Our main practice: faith in the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa

At the Summer Festival this year, Gen-la Dekyong said something astounding.  She said that Venerable Geshe-la admits to having only one realization:  “Faith in the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa.  But this is enough.”  This was a message she emphasized many times during her teachings.  It was clear that her main and indeed only practice is reliance upon her Spiritual Guide.  This is our Guru’s main practice, and so therefore all of his teachings should be viewed through this lens.

How can we understand this?  First, we must understand who is Je Tsongkhapa and second we understand how faith alone is enough.  Who is the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa?  He is the synthesis of all three jewels in Kadampa form.  He is the embodiment of all good in Kadampa form.  He is the union of all of the compassion, wisdom and spiritual power of all of the Buddhas in Kadampa form.  According to Highest Yoga Tantra he is known as Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka.  Guru means he is by nature our Spiritual Guide.  Sumati means he is the Je Tsongkhapa of Sutra.  Buddha means he is Buddha Shakyamuni.  Heruka means he is Buddha Heruka, in particular Dharmakaya Heruka.  Each of these four are aspects of one being, him.   In short, he is the embodiment of the Kadampa path of Sutra and Tantra.  For us Kadampas, he is the highest and supreme object of refuge.   Within our tradition, we view all of the different deities as being emanated by Je Tsongkhapa.  The main deities on the Kadampa path are Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Vajradyara, Manjushri, Avalokitehsvara, Vajrapani, Dorje Shugden, Heruka and Vajrayogini.  Reliance on Dorje Shugden deserves particular mention.  We are to very clearly understand that Je Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden are actually two different aspects of the same being.  So it is impossible for us to deny one and affirm the other.  Venerable Geshe-la has also made it very clear that we are to realize this dual nature of Je Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden.  All of the polemics with the Dalai Lama/Dorje Shugden issue can be seen in this light.

Why is faith in him enough?  We can understand this by understanding the relationship between faith and realization.  Faith begins with believing faith.  Believing faith is we believe in an object of Dharma based on valid reasons.  Valid reasons derive from logic and our own personal experience of the truth of Dharma.  When we have believing faith of an object of Dharma, such as cherishing others is the root of all happiness and cherishing ourself is the root of all suffering, then we naturally come to admire that object of Dharma, marveling at how incredible it is!  This is admiring faith.  When we admire something, then we naturally want that thing for ourself, for example wanting to have the realization that sees the truth of cherishing self and others.  This wishing faith then naturally leads to effort in our practice to gain this realization.  From our effort comes the actual attainments, in this case our realization of exchanging self with others.  So the meaning here is faith alone sets in motion this chain of events, which fall naturally and automatically like dominos.

So why is faith in the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa alone enough to assure the final attainment of enlightenment?  Because the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa is the very embodiment of the Kadampa path.  By generating believing faith in all of his amazing good qualities of body, speech and mind we will later naturally and automatically eventually attain all of the attainments of wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa within our own body, speech and mind.  The book Great Treasury of Merit is our root text for generating believing faith in all of his good qualities.  From this it is clear that faith alone in the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa “is enough.”

It is quite significant that our Spiritual Guide has admitted to only one quality.  He is doing so to reveal to us that this is the most important thing.  It is not unlike Christians whose main practice is faith in Jesus.  Since Western and modern culture are profoundly influenced by Christian norms and values, it seems only natural that the adaptation of Kadampa Buddhism to the modern context would function best when faith in the supreme object of refuge of the path is the main and sufficient practice. Realizing this fully will take the tradition light years ahead in terms of being able to seamlessly integrate Kadampa Buddhism into modern life.  Gen-la Dekyong said that the mission of the tradition is to attain the union of modern life and Kadampa Buddhism.

This has helped me recall that reliance upon the Spiritual Guide is the sole activity on the path.  But more than this, it has deepened this understanding tremendously because it provides exact specificity as to how we are to do it – namely by generating faith in the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa.  Thus I am going to make this my main practice at least between now and Portugal.  I’m excited to get started!

7 thoughts on “Our main practice: faith in the wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa

  1. Thanks KR,
    I wanted to share with you a very special appearing
    when our RT gave the empowerment of Je Tsongkhapa
    in the garden of our Center,
    was this beautiful caterpillar it was 3.5 inches long,
    but it had this wonderful JTK´s colors on it….
    i decide to put it like my profile pick,
    hope you enjoy it.

  2. Thanks so much for all the teachings! It always inspire and help me a lot!
    So much pure knowledge in this post!

    But I feel in obligation to warn you about a very little mistake… you have used y instead of h in the name of Buda Vajradhara here: “The main deities on the Kadampa path are Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Vajradyara”!

  3. Thank you for this. You have helped me alot to understand the meaning of “Om Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka Sarwa Siddhi Hum”

    I was disparaging myself for my weak and inconsistent practice but I feel better knowing that I have never lost faith in Je Tsonghapa and Dorje Shugden 🙂

    • No matter how much we do, we can always do more. If we judge ourselves because we are not doing this more, then we will never be happy with our practice. It is far better to genuinely rejoice in what we do do than constantly berate ourselves for what we don’t. This is the Joyful Path, not the Guilty Path.

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