In this blog post, I will be sharing my thoughts; ideas, insights, opinions and findings from The Principal Teachings of Buddhism: The Three Principal Paths, or Attitudes after watching Class 1 of ACI (Asian Classics Institute) Course 1.
As part of my quest, I have to research, read and watch content, which includes Buddhist literature, in order to aid my attempt to extract, adapt and contextualise the ideas that can help us all live happy, fulfilled and successful lives, and also really, the best way to find out if we can really make a 2500-year-old tradition relevant to us today, not as a “religion” but as a secular philosophy with broad applications.
So let’s get started.
ACI Foundation Course 1: The Principal Teachings of Buddhism
ASIAN CLASSICS INSTITUTE MAKES THE FOUNDATIONAL, PROFOUND, AND TRANSFORMATIONAL TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA AVAILABLE TO THE WORLD IN AN ACCURATE, ACCESSIBLE AND RELEVANT WAYAsian Classics Institute
“ACI Course 1 is a thorough study of the three great realizations (commonly known as the “three principal paths”) needed by every practitioner of Buddhism—which is why it’s the first of the 36 courses. These three are:
- renunciation, or dismay at the pain of the world;
- the Wish for enlightenment, or wanting to become a Buddha ourselves so that we can help every living being in the universe; and
- a correct view of the world, or seeing that there is no person, and no object, which does not come the seeds in my own mind.”
Reading materials, interactive transcripts, video recordings in English, Chinese, Spanish, Russian and German for ACI Course 1 Class 1 can all be found on The Knowledge Base, which archives the teachings and events of the Asian Classics Institute.
“The Knowledge Base is about sharing a new view of the world which can make you successful in every aspect of life. Its basic tenet is that our reality is shaped by how well we take care of others.Acts of kindness towards others create seeds in the mind that determine everything about the people and the world around us, as reflected in everything from our finances, health, and partner, on up to happiness, peace of mind, and enlightenment itself.”The Knowledge Base
Based on the class notes in PDF format I’ve downloaded, here’s what’s included:
- An introduction to the lineage and overview of the 18 foundation courses
- Buddhist prayers
- Offering the Mandala
- Refuge and The Wish
- Dedication of the Goodness of a Deed
- A Buddhist Grace
- Course Syllabus (An overview of Course 1 and the reading for each class)
- Homework for 10 classes
- 10 quizzes
- 1 final examination
- Class notes taken by a student in class, comes with a disclaimer
- Answer key for the homework, quizzes & examination
ACI Course 1, 10 Classes Overview
Class 1: An introduction to The Three Principal Paths
Class 2: The Lama and the Word; Why Learn the Three Principal Paths?; An Offering of Praise
Class 3: How to Take a Lama
Class 4: A Pledge to Compose the Work
Class 5: Encouragement to Study; Why You Need Renunciation; Stopping Desire for This Life
Class 6: Stopping Desire for Future Lives; How to Know When You’ve Found Renunciation
Class 7: Why You Need the Wish for Enlightenment
Class 8: How to Develop the Wish for Enlightenment; How to Know When You’ve Found the Wish for Enlightenment
Class 9: Why You Need Correct View; What is Correct View?
Class 10: How to Know When Your Analysis is Still Incomplete; How to Know When Your Analysis is Complete; A Unique Teaching of the “Implication” School; Put Into Practice What You Have Learned; The Conclusion of the Explanation; A Disciple’s Prayer; A Secret Key to the Three Principal Paths
My Class Notes for Class 1: An introduction to The Three Principal Paths
The course content is translated from a book called Lamtso Namsum, its full name is Lam Gyi Tsowo Namsum.
Real title: Three Main Paths of Buddhism, but changed to The Principal Teachings of Buddhism to make it more accessible.
