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Jun 2017
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The Importance of Studying Buddha Dharma

Translated By: Ven. Shastri Jhampa Losal & Karen White

On listening to the teachings of the Lord Buddha, the only One who aspires to benefit all the sentient beings of the three realms.The unsurpassable teacher, having meditated upon great compassion for countless aeons, attained the allperceiving wisdom. His purpose was to transmit the teachings concerning the obtainment of rebirth in the higher realms, and about attaining liberation, thus opening the eye of wisdom for those who had not yet seen the path of benefit and happiness, due to their blindness. Therefore, acquiring the eye of wisdom by listening devotedly to the words of Lord Buddha, applying oneself to entering into the excellent path of the teachings, and leading others into that path, is an unsurpassable activity.

It is stated in many sutras, and supported by logical reasonings, that expounding and listening to four words of the Buddha’s teachings is far more meritorious than making offerings to the Triple Gem of an entire world, filled with seven different kinds of precious jewels. The reason is, that making offerings of material wealth is the cause of samsaric prosperity, whereas expounding and listening to the teachings is the cause of the Noble Dharma. As a further example, the Sadharmapundarika (Sutra) says.22

If someone reveres, honors, pays homage and makes offerings to the Tathagatas who fill the whole three-thousandfold world system, and reside therefor as many aeons as there are sand grains in the River Ganges, and if that person also generates similar Glossary Link merit by revering, and so forth, the stupas of those gone to parinirvana, then, compared to the merit generated thus, the merit of someone who perfectly entersinto, and utters the words of the well-spoken Dharma, such as ‘all phenomena are impermanent, or suffering or empty or without self, then the latter, Ananda, is more meritorious than the first.

Why is this so?
Ananda, it is like this because acts of giving, other than these, are accompanied by defilements and afflictions and are the cause of one’s wandering in samsara. Wlieras, Ananda, the treasure of the precious Dharma, which has been practiced for uncountable millions of aeons without material things, is unsurpassable. With it, the continuum of samsara is cut. Ananda, when they hear this precious and unsurpassable Dharma, beings who are subjected to birth will be totally liberated from birth; beings who are subjected to sickness, death, anguish, wailing lament, misery, mental unhappiness and mental disturbances will be totally liberated from all of those, from sickness, up to menial disturbances.

Ananda, having seen the basis of meaning of this, both the one who respectfully expounds the Dharma, and the one who listens respectfully to the Dharma, generate much merit. Thus I say, Ananda, the one who respectfully expounds the Dharma to a Bhikshu who is seeking for Dharma, and the Bhikshu who also respectfully listens to the Dharma, both of these two generate immeasurable merit, they generate vast, uncountable merit.

Whether one can abandon samsara or not, is solely dependent upon whether one has heard the Buddha Dharma or not. To confirm this, Acharya Aryadeva said. The coming together of a listener, the Dharma to be listened to, and a teacher who teaches the Dharma is very difficult to find. Therefore, in brief, samsara is both endless and not endless.

This means that the human life which has leisure and the endowments, the Buddha Dharma to which one listens, and a Dharma Master who teaches, are all hard to find. If one is able to listen to the Dharma, through these three, then one can abandon samsara, so samsara is not endless. If all these three factors are not present, then one cannot abandon samsara, and therefore samsara is endless. This is further illustrated in another Sutra, For the exhausted, the road is long, For the sleepless, the night is long, Likewise, for the child-like beings Devoid of Dharma knowledge, samsara is long.

33Only the Buddha Dharma is confirmed to be the path which abandons samsara. This is because, although there are other teachings which explain that samsara should be viewed as suffering, and which recognize attachment to be a fault, which discard bad karma and practice austerities, and in which adepts receive various vows and so forth, these methods alone cannot cut the root of samsara. Therefore, these teachings cannot reverse samsara. The root of samsara is self-grasping, and the antidote for this is the wisdom of apprehending selflessness. The selflessness which is to be understood by that wisdom, is only expounded by the Buddha. Moreover, the profound methods for obtaining liberation and omniscience are also taught by the Buddha, alone.

Therefore, Acharya Vasubandhu said, Buddha’s doctrine is hard to find Without it there is no liberation. Thus, aspiring for liberation One should listen devotedly to it. Furthermore, in the Abhidharma, when briefly showing the manifest realizations of the path for each of the three Yanas, Vasubandhu said, One who has developed Moral discipline, hearing and contemplation Should undertake the practice of meditation.

