In the Practising Buddhism in a Pandemic section, Geshe Tashi once again gives us an overview of the whole text, A Harvest of Powerful Attainment by Lama Tsongkhapa.
The first three verses are paying homage.
Verses four and five are cultivating a relationship with a teacher, and preparing ourselves to receive the teachings.
Verses six, seven and eight are the main body of the text and correspond to the Three Principals of the Path. Here in verse six we have the shared vehicle of renunciation (definite emergence) together with the Four Noble Truths and the 37 Aspects of Enlightenment. These are the foundations for the core practices of the bodhisattva vehicle, which are: compassion and bodhichitta (verse seven); and right view and the understanding of dependent arising (verse eight).
Now we come to verse nine, which is the conclusion to the text, and traditionally two verses. Geshe la points out that Lama Tsongkhapa, already very well known by now, is clearly analysing his own mind to make sure his motives and intentions are not polluted by these five damaging mental states:
1. Giving teachings and expecting something profitable in return
2. Giving teachings and hoping to become famous, or well known
3. Having a motivation to increase your followers
4. Hoping for material wealth
5. Expecting reverence, honour and respect
Our causal motivations, intentions and actions should “become instead causes for peerless Buddhahood.” In the years we’ve known Geshe la, we’ve noticed how carefully he watches his mind and his speech around these five areas, even to his own apparent detriment. Here we benefit from his experience when he says that it is important to look for ourselves to see if these unhealthy mental states are creeping in. They are very clever, he says, and will arise in a form that appears to support us. Instead, however, they could ruin the short time for practice that we have.
Verse ten is the final verse and dedication. What is the meaning of blessings? What does “by the truth of unfailing dependent arising” mean? Geshe la translates from the Tibetan, giving us a word by word commentary.
A Harvest of Powerful Attainment (verses 9 & 10)
Prayer for Blessings of the Close Lineage
I pray that every virtue of others and myself,
symbolised by the virtue of this prayer,
will never ripen – life after life – even for an instant,
as worldly profit, fame, attendants, wealth, adoration,
all of which are in discord with highest enlightenment,
but become instead causes for peerless Buddhahood.
By the blessings of the awe-inspiring buddhas and bodhisattvas,
by the truth of unfailing dependent arising,
by the force of my wholehearted sincerity,
may this prayer be realised.
p.113 The Splendour of an Autumn Moon, Lama Tsongkhapa, trans. Gavin Kilty.
Khen Rinpoche Geshe Tashi Tsering taught in London for over 25 years and is currently Abbot of Sera Mey Monastery in Karnataka State, India.