Topic of the week
Topic of the Week: The Parable of the Lost Son
In the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible (Luke, 15.11), we find the story of a son who was lost and found. The Buddha presents a similar parable about the reinstatement of a lost son in the Great Drum Sūtra. A wealthy householder, who lost his son due to the carelessness of a nanny, finds his son living an impoverished life after many years. Worried that he may frighten the poor boy away if he reveals the whole truth of their relationship, he entices the boy with presents and expediently employs the boy to work as a servant. With gradual exposure to the rich life in the house, the boy becomes ready for the final recognition and reinstatement as the scion of the wealthy house.
The Buddha uses the parable to illustrate how the lower vehicles of śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas are only expedient steps leading to the ultimate Mahāyāna goal of complete Buddhahood. The sūtras related to buddha-nature such as the Great Drum Sūtra and the Lotus Sūtra teach that there is only one final enlightenment, i.e. Buddhahood and there is only one vehicle, ekayāna, which represents this goal.
In the Dzogchen tradition, the story is used to illustrate that we are all buddhas by nature but led astray from our nature by temporary incidents. Like a lost prince roaming in the state of an ordinary person (རྒྱལ་པོའི་བུ་དམངས་སུ་འཁྱམས་པ་) remains a prince to be eventually recognized and enthroned as a king, sentient beings remain in the state of the buddha-nature although they wander aimlessly in the cycle of existence. The purpose of spiritual practice is to recognize and realize our true nature, that is the same as the Buddha’s.
In a pregnant woman’s womb,
A child exists but is not seen. Just so, dharmadhātu is not seen, When it’s covered by afflictions.~ Nāgārjuna
Topic of the Week: Explaining the term 'Three Jewels'
The Three Jewels form one of the fundamental concepts in Buddhism. The Buddha as the teacher, his teachings or the dharma as the path, and his followers or Sangha as the companion are known as triratna in Sanskrit, triratana in Pali and könchosum (དཀོན་མཆོག་གསུམ་ Wyl. dkon mchog gsum) in Tibetan. The Sanskrit term ‘ratna’ and and Pali ‘ratana’ means a jewel, gem or treasure. The Tibetan word ‘köncho’ literally means rare and supreme. Why are the Buddha, his teachings and followers considered as jewels or rare and supreme? What is the reason behind the term ‘three jewels’ or ‘triple gem’?
The Ratnagotravibhāga, which is a treatise on the spiritual gene of the Three Jewels, states in Verse l.22 that they are considered jewels or gems because they are rare, stainless, powerful, supreme, immutable and ornaments of the world. Find more translations and explanations of this verse here.
The Buddha's Teaching on the fundamental nature of the human mind has always been a great source of inspiration and hope for me.~ The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
Topic of the Week: Who or What is a Buddha?
Who or what is the “buddha” in buddha-nature? The word buddha comes from the Sanskrit verbal root √budh, to wake up and to know. Buddhist texts generally describe the Buddha as the one who is awakened or enlightened. A buddha has woken up from the slumber of ignorance and is in full awareness of the way things are. Tibetan translators used the term sangye (སངས་རྒྱས་, Wyl. sangs rgyas), in which “sangs” refers to being cleansed or freed from something and “rgyas” refers to flourishing. They explained that the Buddha is fully freed from ignorance and other impure things, and the Buddha flourishes with intelligence and wisdom.
The core classic text on buddha-nature, the Ratnagotravibhāga, defines buddha or buddhahood as a state of enlightenment with eight qualities: unconditionality, spontaneity, incomprehensibility, wisdom, compassion, power, benefit to oneself, and benefit to others. Explore what these qualities mean and who or what is the ultimate “buddha” in the context of buddha-nature teachings by reading Root Verses I.5.
Mind, in essence, is luminous and pure Buddha-Nature.~ Laṅkāvatārasūtra