- Principal teachings: main teachings
- 3 attitudes that are the principal teachings of Buddhism
- 3 big ideas, not methods or routes
Lineage or tradition
- Author of the book is Je Tsongkapa; this book, 14 verses, is a letter written to Nawang Drakpa, his disciple
- Pabongka Rinpoche wrote the commentary to the original text; his entire commentary is in the course
- Trijang Rinpoche (1901 – 1981), Pabongka’s disciple & Dalai Lama’s teacher, edited the Lam Rim, who is also Khen Rinpoche’s root teacher
- Khen Rinpoche wrote the introduction to this course
- Geshe Michael Roach translated Pabongka Rinpoche’s commentary and wrote this course
The text doesn’t jump right into the three principal paths but preliminaries which is tradition:
- Avoid the 3 problems of the pot
- Upside down (already full of other ideas): Not open to learning
- You can’t pour water into a dirty cup: What you hear you mix it up with other stuff you’ve learnt
- Don’t be like cup with a hole in the bottom: You’re leaky, you learn something today and forget by tomorrow.
All Lam rim texts have 3 big divisions and they depend on the motivation of the people (refers to heart)
- Little people: I don’t want to go to the lower birth (The Pen teaching would satisfy)
- Medium people: I don’t want any kind of samsara; suffering life, I want nirvana for me
- Big people: Want everyone to be enlightened; Bodhisattva
Three Principal Paths:
- Renunciation: Not the classical meaning of renunciation / It means: recognize that if you don’t figure out the seed system, everyone around you will collapse and die, including you. I’m tired of seeing the suffering in the world, I want to fix it. Give up misunderstanding how the world works: wrong worldview.
- Bodhichitta: Wish to become enlightened to help all the living beings
- Wisdom: See emptiness directly if you want to become enlightened
Should have been called the Three Principal Attitudes
- The three are mental, ways of thinking, attitudes
- Not paths, not concrete, not even instructions, not Sutras
Post Class Thoughts—Any practical strategies and methods?[My quest: find out what and how things really work: What it takes for us to live happy, fulfilled and successful lives. With a current focus on—but not limited to—Buddhist philosophy.
From my current focus, 2 more questions came along.
Can we extract, adapt and contextualise the ideas and concepts from Buddhist philosophy to live a happy, fulfilled and successful life?
Can we really make a 2500-year-old tradition relevant to the 21st century, not as a “religion” but as a secular philosophy with broad applications that we can use in our lives? (source)
Most importantly, I will share my thoughts; ideas, insights, opinions, findings, and experiences as a test subject, and then document how you too can apply practical strategies and methods in your daily life to live a happy, fulfilled and successful one.]
With my quest guiding me forward, let’s look at my takeaways from the first class of course.
1. Three Problems of the Pot
This really reminded me of the many social media posts I have encountered about a man who went to a master, but ended up having hot tea spilling over from his cup to illustrate the idea of our cup is already full.
I started thinking how “Three Problems of the Pot” really reminded me of me, and the people around me, who are either searching for ways, or just wishing to become happy, fulfilled and successful.
Let me put it this way:
Problem 1: Upside down, already full of other ideas, not open to learning
These are the wishing folks. They want to, wish to, hope to become happy, fulfilled and successful. They appear to be “all ears” to what you have to offer them, but actually they are immensely comfortable in their discomfort. It’s ironic, but I guess most people are.
Yet another quote comes to mind, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
Problem 2: You can’t pour water into a dirty cup: What you hear you mix it up with other stuff you’ve learnt
The over-zealous, over-enthusiastic, over-anxious person who wants instant happiness, instant fulfilment and instant success.
It’s like conducting an experiment. If you want to know whether something works, you first have to test it out “as is” first.
No one mixes Mexican tacos with Szechuan hotpot.
There’s two Chinese sayings:
The first means dotting the eyes to the dragon you’ve drawn, the second means to add legs to the snake you’ve just drawn.
What does it mean?
The first means the finishing touches to a masterpiece, and the second is basically adding unnecessary touches, or again another quote:
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
So one wonders why they don’t see their results of happy, fulfilled and successful lives?
A reminder that it doesn’t mean putting the engine of a jet inside a Ferrari with monster truck wheels would get us faster. Don’t start by picking and mixing, start by getting good, master the tools, achieve results, know how things work, then build your own rocket only when you’ve got what it takes.
Problem 3: Don’t be like cup with a hole in the bottom: You’re leaky, you learn something today and forget by tomorrow.
I guess to become happy, fulfilled and successful we have to actually remember what we learnt, and put into action.
Not just action as and when we remember, but put what we’ve learn into practice, disciplined, consistent, committed to become happy, fulfilled and successful.
2. Three Principal Attitudes
Really got me thinking beyond religion.
More as a human.
All the human rights, animal rights, women rights, and so on…
What are we all really fighting for, albeit in different causes?
What does it all boil down into?
Attitude 1: Renunciation
I guess it comes close to the first principal attitude, which is in Buddhism, renunciation.
But as humans, nobody wants to suffer, nobody wants pain, and nobody wants to die.
You may say, there are people who want to die, but that’s because they see death as a way to end their misery, their suffering, their pain.
But instead of seeking the “easy way out,” there’s something to learn here from the class. And we don’t have to be a Buddhist to have an attitude towards all the unnecessary inequalities, suffering, misery, pain, unhappiness that we, humans, animals, etc are going through.
In a way, that’s why we stand up for what we believe in, and fight for what we believe in.
But it seems here, in Buddhist philosophy, perhaps we have to figure out what is said here in the class introduction, “a correct view of the world, or seeing that there is no person, and no object, which does not come the seeds in my own mind.”
That’s Attitude 3, but let’s get to Attitude 2 first.
Attitude 2: Bodhichitta
Based on the above, of us fighting for what we believe in, like protecting animals, or against children abuse etc, lies a heart that cares.
So I’m guessing, it should come an inch closer to the Buddhist idea of Bodhichitta?
I mean, first, not all of us agree on the concept of enlightenment as Buddhism, so it’s kind of contrived to even wish to become enlightened based on the Buddhist’s definition: the Wish for enlightenment, or wanting to become a Buddha ourselves so that we can help every living being in the universe.
But at the very least, I care about my loved ones, I care about feeding those in need enough to donate food and deliver food to those facing hunger, I care about animal cruelty enough to start a movement, I care about eradicating poverty enough to donate to efforts by the United Nations, I care about children getting the education to break out of the chains of poverty enough to sponsor children to go to school, I care enough about something enough to take action.
I guess, all, if not most of us, have something that we care about that we would step up to do something to protect, contribute, or empower others.
That’s an attitude.
Attitude 3: Wisdom
Ok this one is not just a little tricky but mind boggling for most, even for Buddhists.
It says in the introduction, “a correct view of the world, or seeing that there is no person, and no object, which does not come the seeds in my own mind.”
But from what I heard in the class, wisdom, which is to see emptiness directly if you want to become enlightened.
Firstly, back to the point about becoming enlightened above.
Secondly, what does it mean to see emptiness directly? Well, this calls for another blog post or even blog series to properly research and share my thoughts.
Lastly, is there a correct view of the world? Does it mean everything comes from seeds in my own mind? What does that even mean? Does it mean there are wrong views then? What are they?
It’s not practical to answer these questions in this blog post, but definitely calls for more research and blog posts to answer them. So stay tuned.
Conclusion: What Next?
There are lessons to be learnt from Buddhism that could be related to, applied to our lives without having to become a Buddhist.
As I’ve extracted, adapted and contextualized the
- Three Problems of the Pot
- Two out of Three Principal Attitudes
It also kinda brought be back to what I learnt in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Scientific Thinking and Communication MasterClass, to not be intellectually lazy and to be a proper skeptic.
Moving on to ACI Course 1 Class 2…