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.
As part of the guidance on taking refuge that he gives at the beginning of each class, Geshe la gave some really helpful, practical advice on not over-promising when it comes to our intentions and motivation at the beginning of each day. We want to develop the habit of keeping promises, he explains, not breaking them. He also emphasised the importance of developing mental strength by gradually and intentionally increasing our awareness of the positive things within us and how fortunate we are. In this way we will have greater strength and reserves, helping us not to feel overwhelmed by the never-ending bad news in the media, and the daily challenges we face.
Geshe la then returned to our root text, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha and section 143 (11) entitled The Peacock Sanctuary, and the section on the Three Trainings. He first went into more detail on the three kinds of ethics: (i) not harming others, (ii) the ethics of collecting virtues – bringing the ethical training into our lives; and (iii) serving others.
Geshe la very kindly made the crucial point that it is better to refrain from harming others out of compassion, not out fear. Cultivating fear only leads to unease, and then resentment towards the practice.
With the training in concentration, Geshe la again focused on the key practical points that could benefit us the most. For those of us confused about how to develop mindfulness/recollection (drenpa) as well as introspection and conscientiousness in our shamatha training, Geshe la very helpfully quoted from Lama Tsongkapa’s Lam Rim Chenmo. While recollection is singled out as being separate in the early stages of practice, by the later stages it becomes clear that it is very closely related to introspection and conscientiousness. Because these three all share the same mental factors, we can first focus on developing drenpa (mindfulness or recollection). Later, when mindfulness deepens in strength, introspection and conscientiousness will naturally be more accessible to us.
Quoting Shantideva on the self-centred mind, Geshe la went on to highlight the importance of making use of our innate faculty for wisdom and analysis. Instead of just doing what our teacher says blindly, we must analyse the instructions and topics for ourselves. In this case we must analyse to see if the self-centred mind really is, in the words of His Holiness, a “trouble maker”. From that kind of analysis our wisdom goes further than doubt or assumption and we can develop conviction. It is conviction that leads us to act when the self-centred mind arises. If we don’t act to challenge the self-centred mind when it arises, that is a sign we don’t have conviction.
It is very clear that Geshe Tashi’s constant focus on the practical side of the teachings is a measure of his deep experience and wisdom. As we said our goodbyes on Zoom after Geshe la left, there was a real sense, voiced by a few, of how very fortunate we all are to be attending these Sunday classes with him. He really is extraordinary.
Thankfully, Geshe la let us know he will be back again sometime in October. Please join us then. If you’re on our mailing list, we’ll keep you posted!
See you soon and best wishes to you all,
The Admin Team
You can find details of upcoming classes as well as the text available for download here.
You can find a copy of the first reading here.
You can find a copy of the second reading here.