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Gyalwang Karmapa’s Teaching on Madhyamika Continues

Tuesday 16th December, 2008

The assembly hall of Tergar Monastery was packed with monks and laypeople to listen to the second part of Gyalwang Karmapa’s teachings which continued this afternoon. This is only a brief report on the session. It may be possible later to provide a fuller report from the transcription of the Tibetan.

Because of Nagarjuna’s importance in establishing the Middle Way school of Buddhist philosophy Gyalwang Karmapa began with an overview of Nagarjuna’s life. Accounts of his life exist in both Chinese and Tibetan sources. The earliest Chinese source, written approximately one hundred years after Nagarjuna’s death, predates Tibetan sources. It seems he was born in South India into a Brahmin family, and studied Buddhism in South India. After many years of practice he reached an understanding of emptiness. There are also references to prophecies about Nagarjuna, but there is a need to exercise caution when citing prophecies, because the true intention and meaning of a prophetic text can only be disclosed by its author.

Gyalwang Karmapa then gave the transmission of the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje’s “Concise Summary of the Middle Way”.

In a detailed analysis of what the Middle Way school means when it describes its position as not having any assertions of its own while making assertions only in others’ frames of reference, Gyalwang Karmapa said that this often caused confusion so it was important to clarify its meaning.

In an important aside with reference to study and practice, His Holiness pointed out the serendipitous nature of sectarian affiliations, since most people practice within a particular tradition either because of a past life karmic connection or an accident of birth. Neither of these could be the basis for asserting the superiority of one’s own tradition!