the Middle Way, 1984; Mindfulness Course, 1984; Concentration, 1984; Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth, 1984; Heart Sutra, 1984; Final Weekend Course, 1984. This is a remarkable body of Dharma teachings that also represents a historically significant transmission of classic Tibetan texts and oral commentary from Tibetan to English-speaking domains.

tibetan_-_buddha_shakyamuni_and_prajnaparamita_-_walters_w8561_2-1

 

EXTRACT FROM  A DISCOURSE ON CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

A teaching given in August 1981 on conscientiousness conveys the extreme clarity, pungent directness and yet gentle appeal that characterized Geshe Dawö’s teaching style:

Conscientiousness is a mind which discriminates negative and virtuous minds and which avoids negative actions and practices generating the virtuous actions through investigating one’s mind. Through this conscientiousness one can remove negativities and practice virtuous deeds in order to achieve one’s temporal and ultimate pleasure. So how do we achieve temporal and ultimate please through conscientiousness?

To understand this we can take the example of Geshe Gungyal [Tsultrim Gyalwa, b. 11th century] who always conscientiously investigated his mind. Although Geshe Gunyal (also called Geshe Ben) hadn’t studied many texts, by investigating his mind he became famous in his life.

Earlier in this life he was a robber and viewed everyone as his enemy. One day he transformed his mind and he wished to practise the Dharma. However, he hadn’t received enough teachings to practice the Dharma. Nevertheless he investigated his mind using black and white stones. When a negative mind arose he put a black stone in front of him and when a positive mind arose he put a white stone in front of him. At the beginning most of the stones were black. In the middle the stones were equal and at the end most of the stones were white.

While checking his mind like this he said to himself, if most of the stones were black before, “Ben Gungyal (which was his lay name) you were doing negative. He scolded himself in this way.

 When almost all the stones were white he praised himself by saying, “Gelong Tsultrim Gyalwa (which was his ordained name), “you have taken advantage of this precious human rebirth by generating the altruistic mind.” In this way he generated bodhichitta and became a reliable Geshe who was reknown. Being a reliable, precious and renounced person, many people approached him with various offerings. At that time he said that “before my mouth didn’t find food but now food doesn’t find my mouth.” Although these words are simple there is a deep meaning.

When he was young he robbed others due to his uncontrolled mind and viewed people as his enemy, so had no peace in his mind. He was frightened that the people he robbed would take revenge on him. After he became a Geshe, his mind was controlled by practising bodhicitta and kind-heart. Because he was known as a precious and reknowned Geshe, people gave him many offerings. Even if he told them he had enough to eat, they still gave him more. That’s why he said food didn’t find his mouth. he was still the same person in the early and later stages of his life, the difference was that his mind had been transformed.

 All the pleasures and sufferings in life are completely dependent on the state of our mind. Through conscientiousness one can remove the internal enemy of delusion, uncontrolled mind and negativities. Though they have no arms and legs, are neither courageous nor wise, haven’t intellect or intention, as do our external enemies–they dwell in our mind and harm us by causing us to cherish ourselves. In this way they harm oneself and others with uncontrolled minds, as shown with Geshe Ben.

 

IMG_0188

 

NIGHT OF THE EXOCETS

Geshe Dawö, like Geshe Ben, had ample scope, it would seem, to explore the farthest reaches of mind-training and thought-transformation (Lo Jong) albeit with the kind assistance of swirling uncontrolled external forces−namely us−who did have arms and legs! More often than not, all over the place. Geshe Dawö’s official biography notes of this period:

As this was a new situation, both for him and the western students, he spent a lot of time in his flat, and used this time to read the collected works of Lama Tsong Khapa and his two sons. He told me that at one point gave the students an ultimatum: “Either they would come regularly to class, or he would return to India. After all his purpose of being there was to teach the dharma.”

He also took regular English lessons, but as soon as the teachers had gone, he would return to his Dharma study.

Then Centre Director, Peter Guiliano recalling that night of the ultimatum suggests that the account in the official  biography is perhaps a little overstated.. He doesn’t remember Geshe Dawö being quite that blunt. But the ,impact, in any case “was massive.” Peter continues:

The “Night of the Exocets” Owen Cole, then spiritual program co-ordinator, dubbed it. Geshela was just back from a visit to Buddha House in Adelaide where they had treated him like a king. He let us (the executive committee) know all about it.

This intimation of impermanence and the fragility of our relations was one not infrequently repeated as in this early Miller Grove phase, student attendances waxed and waned. Those arms and legs were being impelled by minds so ripe, so enlivened with delusions that it was a wonder we could even find the wherewithall to finally decide to simple sit down and cross our legs for a few precious moments! And open our dust-filled ears to the Dharma.

Reporting on Geshe Dawö initial phase at Tara House, FPMT Mandala Magazine, November, 1996):

For the first year in Australia he missed his Tibetan friends, food and culture but quickly adapted to life in the West. He wasn’t surprised by life in Australia as he had seen Westerners in India and during a stay at Kopan Monastery. At first, he says, he spoke no English so was totally dependent on the translator to communicate with students. However, by the time he left Melbourne in 1984 he could hold conversations in English.

The magazine then outlines how Geshe Dawö’s initial impressions of us were happily and fundamentally optimistic:

When Geshe Dawa first came to Australia fifteen years ago there were few Buddhists, but since then the number has grown rapidly and it will continue to do so, Geshe-la feels, because people like Buddhism and have the ability to study and do retreat. He says the main strength of Western students is their education and their intellects, which are well developed enabling them to study the teachings if they want to. They are keen to gain knowledge, and as they develop a deeper understanding of the teachings, become kinder and more gentle. As a result, he says, their lives become more comfortable, relationships with others improve and their interest in Buddhism develops further. In this way, he says, it’s easy to teach Westerners about Buddhism.

