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Time: 10:30 am to 11:45 am
Teacher: Geshe Lobsang Tsondu

March 1 – July 13
Text: Dzatrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu’s The Excellent Vessel of Ambrosia: A Commentary on the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas.

Geshe la will begin teaching Dzaltrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu’s commentary on Thokmé Sangpo’s much loved Tibetan Buddhist classic which lays out the salient points of the bodhisattva path in thirty-seven verses set in the framework of the three levels of practitioners. In his commentary Dzaltrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu provides us practical guidelines to cultivate Mahayana path—starting from the fundamental contemplations to advanced mind training exercises and meditation. The guidelines are derived from the author’s personal experience with reference to the sutras and tantras as well as Indian commentaries, and following in the spirit of ecumenism, those of Tibetan Buddhist masters of all major traditions.

Instruction is given on how to recognize the great potential of our ephemeral human life, how to identify and rely on an authentic teacher, how to cultivate disenchantment with cyclic existence, how to rouse the altruistic mind of enlightenment and develop insight into the nature of reality. He also offers profound advice on how to effectively deal with destructive states of mind—such as attachment, hatred, envy, and miserliness—and how to transform adverse conditions into the spiritual path:

Prelude: Relating the title of the root text, the homage verses, and the author’s promise to compose the text.

Main Body:
Part I: The Way of Engaging in the Preliminary Practices
Verses 1–7: The difficulty of obtaining a life of leisure and endowment, leaving one’s homeland, relying on seclusion, recollection of impermanence, giving up bad companions, relying on good companions, and taking refuge.

Part II: The Paths of the Three Types of Individuals
Verses 8–24: The path of the individual of the small scope, the path of the individual of the middle scope, and the path of the individual of the great scope.

Part I: Training in the Precepts of the Mind of Enlightenment
Verses 25–37: Training in the six transcendent perfections, training in the four dharmas taught in the sutras, training in the way of eliminating the afflictive emotions, training in benefiting others endowed with mindfulness and introspection, and the dedication of virtue to perfect enlightenment.

Part II: The Summary: The author’s purpose for composing the text, the author’s demonstration of the authenticity of the practices, the author’s expression of humility and apology, the author’s dedication of the virtue of composing this work to great enlightenment, and the author pens his name associated with the four complete attributes.

August 1 – December 12
Text: Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend and Jetsun Chokyi Gyaltsen’s Necklace of Learned Explanations: Presentation of Grounds and Paths

Geshe la will begin teaching Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend. Existing in the form of an epistle to his friend, variously known as Gautamiputra or Surabhibhadra, who was an Indian monarch of the Satavahana dynasty that ruled over an area encompassing modern day Pune in Maharashtra to coastal Andhra Pradesh between the first century BC and the second century AD, this text explains the means of integrating spiritual teaching into our daily life. Although Nagarjuna specifically taught how to skillfully conduct kingly affairs in one hundred and twenty-three of the verses, the text serves as general advice to all lay practitioners. In simple and succinct language, the text inspires lay practitioners, even those at the initial stage of practice, to assimilate the profound views and transcendental practices of the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

After this he will teach Jetsun Chokyi Gyaltsen’s text on paths and grounds. In the study of the paths and grounds, you will be introduced to the four paths and ten grounds of bodhisattvas and the various qualities, practices, and realizations that the bodhisattvas must develop on each level. You will also learn how one enters a path and how the bodhisattvas eliminate the obscurations as they progress along the path to enlightenment.

Recommended Texts:

  • The Excellent Vessel of Ambrosia: A Commentary on the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, Dzatrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, translated by Julia Wilson.
  • The Precious Garland: Buddhist Approach to Life, Polity and Liberation, edited and translated by Sonam Tsering Ngulphu, LTWA.
  • Necklace of Learned Explanations: Presentation of Grounds and Paths, Jetsun Chokyi Gyaltsen, translated by William Magee, Ph.D. and Venerable Lozang Zopa.

Additional Reading:

  • Treasury of Precious Qualities, Longchen Yeshe Dorge, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala.
  • Buddhist Advice for Living & Liberation: Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, analyzed, translated, and edited by Jeffery Hopkins, Snow Lion.
  • Presentation of Tenets, Jetsun Chokyi Gyaltsen, translated by Glen Svensson.
  • Cutting Through Appearances: Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism, translated by Geshe Lhundup Sopa and Jeffery Hopkins, Snow Lion.
  • Buddhist Philosophy, Daniel Cozort and Craig Preston, Snow Lion.