Biography of Master Je TsongkhapaAs you remember we find ourselves in the very beginning of this great biography of Master Je Tsongkhapa and we are still in the very introductory part of it, the author explaining the reason why he is composing such a text. And last time we went through how in the age of degeneration there are a few who actually appreciate and admire the real qualities of the holy beings and even if there are some out of one's own wrong views, deluded and biased mind then one even criticises, etc. So therefore in order to dispel all these kinds of wrong views and misconceptions, so that one develops a real faith in the holy deeds of the master and that way will be taken care by such a great master. And then following the life style and the teaching of such a great master to obtain freedom from all sufferings and to attain liberation - these are the purposes of writing such a text.
So we have reached to this point where it says that:
It is possible that some may think like this: as you say, the omniscient great Tsongkhapa, being similar to the Buddha coming into the world, and an indisputable Great Being is known to all and is established. Moreover, also his biography written by the chief spiritual sons like the son of the speech Khedrup Geleg Pelzangpo as well as the realised Jampel Gyatso etc., and also after them many scholars and Siddhas, new and old, without any partiality having composed extensive and brief biographies in multitude, then you not have anything new in the way of the biography which is not clear in theirs?
So this is a question he raises. Even though there are such purposes which are mentioned earlier, but still somebody may ask questions: "Why are you composing again such a biography of Je Tsongkhapa, because it is clear that as you have said that omniscient Je Tsongkhapa is really like a Buddha coming to the world again and he is an indisputable great being, which is known to all. It is nothing so unclear, rather it is clear to all and established by everybody."
And also with regards to the biographies, there are many other biographies such as written by his own direct spiritual son such as the Master Khedrup Rinpoche who is also called Khedrup Mawe Nyima, the son of the speech, because he is such a great illuminating teacher (his personal name is Geleg Pelzang), as well as the Great Realised One, a very great Yogi, one of Je Tsongkhapa's chief disciple in his meditative realisation (Jampel Gyatso). For example Khedrup Rinpoche has composed the first biography of Je Tsongkhapa which is called "The Ford of the Faith" (entrance of the faith), and he has also composed an additional biography which speaks about the secret biography of Je Tsongkhapa, which is called "Precious Harvest".
So Khedrup Rinpoche has composed two important biographies of Je Tsongkhapa. And also this master and realised Yogi Jampel Gyatso has written the so-called Lekshey Kundü, that means "All Collected Good Explanations" which is called Namthar Surdeb, like additional biography, still adding some additions to what Khedrup Rinpoche has written, which is called "All Collected Good Explanations".
So it is not only them but many other biographies written by some of the direct disciples. And also later on also there are still other biographies written by many scholars and Siddhas, all without partiality, new and old among them, they are from other traditions, too. For example one very beautiful biography of Je Tsongkhapa is from the Nyingmapa master Sang Sang Nyeringpa. His biography is very beautiful. He has written four parts:
- one explaining the activity of teaching, composition, debating,
- one which explains about his quality of his scholarly knowledge
- as well as his ethics and his kindness,
- and also about his disciples, the qualities of his disciples.
Like this he has composed four short biographies, etc. There are many masters from various traditions that have composed different kinds of biographies, some longer, others shorter, they exist already. Therefore the question: "What do you have new to still write something which is not clear in those biographies before?"
So one may ask what have you got there which has not appeared in those biographies already? Then it continues further:
What is already written (or put down) in the earlier books again writing it down as a repetition would be just like a syllogism (or establishing something which has already been established); so apart from that there is no other extra need (or purpose).
If one thinks like that, he is going to answer the following:
That means: since there are already these biographies and you have nothing new to say, so if you are just going to write down something which is already written down in all these other books as a repetition then this will be like this kind of false logic applying an unnecessary reasoning to establish something which has already been established. For somebody who has fully established and fully understood something then still applying reasonings to that person to establish the same is not so very useful, because it already has been established, the person already has understood the point and so such reasoning becomes unnecessary. So it would be something like that and it would not serve any more purpose.