Geshe-la also says there are very good conditions for practicing the Dharma in the West because people have wealth and a good environment. However, whether the good conditions are beneficial to practice depends on what the practitioner makes of them; he gives the example of the famous Buddhist king in ancient India, Ashoka, who used his wealth to advance the Buddhist teachings and benefit many sentient beings. (Of course, there are people who are extremely poor who are able to practice too, he says.)

Geshe Dawa mentions two types of Dharma practitioner. One uses their good material situation for the benefit of others and the other prefers to practice in solitude.Geshe-la believes the main difficulty for Westerners is that they are so busy, often in a hurry and have active minds, which makes it more difficult to develop the calmness to sit down and meditate. The best kind of meditation for Westerners, he says, is analytical lam-rim meditation. He believes there are two ways students practice in the West: those who come to listen to teachings and try to implement them in their lives, and those who prefer to practice prayers and meditation. Either path, he says, is very beneficial.

image001

Tara House, Crimea Street, East St Kilda, a highly ornamented Victorian mansion in the grand classical Italiante style. It served as Tara House over the period  1982 to 1987. It has now been reclaimed as a family home. The gompa, situated in what had originally been the formal front dining room, seated only fifty people and we soon exceeded that capacity. As early as 1984 we had cause to rent the local hall down the road on the occasion of visiting teachers. But the large number of rooms (it had been converted to a boarding house prior to our move) meant we could subsidise our running costs with rent from fellow Buddhists and keep the front door open. 

 

TARA HOUSE IN ITS NEXT BIGGER INCARNATION

In December 1982, Geshe Dawö, together with Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey who was visiting Australia at that time, ceremonially blessed Tara House’s new building: 3 Crimea Street, East St Kilda, a decayed but grand Victorian mansion with many rooms and stable outhouses. Many cans of paint and minor renovations worked wonders. The “new” Tara Institute heralded a period of expansion and consolidation.

Yet, though in our perhaps unfamiliar hybrid guise as adult-junior Dharma students, we were certainly being awarded so many exceptional opportunities to study with these esteemed Geshes, and learn from their example of simple humility and kindness, their importance and the manner in which they were revered within their own Tibetan traditions and more particularly, amongst their immediate Tibetan disciples, was still sometimes escaping us. I am speaking here not of Tara House students in particular, but the Lamas’ and Geshes’ Australian students in general. This became rather amusingly clear during the First Australian Dharma Celebration at Chenrezig Institute (our older sister centre) in 1983 which was attended by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Geshe Dawö, Geshe Doga, Geshe Ngawang Thinley and esteemed others. Reporting on the open discussion concerning geshes and student relations, Adele Hulse wrote, with her customary journalistic flair (Tara House July Newsletter 1983):

The teachers complained that students do not do enough study and homework after receiving teachings and tend to just drift from one lecture to the next expecting the texts to just sink in as by osmosis, and feel frustration when they don’t. Students should write notes and maintain their own study program responsibly and progressively when they are receiving a series of lectures – as one would do with any other subject.

Another area discussed was what kind of courses were attractive to students and which were not,. The directors said many of the ‘old students’ don’t turn up anymore and there were complaints that Lam Rim was a bit old hat. The Geshes all roared with laughter at that.

The irony, of course, was that the Lamas, both in Australia and abroad, had already conferred some of the rarest and most precious Highest Yoga Tantras on these same students (as Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey observed, in another context, in Tibet not even high lamas had our privileged access to such esoteric or hidden teachings) and yet they were the very ones who blithely remained oblivious, it seemed, to the actual nature and purpose of foundational practices and related teachings without which there was not even a whisper of a first step on the Path.

Stepping back from the national situation to Tara Institute’s own, the immediate challenge, from Geshe Dawö’s traditional scholastic perspective, was that new students would always turn up and the Geshe would feel obliged “to start all over again.” Such a challenge had never been a feature of the monastic system where students were “housed” in pre-determined classes that progressed systematically up through highly orchestrated classical curricula, all the while maintaining themselves as cohesive and very supportive cohorts. This problem was later partially resolved by increasingly streaming the program so that “newcomers” had their own dedicated points of entry.

Though successfully  housed in our larger and much more expensive centre with its enhanced gompa capacity of fifty students, we remained nonetheless splendidly capable of challenging Geshe Dawö’s resolve to stay and benefit us. Even awareness of how to properly “look after” a Geshe was lacking. Cultural differences only go some way in explaining that. But the deeper issue was not non-attendance , nor new attendance, but rather, wavering or spasmodic attendance. As first world hippies clinging to the conceit that we were entitled to everything (yes, globally) it was hard to shake our paramount fantasy that enlightenment was ours if we merely opened to the fullness of the moment–whatever moment that might happen to be! Zen and the Art of Motor-cycle Maintenance had left an indelible mark. Couldn’t we sidestep the tedium, not just of studying the Lam Rim in depth, but indeed, any text in rigorous detail? What was the role of mental labour in the pursuit of mystical accomplishments anyhow? Was there even a fear that if one studied, one might transmogrify into the stuff of a “nerd.” Nerds were, like, so bank manager. That some of those amongst us would later evolve into bank managers replete with suits and ties was something that even, at that late hippie stage, we were not yet ready to conceive. And while we are at it, shouldn’t the Dharma be free? Let’s not consider centre costs, even those as basic as council rates, water and electricity bills. So pity the poor Tara House director and treasurer.

Dugald Sinclair, a Lama Yeshe “old student” candidly proposes another reason why some students might not have fully seized the opportunity of studying with Geshe Dawö in a committed fashion: “:I think the problem may be that we “older” students initially were still more in the thrall of Lama Yeshe and didn’t realize treasure when we saw it.” If this was the case, the “fault” lay, not with Lama Yeshe who had been pushing, with his customary far-ranging vision,  for a larger centre with wider community access (which involved a retreat centre which was to become Atisha Centre), but also was the one who had repeatedly personally requested Geshe Dawö to become tara House’s resident teacher. There was no ambiguity there as to what Lama Yeshe hoped would happen: the establishment of a vibrant Dharma jewel in the heart of Melbourne, one offering not only the richest depth of Buddhist scholarship and yogic practice, but also excelling in multi-cultural community engagement and support.

