In September, 2015, Lama Palden led a pilgrimage trip with 25 students to India, where they attended a special retreat with Tai Situ Rinpoche, and visited other sites near Dharamsala.
Palpung Sherab Ling, Situ Rinpoche’s vast monastery and nunnery, is held within the sweet embrace of pine trees on the southern flanks of the Himalayas. This monastic complex houses, feeds, educates and provides retreat sanctuary for about 900 monks and 200 nuns. Even though it was midnight when we arrived, our sangha was met by friendly monks, and we soon settled into our rooms in the institute for foreigners.
Awakened by the deep melodious voices of monks chanting, we had an ample breakfast and then streamed into the building’s lhakhang or shrine room and the 26 of us from Sukhasiddhi Foundation took our seats along with about 125 other dharma students from all over the world. Tai Situpa arrived and the five days of receiving wisdom teachings on the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra began. Rinpoche’s personal directness and honesty, punctuated by his good humor and frequent laughter, accompanies his generous sharing of the dharma, which he so clearly has taken to heart, integrated and actualized into his person.I requested Situ Rinpoche to give these teachings for our sangha following our study of this key Mahayana text, which was taught by Annik Brunet using commentaries by Jamgon Kongtrul and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. Not only is Situ Rinpoche one of the greatest lamas of the Vajrayana tradition, but he is said to be the coming Buddha Maitreya to whom this text is attributed. It is a great privilege and honor for us to receive these teachings from him, and a steady stream of the other foreigners here have expressed their gratitude to me for requesting Rinpoche to teach on this text.
The title Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra is often translated as Buddha Nature, although that is not the literal meaning. It points out to us the genuine reality of who we truly are – unborn, undying awakened union of shunya, clarity and luminosity, also called the union of wisdom and love. This is the ground, which in our ignorance we do not realize. The Buddha Shakyamuni gave us the teachings and practices, which are our path to purify, transform and liberate what obscures our complete realization of who we truly are and bring it to full ripening. Our actual nature is inconceivable to the dualistic mind, as stated in the text:
[Our actual nature] is without beginning, middle, or end;
hence [the state of a Buddha] is uncreated.
Since it possesses the peaceful dharmakaya,
It is described as being ‘spontaneously present.’
Since it must be realized through self-awareness,
It is not a realization due to extraneous conditions.
These three aspects being realized, there is knowledge.
Since the path is shown, there is compassionate love.
There is ability since the mental poisons and suffering
Are relinquished by primordial wisdom and compassion.
Through the first three there is benefit for oneself.
Through the latter three there is benefit for others.
On another note, some of us went to the new Shedra (monastic undergraduate and graduate school) for the ceremony marking the end of the rainy season retreat. The Shedra opened last March with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in attendance as a most special guest.
Rinpoche is also building a new three-year retreat center for the Shangpa Lineage practices. There are also men’s and women’s Karma Kagyu retreat centers here that have been in use for years.
Thinking of all of you and sending love,
Lama Palden Drolma