The Mahayana path must be completed in this way, with these four characteristics: moral discipline, which is the cause of not being distracted; hearing, which is the cause of not being ignorant; contemplation, which is the cause of ascertainment; and meditation, which is the cause of parting from the defilements. In the Sutralamkara it is also said, If meaning were conceived merely by hearing, meditation would become purposeless. If one enters into meditation without even hearing, Buddha’s doctrine would become purposeless.

As it is said clearly in the Sutralamkara, both hearing and meditation are important. Otherwise, if one could comprehend the meaning merely by hearing, there would be no purpose for meditation. Similarly, if only meditation without hearing were sufficient, then there would exist the fault of the Buddha’s teachings having no significance. From the Vinaya also, it is said that one should not meditate in isolation unless one holds the Tripitaka. Further, the Pramana philosophy states.

Attainment should be preceded by entry into the Dharma, Entry should be preceded by comprehension In order for the fruit of attainment to be achieved, the cause of that fruit, which is entering the path, must come first. Likewise, entering the path must be preceded by knowledge of the path. The enlightenment of a Shravaka can be achieved even with a little hearing, but in order to obtain perfect enlightenment one requires vast hearing. That is why it is explained in the sutras that becoming a Completely Enlightened One depends upon vast hearing.44

In the Bodhicharyavatara it is also said, There is nothing that a Bodhisattva should not be trained in. Some say, that even though listening to the Dharma is required in order to teach others, listening to the Dharma is not required for one’s own practice. Making this kind of statement can hinder others immeasurably, barring them from entering into the Buddha’s doctrine. This is because, without even hearing it, one can not know the Buddha’s Dharma in the first place, so what would it be, that one is practicing? Without knowing the essential points, even if one were to exert oneself in activities of physical and verbal virtue through imitating others, it would be difficult to attain a great result or to fulfill a great purpose.

Just as a person afflicted, or shaken with disease, Is rendered without strength, Likewise, if someone’s mind is agitated by ignorance, They will become powerless in Dharma activities. Some even say that meditation, itself, is adequate and that there is no need to listen to the Dharma, at all. The person who makes such statements shows that they do not understand that hearing and contemplation of the Dharma are, in fact, the causes of meditation. These three: hearing, contemplation and meditation, which are referred to as the three wisdoms, do not arise without each wisdom relying on the previous one, since a result devoid of a cause is not possible.

In the Bavanakrama of Kamalashila, If some one asks, what is the assemblage of enlightened wisdom: Thoroughly searching for manifold hearing of Dharma, appropriate contemplation, and so forth. Many so-called learned masters of the modern age, claim that one can learn the sutras adequately merely by going through them, without even the need to rely on a spiritual teacher. This assumption is erroneous, since, without seeking the spiritual guidance of a learned master, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the profound view of the Tathagata. In the Samuccaya Sutra, The victorious one, who possesses supreme qualities, Said that it is in reliance upon spiritual masters That one will comprehend the Buddha Dharma.

Further to this, in many sutras it is instructed that one should know the advantages and disadvantages of seeking spiritual masters, in order to be able to rely upon spiritual masters. Otherwise, one would be going against the instructions: ‘even at the cost of one’s life, one must not forsake spiritual masters’, and ‘one should respect the spiritual masters from whom one receives spiritual teachings, in the same manner as one pays obeisance to the Tathagatas. Furthermore, the teachings expounded by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would thereby also become purposeless. For this reason it is said, Taking austerity as the essence, is the tradition ofjainism, taking recitation as the essence, is the tradition of Hinduism, and taking meditation preceded by listening to the Dharma as the essence, is the tradition of the Buddha.

Moreover, for individuals who believe that their wishes can be fulfilled merely by chanting and recitation, it is proper that they should come to understand the essence of the methods for making human life purposeful. They should be aware that emphasizing austerities is the Jain tradition; emphasizing the recitation of the Vedas is the Brahmin tradition; and that emphasizing meditation preceded by hearing and contemplation, and having morality as their basis, is the Buddhist tradition. The main objective of human activities is to obtain happiness and pleasure and to avoid harm and suffering. This objective can only be met in a very slight way by other means. However, by the Buddha’s teachings, all the flow of suffering, without exception, can be cut; and one can also accomplish permanent happiness.

