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 addressed the death of the late Queen Elizabeth II and the passing of the crown to King Charles III, giving us teachings on impermanence, on dependent arising, and on the power of service.
He began by referring to the high lamas of the past and the descriptions of their deaths. The tradition is for those followers who have a strong grasping to the permanence of things and events, in order to lead them in the dharma, for that purpose these great teachers pass away.
The impermanent nature of our lives was very starkly highlighted, and done so very much in the public eye, with Elizabeth II’s passing. One day she was in the news doing her duty by welcoming the new Prime Minister, two days later she was dead. Geshe la said that showing the nature of impermanence in public is a very important teaching.
For ourselves, as with the late Queen, all our possessions will be left behind. We work extremely hard to accumulate things, yet they will all be lost in a matter of seconds. If we can internalise this nature of impermanence at an experiential, heart level, then the way we relate to other people and the outside world will become very different, he said, and in a positive way.
Geshe la also reflected on the dependence of label and basis around King Charles’s new title. We live in a world of many, often conflicting narratives, political, social, scientific, economic, all coming from the human mind. In this case, with the proclamations of kingship, we have the opportunity to see quite clearly that these labels and narratives don’t exist from their own side.
If we don’t see impermanence and dependency at work in our lives, this will lead to confusion and unhappiness. These two events coming so close together, Geshe la says, is very helpful for us. Through our practice around impermanence and dependent arising, when we lose family members, while of course being disturbed on the surface, our minds will be calm at a deeper level.
Finally Geshe la spoke on the importance of service. He reflected on how the late Queen Elizabeth had done her duty, had served the community for decades, how her daily commitment to service and duty was very, very admirable. Serving others, Geshe la said, is something we too can do. He suggests we start small, otherwise the process may be hijacked by ego. Trying to be too ambitious too soon is, according to His Holiness, a sign of failure.
Bringing current world events and our own experiences back into the teachings of the Buddha, Geshe la turned to our root text, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha. In section 143 (11) entitled The Peacock Sanctuary, Geshe la drew our attention to the Buddha’s words, to the three qualities that are best among humans. These three are the Three Trainings, the first being three levels of ethics: (i) not harming others, (ii) the ethics of collecting virtues – bringing the ethical training into our lives; and (iii) serving others.
It is hard to think how this teaching from Geshe la could be more relevant to our daily lives. Once again this is an extraordinary class and a great example of how to practice.
We look forward very much to joining you for our last class together in this series on Sunday 18th September.
With best wishes,
The Admin Team