Modern Buddhism

I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this! It’s the first day of the second week of the Festival. Gen-la Khyenrab is going be giving ten teachings over the next five days on Parts 2 and 3 of Oral Instructions of Mahamudra, both of which focus on sadhanas, or chanted prayers. So surely the main Mahamudra transmission had been given in week one, right? What was left?

As it turns out … a lot!

Gen-la Khyenrab gives us a direct transmission from the teachings given by Venerable Geshe-la last year in a London, supplemented with other quotes from Geshe-la’s works and occasional comments from Gen-la. It’s like drinking nectar directly from the hose, a torrent of wisdom flowing forth in an unstoppable stream. What we are receiving is essentially a blueprint for our tradition, Kadampa Buddhism for the modern world, full of wonderful clarifications, explanations, encouragements. The focus in the temple is intense, with no one wanting to miss a single word. After the teachings the buzz of enthusiasm is palpable.

A few words cannot begin to do justice to the extent of the teachings. Some of the topics covered: the lineage, the union of Lamrim and Mahamudra, how to rely purely on a Spiritual Guide, the union of Sutra and Tantra, key differences between ancient Buddhism and modern Buddhism, and the ancient Kadampa tradition and the new Kadampa tradition, the importance of Highest Yoga Tantra in the modern world, how to generate bodhichitta according to Highest Yoga Tantra … and much much more!

One tasty morsel: Quoting Geshe-la, Gen-la transmitted how in Tibet the Dharma Centres were monasteries, in which ordained practitioners lived apart from lay people and society. In our Modern Buddhist Dharma Centres we do not discriminate between ordained and lay practitioners. Rather we practice, live and work together. We respect each other’s differences, and regard both as equally precious. Both are Sangha Jewels because for us the main Sangha Jewel is the Bodhisattva Sangha Jewel, as we together, on the basis of our Bodhisattva vow, strive for enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Looking around at the festival this is everywhere in evidence. Monks, nuns, and lay people all working together as equals to help flourish the Dharma and to create good conditions for practice for everyone else. Meditating, discussing, working, enjoying … together. It is so beautiful to see. Everyone receiving benefit from everyone else, being inspired and encouraged by each other’s way of practice. Real friendships, spiritual friendships, are in evidence everywhere. Friendships that will sustain us throughout our spiritual lives as together we take this sublime transmission deeply to heart, gradually realise it and then use it to help others throughout our world.