Wisdom Wins!

by Loo Leat Thium

8 May 2009 - 7:12pm Comments Off

We may ask how we should learn the Buddhadharma systematically, in a way that is more structured than what we hear from friends or read from the abundance of books in the market.

We may tend to jump to the conclusion that we want to do higher practices before we have even built up our foundation on the very basics of Buddha’s teachings. We think this is too low a standard for us, as adults, or as someone who has been so successful in our careers.

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to join the Lamrim class upon my request, even though the course had already covered about twenty sessions of the course already.

The classes are conducted at our centre, Kechara House, every Friday by Mr. Ngeow, a senior student and Liaison to our Lama H.E Tsem Rinpoche. The classes’ aim is to teach Dharma to new students and to provide the foundation for developing future Dharma teachers right here in Malaysia.

With a firm understanding of Dharma, students and future Dharma teachers will be able to bring Dharma and our Lama’s works to others more effectively. At the very least, they will be able to help others more based on a correct Buddhist perspective.

The Lamrim, or Graded Steps of the Path to Enlightenment, is an ancient text passed down from a renowned Indian master Atisha, one of the most instrumental figures in bringing Dharma from India to Tibet.

The text used in our class is Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by H.H.Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, as recommended by Tsem Rinpoche. It was compiled from a discourse he gave to 700 monks, nuns and laypeople in Tibet in 1921. It is a very clear text and includes many examples to suit the modern era we live in. H.H. Pabongka Rinpoche was one of the most renowned Gurus in the Gelugpa lineage to teach the Lamrim; he was also known as “Lamrim Rinpoche”.

The Lamrim is equivalent to a “handbook” which can be practised by modern day people to improve their lives. Even if we browse briefly through it, we see a clear overview of the whole structure of practices, which caters for total newbies to advanced learners. It clearly outlines each step and the “tools” needed to effect transformation within ourselves.

What the class is like

Prior to coming to the class, students are emailed the chapter to be studied and given a few questions to contemplate. This is designed to help students pick out the meaning of the text, rather than to focus only on the words of the text.

The facilitator Mr. Ngeow briefly goes through the text with students and gives some comments to clear up difficult points or doubts that arise. Students then break up into small groups to discuss the topic at hand and are encouraged to present their views and experiences in relation to the questions posed.

The fun part comes when someone’s view turns into a debate among students. It seems like there is never enough time for everyone to share their thoughts.

The benefit of attending such a class is that we can learn Dharma systematically, in the way it is taught by major monasteries in Tibet. Many people may have some knowledge from books that they have read previously or from Dharma talks they have attended but they will have difficulty putting the bits and pieces of knowledge together to form a bigger picture.

By taking the step-by-step approach outlined in the Lamrim, every new piece of knowledge we gain is built upon a strong foundation. This solid foundation prepares us for higher practices and instructions assigned by our Lama.

We also cultivate an open mind, develop humility and practise patience by listening to each other’s views. I have realised that who we think is the most unlikely person within the group can sometimes provide a better answer than the rest. Through exchanging views with each other we can thus improve our own knowledge and polish our spoken skills.

When we gain a firm understanding of the Dharma, our faith in the Three Jewels also increases; this leads us to yearning for more knowledge to improve ourselves and be in a better position to help others.

The Lamrim classes are held every Friday. It is open only to students who have committed to following the whole course.

Introductory Lamrim classes are held on alternate Sundays during our weekly Manjushri classes, which are open to all.

For more information about any of the Lamrim Classes or to find out when the next cycle of the Lamrim course will commence, please contact Kechara House at +603 7803 3908 (or education@kechara.com)

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