To promote the study and practice of Kalacakra
beings arise in time, Time continually consumes them all,
|Volume 1, Number 2, September 2001|
Group meeting study schedule
The group meeting study schedule is now coming together. At the moment, it looks to be as follows:
So, this provisionally is what the current schedule for the forthcoming 1999-2000 session of the group meetings looks like.
There may be some changes. For example, Geshi Tashi may be able to offer us teaching on the Manjusri-namasamgiti. If, by Geshi-la’s kindness, this is possible, we will re-schedule the programme to accommodate his teaching.
If any changes to the proposed schedule occur, we will let you know as soon as we can. We would still very much like to hear ideas and suggestions from all members of the group about future topics for study and presentation.
We currently meet at the Jamyang Buddhist Centre, The Old Courthouse, 43, Renfrew Road, London SE11 4NA.
Unless otherwise stated, our meetings, all usually on the second Saturday of each month, start at 2.00pm and finish at around 5.00pm. We are a trans-sectarian group dedicated to Kalacackra practice. We are open to anyone who has taken the Kalacakra initiation from a qualified lama and seriously wishes to practise accordingly. We use ‘The Jewelled Heart’ - A Sadhana focusing on Glorious Kalacakra by Buton Rinchen Druppa (1290-1364) for group practice at these meetings.
When the group meets at Jamyang Buddhist Centre the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) guidelines attached to FPMT centres should be respected regarding guest teachers and practice materials.
The International Kalacakra Network website
The International Kalacakra Network (IKN) website has moved and has appeared in a re-designed and evolving format at www.kalacakra.org.
Ed Henning has done some excellent work to make this possible.
The front page is clear, explains the International Kalcakra Network and its interest in supporting the development of Kalacakra Practice Groups around the world. Hot keys to the left of the page at the moment give you access to the IKN proposal; basic information about Kalacakra and the seed syllable. Ed has also posted a Kalacakra calendar there for practitioners to work with.
Andy has written a lead-in for the newsletter and a brief history of the London group for international readers, all of which will shortly be available on the website.
Andy has also obtained permission to publish the prayer for the spreading of the ecumenical Buddha’s teachings, ‘A True Melodious Song of the Sage’ on the site. Written by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, the prayer contains the following verse:
‘The combined Budon and Jolug traditions
which set forth pronouncements
of scripture and insight of the internal,
external and alternate Kalacakra,
A tradition of explanation unique amongst
other sutras and tantras,
May this Victor’s doctrine in the
Land of Snows flourish for a long time.’
This paragraph will be highlighted in colour on the website.
Ed is now actively seeking for more ideas, help with design, practitioners to write materials, graphic materials etc. You can contact him on: Ed_Henning@zd.com with any offers of help, ideas or materials for the site.
During Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche’s London teachings on the Nine - Deity Kalachakra Sadhana he spoke helpfully about the suitability and value of the daily practice of Manjusri-namasamgiti. For those interested in following this up Andy has provided a translation by Ronald M Davidson, which Gary has transcribed from photocopy into Word format. Dave has a copy of the translation as it stands to keep with the Kalacakra materials in the Jamyang bookshop.
We have provided Geshe Tashi with a copy and may amend the translation if he has any comments after comparing it with his copy of the Tibetan root text. Geshe-la has also offered to seriously consider the possibility of offering the group some teaching on this text at a future date.
Kalacakra Practice Group Archive
We now have a list of what is available to the group in the archive:
This list is not comprehensive. It represents the list as far as Dawn was able to get it, dependent upon what she had been given by members at the time. Please check it against your own materials and let us have a good copy of anything that appears to be missing. A really good archive of materials is a very valuable resource to support our study and practice.
Trans – Sectarianism
The International Kalacakra Network (IKN) is evolving an identity which could be described as ‘trans-sectarian’. I would like to clarify what I mean by this.
Firstly, the word ‘sect’ in this context is neutral. It refers to a tradition with its own institutions, such as Nyingma or Sakya. The term ‘sectarian’ on the other hand implies putting down other traditions in order to elevate one’s own, and is therefore negative. It is good to try to be non-sectarian, but it is not easy, because most of us feel that if it’s best for us, it’s best for everyone. This is, in retrospect, a somewhat childish attitude, and is usually rejected by the Tibetan lamas. The Tibetan tradition called Ri-me, meaning non-sectarian, mainly represents lineages from the Nyingma and Kargyu traditions. In practice, it is not really possible to set up a tradition-less tradition, although it is excellent to promote a non-sectarian attitude.
There are several living lineages of Kalacakra coming from India and Tibet. I believe that the KPG (Kalachakra Practice Group - London) and IKN can respect and represent them all. I feel that whilst we can acknowledge their differences, we are frequently aware of their overwhelming similarity to one another. In practice, when a group of Kalacakra practitioners get together to study and practise Kalacakra, they seem to have more in common than they have differences. On the other hand, within their own traditional groups, or sects, the Kalacakra practitioners in some way feel apart from practitioners of other tantras, because of the highly distinctive features of Kalacakra. This distinctiveness is the case across all the traditions, and for that reason I find the term ‘trans-sectarianism’ useful in characterising the identity of the IKN.