So if one says or thinks like that then this is answered in the following lines:
I have this to say when you say like this: the Bodhisattva Shantideva says, "I have nothing here to say which has not occurred before, nor do I have the skill of composition". "Because of familiarising with what is wholesome, the strength of my faith will just increase even by these, and also those who are with equal disposition to myself, if they see these, it will be meaningful."
So that is what Bodhisattva Shantideva has written at the beginning of Bodhisattvacharyavatara where he also says: "I have nothing to say here that has not already been said by Buddhas and in the Sutras or Shastras in the past and also I am not claiming that I have some extraordinary skill of composition, that I am going to compose something very beautiful and a special text or something like that." Then it is shortened here: "therefore I have not much hope that it will be very beneficial for the others."
And then it says further down: "However, through familiarising myself with these wholesome subjects", that means the Bodhisattvacharyavatara, through writing this then one also familiarises with these wholesome subject matters, or: "This composition or this work itself is a wholesome action, through familiarising in this way then it will cause the strength of my own faith to increase even with these words which I am going to compose. And when by chance somebody else of the same disposition as myself sees this, they may find it also something meaningful". So therefore he has composed the Bodhisattvacharyavatara. So this introductory the passage of Shantideva has been quoted here by this author.
So this is this introductory passage of Shantideva which in one way shows the purpose of his text and also it also shows another quality of the holy being, that means putting aside the pride that one does not compose something out of pride: "I am going to write a great work and I am a great composer", instead of that saying that: "I do not have any capacity of composition or anything like that, however for this wholesome purpose I write this." So that also is a way to overcome the pride and to show the purpose of writing. At the same time it dispels this kind of the doubt of this repetition.
So like that, as gradually said:
Somebody like us who is born in the end of this bad time of degeneration and conflicts, having been born in such a time then one has not caught the feet of most of the earlier great Pandits and Siddhas, (that means one could not catch their presence) and because of not having caught their feet, one is deprived of the present of their good explanation, directly hearing from the mouth of the holy ones.
So that means the author says somebody like us who is born in the age of degeneration which is characterised by this nine bad that means completely nine bad things coming together, that means everything bad. So that means having been born at the end of time, when everything is bad and it is the time of degeneration and this age is also called the age of conflict which is very evident. So it is a very degenerate time and one is born in such a time.
Because of that we have not had the opportunity; we are kind of too late to catch really the presence of most of earlier great Pandits and Siddhas. So therefore we have not that luck or we are deprived of that possibility of receiving direct present or benefit from those good teachings, good explanations given directly from the mouth of those holy beings, so this opportunity we did not have.
And then, on top, it says:
The wisdom obtained by birth is inferior and the quality obtained through the power of training is weak. Therefore the intelligence to analyse the great treatises and the biographies and histories etc. is extremely narrow, like the hole of a Chinese needle.
That means not only one did not have this kind of good opportunity, but also one's own situation is very poor with regards to the power of the wisdom. There are two kinds of wisdom: wisdom by the power of birth and wisdom by the power of training. Wisdom by the power of birth means that one is already born in this life with a very strong potentiality of good qualities such as wisdom due to a strong training in such qualities in previous lives, so that one has these naturally in this life. And that kind of wisdom obtained through birth, the author says, is very inferior and also the qualities one obtains through learning and training in this life are also very weak in him. So because of that one's intelligence to really analyse the great treatises as well as the biographies of the great masters and their stories etc. is not at all very large, it is as narrow as the space in a China needle. A China needle is very fine and the hole of that needle is not at all big, so it is very narrow; that means very small. And then:
On top of it not only such wisdom, such intelligence is very narrow, but also having been deprived of the fortune of the meditation and practice, then let alone the clairvoyance etc. through one's own power, even in the dreams Guru deity etc. giving teaching or giving prophecy about the abandonment and the acceptance through signs and skilful methods etc., such opportunity does not exist at all.