4Shantideva prayed for the holy Dharma to remain long, in this way, May the doctrine of the Buddha, The source of all happiness and The only medicine for the suffering of sentient beings, Long remain, through the presence of Benefactors making offerings and Devotees paying reverence. In this verse, Shantideva is praying that the holy doctrine expounded by the Buddha will remain in this world, for a long time, since it is the unsurpassable path through which all sentient beings may obtain the temporary happiness of higher realms and the permanent benefit of perfect liberation.

The sutra known as Paltreng Sengei Dra states that if all prayers were to be condensed into one, and if someone were to ask what that prayer is, it is this: May I hold the holy Dharma. In the sutra known as the Space Treasury, the Lord Buddha addressed Maitreya thus. The four activities of the Bodhisattvas are: dispelling all the sufferings and maras, suppressing the harmful forces; being in harmony with the Dharma; thoroughly ripening sentient beings and thoroughly holding and propagating the holy Dharma. The essence of all four of these activities can be condensed into one, which is, ‘to thoroughly hold and propagate the holy Dharma’.

The great Bodhisattva known as ‘Adorned with Merit’ reported thus to the Lord Buddha, I perceive the roots of all the virtues, other than holding and propagating the holy Dharma, to be only of the size of a sesame seed; but I perceive the roots of virtue of holding and propagating the holy Dharma to be as vast as all of space, in the ten directions.

In this way, many sutras describe the measureless merit which will arise from holding and propagating the holy Dharma. Further to this, the Buddha said to his disciples. After my Parinirvana, this holy Dharma will become your teacher. That is ivhy you should hold it, without losing the words or the meaning. The Buddha said further, to Ananda, Ananda! you must make sure that this holy Dharma will remain for a long time, and that it thoroughly benefits humans and celestial beings.

The merit gained by one sentient being who generates the enlightenment thought in order to attain supreme enlightenment, is higher in quality and greater in volume than the merit gained from creating a stupa to house the Buddha’s relics, made entirely from precious jewels, high enough to touch Akanishta and wide enough to contain a three-thousand-fold world system; and moreover, for endless aeons, making offerings to that stupa with all available offering substances. This is because the former will enable the holy Dharma to continue for a long time, so that the lineage of the Buddha will not be broken.

A quotation from the Four Hundred Verses supports this, The stupa which is of the nature of precious jewels Created higher than any world you can imagine, The person who has tamed one sentient being Is said to be more supreme than that. If one should ask, ‘what is it that should be held and with what methods should it thus be held’, the Abhidharma gives the following answer, Buddha’s two holy Dharmas are: the teachings and the realization. The only way to hold this, is by both expounding the teaching and by practicing. The Buddha’s Dharma refers to the Tripitaka which is the teaching, and the three trainings which are the Dharma of realization. Teaching the Dharma without error, and meditating on the Dharma of realization, in the correct manner, are the methods by which these two Dharmas should be held.

If one does not take Glossary Link refuge in the Triple Gem, one cannot bring an end to the sufferings of samsara. However, the taking of the refuge vow cannot, by itself, accomplish the goal. The precepts of refuge also need to be observed and protected. Associating with noble beings, listening to the holy teachings and practicing in accordance with the Dharma are the precepts of refuge that need to be followed and kept. The one who teaches and practices the Buddhadharma as it has been expounded by the Buddha, is a noble being. The Tripitaka, which is confirmed to be truly the Buddha’s words and the shastras composed by the Acharyas Nagarjuna, Asangha, Vasubandhu, Shantideva and Chandrakirti, in the ways that the Buddha intended, are the doctrine of the Buddha. ‘Practicing in accordance with the Dharma’ means that the teachings and all the practices should be accomplished according to the Buddha’s doctrine.

The benefits of hearing the Dharma are explained in the Sutra requested by Vishnu, Noble son! For the one who has hearing, wisdom will arise; for the one who lias wisdom, defilements will be thoroughly pacified; for the one without defilements the mar as do not find any opening. In a Sutra, it is explained in detail in this way: that there are five benefits of hearing the Holy Dharma. They are, Being able to hear what one has not heard before; Becoming well trained with what one has heard, Removing doubt; Being able to distinguish between right and wrong views, and Being able to comprehend the meaning of the holy Dharma, with the help of wisdom.