All the Tibetan traditions respect the Kalacakra, but within their ranks, very few people actually seem to practice it. I hope that our getting together through KPG and IKN may help in a small way to preserve the Kalacakra as a living practice. In the post-modern world it seems to me to be increasingly ridiculous to shore up sectarian boundaries which, in the past, were often the product of geographical or socio-political circumstances, rather than deep doctrinal differences. This does not mean to say that I do not want to protect zealously the purity of the initiation and practice lineages; I don’t think we should try to marry the lineages. Where there are variations in method I think we should distinguish and identify them separately to the best of our ability.
Furthermore, I believe that we must recognise the philosophical differences between the Tibetan traditions, and, like the Tibetans, should debate these issues openly and vigorously to help sharpen the sword of wisdom. In particular, I think we should be aware that the differences between the Gelug and Jonang schools on the question of the nature of ultimate truth are intricately associated with the deep experiences of two great Kalacakra yogis, Tsong Khapa and Dolpopa. However, I suggest that when we look at the way that these masters and their followers presented the Kalcakra practices, they seem to be broadly in agreement.
It is important today that the different Tibetan traditions have their own dharma centres, and that Kalacakra practitioners follow teachings with lamas and dharma friends from these centres. The Kalacakra practice cannot be isolated from the rest of Buddha’s teachings and practices. It is only for the study and practice of Kalachakra that it is helpful to have a special group and network.
I use the term trans-sectarian to suggest that we maintain the integrity of the practice lineages and the philosophical schools under the umbrella of the Kalacakra teachings. I believe that we should accept as valid, all authentic lineages, but, as a group and a network, should not be the property of any individual tradition, any Buddhist centre or dharma organisation. I believe that we should endeavour to act harmoniously and not make waves between the traditions. If, in the process we manage to promote a non-sectarian spirit, this in itself will have been very positive. If we trace back all the lineages, they come from but one source – Lord Buddha, manifesting as Sri Kalacakra.
At last Gen Lamrimpa’s much awaited book on the Kalacakra Six-Session Guru Yoga has been published. Gen Lamrimpa offers a concise overview of all phases of the Kalacakra practice – the preliminaries, the initiation, and finally the stages of generation and completion. With his usual clarity he makes the Six-Session Guru Yoga practice accessible to all practitioners. His Holiness prays that it will "enable readers deepen their understanding and appreciation of this sublime teaching of the Buddha."
His Holiness also says in his foreword to the book: "An increasing number of individuals who do not have access to the original Tibetan commentaries are taking an interest in this practice. Therefore, it is indeed timely that a book has been prepared containing an explanation of the practice of the Kalacakra Six-Session Guru Yoga, based on his own experience, by Gen Lamrimpa Jampal Tenzin." Transcending Time: An Explanation of the Kalacakra Six-Session Guru Yoga , Gen Lamrinpa, translated by B. Alan Wallace, 384 pp, 0-86171-152-1, paper, published by Wisdom at $21.95/£16.95. Wisdom have also published a new edition of Kalacakra Tantra: Rite of Initiation by His Holiness, translated, edited and introduced by Jeffrey Hopkins. This edition has a new index. Paperback, 512 pp, 0-86171-151-3, $22.95.
Jeffrey Hopkins new work ‘Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism’, published by University of California Press, hardback, 528 pp, 0-520-21119-7, available from Wisdom at £28.50, is the first of a three volume series of related but stand-alone works seen as dynamic responses to the first two sections of Tsong Khapa’s Essence of Eloquence. The focus of all three volumes is the exposition of Emptiness in the Mind-Only School according to numerous Tibetan and Mongolian scholars over the last six centuries in their efforts both to find and create consistency in Tsong Khapa’s "often terse and cryptic tract" (Hopkins) This first volume begins to deal with Tsong Khapa’s critique of the Jonangpa views on the nature of ultimate reality but it looks as if the second volume, ‘Reflections on Reality’, will really be the place where Hopkins presents the Jonangpa views on the ultimate nature of reality and ensuing Gelug criticisms.
In this first volume Hopkins says that Cyrus Stearn’s "fascinating thesis on Shay-rap-gyel-tsen, Dzong-ka-ba’s chief opponent in The Essence of Eloquence, was most timely and illuminating." This thesis is now published as a book entitled ‘The Buddha from Dolpo: A study of the life and thought of the Tibetan master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen’ by Cyrus Stearns, hardback, 318 pp, 0-7914-4191, published by State University of New York Press in their Buddhist Studies series, edited by Matthew Kapstein. Hardback, $62.50, paperback, $20.95. Stearns’study is described by Hopkins as "excellent work", which forms the basis for much of Hopkins’ own exposition of "Shay-rap-gyeltsen’s innovative syncretism"
Cyrus Stearns’ book contains the first translations into any language of major works by Dolpopa and describes both Dolpopa’s life and ideas. Dolpopa is seen by many as perhaps one of the greatest masters of Kalacakra and his theories on the nature of Emptiness are based on his deep experience of the Kalacakra tantra.
