Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Fri, 2008-08-15 09:04.
The "now" is important for any tradition. For it is in the process of bringing the past into the present wherein a tradition is brought to life. However, the past, and in particular the excavation of knowledge from the past, is arguably just as important for the life of a tradition.
As we discussed in the "Wheel of Time" series, this excavation process is a true concern for Dolpopa and later Jonangpa thinkers. For them, this is the hermeneutical act of retrieving the pure teaching from the pure time: the dharma of the Kṛtayuga or Perfect Eon.
However, there is more to this. There is then the act of transferring meaning ― lived meaning ― into the present. This is a careful process. A surgical deliberation that involves the transference of language, culture, and history ― or what I like to call, "ancestry."
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Wed, 2008-07-23 00:29.
Marveling at how the ultimate is described as expressions, and thinking about how to relate this ongoing theme to Kālachakra practice, I happened upon a short piece by the late Lama Ngawang Kalden from Dzamthang that strikes at the heart of this matter.
In a compilation of his writings and talks, there is a short text within his Cycle of Instructions for Visualizing the Profound that has a passage on how the ultimate manifests as contemplative experience through the vajrayana process of embodying the Kālachakra deity.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Thu, 2008-07-10 15:33.
With "expressions of emptiness" on my mind, I thought it might be nice to reflect on Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen's experience of this quintessential phenomena, and how this experience acted as a pivotal point in his understanding zhentong.
This of course raises larger ― more lingering ― questions, such as: How is zhentong understood by the Jonangpa?; What links the vajrayoga practices of the Kālachakra with zhentong?; What "evidence" do we have that expressions of emptiness are actual phenomena?; etc.
Though these broad and overarching questions lie beyond the scope of this short post, these are issues that I'd like to gravitate towards in future posts. Here, I'd like to draw from the narrative of the Jonangpa, or at least one episode in the biographical account of Dolpopa's life that roots his experience of this phenomena within his realization of zhentong.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Thu, 2008-07-03 16:18.
When we think about emptiness, there is usually an intimation of absence. That is, a lack of presence is implied. However, in zhentong contemplative thinking, the recognition of the ultimate real implies an acknowledgment of presence, a constant luminous presence.
Perhaps one of the most interesting twists in this paradox of absence and presence is what I referred to in an earlier post as, "expressions of emptiness." The technical term that I'm translating here is śūnyatā-biṃba in Sanskrit or stong pa nyid kyi gzugs brnyan in Tibetan (commonly abbreviated as, stong gzugs and translated, "empty form"). Since this is such a key term and prevalent notion in the vajrayoga process of the Kālachakra and tantric zhentong worldview, and since my earlier mentioning of it elicited such excitement, I thought to sketch a few notes on the idea here.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Thu, 2008-06-19 16:03.
Now that we have a rough sketch of Dolpopa's concept of time according to Kālachakra cosmology, we can begin to think about what Dolpopa and later Jonangpas refer to as the "Kṛtayuga dharma" or "Kṛtayuga tradition." To clarify what this is, Dolpopa writes in his Fourth Council,
The Kṛtayuga dharma is the untainted expression of the victorious ones, the explanations of the sovereigns on the tenth spiritual level, and the great founders of the chariot systems. It is flawless and imbued with supreme enlightened qualities.
In this [Kṛtayuga] tradition, everything is not rangtong. By eloquently distinguishing rangtong from zhentong, that which is relative is taught to be rangtong while that which is ultimate is taught precisely to be zhentong.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Fri, 2008-06-13 16:21.
Continuing to think about time, I'd like to consider the architecture of cosmic time according to the Kālachakra Tantra, and how this temporal schema was further codified by Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen.
First, we must look where Dolpopa tells us to look. There, in the Lokadhātupaṭala or Chapter on World Systems in the extensive Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālachakra we find a clear description of four cosmic eons (yuga): (1) Kṛtayuga, (2) Tretayuga, (3) Dvāparayuga, and the (4) Kaliyuga.
Paraphrasing the Vimalaprabhā, Dolpopa writes in the opening verses of his work titled, The Great Calculation of the Teachings that has the Significance of a Fourth Council,
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Wed, 2008-06-04 20:09.
Lately, I've been thinking about time. Time in the cliché sense of that which "does not stop for anyone." Historical time. Real time. Blinks and breathes and heart-beats. The wax and wane of moons, the expansion of universes, the radiant pulses of quasars. That basic conceptual structure that flows as the space-time continuum... The ticks and nanoticks that sequentially measure the magnitude and momentum of our lives.
More specifically, I've been thinking about how the Jonangpa master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen thought about time. How his concept of time has contributed to a re-visioning of Buddhist history, and from where his concept derived.
Dolpopa was concerned with framing his realizations in accord with the Kālachakra Tantra, and the lineage of his realizations within the framework of the cosmological schema described by the tantra. In fact, I'd like to suggest that Dolpopa's understanding of time according to the Kālachakra was so central to his realizations that we must seek to understand this concept of time if we are to think seriously about the larger zhentong paradigm.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Sun, 2008-01-06 17:47.
Though the story of the mythic land Shambhala as related from the Kālachakra Tantra is well known, I thought to recount a portion of the legend here. What follows is an edited excerpt taken from my translation of the introduction to the Kālachakra empowerment, as it was conferred in Italy a few weeks ago.
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Bestowal of the Kālachakra:
The Buddha Shakyamuni taught this [Kālachakra] system on the 15th day of the black-star month [2nd month according to Kālachakra astrology] at the great and glorious Danyakataka Stupa in South India. At that time, he was surrounded by an unfathomable retinue of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, dakas and dakinis, the 12 great gods and other gods, as well as countless assemblies of naga serpents, yasksha spirits and elemental spirits.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Fri, 2007-12-07 13:27.
In preparation for the upcoming Kālachakra retreat, I thought to revisit some of the central themes on Jonang Kālachakra practice that have inspired many of my conversations with friends and inquirers on the subject. Though much of this can be found in my outline of the practice curriculum, it may be helpful to discuss this again here.
To begin, its important to distinguish what are "ngöndro" (sngon 'gro) or the preliminary practices in the Jonang Kalachakra practice tradition, and what are "ngözhi" (dngos gzhi) or the primary practices. Although this is a division that is found among the Tibetan tantric traditions in general, it takes on a slightly different structure here.
Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Wed, 2007-11-28 05:28.
Throughout my readings on the Jonangpa in English, I've noticed the (all too) common attribution of either Yumo Mikyo Dorje or Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen as the "founder" of the Jonang tradition. Though Yumowa was a major figure in the transmission of the Drö Kālachakra lineage as it was received by the Jonangpa, and was a prominent forefather of the tradition, its unlikely that he even heard the word "Jonangpa" in his lifetime.
The term was coined during the time of Kungpang Thukjé Tsöndru (1243-1313), the master who later inherited the Drö Kālachakra lineage as it was transmitted through Yumowa, and the first in the lineage to settle in the valley named "Jomonang." He was the 1st Jonangpa.
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