While posting photos is something I intend to continue with, I thought I had better write a little something. Back in December I managed to get through yet another year’s final exams. It was, as always, a huge challenge and probably my most productive time of year. My subjects this year were:
- Key to the Treasury by Dodrup Tenpai Nyima – a text about the Guyhagarbha tantra, according to the Zur tradition. (mdzod lde)
- The Precious Wish-fulfilling Treasury by Longchen Rabjam – a text about the foundations of practice, and in particular, the basis, path, and fruition of tantra. (yid bzhin mdzod)
- Establishing Appearances as Divine by Rongzom Mahapandita – a text which brings logic together with the special view of tantra. (snang ba lha sgrubs)
- The Garland of Views by Padmasambhava – a text by Guru Rinpoche himself, detailing the nine vehicles, with a particular emphasis on tantra. (man ngag lta ‘phreng)
- The Three Hundred Verses on the Vows of the Novice by Shakyaprabhawa – about our Vinaya vows, ie. the monastic code. We studied part of this text last year. (‘dul ba sum brgya pa)
- The Sutra which Embodies the Intentions of All the Buddhas – a tantric text covering a wide range of topics. We study it in seventh, eighth and ninth year. (mdo dgongs ‘dus)
Occasionally someone will tell me how much they would like to study only the tantric section of our curriculum. While I applaud any interest in studying these texts, I honestly cannot imagine being able to understand them without the background knowledge I gained in the first six years of shedra study. In fact, I’m not sure I can really claim to understand them now.
I think it might also be worth mentioning that these texts are focused on the theory of practice rather than instructions on how to practice. Here in shedra we focus on issues like: How does the path work? Why is tantra a swifter path? What is the nature of reality? What is meant by deity and divine? We beleive that understanding these topics is crucial for developing the correct view, and without the view, there can be no path and no practice.
That isn’t to say that we don’t practice what we are studying. Every monk and nun is practising, but practice takes many forms. Meditation, of course, is the most well known form of practice and is indispensable. Some praticioners however, may focus on reciting aspirational prayers, making offerings and prostrations, etc. Even careful observance of the monastic vows is a valid form of practice. Likewise, I truly believe that when we study the Dharma deeply it is analogous to examining our own minds and can very directly act as an antidote to mistaken views and afflictive emotions.