If I were to explain all the five benefits cited here, the explanation would be too lengthy. Therefore, I will clarify only the first one. The meaning of the first one is that one will be able to hear about the ‘five aggregates’, the ‘eighteen elements’, the ‘twelve sources’, the ‘two truths’, the ‘four truths’, ‘samsara and liberation’, the ‘paths of the three yanas’ together with the faults that can be abandoned by those paths, and both the temporary and the permanent results. One will hear all of these for the first time, never having heard them before. Another Sutra gives one more set of four benefits resulting from hearing the Dharma, in the following way. First, it is said that, ‘by hearing one will understand the Dharma’.

This is because, by hearing the doctrine, one will know that the three trainings are the Dharma, as spoken by the Buddha; and one will know that the paths which are expounded by other masters are not the genuine Dharma. Second: After having listened to the Dharma, one would take the vow, and having taken the vow, one would abandon non-virtue. That is why it is said, ‘by hearing, one abandons non-virtue’. Third: ‘By hearing one will abandon all the purposeless things’. This is because, having received mind training, through hearing, one would abandon the gross defilements. Through this, one would know that all the sensual pleasures which worldly beings are attached to, are purposeless.

Fourth: Since, by hearing one obtains the training in wisdom and abandons the subtle defilements, it is said that, ‘through hearing one achieves Parinirvana’. Acharya Vasubandhu, having spoken at length about the benefits of listening to the Dharma, says further, that the purpose of listening to the holy Dharma has no limit, and that those things which I have stated are only a part of it. Why is there no limit? It is because all of the paths and the results of the three Yanas arise from the foundation of listening to the Dharma.

Furthermore, many disadvantages of not hearing the teachings are described in the sutras. The temporary disadvantage is that: Although human beings have two feet, They are not different from cattle, They are foolish, and this foolishness has to be abandoned. Also, One should consider those on this earth Without the wealth of hearing, To be blind. This blindness has to be abandoned. Even though they do not have the hump and the dewlap, Those human beings are like cows with upper teeth. And so forth. In this way, those humans deprived of hearing the Dharma, are looked down upon by the learned ones. In the Vinaya Sutra it is said that, ‘One who is like a lion should not respect one who is like a wolf. This has the same meaning as the other quotations, above. The permanent disadvantage of not hearing the teachings is that one is not able to pacify defilements and sufferings; and one will not attain liberation. This is because, as it says in the Abhidharmakosa.

Without the thoroughly discriminating Dharma, there is no method by which one can totally uproot the defilements. Due to defilements, worldly beings wander in the ocean of cyclic existence. Therefore, the Buddha has expounded the doctrine possessing thoroughly discriminating wisdom. As it is said, if one has not heard the holy Dharma, one will not obtain the liberation which pacifies defilements and suffering. In the Karuna Pundarika Sutra it is said, Ananda, many sentient beings may become completely degenerate, due to not hearing a Dharma jewel treasure of this kind.Thus, it is also said, in Clarifying the Sage’s Intent.

In particular, the dialectical schools produce scholars of the Buddhist doctrine and are the source of many good qualities. If there are no such schools, the fault exists that, ivithout the hearing and explanation of the Dharma, the continuity of scholars will be broken; and without scholars who know the Dharma, even though there may be many spiritual texts, the Buddha’s doctrine will be demolished. Further, in one Sutra it is stated, The coming of the Buddha into this world is as rare as the appearance of a person on a deserted road, The human body is obtained with great difficulty. Alas! Having devotion in the Dharma and having the opportunity to listen to the Dharma

Are difficult to find, even for hundreds of kalpas. It is appropriate to encourage people to listen to the Dharma through explaining that it is extremely difficult to obtain the complete causes and conditions for hearing the teachings. In the Shiksasamuccaya, Shantideva taught five verses of encouraging people to listen respectfully to the Dharma. These verses offer two methods: The first method is to encourage people by explaining to them the disadvantages of not listening to the Dharma.

These are that: By not hearing the teachings of the Buddha, the mental defilements cannot be pacified. As a consequence, one will experience the sufferings of being burnt in the ravines of the hell realms, which one would never be able to bear. The suffering would be immense; not only immense for one time, but one would be tormented by this kind of suffering again and again. In this way, one should enjoin beings to be delighted to listen to the Dharma, by keeping this in mind. The second method is to encourage people by showing the advantages of listening to the Dharma: Having listened to the Buddha’s doctrine, if one pursues the practice of meditation, then one entirely abandons all non-virtues, which are the causes of one’s suffering, through birth in the lower realms. One also obtains the happiness of humans and of gods, through birth in the higher realms. Having abandoned defilements, one will obtain the bliss of liberation which will never decline, the inexhaustible bliss of the Bodhisattvas, and all of the incomparable perfections of the Buddha.

