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 4 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.
On to Class 4!
My Class Notes for Class 4: A Pledge to Compose the Work
Class 4 took a different approach; according to what Geshe Michael said in the video lesson, the traditional approach. It kind of felt more free style and you don’t really know what to expect, with anecdotes and stories from the ancient texts.
Eventually the class ended with going through the homework questions which then gave more structured information, and hence takeaways.
3 Principal Paths & Steps On The Path
The principal thing that a person should put to practice—the essence of all the high teachings of the Victors—is the three principal paths, or what we call the “Steps of the Path.”Geshe Michael Roach
Just want to add a note here for my future investigation: seek clarity between the three principal paths and the “Steps of the Path.” Is he referring to another text, Liberation in Our Hands? Or Lam Rim in Tibetan. If he is not, then what, how and why are the three principal paths called “Steps of the Path”?
On Authentic & Accurate Teachings
Therefore we can say that the teaching we decide to practice should have three distinguishing features:
- It should have been taught by the Buddha.
- It should have been cleaned of any errors: sages must have brought the teaching to its authentic final form, having examined it to determine whether any wrong ideas crept into it after the Buddha taught it.
- It should have brought true realizations to the hearts of master practitioners, once they have heard, considered, and meditated upon it. And then it must have passed to us through the various generations of an unbroken lineage.
If the dharma we seek to practice has these three characteristics, it is authentic.
Milarepa is the most famous meditator in Tibet.
He didn’t start his serious meditation until he was 50. He was 50 before he did his great retreats. So no excuses, including “I’m old.”
The point; if you don’t meditate on advice passed down from ear to ear The place; you can sit in a cave to meditate but you’re wasting time if you don’t have a good oral tradition.
In Christianity, the study of Christianity, a big tradition where the farther back you go, the better the information is; learn Greek, Latin; study the bible in Greek. The idea in Christian studies is the farther back you go, the more pure the information.
Buddhist lineage; Buddhist Studies
- The closer you come to Pabongka for example, the more pure it is.
- If you really want to understand Buddhism, go further back to Tsongkapa or Pabongka.
- You need the explanation of each generation to understand the next generation back
- In this tradition, the more years it went by, the better the presentation; more and more clear
Class 4 Homework Questions & Answers
1) Name the three characteristics of an authentic teaching, one which is appropriate to make your practice successful.
- It should have been taught by the Buddha – He’s omniscient, he knew you were reading the book when he wrote the book, he was reading your mind when he wrote the book, maybe he know what you need.
- Read books which have been through the process of purifying by each generation; made more and more accessible each generation. Not forgetting the relationship between accessible and accurate; don’t corrupt the teachings.
- There should be people who used it and got the results; there should be testimonials of people seeing emptiness directly. Evidence that it worked for people.
2) List the three requirements of a good student as found in Aryadeva’s 400 Verses.
- A good student comes to a class with an open mind; doesn’t mean they accept everything, but they listen. They are unbiased. Ask questions, but they check everything.
- High spiritual IQ; They say they start to cry in the class sometimes; they get goosebumps when they start talking about emptiness.
- Big vision; talking about other planets. Jump across the sky; think big. A big vision in mind to help every person on this planet; and again it doesn’t mean everybody becomes a Tibetan Buddhist, it means people start using the 4 Steps, people start using these ideas that you can become successful by sharing, by giving to others. Hopefully this becomes a culture of the world, and no one knows who started it.
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 fourth class of the course.
It was a little hard to follow this class given its go-with-the-flow approach. Thankfully with my quest as a compass, and the takeaways from the previous class, it helps with continuity and context.
So in Class 3, I mentioned, “This class focuses on finding a lama, which in secular context would mean finding a qualified teacher in various domains or even a qualified mentor.”
For this class, the focus then is to find accurate and reliable content, as well as being a good student to benefit from having both a qualified teacher or mentor as well as learning content that is accurate and reliable.
Let’s find out more.
1. Accurate & Reliable Content
Today we live in the knowledge economy.
There’s so much noise in the online world. Everybody is teaching, or trying to teach you something.
Authenticity might be a hard one in the secular world. What defines authenticity? Or being authentic? Especially when creativity and innovation forces us to keep coming up with new ideas. And if we think about it, nothing’s really “brand new.” Then again, is originality synonymous with authenticity?
Or would fusion count as authentic?
In a world where the lines are getting muddled, we’re careful with imposters and rip-offs.
But how would we define authenticity?
Instead of getting bogged down by authenticity, and its subtle nuances, let’s just agree for now, in our secular world, that authentic content respects copyright. It’s simplistic, but let’s make do for now.
Which is why I propose a focus on accurate and reliable content.
Accurate content would be it’s error-free, fact-checked, and it was thoroughly examined by the teacher, trainer, coach etc.
Again, we can’t guarantee 100% accurate content, so let’s look at why I mentioned, reliable.
This clicks with the last point for the first homework question.
There should be people who used it and got the results; there should be testimonials of people seeing emptiness directly. Evidence that it worked for people.
We would have to do our due diligence. Remember the three tests?
1) The statement cannot be disproved by any direct perception you have or have had.
2) The statement can’t be contradicted by correct, airtight reasoning.
3) Nothing he ever said before contradicts what he said later.
Do your homework to check out not just whether your shortlisted teacher or mentor is qualified, but whether or not what you’re going to learn from them is accurate and reliable!
Just like what Geshe Michael Roach mentioned in Class 3,
… be demanding, your mental real estate is irreplaceable. You have so many hours in your life. The number of breaths you will take has a number and don’t waste it. Check the people out. Don’t go and sit for a year and find out they are not qualified.Geshe Michael Roach
I would say, check the person or people out together with what they promise to teach you!
2. Being A Good Student
Great, now you’ve done your due diligence and all’s clear with the person and the content.
Now the onus is on you.
Honestly, out of the three requirements for a good student from the Buddhist text, perhaps the first one would fit best to our secular needs, which is
A good student comes to a class with an open mind; doesn’t mean they accept everything, but they listen. They are unbiased. Ask questions, but they check everything.
I doubt it’s asking us to be difficult or cynical. Perhaps skeptical, but in the words of American Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, as a proper skeptic to get to the truth.
The second requirement, instead of high spiritual IQ, I would say EQ. Nothing beats being grateful and having a heart of respect for someone who’s going to impart you knowledge that might transform your life.
The last requirement, instead of the Buddhist metaphysical big vision. Think big would suffice. Think how what you’ve learnt could be used to make a difference to the world, how can you contribute?
Conclusion: What Next?
I feel more relieved down that we’ve covered finding qualified people to teach us the stuff we want to learn, as well as knowing how to screen the stuff they teach and us taking the responsibility to learn well.
Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that I was able to extract, adapt and contextualise ideas from Buddhist philosophy.
How does these ideas so far contribute to us living happy, fulfilled, and successful lives?
One thing I know right now, it’s aligned to Anders Ericsson’s research on expert performance as well as Cal Newport’s ideas on craftsman mindset. Both contribute to living happy, fulfilled and successful lives. More on this in upcoming posts!
Next on the study list, ACI Course 1 Class 5.