Dolpopa emphasised two contrasting definitions of Emptiness: "Emptiness of self-nature", which applies only to the level of relative truth, and "Emptiness of other" which applies only to the level of absolute truth. Dolpopa identified ultimate reality as the Buddha-nature inherent in all sentient beings. This view of an ""Emptiness of other", known in Tibetan as Zhentong, is seen by many as Dolpopa’s main spiritual legacy.
As Stearns himself says: " One of the major sources of tension in the interpretation of late Indian Buddhism as it was received in Tibet was the apparently contradictory descriptions of emptiness (sunyata, stong pa nyid) found in scriptures and commentaries identified with different phases of the tradition. The notion of an enlightened eternal essence, or Buddha nature (tathagatagarbha, bde bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po), present within every living being, was in marked contrast to the earlier traditional Buddhist emphasis on the lack of any enduring essence in sentient beings. For followers of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet, the interpretation and reconciliation of these two themes in the doctrinal materials they had inherited from India, and elsewhere, was of crucial importance." Many would agree that this is still a very important and fascinating issue, continuing to hone the sword of wisdom in contemporary Buddhism world-wide.
Another volume of considerable interest due to be published in November this year is ‘Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection’ by John W Pettit & Tom J F Tillemans, paperback, 576 pp, 0-8617-11572, published by Wisdom at $28.95/£23.95. John Pettit’s clear and lucid translation and in-depth presentation is being seen as a major contribution to the largely unexplored field of combining Madhyamika and Dzogchen studies.
The publisher’s gloss says: "For centuries, Dzogchen – a special meditative practice to achieve spontaneous enlightenment – has been misinterpreted by both critics and misinformed meditators as being purely mystical and anti-rational. In the grand spirit of Buddhist debate, 19th century Buddhist philosopher Mipham wrote Beacon of Certainty, a compelling, systematic defense of Dzogchen that employs the very logic it was criticised as lacking. Through lucid and accessible textural translation and penetrating analysis, Pettit establishes Mipham as one of Tibet’s greatest thinkers." It seems as though we can look forward to quite an interesting read.
His Holiness recently made a landmark contribution to the area of combining Dzogchen and Madhyamika studies in: ‘The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra’, H.H. The Dalai Lama & Alexander Berzin, paperback, 395 pp, 1-55939-072-7, published by Wisdom at $18.95/£12.95.
This book combines two commentaries by His Holiness on the First Panchen Lama’s ‘A Root Text for The Precious Gelug/ Kargu Tradition of Mahamudra: The Main Road of the Triumphant Ones’ and auto-commentary. There is a very clear introduction to Mahamudra by Alex Berzin, who translated the teachings by His Holiness given in Dharamsala on two separate occasions in 1978 and 1982.
There is quite a strong trans-sectarian drive and flavour to the work. A theme throughout both the Panchen Lama’s text and His Holiness’s commentaries is that the various methods of all Tibetan traditions to realise the ultimate nature of the mind "all come to the same thing."
In His Discourse on the Auto-commentary, His Holiness says: " Primordial clear light mind which spontaneously establishes all phenomena that exist and can thus appear is primally pure by nature. From its depths, it is devoid of being a concrete reality. When we meditate single-pointedly on such a clear light mind as a special basis characterised by voidness of self-nature, we are meditating on what amounts to an affirming nullification. This type of meditation on an affirming nullification, however, comes to the same essential point as meditation on a non-affirming nullification. But its manner of explanation and the technique it employs at the start for direct meditation are slightly different." (p. 239)
Differences of opinion between respected lamas, both between different traditions and within the same tradition, are seen as making it important to examine the issues from both historical and theoretical points of view.
However, when speaking more generally about different ways of expressing a correct view of reality, His Holiness presents some hard arguments about what he regards as the "inferior view of other-voidness" (p.237): " Even though it is called other-voidness, it is an extremely deficient and faulty assertion of other voidness. Many learned and experienced masters from the Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug and Nyingma traditions have refuted it. In taking voidness of a self nature to be equivalent to total non-existence and dependent arising to mean arising dependent on unawareness, and asserting thoroughly established clear light mind as an other-voidness devoid of non-self-existence and this type of dependent arising, they are left with no alternative but that clear light mind is truly and inherently existent, existing through its own power, by virtue of itself. It is devoid not only of arising dependently on unawareness, but also of arising dependently by virtue simply of mental labelling.
"Such assertion is clearly in total contradiction with what Nargarjuna has expounded. It basically contradicts the sutras. If we accept as the authentic words of the Buddha the expanded, intermediate and brief recensions of the Prajnaparamita sutras and take them as valid, this type of other-voidness view becomes untenable."
Sharp honing of the sword of wisdom indeed!
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