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600th Anniversary of Gyutö Monastery Founder’s Birth
November 3rd, 2019 by admin

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting members of the congregation as he enters the assembly hall at Gyutö Tantric College in Dharamsala, HP, India on November 2, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

November 2, 2019. Dharamsala, India – The main road leading to Gyutö Tantric College was lined with Tibetans and people from Lahoul & Spiti who live nearby this morning in anticipation of the arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Inside the monastery compound more people eagerly awaited his arrival. Overhead, between the freshly-painted hostel buildings and the temple, fluttered strings of Tibetan and Buddhist flags. A newly constructed ramp brought His Holiness’s car right up to the level of the temple. The Abbot welcomed him and escorted him into the large assembly hall. His Holiness waved to members of the congregation, reaching out to greet old friends here and there as he made his way to the throne. To his right sat the Ganden Tri Rinpoché with the Sharpa and Jangtsé Chöjés. To his left were Tai Situ Rinpoché and the Sikyong, Chief Justice Commissioner and TPiE Speaker.

Prayers were recited while tea and sweet rice were served. A three-volume set of books, published to mark the 600th anniversary of Jetsun Kunga Dhondup’s birth was released and presented to His Holiness. He took up one volume and began to read it with interest. Among the prayers for His Holiness’s long life was one originally composed by Radreng Rinpoché and first performed during His Holiness’s enthronement ceremony.

As the long-life prayers came to an end, His Holiness addressed the assembly.

Today, we’re gathered here at Gyutö Monastery in exile, one of the two great Tantric Colleges. I’d like to thank the monastery for the invitation.

When Jé Tsongkhapa was at the Sera Chöding Hermitage late in his life, one day he raised a copy of his annotated commentary on the Guhyasamaja root tantra and asked, “Who will preserve and propagate this teaching?” Jetsun Sherap Sengé stood up and volunteered. Jé Rinpoché gave him the book.

Later, Jetsun Kunga Dhondup founded Gyutö Monastery. This became the second Tantric College, with Gyumé Monastery, in Central Tibet. The Arya Tradition of Guhyasamaja, following the commentaries composed by Nagarjuna, Aryadeva and Chandrakirti, is upheld by the two Tantric Colleges.

Jé Tsongkhapa advised his followers to develop a firm understanding of the teaching of the Buddha by cultivating the flawless eye of wisdom. Be firm in your conviction, he went on, so no one will lead you astray. He followed the way Nagarjuna and his disciples examined the Buddha’s teachings and established their truth using logic and reasoning.

Unique to the Buddha’s teaching was his explanation of dependent arising, which Nagarjuna expressed as follows, ‘There does not exist anything that is not dependently arisen. Therefore, there does not exist anything that is not empty’. Buddhapalita remarked, ‘Whatever there is, is dependently arisen, if things had any intrinsic existence, what need would there be for dependence.’ Things can’t ultimately be pinpointed because they are dependent arisings. As Chandrakirti says, they can’t be found when sought through the sevenfold reasoning and yet they conventionally exist.

The Buddha’s teaching is based on reason and logic, but it isn’t just an intellectual pursuit, the purpose is to integrate what you learn within and achieve transformation. Nagarjuna explained the bodhisattva’s attitude in his ‘Precious Garland’, which is further elaborated by Shantideva in his ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’, especially in chapters six and eight.

Destructive emotions disturb our peace of mind. Aryadeva makes this clear in his ‘400 Verses’:

As the tactile sense [pervades] the body
Confusion is present in all [disturbing emotions].
By overcoming confusion, you will also
Overcome all disturbing emotions.

“Accepting that things exist the way they appear serves to disturb the mind because it is the basis of emotions like attachment and aversion.”

His Holiness mentioned that in Tibet the career monks of Gyutö and Gyumé did not study philosophy and logic extensively. In exile, with his encouragement, they have instituted such studies. He is convinced that their studies of the system of Guhyasamaja is enhanced by their also understanding the classic philosophical texts. He quoted Jé Rinpoché’s description of his own progress:

First, I sought out wide and extensive learning;
In the middle, I perceived all teachings as personal instructions;
Finally, I engaged in meditative practice day and night;
All this I have dedicated to the flourishing of the Buddha’s teaching

I’d like to thank all of you here for your efforts,” His Holiness declared. “There are also people here who used to be monks who have formed a supportive organization. Although you are no longer maintaining the vows of monks, you can teach others what you know and set an example of how to lead a good life.