Evoking the variegated  tenor of those times, Annette Daly writes:

We pretty much had the attitude that we could keep Geshela up in his room and bring him down a few times a week to present teachings and all would be well. They were deeply troubled times for the Centre. The Executive Committee was often split, there was what we termed the bottomless pit−the debts of Tara Institute which grew no matter how much money was put in and worst of all, the spiritual energy was low. Often there would only be three people at Teachings−whether they were there out of a sense of obligation or because they really wanted to learn is anyone’s guess.

 It was in this depressing atmosphere that Geshela started his impossible task−increasing our commitment to the holy dharma.

The fact that House House in 1983-4 had twenty committed Buddhist residents (I was one) but still struggled, on occasion, to get more than a meagre number together for Geshe Dawö’s teachings in the gompa, certainly invokes lots to think about.  Yet, least we become downcast, it is crucial that we also recognize that this was somehow also a period of astonishing consolidation, central to which is the continuous unshakeable inspiring magnetism of Geshe-la’s sheer presence. Things simply fell into harmonious place around him. Annette, on a more upbeat note, continues:

Now towards the end of 1984 if Geshela’s efforts are to be judged only by the current results, his success has been outstanding. Those who regularly attend the Centre are developing spiritually; this is attracting new people who want to learn about the Dharma and physically, we have a building that is a worthy offering to our precious Gurus. …….Without the courageous and tireless efforts of Geshe Dawo it would not have possible.

But she then slips into a valedictory mode:

While putting out these megawatts of energy in his own subtle way he often put up with conditions that a Geshe would never have to endure in India. We often did not/ and do not look after him properly. Ironically, it is only at the end of his stay that many students are realising what a highly realized and precious Teacher he is and how much we have under-utilized him. Geshela’s last residential course−a Mahamudra course at Geelong−inspired the more than 20 students who attended. Many realized that Geshela has had this ability to inspirationally impart the Dharma from day one, but it only now that many of us are taking full advantage of it. Unfortunately it is a bit late…..there was a time he made a plea to the Committee that he would feel his teaching worthwhile if he had but three good students. Next teaching two students turned up. However, he gave the most fantastic teaching on death and impermanence I have ever heard.

 

1-1

August, 1959. A refugee camp for monks was started in August of 1959 at the Buxa Transit Camp which had earlier housed Tibetan refugees from Bhutan. It was able to accommodate 1500 monks and nuns from the four Buddhist schools and those of the ancient Bon tradition.

The Buxa Duar Lama Ashram was built on top of an ex-British fort and former prison which had housed some of the leaders of the Indian Civil Disobedience Movement such as Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It is also said that the monks were placed in the house where Nehru was imprisoned and the nuns were housed in Gandhi’s prison.

Over the eleven years that monks and nuns stayed at Buxa (up to 1970), the food quality deteriorated rather than improved. Pumpkin (a common pig food) was a staple, The rice was bad and old and the lentils crawled with weevils. Because there was little money and no available land to till, there was little scope to improve matters. Tuberculosis and tropical diseases cut deep as Tibetans had no childhood immunity. The death rate remained very high. Only with the generous offer by the Indian Government of land in the south of India could a great shift to relocate Sera and other monasteries begin. 

THE HARDSHIPS OF DHARMA IN EXILE

Peter Guiliano, in the Tara House Annual Report of 1981 had quietly noted.

“Geshe Dawo. His allowance is $100 a month but regrettably he is seldom paid.”

Though this particularly poignant and most lamentable situation did not continue for long (the centre at that early time, though very competently managed, was really financially struggling), the  point I wish to emphasize is that Geshe Dawö never raised this issue of money with the Executive, nor ever complained. At all times and in all circumstances he serenely rose above the eight worldly dharmas: attachment to receiving material things, despondency or distress when we do not; clinging to good reputation, fearing a bad one, etc.  This harkens back to his original statement regarding his philosophy of intention in coming to Australia: “If his teachings will be good for Australians he will accept whatever his own life might be like.”  So graciously and most generously “accept” he did. From our side, here was  an exemplary example of the virtue of patience. In a Mandala Magazine article (September 1996) Geshe Dawö articulated how he held the practice of patience as an always treasured core practice:

Geshe Dawa says the practice of patience, trying to benefit others as much as possible and being friendly have been the most important practices to him as a monk over the last fifty years. He says these principles have enabled him to live his life happily.

He had already shown the same calm joyful resilience when, as a refugee in Buxa, West Bengal, he and several thousand fellow monks and nuns, had  to endure what, for the meek-hearted, would be surely intolerable conditions. I quote from his biography and at some length because Buxa was a fiery tropical cauldron from which so many of our great teachers, still charged with great energy, sprung, fully charged, and thus ensuring the ever-widening great Tibetan Dharma diaspora that has reached around the world not once, but many times over:

Due to a change in outer circumstances Geshe-la had to leave Tibet for India in 1959. Tibet was disrupted by war and the situation in Lhasa had become extremely precarious. The sound of gunfire filled the air continuously day and night from all directions, and to stay meant to risk death.

As many other Tibetans had done he set out for India, and due to the blessing of the Three Jewels and the power of his past pure prayers, arrived safely at the Indo Tibetan border despite all the dangers along the way. They had to walk secretly on foot for many days on very difficult paths going over many high and steep dangerous passes, all the while having to hide from Chinese soldiers to avoid being captured by patrols that had been sent after them.