Therefore, if today, one finds the meaningful and rarely obtained jewel-like Dharma, all the Gods, Humans, Nagas, Siddhas, Gandharvas, Yakchas, Garudas, demi-Gods, Kimnaras and Demons will become happy, inspired and faithful. For that very reason, all of them are asked to attend the teachings, in this way. In the Vinaya Sutra it is said, I will explain the Buddha’s doctrine, Wliich is the cause of happiness And which thoroughly pacifies the defilements. O, you Gods, Nagas, Demi-Gods, Kimnaras, Shakras and so forth, Who performed the supreme activities of Dharma, You must therefore come here to listen to the holy Dharma! Further it says, Therefore you must respect, with devotion The precious treasure of the Buddha’s Teachings Which have immense qualities And which fulfill the purposes of others. Since nothing can be heard which is superior to this, One must listen to the doctrine of the Buddha Having tamed the sense faculties, as one tames a wild horse.

In brief, knowing that the Buddha’s doctrine is very difficult to find, that it has a vast purpose, and that it is not going to remain for long, it is appropriate for all those who have devotion, to listen and to practice. Moreover, when the Victorious One’s doctrine is at the brink of extinction, it is particularly essential and greatly meritorious to hold and preserve the holy teachings. In the Sutra of Avalokiteshvara it is said, When it is on the brink of extinction, To hold and propagate the doctrine of the Saviour of the World, Both day and night, Is more meritorious Than to revere hundreds of thousands of Buddhas, Who are as many as the grains of sand in the River Ganges, for countless aeons.

Some say that if someone hinders the teaching of, or the listening to, the Mahayana Dharma, that person will remain in lower transmigrations for a long time. As it is said in Boddhisatvacharyavatara, Whoever, even for a single moment Creates obstacles to the Mahayana Teachings, Is thereby weakening the fulfilling of the purposes o f sentient beings. And therefore the lower transmigrations of that person will have no limit. In the Sutra known as Rabtu shi ba rNampar Ngepa Cho ‘trul gyi mdo it is said, ‘Someone who creates an obstacle to a Bodhisattva’s virtuous act of giving a handful of food to an animal, performs a greater non-virtue than someone who kills all sentient beings and snatches their possessions. This is because the former creates an obstacle to a virtuous deed that would cause the future appearance o f a Buddha.’

In the Sutra called Chos Thamsched ‘byungwa med-pa bstenpa, in the doctrine of the Tathagata who is known as Ri Rab Itar mngon par ‘phag pa’i it is said, “There was a Bhikshu named spyod pa’i bio dros, who was endowed with moral discipline and five clairvoyances, was complete with retinues, and who resided in seclusion, exerting himself in practice. At the same time, there was a Bhikshu called chos smra ba spyod pa rnam dag, who wandered in the cities, markets and towns and in the palace of the king, giving teachings. The first Bhikshu said to him, ‘Since the Buddha has praised seclusion, you should not go to the town and the markets. Instead, you should practice meditation in an isolated place.’ Even after telling him not to go into town, the first Bhikshu saw the other one in town, associating with ordinary vulgar friends, so disrespect towards that Bhikshu arose in his mind. He said ‘This bhikshu has broken his imos and is interested in worldly things.’ In this way, the first Bhikshu stopped the other from the task of giving teachings. By the negative power of that act, Bhikshu spyod pa’i bio dros died, was reborn, and suffered unceasingly in hell, for as many as ninety-nine thousand million aeons. The Bhikshu spyod pa’i rnam dag during that time, was myself and spyod pa’i bio dros, who gave teachings, was then, the Buddha Achala.” Thus, the Buddha said.

Since everyone has the same motivation, whether sitting together to discuss setting up a philosophical institute, or engaging in other ways of supporting Dharma study, or contributing financial aid for Dharma practice, they will all gain the same merit as those who are directly involved. In order to confirm this, Vasubandhu said, ‘Since in war, and so forth, all have the same purpose whether they are directly or indirectly involved, they will all acquire the same non-virtue as the actual killer.’ In many surras it is said that, by requesting the spiritual masters to give teachings, as in the Seven Limb Practice, one will acquire the same merit as one would have obtained by making supplication to the Buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma.

