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Vajrayana Buddhism and Kagyu Lineage

Taught by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa at Palpung Sherabling, March 2006
Transcribed by Chang Chin & Changchub Saldon  

Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became the Buddha Shakyamuni that is more than two thousand five hundred years ago. And after his enlightenment, Prince Siddhartha the Nirmanakaya form taught for over forty years. And these teachings are known as Vinaya, Abhidharma, and Sutra. And the Sambhogakaya aspect of Buddha Shakyamuni manifest great number of teachings which are known as Tantra. And these teachings transmitted from Buddha Nirmanakaya and Buddha Sambhogakaya to their disciples. From Buddha's Nirmanakaya to ordinary highly developed fortunate disciples. And from Buddha Sambhogakaya to highly enlightened great Bodhisattvas. These teachings is known as Buddhism.

And now at the present, Buddhism is understood as Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. But it's actually Theravada and Mahayana are mostly teaching manifested from the Buddha Shakyamuni in the Nirmanakaya form. And Tantras are manifested from the Buddha Shakyamuni in Sambhogakaya form. The essence from which these manifestations manifested that is described as Dharmakaya. Dharmakaya is beyond any description, beyond any form and beyond any way in which or through which we can describe. Dharmakaya is undescribable. True Dharmakaya. Of course, there are ways to explain about Dharmakaya, but that is just for understanding. But for realization, it is beyond words, beyond dualistic description.

Now these teachings of Buddha, all aspects of it, not just one aspect of it, all aspects of it, that means Vinaya, Abhidharma, Sutra and Tantra. This lineage is brought to Tibet by great masters, such as Guru Padmasambhava and other great masters such as Bodhidharma and also great master such as Atisha Dipamkara and many other great masters such as Bodhisattva Santaraksita And besides them, many Tibetan individuals who went all way to India and other Buddhist areas and received precious Dharma teachings and transmissions of Dharma. And these transmissions they brought back to Tibet, which makes at present recognized as eight major lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism. Now the eight major lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism is how historically we described the Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet. Now the Vajrayana Buddhism the eight major lineages are Nyingma, Kardam, Lamdre, Marpa Kagyu, Shangpa Kagyu, Shije, Jodruk, Dorje Nyendrub. And there are also other names for them, The Kadampa until the Tsongkhapa building the Ganden Monastery, it is known as Kadampa, but after that it is known as Gelukpa. And Lamdre until the seat of the Dharma of the Lamdre was built in the Tsang and that area is known as Shakya then it is Lamdre and after that seat was built then it became Shakya. And also Jodruk is later on known as Jonangpa. And Dorje sum jen Nyendrub is also later on known as Ogyen Nyendrub. So these are the particular names of the eight major lineages. Now these eight major lineages historically transmitted by great Indian masters to Tibetan disciples and they brought these teachings back. And established their Dharma seats. Through these Dharma seats the Dharma manifested and some of them developed into quite number of lineages, sub-lineages, let's say.

For example, with Marpa Kagyu. Marpa Kagyu, the lineage is transmitted by Tilopa and Naropa, and many other great masters, from one master to another master, and finally Tibetan great master, Marpa Lotsawa, went to India three times and altogether he spent over twenty one years and out of which exactly sixteen years and seven months he spent with his great masters, such as Naropa and Maitripa which are Indian great Mahasiddhas, enlightened masters. And this lineage is known as Marpa Kagyu. And Marpa transmitted this lineage to his disciples, especially to Milarepa, and from Milarepa, this lineage is transmitted to Gampopa, and Gampopa transmitted this lineage to his four main disciples and they became the four great lineages of Kagyu. Out of these four, one is the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, and lineage from him is known as Karma Kagyu. And one of the four, main lineage of the Marpa Kagyu, is known as Pagmo Drupa. The Pagmo Drupa is the name of the great master, and his lineage further developed into eight lineages because of his eight main disciples. And so therefore, the Marpa Kagyu lineage developed into four major and eight secondary lineages. Major and secondary not because the major lineages are more important and second lineages are less important, not because of that but they are the main four disciples of Gampopa or the disciples of the Gampopa's disciple. So therefore, when you have immediate offspring you call it son or daughter, then their children you called it granddaughter or grandson. So that way four greater and eight junior or lesser is because of that terminology, not because one is more important and one is less important. And at the same time, the name of the Marpa Kagyu also became known to many scholars as Dakpo Kagyu, because Gompapa's another name is Nyenme Dakpo. And because his disciples developed into so many lineages, so therefore the Marpa Kagyu is also sometimes called Dakpo Kagyu.

And at the same time, as I mentioned to you at the beginning, the Kagyu lineage has two aspects, one is Marpa Kagyu and one is Shangpa Kagyu. And because during the same period of time two Tibetan great masters went to India, one is Marpa Lotsawa, another one is Kadrup Khyunngpo Naljor. So the lineage which is brought back to Tibet by Marpa is Marpa Kagyu; and lineage brought back to Tibet by Kadrup Khyungpo Naljor is Shangpa Kagyu. And so I repeat again one more time, the main titles of the eight major lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism, Nyingma, Kardam or Gelukp , Lamdre or Shakya, Marpa Kagyu, Shangpa Kagyu, Shije, Jodruk or Jornanpa, and Dorje sum jen Nyendrub or Ogyan Nyenpa. These are the major lineages. And now these lineages developed into not only religion as we know but it is also involving all aspects of knowledge and wisdom, such as art, literature, philosophy, medicine, astrology, mathematics and all aspects of knowledge and wisdom.