After having arrived in India many of the monks were relocated by the Indian government to Buxa in North Eastern India, which had served as a concentration camp in the Second World War, and where also Gandhi had been imprisoned for some time during his campaign for Indian independence. All in all there were about one thousand five hundred monks from all the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions: Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü, and Gelug.

The conditions were very difficult. Buxa is an extremely hot and humid place, and the Tibetans had grown up in the dry fresh and cool air of Tibet. There were mosquitos, foreign food, and diseases unknown in Tibet due to the high altitude, pure air and water, and the food was extremely poor. Many monks developed tuberculosis and other sicknesses, and there were many untimely deaths, and also suicides.

Most of them arrived in India with nothing apart from the robes they were wearing, and for some years many did not even posses a simple mattress or blankets. Instead they used straw and empty sacks. But due to the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the great help received from the Indian government the monks could continue their studies there despite all the difficulties.

Since no texts were available, especially in the beginning, the Geshes had to teach their classes from memory. For ten years the monks listened to and debated the Dharma in Buxa so as to preserve Tibetan culture and religion.

Regarding his time in Buxa Geshe-la said, ‘For the nine years I stayed in Sera Monastery near Lhasa I was happy and peaceful even though my external conditions were poor, and I devoted all my time to the Dharma. I did not waste my time with meaningless activities through being seduced by worldly actions. For the ten years I stayed in Buxa I devoted my life to the study and practice of the dharma in the same way, and when I think back now I feel that these ten years were the happiest in my life.’[3] 

jiats04magnusson-img07

Early 1960s. Clearing land in Southern India, Karnataka for Tibetan refugee settlements. Conditions for lay Tibetans were just as rough and challenging but the same joyous enthusiasm is evident.

jiats04magnusson-img01

Tibetan Refugee Camp, Bylakkupe. 1960s. Soon Sera Monastery in exile would be rising from the same recently cleared rain forest. Note the giant tree stumps. During the tent days all the monks, except for the Abbot and other high teachers, laboured to clear the land, plant crops and build dwellings. For a time they survived on the 50-60 rupees given to each monk on a monthly basis by the Indian government whose exceptional kindness will always be fondly remembered. Even when I visited Geshe Dawö at House 33 in 1985 to do a retreat under his guidance, there were still wild elephants in the jungle at the edge of the cane fields bordering the monastery. jiats04magnusson-img08

Cow farming in the sub-tropical South of India on clear-felled land was something of a jump from nomadic yak herding in the heights of the Himalayas. Note the love with which the lucky cow in the foreground is being scrubbed. The Tibetans brought a collective community approach to land-management that was radical in an India still dominated by caste structures. Mechanical farm equipment, for example, was not privately owned, but collectively shared. This made progress, even with very few resources, possible. Such ingenuity, of course, is a feature of all refugee communities. 

BRIEF INITIAL RETURN TO SERA JE MONASTERY IN 1984

GESHE DAWO FORMAL _0002

At the end of 1984 Geshe Dawö returned for two months “holiday” in India during which time the Venerable Geshe Doga (then resident teacher at Atisha Centre) stepped in to cover the program. Before departing for Sera Je Monastery, Geshe Dawö, with characteristic gentle perspicacity, advised:

When one does practice one should not go beyond one’s capacity which is of no use at all. Put the teachings into practice according to one’s capacity.

The best way is just to do it regularly. The regular practice will give you some benefit and it will give you some results. Above that, we are human beings living in a society, so try to become a better human being. To do this you must understand the law of cause and effect and try to be generous, try to be kind because we have to live with human beings.

If you can just be better, if you can just be kind, you will be able to lead your life easily and there will be some benefit to those around you. So do the purification practices by remembering your negativities whenever you feel like it or have the time. Do them properly and whenever you don’t have the time because of other activities, then just relax, just be kind. When you want to do something positive just regenerate your confidence or faith towards your object of faith and your Guru and your refuge object and then recite the mantra or other practices you might have.

If you do it in this way you will be able to become a better human being and you will be able to contribute to your fellow humans.

No matter what highfalutin notions we might develop concerning our “practice,” especially if we considered ourselves somehow “old” (and therefore wise) students, it came down to this.

Student Roger Gamble who accompanied Geshe Dawö on this holiday was deeply moved by what he witnessed (Tara Institute June 1984 newsletter):

I have sat at Geshela’s feet for many hours since he came to Tara Institute in 1980 and I have often been touched by the remarkable qualities of this wonderful teacher. However, nothing prepared me for the experiences we shared in India. There was nothing world-shattering. Just the unique opportunity of sharing the common everyday events of life with a person like Geshe Dawo…Our first stop was Geshela’s monastery, near Mysore in southern India, Sera. Our stay coincided with the Tibetan New Year and the enthronement of the 15th Lab Khyabgon, the beautiful 11-year old Tulku who was one of Geshe Dawo’s most precious teachers in Tibet in a previous life. Geshe-la will teach and care for him when he returns to India at about the end of this year. It was a remarkable festive two weeks.

I began to develop an understanding of what Geshela had given up by coming to Australia. It’s easy to understand that Tibetan and Western cultures are different and that there are inevitable hardships involved in migrating to a foreign country. But when I met Geshela’s actual ‘family’−his disciples−and saw how much natural love and respect they have for each other, I realized how much he must miss them. They include his foremost disciple, Yeshe Gawa−a companion since the days in Tibet, two brothers who are monks aged 14 and 19 whom Geshela took in when they were very young, a lovely old cook and now, of course, the “little Rinpoche’.

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 2.51.12 pm

The young Lab Rinpoche, former abbot of Lab Monastery, Tibet.

