Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Jewel Ornament of Liberation Chapter 1 - The Motive

by Sangharakshita

... at the very bottom, the world of or the spheres of suffering: the
hells or purgatories; then there was the sphere of, or the world or plane of the Hungry Ghosts,
the Pretas; then the animals; then human beings; then asuras; then devas - that is to say, the
lower devas who come within the Kamaloka: the realm of sensuous desire or sensuous
experience. Then you had the Rupa-Loka devas, one might say the devas of sort of [5]
archetypal form. And then above those the Arupa-Loka devas - devas made of pure light, so
to speak. And they were, roughly speaking, identical with the Brahmas. Do you see what I
So the Brahma Sanat Kumara, was one of the most prominent of these. And then, it seems
that when, in Mahayana Buddhism, they developed the idea, though it was much more than
an idea, of the Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva externally or iconographically took on the
features of the Brahmas, especially of Brahma Sanat Kumara and especially Manjusri - took
on the form so to speak, of Brahma Sanat Kumara, or appeared in, or was represented in that
particular form.
Rosy A: Who was it that Sanat Kumara appeared to?
S: Maha Govinda. The Sutta is called the Maha Govinda Sutta. If you look it up - I forget the
Rosie O: And Sanat Kumara gave teachings that the Buddha (repeated)
S: Yes, oh yes. The teaching related to - what shall I say - to the elimination of the sense of
self. He gave a quite interesting teaching. Maybe you should read the whole Sutta. (Pause)
Now why do you think that Gampopa pays homage especially to Manjusri? In the first line of
this salutation - why Manjusri?
Dhammadinna: He's the Bodhisattva of exposition of the Dharma.
S: He's primarily the Bodhisattva of wisdom, the Bodhisattva of eloquence, of knowledge, of
understanding of the scriptures and therefore of exposition. But looking at it, as it were, one
might even say more psychologically, why do you think homage is paid to Manjusri? (Pause)
Well Gampopa is aware that he's embarking on quite a difficult task - he's writing a book on
the Jewel Ornament of Liberation. And it isn't going to be easy to do justice to the subject. So
he wants to call up, so to speak, within himself, all his reserves of understanding and wisdom.
He wants to evoke them. So he does this by paying homage to Ariya Manjusri, who appears
in the form of an eternal youth.
Anjali: Bhante, in the note where it says, "Manjusri Kumarabhuta" doesn't 'Bhuta' mean
S: Yes, it does also mean 'ghost' but that's a quite different meaning.
Anjali: What does it mean here?
S: Well, as he says, it means 'become'. It's a form of the verb [6] verb 'to be'. So one has
become, either become a Prince, according to Guenther, or become the youth - the eternal
youth -. That is to say, appearing in the form of the 'eternal youth'. (Pause)
Then, "having bowed to the Victorious One, his Sons and the sublime experiences". Who is
the Victorious One?
Voices: The Buddha.
S: The Buddha. What's the Sanskrit then? The Buddha as Victor, or Conqueror ...
Voice: Jina?
S: Jina. Yes. So, "having bowed to the Victorious One," - the Buddha, the Jina - "His Sons".
Who are his sons?
Voice: The Bodhisattvas?
S: The Bodhisattvas. And "the sublime experiences". Now, what does one mean by "the
sublime experiences"? (Pause)
Annie F: Isn't it the Dhyanas he's talking about?
S: Dhyanas? No. Actually it's more than that. It's the series of transcendental experiences that
make up the transcendental path; which also make up the Dharma. Sometimes the question is
raised, "well, what do we actually mean by the Dharma?" Dharma can be translated as
'teaching', it can be translated as 'truth'; it can be translated as 'doctrine', it can be translated as
'law'. But essentially Dhamma means a sequence, a series of transcendental states. You
remember the teaching about the positive nidanas? You're familiar with that, aren't you? The
12 positive nidanas. And then especially, there is that part of the series of positive nidanas
from Knowledge and Vision of Things as they Really Are - onwards. That is the strictly
transcendental series, or the transcendental part of that series.
So, it's that series, of, in the strict sense, transcendental states arising - the subsequent one in
dependence on the proceeding one, continuing indefinitely. It is that which really, in
principle, constitutes the Dharma. And following the Dharma, means, becoming one with, so
to speak, that sequence, that series of transcendental nidanas. So these are "the Sublime
Experiences" that are being referred to. "As well as to the Gurus who are their foundation."
