Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
29 December, 2014
In 2012 when the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was only seventeen, he taught for the first time at the Kagyu Monlam in public. His teaching was from the foremost devotional prayer in the Kagyu lineage, Calling the Lama from Afar, by the First Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, which was recited every night in Rumtek after the tragic passing of the third Jamgon Kongtrul. This first teaching seemed a response to the heartfelt cries of devotees from around the world.
Now, at the age of nineteen, Jamgon Kongtrul is giving another major teaching at the Monlam, to an audience of over 12,000 people, on an essential Sakya text called Parting from the Four Attachments. He looks composed as he sits on the elaborately carved teaching throne and gazes into space, motionless, at the seemingly endless queue of devotees presenting offerings during the traditional mandala ritual.
The line-up is headed by groups comprising one hundred and fifty people, the first headed by Tulku Rigdzin Gyatson, followed by Lama Rinchen from Hawaii, the Kagyu Office Labrang, and the Kagyu centres from the Philippines and Shanghai. The procession of offerings continues to the back of the pavilion as far as the eye can see. Devotees hold gilded offerings representing body, speech and mind. It is forty -five minutes before Jamgon Rinpoche can start speaking.
The small text he holds in his hands is The Song of Experience by Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216), son of the founder of the Sakya Lineage, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158). Drakpa Gyaltsen composed it from the root text, Parting from the Four Attachments, which came from Manjushri directly in a vision to his father.
When Kunga Nyingpo was twelve, his root master advised him to practice Manjushri in order to attain prajna. After practising for six months he had a vision of Manjushri surrounded by bodhisattvas. Manjushri then spoke these words to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo:
'If you are attached to this life you are not a dharma practitioner.
If you are attached to samsara you don’t have renunciation.
If you are attached to selfish aims you don't have bodhicitta.
If you are attached to grasping you don’t have the view''.
Kunga Nyingpo then had a direct realization of prajna and understood that this four line verse contained the essence of the entire practice of the path of Prajnaparamita. He then taught it to his son Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen, who composed The Song of Experience. Drakpa Gyaltsen became a siddha who is said to have stopped an eclipse of the sun and could hang his bell and vajra in mid- air when he practised his sadhana. His composition is not a lengthy scholarly commentary but experiential advice and key oral instructions. Before he commences, Jamgon Kongtrul welcomes Gyaltsap Rinpoche and the massive gathering of Lamas and laypeople. He confesses he is somewhat awestruck to be teaching in the presence of his root guru, the Gyalwang Karmapa, who sits to his right on a simple throne at the same height as the teaching throne; while Gyaltsap Rinpoche sits closer to the ground. They both focus intently with loving expressions on the youngest heart-son. The Third Jamgon Kongtrul was the closest of the four spiritual sons to the Sixteenth Karmapa, and the Second Kongtrul, Karsey Kongtrul, was both heart son and natural son of the fifteenth.
As a sign of auspicious interdependence, when HH Sakya Trizin came to Bodhgaya, he bestowed on Jamgon Kongtrul the transmission and instructions of the Song of Experience. ''For that reason, I'll try to teach it as best I can''.
The first of the lines, If you are attached to this life you are not a dharma practitioner
If we are attached to this life and perform discipline, listening, contemplation, and meditation with the focus or aim of this life then it’s not real dharma. We need to have discipline, listening, contemplation, and meditation, but if it is with a focus on achievements in this life, it is not authentic dharma practice.
The benefits of discipline are many. It is the ornament of the world, it brings one to the higher realms; it is the staircase to liberation. Discipline is indispensible to become a Buddha. It is also the antidote to suffering.
However if we have discipline that is focused on this life, that is the root of the eight worldly concerns. Also if we keep discipline with this motivation, it then becomes the root of samsara. If we practice discipline only when in the midst of other people and not when we are alone, then this is a cause to fall into the lower realms. Fake discipline is the seed of the lower realms.
The text then describes the benefits of listening and contemplation. An individual who studies and contemplates has the basis of wisdom and a lamp to dispel ignorance.
Individuals who have meditation have the remedy for affliction, the basis for liberation, and the seed of buddhahood. Meditation is indispensible. However, If you have meditation focused on this life, even if you are in retreat, you will be distracted, you will have pride when you compare yourself to other meditators. The eight worldly concerns will then arise automatically.
In this way when we’re practicing any type of dharma, with attachment to this life we may say we’re dharma practitioners, but we’re not actually dharma practitioners. We’re seeming or posturing dharma practitioners. In order to stop this attachment to this life it’s extremely important to meditate on the precious human body, death and impermanence
When Jamgon Rinpoche reads the text, he comments, ''In brief, these verses describe the difference between true dharma practitioners and fake dharma practitioners''. (http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/jetsun-drakpa-gyaltsen/parting-four-attachments)
Time has run out and there is meant to be a meditation session at the end of each teaching.
In a confident, powerful voice, Jamgon Rinpoche instructs the assembly of devotees to sit in
the 7 point posture of Vairochana.
Think about how precious the human body is with its eight leisures and ten resources. Think how it is impermanent by nature. Every moment we are perishing. The conditions for living are few, the causes of death are many. There is no reason to be attached. Contemplate this for one minute.
To close the session, the Karmapa places the activity crown on his head as he reads the prayers and dedications for the living and deceased. Eight incense bearers wearing yellow-crested hats, four with elaborate ceremonial brocade draped over their robes, line up in front of the stage waiting to escort the Tulkus from the pavilion. Jamgon Rinpoche stands and waits for the Karmapa and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, before all three, heart-sons and gurus both, from life to life, are led out in procession.