 

LAST TARA HOUSE COURSE: CONFERRAL OF BODHISATTVA VOWS SEPTEMBER 1984

Upon his return, the last course Geshe Dawö taught at Tara Institute (22-23 September, 1984) was significantly an experiential commentary on taking the Bodhisattva vows at the level of a promise. This was based on His Holiness’s own approach during his historic first Australian tour in 1981. Like the warmest, most intimate mother, and ever mindful of the exact nature of our needs, Geshe-la stated that he would teach what he had found was of most benefit to the students who had taken teachings from him over the previous three and a half years. Attendance of all four discourses was compulsory. The very last words of the last discourse were auspiciously and most carefully poised:

So I have briefly mentioned the whole topics of the graduated path. By mentioning just the terms, I have been showing you a map of the path. With that map you can go wherever you like, but if you wish to go the whole route (to full enlightenment) that is best!

At least one should try to pick up what is the best way for you. What is most suitable? What do you have the capability to do? When you have decided then you try to hold [adhere] to that way.

So it is good to check one’s mind especially at the moment when one is tired or watching television, tired of going to the beach! These things. When bored with the worldly pleasures then sometimes it is good to check one’s mind and so check on oneself.

This is the end of the course and since many of you have come for quite a few years and listened while the teachings were being given, it is good to dedicate at the end.[4]

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 11.25.29 am

Geshe Dawö Last Course at Tara Institute, 22-23 October 1983. I must admit: that is me on the front right hand side.

Geshe-la had prefaced this auspicious ending with a passionate appeal (couched within a concise presentation of the entire Path to Enlightenment) that we recognize the need to generate compassion at the root of the Path:

The foundation of bodhichitta is compassion. Compassion is the wish to free sentient beings from present sufferings. To free all sentient beings from suffering it is necessary to recognise their suffering. After this we need to think of the kindness of those sentient beings and wish to repay their kindness. We generate love and compassion to them. This is the generation of bodhichitta through the seven-fold cause and effect method. So when we think about the cycling of oneself and other sentient beings according to the Twelve Links and the Four Truths we will come to know that other sentient beings are so kind to oneself and that it is beneficial to benefit them. Besides this, when we think that, irrespective of whether or not we have recognized other sentient beings as our mother, even then, when we think of their kindness, we wish to attain enlightenment on their behalf. This then is the technique of Exchanging Self and Others. Without concerning ourselves as to whether or not they have [personally] benefited us, when we think of their kindness we [nonetheless] seek to obtain the highest enlightenment for them.

By thinking deeply of their kindness and how they suffer we will wish to free them from suffering. But what is the best method for doing so? By checking ourselves we realize that, at the moment, we cannot do anything; we cannot offer any good help as the actual situation is that we are also under bondage and suffering. So, under these circumstances, how can we work to free other sentient beings? To really do this we need the powers and qualities of the Buddha. Therefore it is essential that I obtain Buddhahood for the sake of others. When we see the importance of the attainment of Buddhahood (in this way) then the wish to obtain Buddhahood will come. This is the altruistic aspiration to enlightenment.

When, through acquaintance with this aspiration, it arises spontaneously then that is the point at which one has become a bodhisattva. Having thought over the kindness of others, and so forth, as I have earlier mentioned, when one generates the strong intention to become enlightened, that is just [itself] the altruistic aspiration to enlightenment.

Then, before actually ceremonially conferring the Bodhisattva vows in the form of a promise, Geshe Dawö had warmly, inspirationally encouraged us to persevere in our practice, no matter how modest, how small our faltering or merely fledgling steps might seem:

So it is good to sometimes think over the lower scope from the very beginning, and sometimes from the middle scope and sometimes from the beginning of the highest scope.[5] Also, whenever we engage in good actions then it is good to develop the highest motivation.

For some years now I have been giving the Buddha teaching to you all and so, again today I am giving you teachings. The main teachings I have been giving extend from the very beginning of the path up to the final goal: buddhahood. For a long time I have been giving teaching on everything in-between! But it is difficult to give the whole path to highest enlightenment quickly or instantly.

Nāgārjuna has said that it is very difficult even for mahasiddhas and the monks who are so very engaged in these teachings to practice purely according to the Lord Buddha’s teachings in all times. It is impossible. Therefore Nāgārjuna advised the King Gautamiputra: you choose the practice which is proper to yourself and necessary for yourself. He said: whatever teaching you like and feel happy to do, put it into practice (is best to do).[6]

Just as Nāgārjuna advised the King, it is the same with us. Although there are different ways to implement the Buddha’s teachings, some even make it possible to achieve enlightenment in just one single lifetime. This is a fact: there are examples. But it does not appear so amazing when we look and see how those who attained Buddhahood in this way underwent so many hardships. We can consider the stories of Milarepa and Gyälwa Ensapa here.[7] These stories might even sometimes appear a little bit funny. We might feel like crying. They do so much meditation. It’s very difficult. To have single=pointed concentration under such conditions is not easy. When we think upon the hardship they endured in order to obtain enlightenment, it is not amazing [i.e. it becomes understandable] if we understand how they were so renounced [in bearing such hardships].

In this lifetime, and in terms of our daily routine, the best dharma practice is bodhichitta and love and mercy. These practices are not only helpful to oneself but for others. They are practices more connected to our daily activities. As the accumulations of merit are much dependent upon the dedications, if one has good motivation one can even transform all our activities into good ones.

So the benefits of dharma are dependent upon myself.

Our dharma will be beneficial if it is related to our own inner being. If linked to our inner mind it will help us. For instance, if a patient doesn’t take (eat) the medicines as prescribed by the doctor, then it is not the fault of the medicine or doctor but of the patient. The mistake of not curing the disease is his own.

Doing the dharma practice for only one or two days is not so beneficial, especially if we don’t care about the dharma after that period. It is like the Tibetan example: assuming that one can obtain Buddhahood in three days!

