blog #2 – Reading for January 27, 2012

This week’s reading from “My Perfect Teacher” written by Patrul Rinpoche, focuses on the topic of refuge. The reading also discusses the role of teachers on the path to achieving enlightenment. Professor Garrett outlined some very interesting questions about this information. Within this blog, I would like to address two of the topics she had provided.  The blog will discuss the role of the teacher in Tibetan Buddhism, and the arguments given to encourage practitioners to generate compassion even for their enemies.

Rinpoche’s outline of compassion ties in perfectly with the discussion of the role of bodhicitta. In the historical context of Tibetan Buddhism, general personal responsibilities lead to all beings from samsara. This then further developed into bodhicitta which means ‘yearning for enlightenment’. This is a feeling of personal responsibility to lead all beings from suffering. This then becomes the basis for the actual defining internal state of the Mahayana. How to help all others is to accomplish buddhahood and one’s own enlightenment. This develops from the simple notion of compassion to benefit all beings, which Rinpoche highlights. Compassion is very important in Buddhism. Rinpoche outlines arguments to encourage Buddhist practitioners to have compassion for their enemies throughout the entire reading, as it ties into every story and encounter he provides. What stood out for me was the statement: “How could we practice patience if there were no-one who made us angry?” (180). The more and more I reflected upon this statement, the more it began to make sense. A thought that came to mind was that of obstacles. Within the reading, Rinpoche tells tales of faith. Each character within the stories benefits greatly from having a deep-rooted faith. For example, the story of the magical tooth. Even though the woman’s son had lied about it being a sacred object, her faith made the object extraordinary. Another kind of example is that of Daughter’s karmic experience. Daughter has compassion and believes his mother each time she lies, and still ends up in the right profession. Daughter then faces the obstacle of curiosity, and his karma pushes him to his punishment for kicking his mother. Daughter’s realization of his karma and his wrong actions lead him to the bidhicitta practice of “ exchanging oneself with others” (226).  Going back to what I have stated above, what struck me most within Rinpoche’s arguments for having compassion for one’s enemies, was his explanation of the existence of patience because of enemies. I found this convincing because of the way this argument fits into the very importance of the general Buddhist belief in the Four Noble Truths, overcoming temptation, and clearing the mind of negativity. There is always suffering in life, as was stated clearly in last week’s reading. Practicing within Buddhism is almost in a way a type of practice that is trying to overcome obstacles and work toward enlightenment, and to escape samsara. Your enemies could be seen as  another one of those obstacles.

I have touched upon the role of a bodhisattva and the idea of bodhicitta. This is a form of teaching. A bodhisattva is someone who has developed bodhicitta and vowed to become enlightened in order to benefit all sentient beings. As Rinpoche states, “ the teacher who gives you the pith instructions on arousing bodhicitta is setting you on the path of the Great Vehicle, so his kindness is greater that that of the teachers who give you any other instructions” (221). Rinpoche also stresses that one must put all of their faith into their teacher and trust them completely, as they can do no wrong. I find this to be a little bit dangerous. There seems to be a lot of the accepting of others’ views and ignoring one’s own views to reach enlightenment. This to me seems a bit dangerous as I can’t help but wonder if this could lead to one losing themselves on the path. I also found that Rinpoche’s story about Atisa and his preference toward Lord Suvarnadvipa, as he had a different kind of kindness, somewhat contradicts Ricnpoche’s statements of trusting each teacher completely and never questioning them. There is obviously preference here, as I think is valid when picking someone to help guide you along the path to enlightenment.

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3 Responses to blog #2 – Reading for January 27, 2012

  1. Reply To: Erica Blog #2

    A good spiritual teacher as you mentioned sets an individual on a path of enlightenment. It is only through experience that an individual can come to understand the true path to be practiced and the negative path to be avoided. As Rinpoche notes it is through training for a long time in relative bodhicitta an individual will come to the path of seeing. An authentic teacher according to Rinpoche is one who gives “pith instructions” on arousing bodhicitta. These instructions set an individual on the path of the Great vehicle and through experience the individual acquires wisdom along with becoming a sentient being.

    Michael M. Paterson

  2. rlg372austin says:

    Whilst reading your blog, a monk Bhante came to mind. As part of France’s Buddhist thought class we were asked to interview Buddhist practitioners in the GTA. One of the groups were lucky enough to have one on one time with him. What was most fascinating (although his interview was littered with anecdotes) was how he brought Buddhist thought into his life. More specifically, he shared about his experience growing up in orphanages and as a result harbored ill-feelings towards one of his relatives. But by meditating on compassion, through time he was able to free himself.

  3. ibrahim372 says:

    Erica,
    I liked your analysis of the danger of following the teacher. I think you meant that by following the wrong teacher, a person who is led by the ego rather than compassion, one can be led down the wrong path. I think that is why Rinpoche stresses that one makes sure the teacher is of the right type of person in order to insure that s/he will bring you to wisdom. I definitely see where your concern would be but I think when we should be mindful of the intended audience of the book, which I think is more for one from the monastic community; for us as “laypeople” there would definitely be difficulty in finding an adequate teacher if we are not looking in the monastery, church, mosque, etc. where there are more people who may fit the role of spiritual teacher.

    Ibrahim

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