Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs: Listening and Contemplation as the Path

Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs: Listening and Contemplation as the Path

2023-2024 24th Annual Kagyu Gunchoe 11 January 2024

The third day of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s teachings during the Winter Gathering for Monks was the concluding session of the sequence of teachings on The Instructions on Gyalwa Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs (part of Mikyo Dorje’s Hundred Short Instructions), divided into 7 topics:

1. The instructions on Shamatha
2. The instructions on insight
3. The instructions on freedom from elaborations
(The transmission and explanation for which were given in previous sessions)
4. The instructions on the natural liberation of movement
5. The instructions on one taste
6. The instructions on continuous meditation
7 The instructions on putting meditation into practice

His Holiness then gave the reading transmission of the text, and followed it with a short commentary.

He opened by recalling Gampopa’s statement on how quintessential it is that beginners should apply themselves assiduously to listening and contemplation while those with experience should apply themselves to meditation.

The forefathers of our Kagyu lineage primarily engaged in the practice of meditation but that doesn't mean that they omitted listening and contemplation entirely. It is not quite clear whether those exalted masters applied themselves to the same studies of the great philosophical texts as we do in our monastic colleges. However, they were able to teach the meaning of these texts in the form of pith instructions. They received many profound pith instructions.

In like manner, our own gateway into studying the profound Dharma is the pith instructions.

Those great forefathers were predominantly the people of sharp faculties, expansive knowledge and extraordinary intelligence. They competently understood the great philosophical texts. But we don’t have such sharp faculties. In fact, our faculties are rather dull and our faith, diligence and prajna lesser in strength.  

But we are not like them and so for us, it is vital to engage in a certain degree of listening and contemplation and to study many different philosophical texts. Due to the lack of our minds’ capacity or the power of our prajna in comparison to them, it is paramount that we apply ourselves harder and work harder than they did.

Now, if we listen and contemplate while looking outward – we are looking in the opposite direction.

We listen and contemplate while we are also engaging in a lot of debate, so we become very quick at verbal responses. It even appears as if we are focusing on the faults of the other person – a sign that we haven’t taken our listening and contemplation as the path. It has not become Dharma.

Instead, it is indispensable for us to become someone who can examine our body, speech and mind.

Regardless of the amount of listening and contemplation we have done, we should always be able to turn our minds inwards and look at ourselves to see what our faults are. Looking inward and examining is the sign that we have taken our listening and contemplation as the path. We need to ascertain:

- Is our listening and contemplation dharmic or not?
- Has it become the path or not?
- How peaceful and subdued have we become?
- Is our listening and contemplation of benefit to our mind?
- Has our understanding of the dharma become better?
- Do we have greater consideration for karmic cause and effect in our daily life?
- Does it help us develop faith in the great gurus?
- Do we have more compassion for sentient beings?

It's not a question of whether we’ve become more fluent with our tongues. One can’t tell if a debate participant is engaging in listening and contemplation from inside or outside just by looking at them. While we are wearing the clothes and robes of a Dharma practitioner, the main thing is how much we are able to tame our wild minds.

We need to put our efforts into making our rigid mind more malleable, if we are unable to do anything else. This is of the essence. If we are unable to do that, then, from the perspective of the Dharma, it is not correct.

In any case, no matter how much listening and contemplation we engage in, there is only one destination, and that destination is to look within our mind. This is where we transform and improve our mind. We need to know our mind clearly, to understand our ultimate aim. It should be unmistaken else all our extensive efforts would be amiss. We ought to keep this in mind.

The Karmapa moved on to the topic of the Winter Gathering with words of encouragement for the participants and expressed his joy because the number of monks is very high with new shedras joining in to take part in the debates. He then drew a parallel by touching upon the history of monastic colleges.

Many of the early Karma Kamtsang shedras developed around the time of the 7th Karmapa Chӧdrak Gyatso [1454–1506 CE]; Drukpa Kagyu shedras were founded in the time of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo [1527–1592 CE]. Thus, the community of study was very strong at that time. However, during the time of the 10h Karmapa there came the Mongolian invasion. While there was much destruction of Kagyu as well as Jonang gompas, it was Karma Kamtsang gompas (with Drukpa Kagyu gompas next to them in number) that suffered the greatest devastation, and which turned many of the progressive monasteries founded by 7th Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso and the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje into nothing more than ruins. Indeed, it is even impossible to identify where some of them were.

Such grave external circumstances obstructed greatly the development of fully-fledged monastic colleges for over 300 years.

But these days, as we are not subjected to such harsh conditions, we have a truly wonderful opportunity to restore the Kagyu community of study and uphold the teachings. We could make the present time into the age of great revivals. This point is crucial.

After a short break for the tea blessing, the Karmapa reiterated that this is a decisive time, when everyone should work to restore the Karma Kagyu. The times are changing rapidly and it is uncertain what will happen in the future or whether as many people will be interested in Dharma compared to the past. Neither do we know how many monks there will be in future. His Holiness was of the opinion that achieving something like this in the future could be difficult.

Following that, he addressed a few more points.

First, he expressed his wish to continue the Summer Teaching this year as he was unable to do so this past summer.

Further, he conveyed his happiness about Chamgon Vajradhara Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche's arrival In Bodhgaya to preside over the 38th Kagyu Monlam. It is a wonderful and great fortune.

The next point concerned the Arya Kshema Spring teaching. Following some recent discussions, he has chosen the 50 Stanzas on the Guru among many suggestions. He gave a very profound reason: At the time of the 8th Karmapa Mikyö Dorje and the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, in the monastic collages they studied the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra and, in addition, there existed tantric colleges specialising in tantric studies. Though their curriculum is not entirely clear to us now, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that the first topic was the 50 stanzas on the Guru.

The reason is that, in Tantra, the relation between the student and the guru is of the utmost importance. The samaya they keep and the respect they pay is most invaluable. The best text that teaches this topic is the 50 Stanzas.

The second topic, which is also related to that, is the root downfalls of the secret mantra. His Holiness expressed his wish to teach The Ocean of Samayas, a text by the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (most likely used by the tantric colleges for this purpose) in the future for the great relevance this text has on the topic.

Further, he noted his satisfaction with the teams who had produced very good results and he had personally signed their certificates, which were presented to them by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

The mandala offering followed, as well as the concluding prayers and a transmission of texts which the Gyalwang Karmapa himself authored.

Finally, expressing his hopes and wishes to attend the conference in person in the future, His Holiness brought the Winter Gathering teaching to a conclusion.

2024.01.08-11 The Gyalwang Karmapa’s Teachings: Yangönpa’s Seven Pointing Outs