So it is essential to put the dharma into practice more and more. In this way one will get gradually accustomed to dharma practice and slowly [through familiarization], even if other people ask you not to do dharma practice, you will [nonetheless] do it. That is the real practice of dharma. If one is engaged and acquainted with the Dharma then no one else can obstruct you in any way. For instance, Milarepa was always in conflict with his sister. She thought he was living a very hard life without clothes and torturing himself. Yet still Milarepa persisted in his spiritual practice and this was because he was accustomed to it.[8]

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 2.59.48 pm

One of Milarepa’s towers handbuilt on the instructions of his Guru,  Marpa as means of purifyng  negative karma and accumulating merit.

 

THE AUSPICIOUS CONCLUSION OF THE VERY LAST FORMAL TARA HOUSE
PUBLIC TEACHING

Then, with the consummate yet apparently-casual finesse that had always marked his so-readily accessible, profoundly affable teaching style, Geshe Dawö had concluded his very last discourse (given on the 27th October, Tara Institute) with succinct and carefully planned words that, following an enumeration and brief commentary of the Six Perfections that are the essence and body of the Bodhisattva’s practice, strategically touched upon the exceedingly subtle points presented at the very end, and therefore as culmination of the “Graduated Path to Enlightenment” (Lam Rim):

By conjoining calm abiding and wisdom we can destroy even the seeds of samsara. Wisdom is like a lamp which clears the darkness of ignorance. Through wisdom we become clear as to the nature of ignorance. This means by knowing one object of knowledge (i.e. ignorance) we can know all objects of knowledge. The obstructions to omniscience mean obstruction in regards to understanding the objects of knowledge. When we are free from this obstruction we can have knowledge of all things. This obstruction can be removed when we attain enlightenment. “Buddha” means free from obstructions and clear of the darkness of ignorance.

The state of Buddha was obtained (mainly) through the practice of calm abiding and wisdom. But that should be associated with the good heart: like bodhichitta and compassion. So, if our wisdom is associated with bodhichitta and compassion, that is the unification of both collections: the collection of merit and the collection of wisdom.

By having a good method and wisdom one could easily achieve Buddhahood.

With respect to the way to develop the concentrations, the Tantrayana [Tantric Vehicle] is presented.

The whole path is dependent upon the three Principles of the Path:

–Renunciation (involving compassion)

–Bodhichitta

–Knowledge of emptiness

The methods of achieving concentration in the sūtra and tantric vehicles differ in that in the tantric case, the method involves achieving concentration through the channels, nadis, drops and so on.[9]

In precise and vivid summation, we had been given  a complete review as well as renewed invitation to travel the entire Bodhisattva path from germinal beginning to actualization: the unimaginably illustrious accomplishment that is the state of perfect union of a Buddha in which the two collections of method and wisdom are complete. Also, in an eloquent celebratory parting or farewell gesture Geshe Dawö had indicated that he had fully acquitted his self-appointed task of fully turning the Wheel of Dharma for the sake of those Westerners who somehow had the fortunate karma to turn their heads and even for a fragmentary moment, listen. He had not only turned it, but had turned it completely!

Dharma_Wheel.svg

Yet even following these pith instructions Geshe Dawö offered the students yet another dharma gift: a compendium of heart advice in the poetic form of verse. This precious offering–reminiscent as it is of Atiśa own offering of the cherished verses called “Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment” proposes that Geshe Dawö, as an intrepid front-runner, was indeed our own Atiśa.

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 3.07.08 pm Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 3.07.22 pm

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 2.54.47 pm

Geshe  Dawö  during one of his frequent returns to Lab Monastery, Kham, Tibet

 

CONCLUSION THAT IS ANYTHING BUT

In a tribute written to Geshe Dawö just prior to his return to India, Annette Daly in a sincere but somewhat valedictory tone (Tara House Newsletter October 1984):

Ironically, it is only at the end of his stay that many students are realising what a highly realized and precious Teacher he is and how much we have under-utilized him. Geshela’s last residential course−a Mahamudra course at Geelong−inspired the more than 20 students who attended. Many realized that Geshela has had this ability to inspirationally impart the Dharma from day one, but it only now that many of us are taking full advantage of it. Unfortunately it is a bit late…there was a time he made a plea to the Committee that he would feel his teaching worthwhile if he had but three good students. Next teaching two students turned up. However, he gave the most fantastic teaching on death and impermanence I have ever heard.

Yet, looking back on this epoch-making period now (it still seems to potently glimmer) I can only marvel afresh, and with a sense of buoyant optimism, at what the Lamas have so skilfully and compassionately engineered. Even before Geshe Dawö departed for his two month return to India for the enthronement of his precious teacher at Sera Je, Bylakuppe, Karnataka State, India, somehow, magically, I mean, hardly accidently, Geshe Doga who was then resident Geshe at Atisha Centre, Bendigo (I mention him as one of my precious root teachers in the opening paragraph of this post) turned up at Tara Institute so that, for a while, we had not one, but two unbelievably qualified and marvellous Geshes caring for us and ensuring, above all else, continuity of what had already been so meticulously and patiently achieved. So, even if the body of the students had, on sad occasion, been reduced to just one or two students, nonetheless, this had been a sufficient receptacle to ensure, karmically, that the transmission of the Holy Dharma to the West was both successfully underway and secure. In the words of the Tara Institute newsletter (October 1983):

We are extremely fortunate to have Geshe Doga as our Victorian Geshe, taking up residence at the Centre in October. He will start giving teachings on the second week of that month (October 9, 10.) [10]

So, without so much as a hiccup, the stream of amazing pure Dharma teachings continued to pour into our hopefully suitably-tuned–or should that be suitably turned!–ears? Even as we were preparing for a Long Life Puja to farewell our Precious Geshe Dawö, the Precious Geshe Doga was teaching Lo Rig [Mind and its Functions] on Wednesday nights and Seven Point Thought transformation on Thursday nights. Then there was a weekend course with Geshe Doga and visiting teacher and Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche “old” student, Jon Landaw. Backed also by the immeasurable blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, not to mention Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the recently “deceased” but still very present Lama Yeshe, surely we had every generative cause assembled to begin our path to enlightenment on behalf of all suffering sentient beings. Whether we were “Western” or not had nothing, finally (or did it ever?) to do with it.

