Basic Program Syllabus
1. Stages of the Path to Enlightenment
“With study comes understanding; but this must be put to use. It is therefore vital to put as much as one can of what one has studied into practice…”
The celebrated system of teachings known as the Stages of the Path (lamrim) represents a synthesis of the entire path to enlightenment. Presented in a clear and concise form, these teachings are easy to understand and apply in meditation. Instruction begins with the preliminary practices, and then progresses through the essential practices of the ‘beings of the three scopes,’ including correct guru devotion, renunciation, the altruistic wish for enlightenment, and the view of the middle way. As a foundation and context for Buddhist practice, this subject is a key element of the Basic Program.
TEXT: Tsongkhapa, Medium Exposition of the Stages of the Path
2. Heart Sutra
“Form is empty, emptiness is form; form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form…”
(The Heart of Wisdom Sutra)
Among the most famous of all the Buddhist scriptures, the Heart Sutra reveals the truth of emptiness through a short exchange between two of the Buddha’s most illustrious disciples, Chenrezig and Shariputra. Traditional commentary expands on the cryptic style of the sutra to clarify the exact nature of the wisdom realising emptiness and the ‘method’ practices that are its essential complement, relating these two aspects of practice to the five levels on the path to enlightenment. The brevity and profound nature of the Heart Sutra have made its recitation popular as an effective means for dispelling obstacles to spiritual endeavour.
ROOT TEXT: Shakyamuni Buddha, The Heart of Wisdom Sutra
COMMENTARY: Tendar Lharampa, Jewel Light Illuminating the Meaning: A Commentary to the Heart of Wisdom
3. Mahayana Mind Training
“And thus bodhisattvas are likened to peacocks: they live on afflictions – those poisonous plants. Transforming them into the essence of practice, they thrive in the jungle of everyday life. Whatever is presented they always accept, while destroying the poison of clinging desire…”
Dharmarakshita, The Wheel of Sharp Weapons
The Mahayana path is characterised by the bodhisattva’s aspiration to become a buddha for the sake of all beings. The means to develop and enhance this extraordinary attitude are revealed in a genre of teachings, at once practical and radical, known as ‘mind training,’ or ‘thought transformation’ (lojong). Dharmarakshita’s Wheel of Sharp Weapons is one of the most esteemed mind training teachings, and a powerful weapon to cut through our true enemies – the grasping at a self and the self-cherishing that oppose altruistic intent and prevent lasting happiness and peace.
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