Kadampa Buddhism in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

January 9, 2009

Buddhism is starting to take root in areas of the world that would have been impossible even a few years ago.

This is one of the advantages of Kadampa Buddhism. Because it is not tied to Tibetan culture and politics, it is able to adapt flexibly to different customs and lifestyles whilst providing the pure Dharma teachings of Buddha and Je Tsongkhapa.

And check out a photo story detailing an earlier trip.

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Answering those who disparage the NKT ordination, Part One

September 24, 2008

Please see the New Kadampa Truth website for the main refutations of the smears:

NKT ordination is not valid

and

NKT monks and nuns are not authentic

In the next three articles on this New Kadampa Truth blog, we will look more closely at the nature and function of NKT ordination and the authenticity of its lineage. We will be listing all 253 vows of a fully ordained monk and showing how they are not contradictory to the ten vows taken and kept by a monk or a nun in the New Kadampa Tradition.

In The Ordination Handbook, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says:

The verbal explanation of the Kadampa ordination is brief—there are just ten commitments—but their practice is very extensive. These ten commitments that you promise to keep are a condensation of the entire Lamrim teachings. Although we can finish a verbal explanation of these vows in a few hours, their practice is all embracing. You should do this—few words but always practice, practice extensively.

The purpose of the Vinaya (Tib. dulwa) is “to control [the mind]” through higher moral discipline, as this is the foundation for developing pure concentration (i.e. tranquil abiding), and in turn profound wisdom (i.e. superior seeing). While the first five Kadampa vows (“Throughout my life I will abandon killing, stealing, sexual activity, lying and taking intoxicants”) are common to all Vinaya lineages, the latter five (“I will practise contentment, reduce my desire for worldly pleasures, abandon engaging in meaningless activities, maintain the commitments of refuge, and practise the three trainings of pure moral discipline, concentration and wisdom”) are taken from the Mahayana Perfection of Wisdom Sutra and its commentaries such as Atisha’s Lamrim text Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, which references Arya Asanga’s The Bodhisattva Stages (Skt. Bodhisattvabhumi) listing the six ‘branches’ or necessary conditions for attaining tranquil abiding, including:

  1. little desire
  2. contentment
  3. no distracting activities
  4. pure moral discipline
  5. no distracting conceptions

These preparatory practices are methods of training the mind—methods of moral discipline. The very purpose of becoming ordained as a Buddhist monk or nun is to practice a moral discipline that enables one to achieve tranquil abiding. With tranquil abiding, one can attain superior seeing. With these three higher trainings—moral discipline, concentration and wisdom–one will attain liberation from samsara. In his text, Atisha says:

“One who neglects the branches of tranquil abiding will never attain concentration, even if he meditates with great effort for a thousand years.”

Yet some legalists still reject the latter five Kadampa ordination vows simply because they do not appear verbatim in the Vinaya or Pratimoksha Sutras. For example, they would say that, even though it is more succinct, the vow “to practice contentment” just isn’t to be found in traditional ordination texts.

The insistence that Kadampas should adhere strictly to the letter rather than the spirit of the vows is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. For example, vow #31—to not get a new mat before six years are up—is obviously a particular instance of the more general principle to practice contentment. Recognizing and observing the ‘spirit’ or meaning of the individual precepts of the Vinaya is how the Kadampa ordination vows are to be understood and practiced.

When you read the 253 vows of a fully ordained monk (which we will post here next), you can ask yourself whether, in this modern age, it is actually possible to observe them to the letter? It is arguable whether there is one single monk on this planet who is even attempting to follow them all literally. (And full ordination for women in the Tibetan tradition died out centuries ago, rendering nuns as second class monastics.)

It is helpful to understand that the 253 Vinaya vows arose gradually, one by one, in dependence upon the needs of the emerging monastic community and the societal norms of Buddha Shakyamuni’s world 2500 years ago. However, it is possible to observe purely and sincerely the spiritual principles behind these vows and adapt these principles practically to our very different society. This can be done without losing any of the meaning and function of the full set of 253 vows, and in full accordance with the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni and all other great Buddhist Masters. This is what makes the Kadampa ordination so authentic, beautiful, meaningful, and suitable for our modern day world.

Another mistake made by legalists is to try and pigeonhole the 10 Kadampa ordination vows variously into the 5 vows of a lay woman or lay man (Tib. Genyenma/Genyenpa), the 8 vows of a reunciate (Tib. Rabjung), the 10 or 36 vows of a novice nun or monk (Tib. Getsulma/Getsulpa), or the 253 vows of a fully ordained monk (Tib. Gelong). However, the vows of Kadampa ordination are to be regarded as a practical condensation of the essential meaning of the ordained vows. As such, we should look to see how the 253 vows of a Gelong, for example, are subsumed under the more broadly encompassing 10 vows, rather than the other way around.

There are no doubt different ways of doing this, and many of the 253 vows will fall under more than one of the 10 Kadampa vows. Tomorrow we will show one example of how all the novice and full ordination vows are naturally included within the comprehensive yet succinct vows of Kadampa ordination. The Sramanera/Sramanerika Precepts will be used as the reference for the novice vows, and Buddhist Ethics will be used as the reference for the full ordination vows.


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