I once watched Stephen Hawking’s The Story of Everything. In it, he explained how gravity is the fundamental force driving the evolution of everything. The law of gravity states that matter attracts matter according to the relative mass of the objects. In other words, the apple falls to the earth because the earth has a larger mass relative to the apple, though both the apple and the earth each exert some pull. The entire universe, from the big bang to the big crunch and everything in between is governed by the laws of gravity. There are similar concepts in the social sciences, such as political gravity, economic gravity, and the theory of the transition of great powers. The fundamental point about gravity is understanding it’s dynamic process. A bigger mass attracts a smaller mass, and as a result the bigger mass gets even bigger, thus attracting in yet another smaller mass in a continuous cycle. This continues indefinitely resulting in a cycle of creation. But creation and destruction are simply two different perspectives on the same process. Schumpter coined the phrase “creative destruction.” Buddha called it subtle impermanence.
The exact same process occurs at a spiritual level. There is the physical level to reality, the verbal level to reality and the mental level of reality. Emptiness explains that the physical and verbal arise from the mental – everything is created by the mind. But emptiness is just a fact of how things work, and the union of karma and emptiness is the supreme view according to Sutra, and the union of the Chittamatrin and Madhyamika-Prasangika schools the supreme view according to Tantra. But even these are just facts governing the mental plane. The inner core of the mental plane is the spiritual. The spiritual unites and harmonizes the bodily, verbal and mental planes (hence the deities of the body mandala). All spiritual paths have reliance upon the Spiritual Guide as the core of the spiritual path. A spiritual guide is like a star in the universe, or more accurately a super black hole at the core of a Galaxy cluster. At the core of reliance upon the Spiritual Guide we have faith, the essence of spiritual life. Qualified faith is a trusting based upon a valid reason. It is not blind. The core valid reason in Kadampa Buddhism is the fact of emptiness according to the Tantra-Prasangika view. From this, all other valid reasons emerge.
Faith then has three levels: believing faith, admiring faith and wishing faith. First we develop a believing faith in wisdom (virtuous intelligence). Then we develop an admiring faith, marveling at the beauty of wisdom. From this arises wishing faith, the wish to embody in ourselves the beautiful wisdom we admire. To embody this wisdom, we must attain the perfection of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. We perfect these types of action through generating bodhichitta, the wish to become a Buddha for the sake of all. The core of bodhichitta then strives to become not just any Buddha, but to become one with our Spiritual Guide. To voluntarily wish to unite with the Spiritual sun of the Spiritual Guide, to surf the laws of spiritual gravity towards the center. So we wish to unite with the guru. We accomplish this primarily through the practice of guru yoga, where we mix our mind inseparably with that of our guru. First we come into contact with his outer emanation body, or the Spiritual Guide we meet in this world. Then we come into contact with his inner Emanation bodies, or the Buddhas he introduces us to.
Amongst the Buddhas he introduces us to, there are three in particular that are the synthesis of all the others. These three deities are Guru, Yidam and Protector. (Note, there is a trinity in many different religions). Within the context of Kadampa Buddhism, Guru is Je Tsongkhapa, Yidam is Heruka/Vajrayogini, and Protector is Dorje Shugden. There are other Spiritual Guides also rotating around our Spiritual Guide, such as the Dalai Lama or Lama Yeshe, etc. These in turn are all students of Trijang Rinpoche. The “fued” between Kadampas and the followers of the Dalai Lama is actually inter-vajra-familial dispute viewed from the wrong perspective, where we agree on who the Guru is, but have slight differences on who the Yidam is and especially who the Protector is. This is why resolving within ourselves the apparent contradictions about the Kadampa view versus the Dalai Lama’s view is so important. Of course different people will resolve this differently – some will resolve it in the direction of Venerable Geshe-la, some will resolve it in the direction of the Dalai Lama, and some will try stay on the fence forever! Actually beyond all of those are those who seek to resolve both views simultaneously. My resolution is they are right for them, we are right for us, and neither one of us is right for the other. Anyways, I digress. Back to Spiritual gravity.
So the root is guru yoga, ultimately as guru, yidam and protector. The synthesis of these three is actually the real guru. This in tern synthesizes down from Protector into Yidam, then Yidam into indestructible drop, then indestructible drop into the seed letter. From the seed letter into the nada. From the nada into the 8 dissolutions. From the 8 dissolutions into the clear light (the other side of the black hole of black near attainment just before the clear light on the other side). The clear light is not just emptiness, but the union of the mind of great bliss realizing the truth of emptiness directly with our very subtle mind. This is the Dharmakaya (or Truth Body) Spiritual Guide. The guru yoga/self-generation as the Dharmakaya takes us straight into perfect union with the Spiritual Guide (who himself is the synthesis of all the Buddhas). This is our final destination (for now at least…). Sadhana practices are then the methods for accomplishing these unions. Offering to the Spiritual Guide, Tantric Self-Initiation and Melodious Drum condense into the Yoga of Buddha Heruka, which is my daily practice.
