In this series, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Tashi Tsering, abbot of Sera Mey monastery, gives a series of classes on selected suttas from the Pali canon. He is using Bikku Bodhi’s translation of The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya), published by Wisdom Publications, as his root text.
As usual, Geshe Tashi’s style is part scholarly – he brings an exceptional depth of knowledge, experience and wisdom to the material; and a large part down to earth – how we can best apply these teachings to our everyday lives.
In this class, Geshe la covers a sutta spoken by Lord Buddha, under the subject heading of Enlightenment.
Here the Buddha sets out his stall on enlightenment and whether or not he himself is an enlightened being.
Geshe Tashi draws our attention to the Four Noble Truths Sutra, where the Buddha made a similar statement right at the beginning of his teaching career, paraphrased here: With regard to these Four Noble Truths that I have taught, if what I say is correct, then I claim to be an enlightened being. If not, then I do not claim to be an enlightened being. Geshe la advises we read this sutra, especially as beginners, before reading the “blissful texts”.
Geshe la quotes from memory another sutra where, with simple clarity and precision, the Buddha details a very similar measure of what it means to be enlightened. Lord Buddha gives us a glimpse of what being enlightened in the world might mean using the analogy of a bee taking nectar from a flower without disturbing it’s petals, colours and scents. In this way enlightened beings enjoy the essence of the world without disturbing their minds.
Geshe la really brings this to life and makes it so relevant and fascinating. He guides us through the questions raised here:
What is the gratification or joy in the world?
What is the danger in it?
What is the escape from it?
In the second half of this sutta, Lord Buddha adds to these questions. What is the extent of the gratification in the world? What is the extent to the danger?
According to the Buddha, knowing the right answer to these questions is enlightenment. Geshe la really captures how simple yet so extraordinary and empowering the Buddha’s words are.
Following the Buddha’s example, Geshe la explains we should always start with a question. We must question the understandings and knowledge in the world and in our culture. That will lead to a healthy doubt, which will lead us through the stages of the cultivation of wisdom up to enlightenment.
For those of you who have been studying the FBT course with us, you will recognise how this is a major theme throughout. When it comes to the world around us, our world, our culture, our own views and beliefs, question, question, question!
I know we always say this, but this really is an extraordinary series. Looking back to his teachings from his time in London, Geshe la is working with the Buddha’s words at what seems to be a whole new level. Simple, profound, exciting and extremely relevant, I will leave it to you to discover the superlatives for yourselves!
We wholeheartedly recommend you join us over the next two Sundays in September.
With best wishes,
The Admin Team
We respectfully dedicate our efforts here to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She embodied a lifetime of selfless duty and service. May she be free of obstacles and may the vast goodness she has done in this life ripen fully for her benefit and the benefit of others.
Similarly we also hold in our hearts Elizabeth Murray, mother of Mike Murray.
May they be well, may they be happy and content, may they be filled with loving kindness.