791d102cf1c2ef49d5bca6428cc8938c--buddhas-hand-the-hand

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 6.44.23 pm

 

THE BEST TRIBUTE

Speaking of one of his main teachers at Sera Monastery, India, the Gen Jampa Chödrup, Geshe Dawö said: ‘He was a great teacher who made a good human being out of me, and who shows the path both in this life and in future lives. He was always subdued and peaceful in all his actions, regardless of whether he was walking, sitting, or lying down, and whatever Dharma understanding I developed is due to his kindness. Just hearing his name fills me with faith, and I can never repay his kindness, even if I were to offer all the three realms filled with gold.” On behalf of all his Australian students who are united in our mixture of sadness and yet joyous wonder that we should have had the incredible, or rather, impossible fortune of having met and sat at the feet of such a great and humble master, a scholar and hidden yogi, we can surely re-offer and return this exact tribute, but now addressed to the Venerable Thubten Dawö who surely is none other than Tara playfully appearing in the slightest disguise!

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 11.25.51 am

So now on behalf of us all I write this humble verse in commemoration:

I dedicate that all of Thubten Dawö’s Holy Wishes
Be immediately and effortlessly fulfilled
For the benefit of all suffering mother sentient beings
Who are left bereft without him.
May His Holy Form soon reappear amongst us
And may we again hear the pure melody of his compassionate guiding words that arise spontaneously
From the radiant immensity of his thousand-petalled lotus heart
Which is none other than the glorious Enlightened mind itself.

Ross Moore
November, 2017

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 3.13.33 pm

The precious Geshe Yeshe Gawa, from Lab Monastery, Tibet. Geshe Yeshe Dawa served Geshe Dawö perfectly and selflessly for so many decades in India, Tibet and Australia. Even while organizing Geshe Dawö’s funeral he was thinking of all of his teacher’s students and how they might be faring.  His compassion knows no bounds. 

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 3.23.23 pm

Young Lab Monastery monks debating: preparing a way to the future

 

 

wheel-deer

 

NOTES

Full publication details of cited texts are found in the bibliography

[1] The reader is asked to appreciate that the various spellings of Geshe Dawö are due to the fact that, over the years, his Tibetan name has been phoneticized as “Dawo”; “Dawö” (as found in his official biography) and “Dawa.” Out of respect to my various primary sources I have not sought to render these uniform.

[2] See note one in Tribute To Geshe Dawa

[3] http://www.happymonkspublication.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/GesheDawaBiography.pdf. Pages 12-4.

[4] I am currently transcribing this teaching and will post when available. 

[5] This is a reference to the three scopes (and all the practices contained therein) presented in the Graduated Path to Enlightenment (lam rim) tradition. Atiśa famously writes:

I bow in great reverence to all past, present, and
Future Victors, to their Doctrine and Communities.
I shall light a Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment,
At the request of my good disciple Byang-chub-‘od.

In that they are Inferior or Mediocre or Superior,
Persons should be understood as three:
The characteristics of each are very clear, and
I shall note how they differ from one another.

One who by every means he finds,
Seeks but the pleasure of saṃsāra,
And cares but for himself alone, that one
Is known as the Inferior Person.

One who puts life’s pleasures behind
And turns himself from deeds of sin,
Yet cares only about his own peace,
That person should be called Mediocre.

One who wholly seeks a complete end
To the entire suffering of others because
Their suffering belongs to his own [consciousness] stream,
That person is a Superior.

For those pure beings whose desire
is the highest of Enlightenments,
I shall explain the right means
Which were taught me by my Gurus.

Atiśa, A Lamp For the Path, translated and annotated by Richard Sherburne, S.J, verses 1-6. 5. A person of Superior scope practises all three scopes in cohesive union from the perspective of bodhichitta. The terms are not meant pejoratively.

[6] Nāgārjuna writes (verse 118)

It’s hard enough for monks to follow perfectly
All these instructions that I’ve given you.
Yet practice excellence, the very pith
Of one of these, and give your life its sense.

See Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications), 2005, 73.

[7] The life story of Milarepa has already been referenced. For a brief biography of Gyälwa Ensapa see Janice D. Willis, Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition (Boston: Wisdom Publications), 57-72.

[8] This is a continuation of the teaching contained in Tribute to Geshe Dawa Part Two

[9] Tsongkhapa similarly concludes his Great Treatise on the Stage of the Path with some concise instructions concerning the necessity of engaging in tantra to achieve the final union:

Among the stages of the path of a person of great capacity, I have explained how one who trains in the bodhisattva path practices insight, which is wisdom. After you have trained in the paths common to both Sūtra and mantra, you must undoubtedly enter the mantra path because it is very much more precious than any other practice and it quickly brings the two collections to completion. If you are to enter it, then as Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment says, you must first please your guru−even to a greater extent than explained earlier−with such deeds such as respect and service and with practice that is in accordance with the guru’s words. And you must do this for a guru who meets at least the minimum qualification of a teacher explained there.

Then, at the outset, your mind should be matured through the ripening initiation as explained in a source tantra. You should then listen to the pledges and vows to be undertaken, understand them, and maintain them. If you are stricken by root infractions, you may make these commitments again. However, this greatly delays the development of the good qualities of the path in your mind. Make a fierce effort not to be tainted by those root infractions. Strive not to be tainted by the root infractions, but in the event that you are tainted, use the methods for restoring your vows. Since these are the basis of the practice of the path, without them you will become like a dilapidated house whose foundation has collapsed. The Root Tantra of Mañjuśrī (Mañjuśrī-mūla-tantra) says, “The Master of the Sages does not say that faulty ethical discipline achieves the tantric path,” meaning that those with faulty ethical discipline have none of the great, intermediate, or low attainments. And it says in the highest yoga tantra texts that those who do not maintain their vows, those who have inferior initiation and those who do not understand reality do not achieve anything despite their practice. Therefore someone who talks about practising the path without maintaining the pledges and vows has completely strayed from the tantric path.