Now what does that mean? Foundation of what?
Dhammadinna: Their practice?
S: "Their foundation" - it clearly refers to, you know, what has come before. It could be that it
is, you know, Manjusri himself. "The Victorious One, his Sons and the sublime experiences".
It could be [7] that the Gurus are regarded as the foundation of all of them. Grammatically, it
bears that interpretation, but it could also be - and this is more likely - that the Gurus are the
foundation of the sublime experiences. So, what would that mean? - by saying that the Gurus
are the foundation of the sublime experiences, of the experiences of the transcendental, or
those experiences which constitute the nidanas of the transcendental path?
Vajrasuri: The Gurus are the teachers.
S: The Gurus are the teachers...
Vajrasuri: ... pass on the basic ...
S: Not of course, that they pass on anything in the literal sense, but, they help create the
conditions in dependence upon which one may have that sort of experience. They help create
the conditions by teaching, as well as in other more direct ways.
Then he mentions individual teachers: "In relying on Milarepa's and Atisa's grace, I write for
the benefit of myself and others". So why does he mention especially Milarepa and Atisa?
Who are Milarepa and Atisa? Perhaps that should be clarified first.
Milarepa, no doubt, you are quite familiar with. Who is Milarepa?
Voice: It's actually his teacher.
S: Milarepa is his own teacher, yes. And which tradition does Milarepa belong to?
Voice: Kagyupa.
S: The Kagyupa tradition, which goes back to Tilopa and Naropa,, the great Indian Gurus.
Who is Atisa?
Voice: Wasn't Atisa - didn't he take Buddhism to Tibet?
S: Yes, he took Buddhism to Tibet. He wasn't the first to do so. He came about 300 years
after Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, at a time of decline. He was a great teacher, a great
scholar and yogi from Nalanda University. And he went to Tibet; he remained there for a
number of years. And the tradition which he started, or the school of which he became the
founder was the Kadampa school. Do you know anything about that? Kadampa means the
school of transmitted precepts. The Gelugpa school of Tsongkhapa - you've heard about that
no doubt is, in a sense, a continuation of the Kadampa school of Atisa.
Atisa stressed the importance of the observing of the precepts, especially the ten precepts - the
ten Kusala-Dharmas. He stressed [8] very much, the development of the Bodhicitta. And in
his personal practice, he was very devoted to the meditation and Mantra recitation of Tara.
That was an important practice he transmitted. So Atisa represents, one might say, the more
scholarly, more purely Mahayana tradition. Whereas Milarepa represents the more yogic,
more Tantric tradition. Do you see what I mean?
So Gampopa was the inheritor, so to speak, of both these traditions. In his own teaching, in
his own writing, he combined these two. So he salutes Milarepa and Atisa, so to speak, to
indicate his two main sources of inspiration. And to indicate that the teachings contained in
this work are going to draw upon both these traditions the Kadampa and the Kagyupa.
But, "in relying on Milarepa's and Atisa's grace, I write for the benefit of myself and others,
this jewel of the noble doctrine which is like the Wish-fulfilling Gem." So he writes for the
benefit of himself and others. It's not, so to speak, that he doesn't need any help himself any
more. He's writing it in the first place, for his own benefit, to clarify his own thoughts, to
remind himself of the teaching. And also for the benefit of others. And what he writes is "this
jewel of the noble doctrine which is like the Wish-fulfilling Gem".
So 'Wish-fulfilling Gem' could refer to the work itself or to the doctrine. Perhaps it doesn't
really matter which it refers to. Perhaps it refers to both. You know about the Wish-fulfilling
Gem, the Chintamani? Have you heard of this? It's a sort of mythological, what sometimes is
called a mythologem. That isn't meant as a pun a mythologem - it's a sort of mythological
theme, one might say, or motif. You've got a number of these sort of things in Indian
mythology. You've got the Wish-fulfilling Cow, and you've got the Wish-fulfilling Tree;
you've got the Wish-fulfilling Gem. It's like Aladdin's Lamp. What do you think it means,
when it say the doctrine or a work embodying the doctrine, is like the Wish-fulfilling Gem?
What does this really mean?
Voices: Benefits everybody.
S: Benefits everybody, yes. What else do you think?
Voice: Gives you everything you need.
S: Gives you everything you need.
Voice: ... or want.
S: ...

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