And most essential thing for all of these eight lineages is the practice of meditation, because after all every teaching of Buddha is boils down to the meditation. Because through meditation, you can attain the Buddhahood. What does meditation mean? Meditation means that each one of us has limitless potential, primordial wisdom as our essence. And we have to allow that essence to manifest. And if we don't allow that essence to manifest then we will never be Buddha. So allowing that essence to manifest, first of all, we have to calm down and sit still. That is the basis of meditation. And because you calm down and settle down, then your primordial wisdom, ultimate limitless potential, the Buddha essence will function.

I give you a simple example. If you have difficulties in your life, if you are in a difficult situation, what do you do? You have to sit down and calm down, then you will find the solution. If you become nervous and agitated then you will never find the solution. If you become emotional and agitated and nervous, then it will become stress, then your small problem will become big problem. And your big problem will become something that you cannot solve; unsolvable problem. Ultimately there is no such thing as unsolvable problem but relatively there is. Each one of us knows that. In our life, once or twice, we have those experiences that we have some problem that we cannot solve. We have to have other people's help, other means to solve those problems, because we are not capable of solving these problems by ourselves, because we are so emotional and we are so agitated by that situation. So therefore the basis of meditation is letting our inner ultimate essence, the primordial wisdom, the Buddha within function. And Buddha within to function, this is the definition of meditation. And of course, there are so many methods of meditation. There are so many methods of meditation which is suitable for each individual capacity, relative capacity. Ultimate capacity of everybody is equal. But relative capacity of everyone is different. The ultimate capacity of everyone is equal. But relative capacity of everyone is different. Therefore there are all aspects of Dharma manifested from Buddha to help each one of us. And this goes beyond so called religion or culture or philosophy, because it is, actually, the essence of every living being as well as everything that they perceive such as sun, moon, star, planets, and five elements, earth, water, fire, air, space etc. They all have the same ultimate primordial essence. And the example is what is the difference between the person who is dreaming and the dream that person is having. So the same way, everything that is around us and we who are perceiving it, there is no difference ultimately. Relatively, there is difference, because in our dream we might see a big flak comes down and we will run. And in our life we do the same.

But ultimately it is our perception, our vision. And the manifestation of our own cause and conditions which we call karma. And every aspect of teaching of Buddha is to help us to be free from all of these illusions and to reach the ultimate destination, which is nothing less, nothing more than full feeling and realizing our primordial nature, the primordial essence. We call Buddha nature. And when we realize the Buddha nature, then we become Buddha. And Bodhicitta is also very important intention for this realization. There is no such thing as accidental enlightenment. We have to attain Buddhahood by wishing to attain Buddhahood. So that intention is we call Bodhicitta. I wish to be free with no limitation and I wish to realize my primordial wisdom for the benefit of all sentient being to realize their primordial wisdom and for them all to be free. That is what we call Bodhicitta.

Now I would summarize the whole thing. All of these aspects of Dharma covers and pervades into everything. And essence of that is taught by Lord Buddha and taught in Vinaya, Abhidharma, Sutra and Tantra way. And wherever this teaching became the guiding light for the people, then it somehow evolves into the already existing religion or culture or heritage of these people. For example, prior to Buddhism in Tibet, there is another religion called "Bon" religion. But today after more than one thousand five hundred years of Lord Buddha's teaching being practiced in Tibet, we can hardly differentiate the differences between "Bon" and Buddhism. Very little. Very few things. Buddhism would say I take refuge in Buddha, I take refuge in Dharma, I take refuge in Sangha. The "Bon" will say I will take refuge in Buddha, I take refuge in Bon, I will take refuge in Sangha. So pretty much the same. And so this way, wherever the Lord Buddha's teaching manifests and establishes, it become part of the existing environment, the culture, the heritage of these people. So there is no such thing as a conversion in Buddhism. You don't convert a person into Buddhism. You just follow the Lord Buddha's teaching and practice the Dharma, then you are a Buddhist. At the same time, whatever you are, it somehow is blessed. So that every aspect of your life is blessed by the Lord Buddha's teaching. And it is not a conversion. For me, it is actually evolutionary process. You evolve as a Buddhist. You don't convert as a Buddhist. But you evolve as a Buddhist.

And anyway, the practices and rituals of Buddhism and especially Vajrayana Buddhism, is elaborate. There is Lama Dances, there is making of Mandala, there is tremendous amounts of ritual, chanting, music etc. And beside that, there is other areas, such as mathematics, philosophy, psychology, and also cosmology, and this will also involve medicine and astrology. And so it is in everything there is truth. so that truth is what we called Buddhism. And when we realize that truth then we call reaching the Buddhahood. So wish you all my best and I pray sincerely and supplicate sincerely, so that you all will be free from all limitation and you all should be free from all the suffering and you should be free from all the causes and conditions of suffering. You all will be joyful and happy and compassionate and devoted and therefore finally you will reach the ultimate liberation and ultimate freedom with no limitation whatsoever.


Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning~

RElated Teachings

Vajrayana Buddhism and Kagyu Lineage

by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa on the first day of the Rinchen Terzod Transmissions in 2006

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