So that means not only one's intelligence is very minor, but also through one's meditational practice and so on one is deprived of the real opportunity, real fortune to engage in such a practice. So therefore any kind of superior capacity such as clairvoyance etc. which enables one to know through one's own power many hidden things, these are out of question. Even in the dreams that Guru deity etc. coming to oneself and giving teachings, giving prophecies about what is to abandoned what is to be practiced, through sign and through various skilful methods, etc. even this kind of fortune is also non existent.
So it does not exist at all.
By all means motivated by the delusions then one spends day and night in the unspeakable actions (negative actions).
So on top of that then one's mind being completely motivated by various kinds of delusions, then one spends one's day and night only in engaging in many unwholesome actions.
So by somebody like that spending the time day and night in such a way, then more than what is taught exactly by those great beings such as the omniscient Khedrup Rinpoche, etc. the earlier ones, some new wonderful exposition, nothing to say is completely true.
So the author says, it is very true that somebody like him, the author, who is completely deprived of those necessary qualities and competence and who completely spends his time in unwholesome actions and powerful delusions has absolutely nothing to say as a new exposition, a new speech, which is wonderful, which is more than what has already been taught by those great beings such as omniscient Khedrup Rinpoche, Jampel Gyatso and all the earlier ones.
Not only that but:
In great treatises and also in the fields of reasonings etc., there is only an understanding which sees partially in the manner of a hungry goat eating grass, because of not having done extensive hearing and contemplation in depth, and thus lacks the ability for the lines of garland words which are ornamented by scripture sources, reasonings, poetry and compositions, etc. which are the branches that generate appreciation or happiness in the wise people. While this being so - still engaging in such a composition is, it seems, just a great boasting exaggeration. So therefore it is very true that I do not have anything new to say.
And then furthermore he says that with regards to the studies of the great treatises, the great teachings, as well as in the field of reasoning, etc., he only has some kind of understanding which partially sees something and is similar to the manner of a hungry goat eating grass.
A goat and a sheep are completely different in the manner of eating grass. The sheep eat grass from the root, very precisely; two, three sheep can do a really good job of gardening. However the goats are not like that, especially when they are hungry they are very excited and eat a little bit from the tips of all the bushes and the grass and in a way destroy all the plants, but they are not eating from the root, they are eating here and there, everywhere a little bit.
So therefore he says: his understanding of the great treatises and all the fields of the knowledge is partial and imprecise, and his capacity of knowledge through hearing and listening to the teaching and reflection is not done in depth. Because of that, for these lines he is going to compose, he does not have the intelligence that enables him to write something with scripture sources, reasonings and poetic beauties and a skill of composition for well ornamented garlands of words which can really bring pleasure in the wise beings. If somebody composes texts which are full of scripture sources, reasonings, poetic beauty and composition skills it is really like an ornament. Then whoever is intelligent and wise reads it, there is a great pleasure; so these are necessary branches for generating such a pleasure.
So he says that he is lacking all this special knowledge, but still engaging in this composition is like a great claim or greed: something where one wants to do more than one can do; it appears like that.
This also shows and fulfils the behaviour of a true composer of the Dharma who completely puts aside all pride and arrogance and so forth.
Then it says:
Although it is like that, as the Master Dandi says: to collected and put together the earlier treatises, symbolised by this, according to whatever exactly I can, I will give the definition of the poetry. However, the seed of the conception has been shown by the previous teachers, and that itself, to arrange it completely well – that effort is mine.
So this is Master Dandi, one of the main Indian masters of poetry. He wrote one of the root poetry texts, which is called Adarsha 'The Mirror'. And there in the beginning the Master Dandi (Dandi means 'stick') says, so Master Stick says, that he is writing such a text is in order to summarise, taking the essence of those previously existing texts and to collect them and arrange them, putting them well together. So as just as a symbol of that, I am going to give these characteristics of poetry exactly as I can.
And furthermore in the same text: However, the seed of the conception, the actual essence of the subject matter itself has been taught by the previous masters, that is not something which I have invented (nothing original from him). The seed of the conception - that means the actual essence of the subject matter - is something which has been taught by the earlier masters and which he has tried to completely well arrange it, well formulate it. So for that purpose he has made the effort of composing this text.
So we stop here for today.