Also, if one encourages others to listen to the Dharma, one will obtain the root virtue of the others who perform that Dharma. If, without jealousy, one rejoices in others’ teaching and listening to the Dharma, as in the Seven Limb Practice, and if one says ‘Well done!’ to others’ actions, then one will obtain the merits of rejoicing. In the bdud rtsi brjod pa Mahayana Sutra it is said, ‘There will not be disease, epidemics, contagious sickness and chaos in the country where this kind of Sutra is held and propagated, nor where someone dwells and transmits the teachings, nor where various teachings are inscribed, on scrolls.’ In other sutras it is said, There will not be starvation, wars, harms created by evil spirits, and there will be perfect wealth and good harvests, in any place where the Kings, and so forth, venerate the sutras. Those places will always be protected by the Four Guardian Deities, and by Indra and Brahma.’ Even if one obtains the wealth of the world, this is not considered to be the best wealth. However, hearing one verse of the Buddha Dharma will become the most excellent wealth, because it can grant permanent happiness to oneself and to others. It is, of course, missing a great opportunity if one fails to gain one’s own share of wealth, food, status and so forth.

However, it is even more unfortunate to miss the opportunity, either as a monk (who has less work and less purpose) or as a lay person (who has more work and more purpose) to gain one’s own share of hearing, contemplation and meditation. The reason being, that by missing the opportunity to gain one’s own share of hearing, contemplation and meditation, one misses the opportunity of attaining perfect Buddhahood, which spontaneously accomplishes one’s own purpose and the purposes of others. When one has obtained human birth, has met with the Buddha’s teachings, and has faith in the Dharma, then one has the rare opportunity to practice the Dharma, which is difficult to obtain.So, it is at this time that one must abandon samsara. Despite one’s having all these opportunities, why is it that one does not have the thought to abandon samsara; why does one not have the thought to attain Buddhahood; and why does one not have the thought to listen, contemplate and meditate on the Dharma? One should carefully check the reasons for this. A reason given, is that householders have a lot of their own work; and that is why they say they do not have the time to practice. If that is claimed, then for this purpose, the Buddha has taught the short sutras, particularly for those lay persons who have many things to do, and for those Bhikshus who engage mainly in the practice of meditation. So they should study whatever the Buddha has particularly taught for them. One should at least try to know and to understand the following, with clear ascertainment: what the cause of attaining Buddhhood is; what the path which facilitates one to attain enlightenment is; what the characteristics of the resultant Buddhahood are; what the subjects are that beginners should practice; what the indispensable Dharmas are, and how they should be practiced.

After understanding all these, then one should practice as much as one possibly can. Otherwise, if one wastes this perfect opportunity to practice the essential Dharma, and if one consequently departs to the next birth, naked and empty-handed, one will certainly experience intense regret. In the Karuna Pundarika sutra, it says, ‘Ananda! Do not forget to be vigilant. If you forget to be conscientious, you will definitely regret it later’. Another reason given for not practicing the Dharma is that one regards it as unimportant. In this way. one has the idea that householders’ works are of importance and one thinks that it is all right if one does not practice the Dharma, despite its benefits. However, this evaluation is mistaken, because most worldly activities cause oneself and others to suffer, in this life and in future lives. Even if such activities help to some extent, their benefit is trivial. The Buddha’s teachings will always help; they will never harm; and the benefits one receives from the Buddha’s teachings are permanent. Arya Nagarjuna said, If a fire breaks out on your head And burns your head and clothing, Do not pause to extinguish it! Rather, exert effort to stop future rebirth. There is no purpose superior to this.

Actually, when fire has broken out and one’s head and clothes are smoldering, then in general, one does stop other things one is doing, and tries to extinguish that fire. Nevertheless, the learned ones, by ignoring that fire, and not even looking at their bodies and their wealth, exert every effort instead, to abandon samsara, because, as it is said, there is no greater task than that of abandoning samsara. Few people assert that understanding the Dharma is of value. Parents and relatives, who love and care for us, sometimes object to our performing Dharma activities. Recognizing that such bonds are an obstacle to one’s Dharma practice, one should try to eliminate them. The best method for accomplishing this is to maintain an unwavering and steadfast faith in the Dharma. Shantideva said, You take birth alone, and you die alone. Since others will never take your share of suffering, What benefit can one expect from relatives, Who cause obstacles to virtuous deeds? In this way, those who are closest are an impediment to one’s Dharma practice, so one should not come under their power. Manjushri said, Neither parents, nor relatives can be a Refuge for you. They discard you and go wherever they wish. Lay householders are always engrossed in worldly activities, for the purposes of this life.

