The Seed of Benefit and Happiness
From the murals of Shechen Monastery. Used with permission of Rabjam Rinpoche.
The Seed of Benefit and Happiness
by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
The light of the Three Supreme Jewels, like a hundred blazing suns,
Triumphs entirely over the darkness of the two obscurations—
May the supreme guide, the one who bestows the light
Of sublimely perfect freedom and liberation, grant auspiciousness.
Perfect saṅgha members are noble friends who are worthy of the veneration of all, including gods and human beings; since they exemplify the sublime splendour of merit, they alleviate problems related to the teachings and beings and contribute to the excellence of benefit and happiness. Thus, when training in the precious teachings as part of the noble activity that accords with tradition, it is necessary to rely upon a foundation of pure discipline, as Ācārya Vasubandhu made clear:
Observing discipline, and having heard and contemplated the teachings,
One applies oneself intensively to meditation.
Thus, you must certainly receive the lay and novice vows before the age of fifteen. From the time that you begin to learn to read the alphabet, which is the basis of all qualities, you should memorize the daily recitations (chos spyod), and learn the stages of drawing a maṇḍala from coloured sand, making torma, performing dance, and playing the three types of musical instrument—i.e., those that are blown, beaten and chimed. Those of the highest capacity might study the outer and inner sciences, but at the very least there should be no one who does not know at least the Bodhicaryāvatāra and three sets of vows.
From the age of twenty, having taken on the supreme of vows, the full ordination of a bhikṣu, the root of training is then to avoid being tainted by the defeats or residual offences. Indeed, from the moment you become a novice or fully ordained monk, the root of discipline is to guard against the four kinds of defeat (or five if alcohol is included).
Rules concerning women and alcohol, as well as the slaughter of animals and sale of livestock for slaughter are well established; if a fault occurs, it is appropriate to apply a penalty, in accordance with both dharmic and secular approaches. As the saying goes:
Someone might have great learning,
But unless they maintain discipline well,
Their lack of ethics will invite censure,
And thus their learning is incomplete.
Ethical violations lead to the lower realms;
Great erudition cannot guard against this.
Never be apart, therefore, from the upper and lower robes that are a support for conscientiousness, conscience and propriety. And, with mindfulness, vigilance and conscientiousness, treat your elders with respect, extend love and kindness to those who are your junior, and avoid rivalry and envy towards your peers. Maintain calm and composure, and never be without the four qualities of a virtuous practitioner. It is crucially important to train in perceiving everyone purely.
The three practices of 'healing and purification' (gso sbyong; poṣadha), rainy season retreat (dbyar gnas; varṣā) and the ceremonial lifting of restrictions (dgag dbye; pravāraṇā) constitute the foundation or core of the teachings, the essence or basis of the oceanic Vinaya. If you practise them regularly, therefore, you will experience their unimaginably vast benefits and purpose, by remembering the kindness of our precious Teacher, preventing any faults or impairments of commitments, making progress in the three trainings, turning away from sources of carelessness, guarding against harm and injury to living beings, pleasing the virtuous gods, increasing the splendour of auspiciousness in every place and region, and so on. It is crucial, therefore, that you muster all your diligence, and carry out these three foundational rites authentically, and that you spend the rainy season retreat teaching and studying texts such as the Pratimokṣa Sūtra or works on the three sets of vows (sdom gsum). Give up all forms of inappropriate conduct, but especially gossiping about warfare and banditry, singing folk songs, shouting, and leaping or running about. Devote yourself instead to daily prayers, study and mantra recitation.
Furthermore, the Pratimokṣa Sūtra says:
A saṅgha that is harmonious is happy.
To the harmonious, austerities are comfortable.
And Śāntideva made the following aspiration:
May the saṅgha always be in harmony
And may all its aims be accomplished.
As these statements indicate, it is of the utmost importance that members of the saṅgha go about their daily activities with mutual understanding and agreement. Such concord is an especially vital principle during this age of degeneration.
In short, unless those who receive donations on behalf of the living and deceased have brought their minds thoroughly under control they will face catastrophic consequences. As the Vinayavibhaṅga says:
It would be better for someone
Whose discipline is impaired and ill-maintained
To eat lumps of iron ablaze with fire
Than to consume the alms of local people.
Thus, for followers of the Teacher, the core of the practice is to avoid breaches of ethical discipline and to strive constantly to carry out the ten forms of dharmic activity, which Ajita listed as:
Copying texts, making offerings, charity,
Study, reading, memorizing,
Explaining, reciting aloud,
Contemplating and meditating—
These ten activities
Bring merit beyond measure.
Exerting oneself in the methods for developing learning through study and contemplation and increasing renunciation through meditation serves to preserve the Buddha's teachings. That is why it is crucial that you accomplish your own and others' aims by carefully applying yourself to the areas of training.
Rich with the treasure of pure higher discipline,
And strengthened through bodhicitta nectar,
They abide in profound samādhi on the two stages—
May gatherings of the saṅgha community fill the world.
Jamyang Chökyi Lodrö Rimé Tenpé Gyaltsen Palzangpo, who has the name of an incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse, composed these behavioural guidelines for the training of the saṅgha community, which are in harmony with the statements of sublime beings of the past. May virtue and excellence abound! Sarva maṅgalaṃ. Śubhaṃ.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2020.
'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. "bca' yig phan bde'i sa bon" In 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. TBRC W1KG12986. 10: 547–543. Bir, H.P.: Khyentse Labrang, 2012.
Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, Treasury of Knowledge, Book Five: Buddhist Ethics. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1998.
Jansen, Berthe. The Monastery Rules: Buddhist Monastic Organization in Pre-Modern Tibet. Oakland: University of California Press. 2018.
Abhidharmakośa, VI, 5 ↩
i.e., the four defeats or partially defeating offences (pham pa bzhi), on which see Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 1998: 107–109. ↩
i.e., the thirteen partially defeating offences (lhag ma bcu gsum), on which see Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 1998: 109–111. ↩
Udānavarga XXII, 5 ↩
dge sbyong gi chos bzhi. i.e., 1) not repaying abuse with abuse, 2) not growing angry in response to anger, 3) not retaliating when struck, and 4) not exposing others' faults even when these others reveal one's own. ↩
Bodhicaryāvatāra X, 42 ↩
i.e., Maitreya ↩
Madhyāntavibhāga, V ↩