Realists assert that things have some objective existence and that’s why causality works. However, a cause is something that gives rise to an effect. As the effect is dependent on the cause, but the cause too is what it is due to its dependence on the effect. In his ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’, Jé Rinpoché writes:

Appearances refute the extreme of existence,
Emptiness refutes the extreme of nonexistence;
When you understand the arising of cause and effect from the viewpoint of emptiness,
You are not captivated by either extreme view.

Jé Rinpoché explained in detail how things are empty yet still function conventionally. He went to great lengths to explain points that were difficult. His teaching, especially his five treatises on Middle Way thought, carries weight, and yet he didn’t show off, he remained humble. Gyalwa Gendun Drup, the first Dalai Lama said, “Although I’m not able to repay your kindness, I’m still doing my best to serve the Dharma without bias.” “

The Chant-master welcomed His Holiness, the Ganden Tripa, Tai Situ Rinpoché, Samdhong Rinpoché and other distinguished guests. He noted that this is the 600th anniversary of Gyuchen Kunga Dhondup’s birth, as well as of Jé Rinpoché’s passing away. To mark the occasion, the monastery is pleased to have been able to publish Jé Tsongkhapa’s ‘Great Stages of the Tantric Path’, as well as Jetsun Sherap Sengé’s and Gyuchen Kunga Dhondup’s commentaries on Guhyasamaja.

The monastery offered His Holiness a gilded Dharma Wheel flanked by a vajra and bell in gratitude. The group of former Gyutö monks in turn offered him a vase topped by an image of Amitayus.

In his address the Abbot stated that Gyutö Monastery had invited His Holiness and other guests to commemorate three great tantric masters—Jé Tsongkhapa, Jetsun Sherap Sengé and Kunga Dhondup. It was also an occasion to celebrate Jé Rinpoché’s parinirvana, his passing on the tantric tradition to Jetsun Sherap Sengé and the latter’s composing a commentary to it.

He acknowledged that it is due to His Holiness’s kindness that Gyutö Monastery was re-established in exile, first in Dalhousie, later in Tenzin Gang in Arunachal Pradesh and finally here in Sidhbari. The traditional curriculum of ritual studies is preserved and two monks are recognised as Masters of Tantra each year.

He prayed that His Holiness will come to the monastery again and again to shower blessings and teachings on the monks.

In his remarks, the Ganden Tri Rinpoché noted that study of the great tantric tradition of Guhyasamaja remains unbroken. However, he cautioned, it is not enough just to study the texts, the crucial thing is to integrate the practice within yourself. Chandrakirti referred to natural tantra, which indicates the basic nature of the mind; method tantra, which refers to the generation and completion stages and resultant tantra that is the attainment of enlightenment—the state of Vajradhara.

He added that by applying the methods of clear light and illusory body it is possible to attain the resultant stage. He reminded his listeners of Jé Rinpoché’s adage that whatever you study should be applied within.

Invited to speak again, His Holiness thanked the congregation for offering prayers for his long life. He confirmed that he also prays that he will live long and paid tribute to the undaunted courage of Tibetans in Tibet. He assured his listeners that Avalokiteshvara would look after them and that connections made in this life will lead to being connected with each other in life after life.

He talked about the sacred image of Avalokiteshvara known as Wati Sangpo and how it had been brought into exile and entrusted to his care. Although it had previously been in the custody of the monks of Dzongkar Chödé Monastery, when they moved to South India, he performed a divination to establish where the statue should stay. As a consequence, he remains its caretaker.

His Holiness recounted a dream in which he asked the Wati Sangpo statue whether he had realised emptiness and the answer was, “Yes”. And when he further asked if he had realised emptiness directly, the answer was again affirmative.

Two scholars briefly asserted their positions in a debate on Gyuchen Kunga Dhondup’s commentary on Guhyasamaja, which served to inaugurate a three-day conference. The Chant-master pronounced words of thanks, expressing gratitude to everyone present for their attendance and concluding once more with prayers that His Holiness will live long and continue to teach.

His Holiness was joined by the distinguished guests for lunch, after which commemorative photographs were taken with various groups of people associated with the monastery. Crowds of people gathered in the yard outside the temple to see His Holiness off as he left to return home and then dispersed with looks of satisfaction on their faces.


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