There are none who engage in hearing, contemplation and meditation. Always comparing themselves to others, they are content with their worldly activities. One should think carefully about this. While it is all right to imitate others, there are many different kinds of examples to follow. There are many who indulge in extremely dreadful actions. Therefore one should look for good examples. From the sutras it is also recommended that one should take vows, as did the Tathagatas of the past; and that one should perform dedication, just as Manjushri did in the past. Performing deeds after careful analysis by oneself, is in accord with the faultless guidance of the learned ones. Performing actions by listening to and watching others is a procedure of the unwise. Therefore, one should make decisions regarding what one deems as good, through investigation, using proper reasoning and wisely chosen examples. If one thinks, with a disheartened mind: ‘a person like myself cannot engage in study’, then this thought will bar the door to studying. Shantideva said, Discarding effort due to a disheartened mind, There cannot be any liberation. As it was said by Shantideva, one cannot progress from the state one is in if one is prevented from making an effort, by a disheartened mind.

Therefore, it is said in a sutra that, If one has enthusiasm, effort and conscientiousness, then with these three, one can accomplish every activity. Thus one should be assertive, confident and efficient in relation to the task of study. As it is said in the Bhadrapani sutra, One should think that ‘if even fleas and flies can attain enlightenment, why should I, a human being, diminish my effort to obtain Bodhi, even at the cost of my life?’ This quotation instructs us that even animals can obtain enlightenment, and that therefore, belonging to the human race, knowing virtue and non-virtue, and being conscientious, one has no reason not to be determined to attain enlightenment. As it is said in Bodhicharyavatara, There is nothing that does not become easier When one becomes accustomed to it. Whatever the subject of study might be, when one becomes accustomed to it, it will become easier, and it will produce delight in one’s mind. Not only will it produce delight, but with familiarity, one will also accomplish any task with ease. Of course, it is possible that one may not, at first, understand the meaning of what one has been taught. But this should not be the cause for one to withdraw, thinking that one has engaged in purposeless effort.

The study of the Dharma is not the same as other studies. In the case of other studies, if one does not learn it, then one does not gain the result. But in the case of Dharma study, even if one has not learned it, it will ensure one’s future understanding and it will place latencies upon the mind continuum for the attainment of Buddhahood. In this way, the purpose it has served will be immense. Therefore, Vasubandhu said, Even one who does not comprehend the meaning should listen respectfully to the Buddhadharma, because merely by listening with devotion, one will gain immense merit and enhance one’s wisdom. One need not mention how much more that gain would be, if one also understands the meaning. In one of the sutras it is said, A being who makes an effort to listen and to take hold of the meaning of a single verse from my teaching, will without doubt, gain the state of Bodhi. There is not a single being who will not attain enlightenment by hearing this teaching. There are individuals who seek results just by listening and performing minimal practices. This kind of attitude in the initial stage, is the cause of quickly discarding the task.

Therefore, from the beginning, no matter what troubles one encounters when engaging in hearing and contemplation, one should put on the armour of determination, thinking that one will make the action purposeful, by tolerating it. It is said in Sikchasamucchaya, ‘One should search for knowledge with patience.’ In yet another Sutra it is said, ‘In order to hold the Dharma, one should have patience towards scolding, slandering and harsh and reprimanding words. In terms of time, one should hear the Dharma from this time forward, until enlightenment is attained. In the sutra known as Lodros mi zad pas bstan-pa it is said, ‘The Four Insatiables will procure an accumulation of wisdom for Bodhisattvas.’ The Four Insatiables are: being insatiable in hearing; being insatiable in expounding the teachings; being insatiable in investigation; being insatiable in knowledge. These Four Insatiables are the active sources of the Bodhisattvas’ accumulation of wisdom. In the Prajnaparamita, Maitreya said, ‘At the time of thorough purification, at the third Bhumi, one should never be content with the knowledge one has.’ Searching for the Dharma, without ever thinking that the Dharma one has already heard is sufficient, is the excellent ornament which beautifies the exalted Bodhisattvas.

