10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Not in every aspect a reliable source on the Bodhisattva vows,
This review is from: The Bodhisattva Vow: A Practical Guide to Helping Others (Paperback)
This is a useful book, about the practice of the 35 Confession Buddhas (a karmic purification practice) and the Bodhisattva's root and secondary vows (or 'training pledges'), associated with the Mahayana vehicle.
However, Kelsang Gyatso*, the author of this text, made a remarkable mistake, I wish to point out in this review, because it has to be seen in the context of the author's organisation, the New Kadampa Tradition - IKBU (aka as "Kadampa Buddhism"), in which he encourages and emphasizes the totally reliance on himself as the sole authentic (contemporary) Buddhist authority and actively discourages his followers to read other books, because this would 'confuse' them.
Kelsang Gyatso claims on page 23 the 34th Bodhisattva vow would be:
"34 'Preferring to rely upon books rather than our Spiritual Guide'
The root of Dharma realizations is sincere reliance upon our Spiritual Guide. If we neglect this practice and prefer to acquire our understanding from books, we incur a secondary downfall."
This is incorrect and misleading.
The vow is: "Deprecating him and referring to the letter". This has two meanings: not to be disrespectful to the teacher, and secondly: not to rely on his words literally; one has to look for the meaning of the teachers' words.
Je Tsongkhapa, based on Asanga's Commentary, explains the 34th Bodhisattva training pledge as follows:
>>"Deprecating him and referring to the letter."<<
"To deliberately discount the person speaking doctrine - not sincerely conceiving of him as a spiritual adviser and a teacher - and to fail to pay respect to him with one's body, while ridiculing him with humiliating [questions] and making sarcastic remarks with harsh words, and referring to the literary expression in the sense of making much of it, is a defiled fault.
Briefly, if the words are not good but the meaning is good he fails to rely upon the meaning, whereas if the words are good but the meaning is not he does rely upon it. Some would have it that the deprecation amounts to saying to the preacher that his teaching is only literary expression, without meaning, or that the meaning is incomprehensible--in other words, failing to enter into the spirit of the letter. This should be taken as explained earlier in the Bodhisattva Bhumi in context of the four points of reference.
Jinaputra and Samudra further gloss this as a misdeed of 'disrespect for the doctrine'.
These three misdeeds are explained by the new commentary as failing, respectively, in eliminating bad view, in application to study, and in service to the lama, [all] as part of collecting wholesomeness. 'Makes his reference the letter' is explained as relying upon the literary expression in the sense of discounting the person who is speaking doctrine."
(quoted from Asanga's Chapter on Ethics With the Commentary of Tsong-Kha-Pa: The Basic Path to Awakening, the Complete Bodhisattva, page 232)
As I said above this book of Kelsang Gyatso claims instead that it would be a fault in the Bodhisattva Ethic: "Preferring to rely on books, rather than to rely on our spiritual guide".
I don't know if Kelsang Gyatso invented this vow or not but this claim is defacto not correct when compared with the origin Indian or Gelug authoritative scriptures or even temporary commentaries-ecxept the LTWA edition which seem to have copy and pasted from Kelsang Gyatso's list of the vows...
It was Je Tsongkhapa himself who distrusted Tibetan authors much and was very keen to check if what had been said about Buddha's teachings is in accordance with Indian (Sanskrit) scriptures. Je Tsongkhapa remarked if something is in contraction to the origin Indian sources it should not be accepted.
The spin of this vow it would be a secondary downfall to 'Prefer to rely upon books rather than our Spiritual Guide' is the complete opposite of Je Tsongkhapa's own approach and invites to follow blind devotion.
Explanation of the Buddhist practices explained in the book without such errors can be found in:
- Confession of Downfalls, published by LTWA, and in
- The Bodhisattva Vow by Geshe Sonam Rinchen.
The most genuine and precise commentary on the Bodhisattva vows in the context of the Gelug school is the quoted text by Asanga and Je Tsongkhapa:
- Asanga's Chapter on Ethics With the Commentary of Tsong-Kha-Pa: The Basic Path to Awakening, the Complete Bodhisattva
* Usually the author is known to hold a Geshe degree, however different sources (e.g. his monastery Sera Je Dratsang, Newsweek or the Tibetan Government in Exile) dispute this claim.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Aug 2010 12:58:48 BDT
Peter Boylan says:
Thank you M Jaeckal for such a thoughtful explanation of your personal beliefs. With respect, I ask you to review your motivation for writing such an uneccessary attack on the author's teachings. You certainly did not provide a review of the book, which, presumably is what people come here for. Personally I believe you wrote in good faith and without malice. I do not, however, agree that your piece has any place in a review section for this book. There are many web sites, including the one mentioned in your own profile, where your views are laid out in minute detail. All you have done is to use the author's scholarship as a jumping off point for you to expound your personal aversion to his brand of Buddhism . I would like to see your non review and my answer deleted from this section by Amazon.
In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2011 10:45:27 GMT
Mr. K. J. Morris says:
As a former NKT member, I thank M Jaeckel for his review. Many people not aware of the complexities of Tibetan Buddhism come to the NKT as I did, believing that all is well with that organisation. It took me some time to realise that many things in the garden over at Cornishead Priory were not as they seemed. Needless to say, when I learned for myself something of the history, I moved on. I would argue that M Jaeckel, by drawing attention to certain aspects of the NKT and its literature makes it far easier for prospective Buddhists to make educated decisions as to their futures.
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