In 2012 Ringu Tulku gave teachings on Chapter 9 of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatra -the Wisdom Chapter – at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland.
One of the most important Mahayana Buddhist texts, H. H. the 14th Dalai Lama has stated: “If I have any understanding of compassion and the practice of the Bodhisattva Path, it is entirely on the basis of this text that I possess it.”
Question & Answer sessions are included here as four standalone recordings.
Q&A session1 (recording number 6)
00:00 Q. You mentioned that emptiness is not the same as nothingness. Can you say some more about that please?
06:28 Q. With regards to emptiness: is it that I do exist; but as part of an interconnected web of reality?
08:27 Q. I have problems with the term “emptiness” because it causes so much misunderstanding. I was reading the book “Quantum and the Lotus” by Matthieu Ricard, where he, instead, uses the term “infinite potential“; which I now think of, whenever I hear the word “emptiness“. Is this going to be ultimately helpful for me, or lead me down the wrong path?
16:32 Q. You talked about the three steps of: listening; reflecting; and meditation. It seems to me, that reflecting can easily be an intellectual exercise where we can get stuck on concepts and ideas. Is there a way of reflecting, where we can let go of concepts and ideas?
20:34 Q. We’re about to do a gallery show about Metamorphosis; like from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Around the time of Buddha, Ovid wrote a book about how everything changes. In The Myths, those who are punished are transformed into stone or animals and stay fixed- they don’t change. I was wondering, in Buddhist texts, are there any passages about why there is change? Why this actually happens? A motivation; perhaps an adaptation to changes in our environment?
27:40 Q. Does time have an indivisibility, in the way that matter has? Is that analogous to a fractal figure?
29:42 Q. Is there something beyond cause & effect and constant change?
33:33 Q. I see children, that look like Buddhas, inside of me. Do you know what they are?
34:44 Q. Can you describe what Dewachen is like, and how easy or difficult it is to go there?
43:15 Q. You talked about relative and ultimate reality. How does this dual aspect become one? Is it because relative reality is just a concept?
Q&A session 2 (recording number 7)
00:05 Q. When you say that there’d be no change in realising ultimate truth, only the way that we perceive; do we still experience emotions, but just don’t get drawn in, or pulled in, by them?
02:34 Q. I’m thinking more in reference to sadness…
08:22 Q. I was thinking more about the sadness that arises when we witness others suffering. Does that change?
22:33 Q. When HH Dalai Lama was giving a public talk this year, He said something that I wanted to ask you about. He was talking about inner value, and how important it is that children are exposed to care and compassion when they’re little, to help build their confidence. My two questions about that are: is it possible to completely heal that in a lifetime; and is it possible to apply relative/ultimate truth to an example like that; where there are many causes and conditions coming together to create that situation? Is it that the person themselves had previously witheld love from others, to subsequently experience such conditions themselves?
36:48 Q. Please can you give me some more clarity regarding the Bodhisattva Vow? One suspends their own liberation until all sentient beings are liberated? My question is if one has taken the Vow, but reincarnates in the animal or hungry ghost realm, do you keep the memory that you’ve taken the Vow? Do you have to renew the Vow each lifetime?
45:30 Q. Can you talk about subtle obstacles that arise, in the form of “phantom stress”, that cause destructive emotions? Traumic repressed memories from this life, or potentially past lives, that get triggered in the present. Some people are angry, but they don’t know the source of the anger. Are there Buddhist techniques for dealing with this?
56:57 Q. If you meet somebody, who you feel you’ve known from before, how do you prevent that from forming attachment?
01:00:18 Q. In the Mahamudra training: Ocean of Definitive Meaning text, you only start doing insight meditation when you have a stable experience of shinay; with explanatory reasoning given. I was wondering why not develop an insight into neuroses, before you get to having a stable shinay state?
01:04:33 Q. Can I ask a question about the clear light? When it says “even the Buddhas have not seen it”, is there light or not?
Q&A session 3 (recording number 8)
00:00 Q. In the Sakya teaching, “Parting From The Four Attachments”, it indicates that if we don’t abandon attachment we aren’t real Dharma practioners. How do we abandon attachment in this life?