It is described in many sutras that, at the time Lord Buddha manifested as a Bodhisattva, in order to accumulate the treasure of the holy Dharma, merely for one or two words of the Dharma he practiced austerities such as sacrificing his own body, his own Kingdom, and so on, for many countless eons. Therefore, Master Pawo prayed that he would not become discouraged, even if he had to cross ‘the trench of fire’ for the sake of listening to the Dharma. As it is said in the Seventy Verses of Inspirational Prayer, With any opportunity to listen to even one word that contains the teaching, it is advisable to cross over the blazing fire of endlessly flowing lava. You should rejoice, and not be indolent. The main reason why one has no interest in practicing the Dharma, is attachment to this life. One should abandon that attachment through recollecting death. A human lifespan is short and there is no certainty of the time of death. When one becomes subject to death, the wealth that one has amassed through hardship, and one’s relatives, friends, one’s name and fame and so forth, will not follow one. One will go to the lower realms, bearing those non-virtues which one has accumulated on behalf of one’s relatives and friends. If the thought of dying arises within one’s mind continuum, then there will be no difficulty in engaging in Dharma practice. On top of that, one must forego clinging to any aspect of samsara. If one is attached to samsara, then no matter what activities of hearing and contemplation one may perform, they will not become the path that leads to liberation. Instead, they will become causes of samsara.

Therefore, one should shun attachment by bringing to mind the disadvantages and faults of samsara. If one is attached to one’s own purpose, then even if one does engage in Dharma practice, that practice will fall into the path of Hinayana and therefore one will not attain full enlightenment. Therefore, with loving kindness, compassion and altruistic thought, one should shun attachment to one’s own purpose. In brief, having relinquished those three attachments, one should make every effort to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings. For that very purpose one must ensure that one is motivated with the Mahayana enlightenment thought, when listening to the holy Dharma. In order to encourage beings to listen to the Dharma with the Mahayana motivation, it is stated in the sutras that, Therefore it is certain that one will acquire merit. In a shastra known as sNyoms ‘jug Rab gSal it says, ‘Having confirmed that worldly activities have no essence, one should strive to learn the meaning of the teachings.’ The Sutra known as mDo sDe pedma dKarpo states, ‘By having shunned all attachments, listen to this kind of doctrine, for it is very hard to find the inclination and opportunity to listen to the Dharma’. Finally, if someone should ask ‘what is the method for not wasting one’s having heard the Dharma?’ In the Sutra known as Nam mKa’ mZod kyi mDo it is said, ‘No virtue or non-virtue accumulated earlier will go astray; no virtue accumulated through making offerings to the Tathagatas will go astray; no virtue accumulated through altruistic thought will go astray; no hearing accumulated primarily through practicing will go astray.’ As it is said by Rendawa, In order to make meaningful the Dharma to which you have listened, you, the young intelligent ones, should go to the remote forest. Through having heard the Dharma, one understands what needs to be understood, one abandons the things that need to be abandoned, and one cultivates the things that need to be cultivated; so it is certain that one will obtain that which needs to be obtained. These are the reasons which indicate that study is meaningful. Therefore, one should engage in the practice with effort.

Even in these days, there are many Bhikshus and worldly beings who have renounced cyclic existence, taken vows, discarded their homes and are engaging in the paths of liberation and of omniscience. They are the field of accumulating merit, for those who practice rejoicing and making prostrations to them. Therefore, it is not really necessary for me to encourage those people to listen to the Dharma and to practice the Dharma. Nevertheless, I have carefully taken a few scriptural quotations from the sutras in order to persuade those lay householders, who, although they have faith in the Buddha, do not have knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings, and are not engaging in Dharma practice; or, even if they are engaging in Dharma practice, are doing so incorrectly. With this teaching, I wish to tell them that if they listen well to the Dharma, they will gain understanding. As a result of this, they will experience delight in engaging in the practice, and thereby, all their purposes will be fulfilled. In this way, I have presented a few scriptural quotations from the sutras and shastras so that devotees can more readily understand them. Shubam! Sarvada Kalyan Bhavatu. Whatever merit may be gained from the conceiving, writing, translating, publishing and distributing of these noble Dharma words, we dedicate towards the fullfilment of the nobel wishes of our most venerable the late Khenchen Appey Rinpoche. We also dedicate with the hope that these words of Khenchen Appey Rinpoche may inspire untold numbers of beings to realize the importance of studying the Buddha’s teachings, and that they may have the conditions to do so.

Ven. Shastri Jhampa Losal is a close student of Ven. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche. He is currently serving International Buddhist Academy, Tinchuli, Kathmandu in capacity as the Vice Director. Karen White is Khenpo Ngawang Jorden’s Executive Assistant, and head of operational administration at IBA.

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 05:46


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