Thought Transformation and Other Commentaries


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Nagarjuna's Precious Garland
by Venerable Thubten Chodron©
Sravasti Abbey, Washington, USA
17-25 December 2006

From December 17-25, 2006, at Sravasti Abbey, Newport, WA, Geshe Jampa Tegchok taught for nine days on the text “A Precious Garland of Advice to a King” by Nagarjuna.

Venerable Thubten Chodron complemented these teachings for eight days giving commentary and background. The following is an outline for eight teachings given by Ven. Chodron.

18 December

Venerable Thubten Chodron sets the background and explains the world view behind the teachings, explaining who Nagarjuna was, why he wrote The Precious Garland and his aspiration to teach all beings. The text focuses on the purpose of our “fortunate state”; having a precious life with a virtuous mind and on that “definite goodness” is attaining liberation and enlightenment.  Venerable explains the Buddhist world view of cyclic existence, karma, bodhicitta and what it means to be a person.
Q & A
1) Is the mind in the heart?
2) If there’s a continuation of beings, why does the number of humans and other beings fluctuate so much?
3) Does one moment build on the next? How do we get smarter?
4)  If the mind is clarity and awareness, why can’t we remember our previous lives?
Audio: 70 minutes : Download mp3 file
Transcript : Download Word document

19 December

The two natures of the mind; dependent conventional clarity and awareness; the ultimate deeper mode of existence of the mind (“the mind does not abide in the mind”); the emptiness of all phenomena, including the self, the “soul”, moments of anger, attachment and ignorance; the problems of self-grasping ignorance, self-centered thoughts and afflictions, actions and their karmic effects; the six realms in the Buddhist world view; uncontrolled recycling in samsara; renouncing the dissatisfied mind, the determination to be free of “low-grade happiness."
Audio: 58 minutes : Download mp3 file
Transcript : Download Word document

20 December

Dukkha, the first noble truth, the three types of suffering –gross suffering; suffering of change and the pervasive suffering of being in a body and mind subject to obscurations, afflictions, aging, sickness and death; the suffering of attachment and aversion; the lack of control and freedom in this kind of body and mind; developing equal compassion for all; the ignorance that gives rise to all this can be eliminated by the mental factor of wisdom that perceives things as they are. 
Q & A
- When you perceive emptiness directly, wisdom is manifest and when that mental factor recedes you see things as existent again.  What causes that? Why is it so important to perceive emptiness directly?
-What do you mean when you say everything is a hallucination or an illusion?
-Can you say exactly what you mean when you say, “meditate on emptiness”?

Audio: 68 minutes : Download mp3 file
Transcript : Download Word document

21 December

Major themes of the text: fortunate states as humans or gods and definite liberation-full enlightenment. The first two noble truths: dukka/suffering and its causes; inappropriate attention; the four distortions and how they operate in our minds:
1-seeing the impermanent as permanent;
2-seeing the unclean as clean;
3-seeing what is suffering or dukka as happiness.
(The fourth one is covered in the next session).

Q & A
-Why doesn’t the Dalai Lama do more about the situation with Tibet and China?
-Could his actions lead to people not helping more because most people in the world think you have to react violently or not at all?
-How do I make a healthy relationship, not super-imposing a wrong view on my husband?  What is the difference between love and attachment with my husband?
-I have a lot of scattering of mind (distractions) in the meditations; what can I do to work with this while I am sitting?

Audio: 57 minutes : Download mp3 file
Transcript : Download Word document

22 December

The fourth distortion: seeing what does not have a self as having a self; thinking that things without inherent existence do exist inherently. The three ways of apprehending phenomena: as inherently existent; as non-inherently existent; as neither inherently existent or not; seeing the “I” as inherently existent; grasping at inherent existence with negative and positive states of mind; the prasangika view of emptiness and dependent origination; ultimate and conventional existence.
Q & A
- Is the grasping mind a mental factor?  Is the grasping mind the one that carries the karma from one life to the other?  What is the mere I? 
-If the mind is not there, is it the karma that keeps the continuity going for cyclic existence?
-How do seeds of karma ripen in the mind stream and produce a result?
-I wonder if the truth can ever be found by thinking, since each time I think, there seems to be an “I” there.
-How does karma change?

Audio: 73 minutes : Download mp3 file

23 December

(this tape only has 6 minutes-the recording did not function after that.)
We try for happiness with many activities to establish our ego identity in this life and  we create negative karma and waste time doing this, as our death approaches. The bodhicitta mind, which develops the full wisdom, compassion and power of the mind contradicts the ego identity.  We need to explore the relationship between the self and the aggregates and to understand the differences.
Audio: 6 minutes : Download mp3 file
Transcript : Download Word document

24 December

Verses 25-27 learning the unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts in the text and in Geshe Tegchok’s teachings; seeing them as a description of our daily experiences; when upset or craving, the mind grasps at true existence; the mind is totally under the influence of delusions; the need for great compassion.  
Verse 25:  “Definite goodness” (referring to emptiness) is “frightening to the childish”; the aspect self (the I that appears as inherently existent) and the referent self (the merely labeled I); “the wise” can differentiate between these two; self-grasping as our enemy;
Verse 26, 27: The “I” and “mine”; wrong view of the transitory collection (the perishing aggregates), the appearance of the aggregates, the innate grasping at the “I” and other phenomena; meditation on emptiness of self; the object to be negated; the process of negation; the conventional valid cognizer; the mind realizing emptiness; the observed object; the object of the mode of apprehension.
Q: When we meditate with good concentration in a sadhana and do self-generation, when we stop do we meditate on dependent arising to contradict nihilism?  
Q:  Do ordinary beings apprehend the conventional “I”?  What exactly is that?
Audio: 81 minutes : Download mp3 file

25 December

Review of past two days:  the “aspect I” and “referent I”; how they appear to the wisdom realizing emptiness directly and to ordinary beings. The analogy of a reflection in a mirror; false appearance and how it does not harm appearance or function; conventional existence; another meditation on emptiness of the person.
The continuum of a person; a specific I for each lifetime; and a general I over many life times that are related through karma; brief overview of the 12 links of dependent arising; looking at the twelve links over several lifetimes.

Verse 37: how to cut the 12 links: best places to cut are at feeling and craving or at death, stopping the craving and grasping, seeing all as emptiness. Refuting inherent existence: other texts that are referred to are: “The Diamond Slivers” and “The Fundamental Wisdom” by Nagarjuna.  The production of things: from self; from inherently existent others, from a combination of self and others; or without causes (nihilists)’ there’s no inherent production from any of these.
Q & A
Q. Is the person who is a collection of aggregates a conventional existence? 
Q: About rebirth, there are different Buddhist traditions, in Theravadan Buddhism, you are trying for liberation for yourself—but aren’t you also caring for the person in the next life of your mind continuum?
Q:  To ordinary beings, we see and fear danger—is that from the “I” being in danger?
Q:  The self-grasping I is to be negated in emptiness meditation, how does that relate to the “I” in tonglen meditation?
Q:  What is the moment of consciousness when the seed ripens?
Audio: 81 minutes : Download mp3 file


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