“If we look at the whole range of the Buddha’s teachings, we see that all of his teachings are related to our own mind. In the sutric approach, the body, speech, and mind are described more or less separately. In the Buddha’s tantric teachings, the body, speech, and mind are all synchronized and brought together, with a special emphasis on the importance of the mind. In Dzogchen, the whole thing is seen from the point of view of self-liberated awareness, where everything is experienced and understood according to our self-awareness.
If we look at the evolution of the Buddha’s teachings in this way, we see that even though the Buddha taught in different ways, his intention was always the same: to pacify our negative emotions and tame our minds. Some of the Buddha’s teachings are straightforward and explicit, while other teachings are implicit and concealed, but their purpose is the same.
If we look at the Dharma from another perspective, we can say that it has two aspects: tradition and experience. Tradition, known as lung [lung] in Tibetan, is the authority, transmission, or legacy of the teachings. Experience, or togpa [rtogs pa] in Tibetan, is the practice or application of the Dharma. Both of these aspects of the Dharma are oriented toward bringing about a positive change in our mind.
If we look at the aspect of scriptural authority, or lung, there are different ways that we can describe this. One way is to say that there are eighty-four thousand teachings. Then there is the division of the Dharma into the Three Baskets of the Vinaya, Sutra, and Abhidharma. We can also categorize the Buddha’s teachings according to the three vehicles of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, or in terms of the nine yanas of the Shravaka, Pratyekabuddha, Bodhisattva, Kriya, Upa, Yoga, Maha, Anu, and Ati. All of these descriptions are related to the scriptural aspect of the Dharma. If we analyze and contemplate the Dharma by using even only one of these modes of description, we will be able to make full use of the whole exercise. The reason we analyze, contemplate, and debate about the different Buddhist philosophies is not to compete or excel in terms of scholarship, intelligence, or reputation. We study the Dharma to have a greater understanding of ourselves and a deeper insight into our condition.
We must listen to the teachings and analyze and contemplate them, but this should be followed by meditation. Analysis without meditation is incomplete. Just hearing the teachings is not able to bring about meditative experience. It is very difficult for that to happen. If you really want to achieve some realization of your true condition, then you must meditate. Sometimes it also happens that people throw themselves into meditation without listening to and reflecting on the Dharma, which is just as incomplete. We should study the Dharma by hearing and contemplating the teachings before we engage in meditation practice, because we have to know what meditation is all about before we can practice it properly.
In fact, Arya Maitreya [phags pa byams pa] said that practicing meditation without hearing and contemplating the teachings is a disparagement of the Dharma. If we could achieve realization just through meditation, then why would the Buddha have given so many types of teachings?
On the other hand, if we hear and contemplate on the teachings, but then just constantly talk about them without meditating, then the fact that the Buddha said we must meditate becomes devoid of meaning. At the same time, we must be reasonable because the Buddha’s teachings are so vast. Even what is contained in the Tibetan Tripitaka [sde snod gsum] and the commentaries on the original Indian texts is so vast that one person would not be able to understand all of it. But we do need to have sufficient understanding as the basis of our meditative experience. This will enhance our meditation.
Not only should we study, contemplate, and meditate, we also have to depend on a reliable teacher. A qualified teacher should not focus only on study, nor should he or she fall into the extreme of complete introversion. A reliable teacher must embody a balance of intellect as well as meditative experience.”
Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
Turning the Wisdom Wheel of the Nine Golden Chariots (pgs 23-26)
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