In January 2018, Lama Choedak Rinpoche lead an enthusiastic and committed group of 40 students through the first year of a seven year course teaching the fundamentals of Buddhist Philosophy. Called the Complete Path, the 10 days were full of learning, insight, and introspection. Here is Steve Rogers account of these phenomenal 10 days:
It's often difficult to find a way to engage with the dharma systematically.
Our starting points on the path are varied and often layered into busy lives, as are our access to the teachings -- some are encountered in regular sits, others by burying ourselves in a book.
To have the fundamentals of the Mahayana laid out from beginning to end in a logical and accessible way is pretty rare. But that's just what we got in the first year of teachings of the Complete Path Program -- a systematic presentation of the teachings of the path of the Buddha, developed by the International Buddhist Academy and delivered over seven years.
This ten day course focused on the study Clarifying the Sage's Intent, by the Great Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, one of the founders of the Sakya tradition. It was held in Canberra and attended by 40 students from as far as Canada and Rockhampton (and me, from just down the road).
The text is a concise summary of authoritative Mahayana texts on the stages of the path as taught by the Buddha. Yet it feels like a personal letter from one of the most learned dharma practitioners of his time to his thirteenth century Tibetan homeland, sharing all that he has learnt about spiritual development. It is delivered with insight and a deep urging to not get lost or sidetracked by aims or thinking that leads to anything less than the perfection of compassion or complete understanding of the emptiness (wisdom) of the bodhisattva.
As the days passed our understanding grew (and unexpectedly so did our collective diligence). With the aid of Lama Choedak's knowing teaching and commentary this book also began to feel as if this 'letter' was also addressed to us. For those who are still getting their bearings in the Buddhist tradition (including me) this started with the first words of the first chapter: understanding that Buddhahood is sparked by compassion and which grows through the lived practice of bodhichitta. For more seasoned practitioners the text helped sort, solidify and correct understanding of the six perfections (paramitas). This might have been a more technically correct way of speaking of 'filling in the gaps', except when we began studying the wisdom chapter -- at which point being an Arya would help!
At the end of our study, Clarifying the Sage's Intent has become a handbook to study, apply and carry with us in everyday practice. For me, this doesn't just mean applying what I have learnt at work, with family etc. It is also an inspiration to practice meditation and refuge with a diligence and enthusiasm that only comes from knowing more about the 'why' and 'how' of navigating the path.
I'm hoping that it also has this meaning for other participants... and that they share some of their insights in future newsletters.
Me too Steve! Thank you for sharing.