07:15 Q. Before, you discussed the “fiction of the self” that doesn’t ultimately exist. How then should we understand the concepts of merit and karma, if the self doesn’t ultimately exist?
11:01 Q. I understand the changing collection making up the whole. What aspect of the collection actually passes from our one life to the next, if we leave our memories behind?
16:55 Q. There’s more of a consistency of continuum from milk to yoghurt, than there is for milk to wine. There is a common element in both. So, what is it that reincarnates? What is that continuum, that goes from one life to another?
21:45 Q. The test of if the Dalai Lama is the Dalai Lama, or not, involves recognition of objects. So hasn’t memory carried from one life to the next?
23:28 Q. Can you say a bit more about the subtle consciousness of the dreaming mind?
26:58 Q. Rinpoche, can you say more about why we should have compassion, on the basis of the understanding that you have described? If I find that I have developed some understanding, I don’t feel that I need to worry as much about things. However, when I see suffering in others who don’t have that understanding, I can see there’s a risk that a sense of patronising pity might arise?
32:48 Q. Rinpoche, I’d like to know more about the process of contemplation, in the sense of investigating and reflecting, and how to do it in a more contemplative way.
37:03 Q. Rinpoche, before you talked about the Dreaming Mind and other types of mind: Deep Sleep and Samadhi. Can you explain them more?
38:17 Q. The observer quality of mind still feel perceptual. Awareness beyond that is difficult to articulate. How is it possible to let go of the observer as well?
42:06 Q. If I see myself a river, always changing, I still have a sense of self within me. Does that sense or experience of self change as well?
46:50 Q. I attended a teaching recently where it was taught that, once we have worked on our negative emotions, we still have a tendency to grasp onto our own space or territory. Is that just using different words to describe holding on to a sense of self?
49:19 Q. Even when we don’t experience strong emotions, we can still have a sense of MY compassion or wisdom! Does the Mandala Offering practice work on that?
53:44 Q. Where does forgiveness play a role in compassion?
Q&A session 4(recording number 9)
00:04 Q. Rinpoche, can you tell us again about the commentaries on this text?
00:59 Q. Is there any technique for realising samadhi? Or does it just happen by chance?
03:27 Q. Can you say anything about the levels of samadhi?
04:15 Q. Is samadhi a state beyond thoughts?
05:43 Q. Rinpoche, can you please say something about post-meditation practice associated with the 4 Arm Chenrezig practice, please?
06:34 Q. You use the term mindfulness a lot. What is the word in Tibetan? (tenpa) Mindfulness is defined as being aware of what we’re doing. Is meditation more about absorption or concentration? Is there a risk of losing touch with what meditation is (relative to mindfulness)?
13:04 Q. In respect of insight meditation; is it a particular technique, where we use mindfulness to do it? Do we use mindfulness within insight practice?
14:22 Q. When we talk of of Dren in shinay, is that the same as Tempa? (A question about awareness cf mindfulness).
15:17 Q. Can someone liberate someone else? There is a story of Tilopa liberating a fish, and Buddha Shakyamuni liberating his mother. Can it be done?
27:05 Q. Can we help others’ liberation, by offering them our forgiveness?
29:29 Q. Can you say something about how karmic imprints are carried in consciousness? Such as the physical marks of the Buddha?
Rinpoche has given teachings on this Chapter on a number of occasions; most extensively at Naropa University, Colorado in the Spring of 1997; transcribed by Maggy Jones as “Introduction to Madhyamika: the Wisdom of Shantideva“.
Additionally, this Archive includes an extensive collection of resources, both audiovisual and text, on the Bodhicharyavatara:
Major translations and commentaries published in English includes three excellent publications from The Padmakara Translation Group (Shambhala Publications covers included below):
1. The Way Of The Bodhisattva
(also available as an Audible Audiobook)
2. The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech
3. The Wisdom Chapter
All photography taken by Dr Conrad Harvey at the teachings in 2012.