In order to cultivate the mantra path someone who keeps the pledges and vows should at the outset meditate on the stage of generation, the complete divine wheel as explained from a source tantra. The unique object to be eliminated on the tantric path is the conception of ordinariness which regards the aggregates, constituents, and sensory sources as common. It is the stage of generation itself that eliminates this and transforms the abodes, bodies, and resources so that they appear as special. The conquerors and their children continuously bless the person who clears away the conception of ordinariness in this way; such a person easily brings to completion the limitless collections of merit, thereby becoming a suitable vessel for the stage of completion.

This person should then meditate on what appears in the source tantras non the stage of completion. Neither the tantras nor the scholars who explain their intended meanings hold that you should discard the first stage and merely classify it within the latter stage, training only in individual portions of the path. Therefore you must bear in mind the vital points of the two stages of the complete corpus of the path of highest yoga tantra.

Considering only the terms, I have described a mere fraction of what is involved in entering the mantra path. Therefore, understand this in detail by using works on the stages of the mantra path. If you train in this way, you will train in the entirely complete corpus of the path, which includes all the vital points of sūtra and mantra.  As a result, your attainment of leisure in this lifetime will have been worthwhile, and you will be able to extend the Conqueror’s precious teachings within both your own and others’ minds.

See Tsong-Kha-Pa, The Great Treatise, Volume Three, 363-5.

This is then followed by Tsongkhapa’s own dedication which concludes:

When I strive to properly achieve the supreme vehicle
Through the ten deeds of the teachings,
May I be accompanied always by those who have power,
And may an ocean of good fortune pervade all-directions.

Ibid., 369.

Regarding the role of the subtle body to which Geshe Dawö is alluding−in short-hand−when he mentions “achieving concentration through the channels, nadis, drops and so on”, His Holiness the Dalai Lama a little further explains:

In Highest Yoga Mantra, factors that we already in our continuums in the common state are used as the means for achieving Buddhahood through engaging in special techniques. As explained earlier, the foundations of tantric practice are an altruistic intention to become enlightened and an understanding of emptiness as described either in the Mind Only School or the Middle Way School. With these as a basis, the experiences of birth, death, and intermediate state are transformed through techniques of Highest Yoga Mantra into factors of enlightenment. The roots of this process are the very subtle wind and mind mentioned earlier−death, intermediate stage, and rebirth being manifestations of them. Because the three states of death, intermediate state, and rebirth in the ordinary state have a correspondence with the Truth Body, Complete Enjoyment Body, and Emanation Body of the enlightened state, through techniques of the path, the three ordinary states can be utilized to provide an opportunity for transformation into the Three Bodies of Buddhahood. With this purpose in mind, death is called the Truth Body of the ordinary state; the intermediate state is called the Complete Enjoyment Body of the ordinary state; and rebirth is called the Emanation Bod of the ordinary state.

Also, during practice of the path, there are corresponding states called the Truth Body, Complete Enjoyment Body, and Emanation Body of the time of the path. These paths, in turn, are divided into two levels−a stage of generation and a stage of completion. The first is achieved mainly in imagination; in the second stage, the stage of completion, actual changes are brought about in the physical structure of channels, winds, and drops of essential fluid, the process utilizing the very subtle fundamental mind as a path-consciousness. To accomplish this, it is necessary first to untie knots in the structure of channels, the essential aim being to stop the grosser levels of wind and consciousness. When these path-techniques bring about a cessation of all coarser levels of wind and consciousness, the clear light becomes manifest, and it is transformed into a path-consciousness realizing emptiness. When one is able to utilize the clear light as an exalted wisdom consciousness directly realizing the emptiness of inherent existence, one can extinguish both the artificial and the innate forms of the afflictive obstructions simultaneously, whereby the ignorance conceiving inherent existence is completely destroyed. Also, when the clear light has been manifested, one has easy access to the substantial cause of a Buddha’s Form Body.

That concludes a brief outline of Mantra.

See H. H. The Dalia Lama, The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 211-212.

[10] Geshe Doga, born five years after Geshe Dawö (July 1935) also came from the Kham region, Tibet. Also like Geshe Dawö, after novice ordination and study at the local monastery, as a young man (aged 17), he made the harzardous three month foot trek to Sera Monastery, Lhasa. Likewise, in 1959 he fled to India which was close to the Kham border. He then spent eight years in the Buxa Camp. Following this he was selected, along with thirteen other monks, to pursue Sanskrit studies at Varanasi University. Upon being awarded the prestigious Acharya degree, further studies were pursued at Sera Je Monastery (where he was awarded the high degree of Lharampa Geshe) with further specialist tantric studies at Gyudme Tantric College. Following Lama Yeshe’s request, and with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s blessing, he decided to travel to Australia in order to teach Westerners, many of whom had contacted the Dharma through the pioneering wheel-turning work of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche via famous Lam Rim Courses conducted at Kopan Monastery, Nepal.

Of his long-anticipated arrival in Bendigo, Judy Green writes: “On 1st January 1983 Geshe Doga arrived. Ian and I went to the airport to collect him, and being so glad to see him I gave him a big kiss – very surprising for him and something he has often recalled with great humour.  Geshe-la was welcomed with joy and celebration. We settled him into his little “house” and set up a roster to cook his meals and take him out visiting etc. We muddled along with various translators until eventually Sonam Rigzin the official translator arrived. Geshe-la was able to begin proper teachings and our spiritual programme flourished.” For further biographical detail, see http://www.tarainstitute.org.au/geshe-doga. So the Dharma Wheel was still turning.

 

F222A_SC

F222A_SC

Categories:

Uncategorized
%d bloggers like this: