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 2 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.
My Class Notes for Class 2: The Lama and the Word; Why Learn the Three Principal Paths?; An Offering of Praise
The video lesson basically focused on answering the homework questions, so the following notes also include substantiating context from the reading for Class 2: “The Key that Unlocks the Door to the Noble Path (Lam bzang sgo ‘byed) written by Pabongka Rinpoche (1878-1941), a commentary upon the Three Principal Paths (Lam-gtzo rnam-gsum) of Je Tsongkapa (1357-1419), folios 1a-5b.”
The Three Principal Paths
- A fast track to Buddhahood: the teaching known as the “Steps to Buddhahood.”
- The instruction on the three principal paths is the very heart and very life of this teaching.
- “The three principal paths are like the main beam that supports all the rest of the roof; your mind must be filled with these three thoughts if you hope to practice any dharma at all, whether it be the open or the secret teachings of the Buddha. A mind caught up in renunciation leads you to freedom, and a mind filled with hopes of becoming a Buddha for the sake of every living being brings you the the state of omniscience. A mind imbued with correct view, finally, serves as the antidote for the cycle of life.”
Merit or Good Karma
- Continuing from the above, unless one has the three main attitudes, one can do non-virtuous deeds, also called non-merits, or deeds of merit, deeds called “invariable,” which will keep us in the cycle of birth.
- “But unless the three principal paths fill your thoughts, each of these profound practices can only bring you back to the cycle of birth—they can’t even begin to lead you to freedom, or to the state of knowing all.”
- Merit is also known as good karma, and it does not necessarily lead to nirvana and Buddhahood if it’s not committed with good motivation.
- There can be “dirty good karma,” which is karma committed with bad or selfish motivation.
- Reference to the three problems of the pot again, specifically, “[Pabongka Rinpoche] spoke first about how we should avoid the problem of being like a dirty pot because a good motivation was important not only for our classroom hours, but essential too for the steps of contemplation and meditation that should follow the initial period of instruction.”
- “Once you’ve managed to develop these attitudes, every single virtuous act you perform leads you, despite yourself, to freedom and the state where you know all things.”
Mahamudra or The Great Seal
Mahamudra is Sanskrit for the “great seal”
- Means seeing emptiness directly
- In Tantra; secret teachings, mudra is your partner, which means the commitment to practice the secret teachings, speeding up the process to attain enlightenment together.
The relationship between the three principal paths and the great seal is that one cannot touch Tantric practice without the three principal paths.
Two Principal Causes that bring about the state of Buddhahood
- Bodhisattva’s training; code word for the activities and thinking of a Bodhisattva
- Principal paths 1 & 2
- Understanding emptiness
- Principal path 3
Two Bodies of a Buddha & their causes
- Rupakaya: Physical part of the Buddha (There’s 2 parts inside the physical body:
- Nirmanakaya – emanation body
- Sambhogakaya – 112 marks; 32 major signs & 80 secondary signs, the one that stays in heaven
- Dharmakaya: (Also 2 parts:
- Jñanadharmakaya – mental state of a Buddha; the omniscience of a Buddha, the ability to see all things at all time, past, present & future
- Svabhavakaya – the emptiness body; you have it now, it’s your “Buddha nature”; Tathagata garbha, it means you already have emptiness, you can change into Buddha)
Wisdom causes Dharmakaya (The mind of a Buddha and the emptiness of a Buddha combined; the body of all things) which is path 3; correct view; the direct perception of emptiness from the three principal paths
Merit causes Rupakaya which would be path 1; renunciation & path 2; bodhichitta.
The connection between the first and second principal path: The second principal path is just the first principal path aimed at everybody. Bodhichitta is just renunciation spread towards everybody.
Two Obstacles to Buddhahood
- Mental affliction obstacles: the obstacle which is kleshas (mental afflictions)
- Obstacles to omniscience: the obstacles that stop you from omniscience
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 second class of the course.
This class focuses almost entirely on becoming a Buddha, which makes it so religious that it’s challenging to consider any practical applications that’s secular.
That said, if we just stretch a little with the creative liberty, we might still be able to find one, or maybe even two.
1. Renunciation or, I’ve had enough!
Instead of going the entire mile of becoming a Buddha in the complete sense of the word ‘renunciation,’ let’s adapt it for the modern day, secular living context.
Renunciation, or dismay at the pain of the worldAsian Classics Institute
Ever felt that you’ve had enough of the “same shit, different day” saying?
I recall listening to Tony Robbins Unleash Your Power Within audiobook and he talked about how good is not enough. We need to raise our standards if we truly want to unleash our power within.
Instead of settling for mediocrity, which more than often feels worst than what the word seems to convey, we can only rise to become the best versions of ourselves if we’ve had enough, even of “good enough.”
Perhaps like Tony Robbins himself said, we need to raise our standards, commit to the high standards we set for ourselves, to become outstanding.
Thinking that we want better and deserve better isn’t going to help get achieve better. Taking action does.
The 10% shift daily, doing the small things which are easy, daily, are what compounds into a revolution.
Let’s break free from mediocrity!
2. Merit or demerit system?
Before we even consider the cycle of birth, let’s consider the cycles we are going through in this life.
The cycle of ups and downs. Again, aren’t you guys sick of it? Have you not had enough of the ups and downs?
For some reason what I took away from the idea of merit or good karma, in context of our personal and professional lives, is that if you accumulate enough of what’s needed, you will meet the tipping point.
But if you go about raising your standards one day and then sabotaging yourself the next, then you’ll always be on the see-saw getting nowhere instead of making your way up, consistently, to the peak.
And the see-saw is really a classic example of me versus you. If one goes up, the other must come down. But no one wants to be the one going down, so we’re always driven by our selfish needs—a self-centred motivation.
On the other hand, if you commit yourself to the high standards of reaching the peak, some people might laugh at you before you begin, some might give up along the way, but you might win yourself a tribe of trusted few, where you guys would depend, motivate and support one another to get to peak, together.
Conclusion: What Next?
It was tough to extract, adapt, and contextualise ideas from this class to apply in our secular lives.
I think there’s more to explore in the idea of the merit-demerit system in our lives.
For instance, focusing on growing a team and helping your team members grow is obviously creating the momentum to succeed together. Whereas if the team gets distracted and begins to focus on their individual needs, the team falls apart. Or if the team wastes time thinking of how to beat and sabotage others instead of raising their own standards of becoming outstanding is certainly a demerit system because the team could raise the standards for the competition to catch up, instead of trying to fend their position.
The former is not only consuming resources but not helping the team grow and the industry grow, and then consumers have to settle for less, which makes it a waste of time when it could have been put to better use when you focus on raising your own standards so that the industry grows and even your competition grows as a result, in the end benefiting the customers, and everyone.
That said, gotta move on to ACI Course 1 Class 3 to find out more!