So how can we accelerate this process of spiritual gravity? By increasing our own spiritual mass. We do this by gaining realizations ourselves for the sake of others. The more realizations we gain, the more we attract other spiritual mass, drawing others closer to us. This is Sangha. From Sangha’s emerge teachers. Amongst teachers emerge Resident Teachers. Amongst Resident Teachers emerge National Spiritual Directors. From amongst those emerge General Spiritual Directors. Each of these three words has great meaning. General means they are a generalist – they have sufficiently mastered and synthesized all of the different Dharma practices that they are a generalist (or equally balanced towards all expertises). Director means they are a manager of others and their activities. And Spiritual qualifies both General and Director. The subject matter that they are a generalist towards and the group of human beings they are a Director for are others of the same spiritual tradition. We are now entering the Facebook generation, so it only seems fitting that the model of Spiritual Guide in this world is transitioning from a unitary entity to a social network of potential, actual and former General Spiritual Directors and their students. But all retain the same root guru, namely Venerable Geshe-la, who arises from Trijang Rinpoche all the way back in the lineage to Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara.
Buddha Shakyamuni is the fourth of the thousand Buddhas of this fortunate aeon. This does not mean there will only be one thousand Buddhas in this aeon. Rather, this means there will be one thousand “founder Buddhas” in this aeon. A founding Buddha is one that arises from a time in which there were no Buddhas in this world, then one came and established the Dharma, this Dharma flourished for a period, then it dissipated and finally disappeared for a long long time until a new founder Buddha comes. A thousand of these will come in this fortunate aeon. An aeon is about the time of a big bang cycle or the lifespan of earth, depending on your perspective. But there will also be non-fortunate aeons, and clusters of such aeons, etc.
The transition of birth, ageing, sickness, death, intermediate state, and rebirth into a new life is a process/cycle we must master and transcend. Enlightenment is the permanent and irreversible transcending of this process/cycle. Are there steps after that? Probably, but that will probably be for after we attain enlightenment…
We master birth, ageing, sickness and death through the Sutra practices, and we master death, intermediate state and rebirth with our Tantric practices. The union of Sutra and Tantra, then unties and purifies this entire cycle of birth, ageing, sickness, death, intermediate state and rebirth. When this process is completely purified for the first time, we ourselves are reborn into the pure land. A state from which we will never fall again. But it is not enough to just attain the pure land for ourselves, we then need to build our own pure land which will function like a giant sun in the spiritual cosmos, drawing in more and more beings. One meaning for Chakrasambara is the gathering and purifying of all phenomena into the Dharmakaya. We seek to become that. From there, we spontaneously liberate all beings continuously until they are all completely purified.
In the process of moving towards this state of continuously liberating others (like a limitless self-regenerating spiritual fusion reaction), we will leave behind a legacy of our deeds as a bodhisattva. This legacy of deeds can take bodily, verbal and mental forms. Bodily in terms of our students and their descendents, verbal in terms of our written and spoken words, and mental in terms of the specific realizations we have attained for the sake of others. Even after we have passed into enlightenment, these legacies continue to spotaneously liberate all beings. This legacy is our spiritual reliquary.
A reliquary is something that exists in the world that continues to provide benefit long after the person who left the reliquary has passed on. Reliquaries can also take digital form. The blogs and virtual community which are arising are such a digital form. This is the virtual sangha. From this will emerge virtual teachers, virtual resident teachers, etc., just like occured in the physical world (but perhaps with different names). Just as Venerable Geshe-la now tweets and has a Facebook page, soon so too will all of the General Spiritual Directors (past, present and future). It will be how they emanate themselves into the virtual world, much in the same way Buddhas emanate themselves into countless other worlds.
So from our practical perspective, our task is to increase our spiritual mass by gaining more realizations. This will draw people to us, who we help unite in families (biological or spiritual), creating a self-accumulating process of growing spiritual mass. We keep doing that until we unite with the biggest spiritual mass near us, the Spiritual Guide, etc. In this way the entire cycle repeats itself in an endless process of spiritual accumulation until all has been united in the perfect harmony of endless spiritual creative destruction.
Within the Kadampa Tradition, we have certain days which form the Kadampa calendar. They are Tsog Days, Heruka and Vajrayogini Month, NKT Day, Buddha’s Enlightenment Day, Turning the Wheel of Dharma Day, Buddha’s Return from Heaven Day, Je Tsongkhapa Day, then International Temples Day. I believe it is Venerable Geshe-la’s intention that we view International Temples Day as our spiritually most holy day. It is our Christmas Day where we give the world the gift of Kadampa Temples, much like we give our normal family presents. What are international Kadampa Temples? They are spiritual centers of gravity. Around temples orbit main centers, around main centers orbit branch centers, around branch centers orbit students, around students orbit their families and loved ones endlessly until eventually all spiritual beings are gathered and dissolved into complete purity. The temples themselves rotate around Manjushri center, the mother center of the Kadampa Tradition. That in turn revolves around the legacy Venerable Geshe-la is leaving for us to serve as cutodians of the lineage. On top of Mount Meru is a Kadampa Buddhist Temple. This is the real mother center where our Spiritual Guide resides. International Temples Day is ultimately a giant family reunion of all temples into this varja temple on top of Mount Meru. It is here that we do Tantric empowerments.
This post is posted on International Temples Day. Today is a ten million multiplying day, so the spiritual power of all that we do is multiplied by ten million times (like a karmic pulsar). I dedicate any merit accumulated from writing this post to the rapid accumulation of spiritual mass inside the minds of all Kadampas and ultimately all living beings.
Your turn: Describe what are the major sources of spiritual gravity in your life, and what you are doing to stay close to them.