In the first part of this update, Geshe Tashi first gives what he describes as “BBC News” update from the settlement in India. If only the BBC news was as good as this!
In the Practicing Buddhism section, Geshe Tashi once again gives a thorough review of the previous verses, as continues his commentary on A Harvest of Powerful Attainment by Lama Tsongkhapa.
Commenting now on Verse 8 and the wisdom of dependent arising, Geshe la gives us a teaching on the two extremes of nihilism and eternalism. He describes one manifestation of nihilism [denying existing things, in this case cause and effect] as the belief that all things come into existence spontaneously or by accident, randomly or by chance. It is called extreme, Geshe la says, “because of its influence on our actions where we have no regard for the coming results”. He references a documentary on the Nazi regime, how this regime was able to hold the attitudes it did, and how this extreme view of nihilism was underlying their disregard for others and the consequences of their actions. People who hold this view, Geshe la says, have the potential to cause huge destruction for others.
In commenting on eternalism, Geshe la refers to the Indian caste system and the sad belief held by some that they really do have some kind of intrinsic inferiority. We, the Admin Team, feel we should follow Geshe la’s example and be discerning about our own culture. These diseases of nihilism and eternalism are very much present in the paradigms, theories and beliefs of our sciences, philosophies and institutions. We don’t need to look to the 1930’s and 40’s. With our western belief that we are “hard wired” from birth at a neural or genetic level for negative states of mind or mental illnesses, we certainly don’t feel there is any room for complacency in our culture today.
In this community of ours, with these teachings from Geshe Tashi and Je Tsongkhapa, we are all sharing our own very special vaccine for a vastly more dangerous disease – ignorance. “The meaning of dependent arising, profound and limit-free, is the sole cure for diseases of holding to extremes.” We feel so lucky to be receiving these teachings.
Geshe la helps us to gain perspective over the whole text, by showing how the verses are organised by Lama Tsongkhapa. The first 3 verses give homage, the 4th and 5th show us the qualities we need as students, and the 6th, 7th, and 8th are the “Three Principal Aspects of the Path”. These are: renunciation – or the determination to emerge from samsara; bodhichitta; and correct view – the wisdom of emptiness and dependent arising.
Another really well structured, detailed episode from Geshe la, packed full of humour, sharp cultural observations, a break-through vaccine, and certain goodness!
A Harvest of Powerful Attainment (verse 8)
Prayer for Blessings of the Close Lineage
Bless me that I comprehend in a manner akin
to noble Nagarjuna and his spiritual successors
the meaning of dependent arising, profound and limit-free,
sole cure for diseases of holding to extremes.
p.113 The Splendour of an Autumn Moon, Lama Tsongkhapa, trans. Gavin Kilty.
Khen Rinpoche Geshe Tashi Tsering taught in London for over 25 years and is currently Abbot of Sera Mey Monastery in Karnataka State, India.