Satirical Advice for the Four Schools
From the murals of Shechen Monastery. Used with permission of Rabjam Rinpoche.
Satirical Advice for the Four Schools
by Mipham Rinpoche
Through the enlightened activity of the victorious buddhas,
And the skilful means of their bodhisattva heirs,
May the four schools of Buddhist teachings, old and new,
Successfully transmit their perfect methods of awakening!
The transmission of sūtras has fallen to the Gendenpa,
The transmission of mantra has fallen to the Nyingmapa,
The transmission of exposition has fallen to the Sakyapa,
And the transmission of practice has fallen to the Kagyüpa.
The Sakyapa are masters of learning,
The Gendenpa are masters of discourse,
The Kagyüpa are masters of realization,
And the Nyingmapa, masters of spiritual power.
There are four marvellous transmissions:
The view beyond all extremes among the Nyingmapa,
Perseverance in meditation among the Kagyüpa,
Perfect conduct among the Gendenpa,
And regular approach and accomplishment practice among the Sakyapa.
Although for them all everything is complete,
Each school emphasizes a particular discipline.
The Nyingmapa chant through their noses,
The Sakyapa intone with their lips,
The Gendenpa sing mainly through the throat,
And the Kagyüpa chant strongly from within.
The Gendenpa are like the body of the teachings, with the path of scriptural study complete.
The Sakyapa are like the eyes of the teachings, uniting the two elements of sūtra and mantra.
The Kagyüpa are like the heart of the teachings, bringing devotion into the practice.
And the Nyingmapa are like the life-force of the teachings, holding the profound key instructions for the tantras and sādhanas.
Now for a few words in jest:
The Nyingmapa claim to have a path for accomplishing the level of Vajradhara through the practice of clear light Dzogpachenpo, without the need to rely upon an external activity-mudrā (consort). And yet the lamas say they must take a wife to increase their longevity, improve the clarity of their vision, maintain good health, and benefit beings through the revelation of terma. They don’t say that for the sake of the teachings they should teach and practise! That taking a wife could be a way to benefit the teachings and beings, and a substitute for teaching and practice, and at the same time improve clarity of vision and the like is, I think, incredible!
The Gendenpa assert that the antidote to all the pains of existence is the wisdom that realizes selflessness. And yet they say that when approaching the realization of no-self there can be such a fear of letting go of this sense of identity that it becomes difficult to sit still upon the cushion. In the past it was said that the attainment of the path of seeing and the clear experience of selflessness that precedes it are marked by special feelings of joy, so I wonder if this is might be a symptom of the current degenerate age!
The Sakyapa accept the Highest Yoga tantras which affirm that inner wisdom is primary, without regard to conduct. And yet when they recite the Path Stage sādhana, they maintain the discipline of never leaving their seats, because to do so would transgress their vow. It seems that if they do ever need to get up and do something, they must crawl along dragging their seat behind, which might bring about some temporary physical purification and liberation. Still, I wonder what would happen if they ever stood up!
The Kagyüpa assert that the Great Seal (Mahāmudrā) is the primordial wisdom that pervades all saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, and yet they explain the word ‘mudrā’ by referring to a hand. Yet what would such an enormous hand be like? I think it would be marvellous to see one.
Ha ha! That was all said in jest.
There is great significance to the sayings of the great masters of the past, And there are key points to the intentions of each school, old and new.
What is more, most followers of the Nyingma school shun the taking of life but presume there is no need to give up women. If they are a genuine yogins, I take refuge in them! But, in general, this ordinary sexual desire is harmful to the Nyingma teachings, so take care, I pray!
Most followers of the Kagyü school dislike classical exposition and logic, preferring to consider only the mind. If they are those in whom realization and liberation are simultaneous, I take refuge! But, in general, such a closed-minded attitude is harmful to the Kagyü teachings and must therefore be abandoned!
Most followers of the Genden school shun alcohol and the like, making them exemplary models of the teaching. Still, most see no faults in those who seek to kill and maim. But such hostility is a great enemy, so take care, I pray!
Most followers of the Sakya school regard as supreme only those empowerments and instructions they themselves have received and the branch to which they belong — whether Sakya, Ngor or another. But this strong prejudice and dogmatism is harmful to the Sakya teachings, so it must be abandoned!
Generally, even if we are attached to our own tradition, it is important that we have no antipathy towards other traditions. Considering our own tradition, given that we are all followers of the Buddha, we can have a close affection for one another. Then, concerning the different systems of teaching, they began from the time of Khenpo Śāntarakṣita, Guru Rinpoche and King Trisong Detsen. As a legacy of that excellent past, all of us here in Tibet accept the four seals which are the hallmark of the Buddhist teachings. We are all equal in this respect, and, what is more, we all assert the great śūnyatā free from conceptual elaboration. Not only that, we all accept the mantrayāna with its inseparable unity of bliss and emptiness. This means that, with our similar views and tenets, we are extremely close.
Other traditions, non-Buddhist outsiders and barbarians, who differ from us even in outer signs and dress, are as numerous as the stars in the night sky. Compared to them, we Buddhists are as rare as stars in broad daylight. Now, when the Buddhist teachings are on the verge of extinction, all who seek to ensure their survival must view one another as the closest of allies. Any feelings of hostility will bring great ruin, so instead we must regard each other with joy, like a mother seeing her only child, or a beggar discovering a priceless treasure.
Having become followers of one teacher,
May all students of these same teachings,
Abandon hostility and prejudiced views,
And work together with a sense of joy!
Whatever falls outside the scope of the teachings,
Whether it appears in ourselves or others, we must abandon.
Whatever is in accord with the teachings,
Whether it belongs to us or others, we must cultivate.
Through the power of this, here within the Land of Snows,
May the four great lineages of practice, methods of victorious Buddhahood,
Blaze with the beauty of a wealth of Dharma teachings,
And meet with complete and universal success!
Mati, who knows the nature of all four schools — Sakya, Nyingma, Kagyü and Gelug — wrote this in jest for a friend. Maṅgalam!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2005, with the invaluable assistance of Khenpo Dorje. Revised 2016 with the kind assistance of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche.