In this post I will try explain the benefits of establishing a close connection with Je Tsongkhapa, then in the next post I will begin the actual commentary to the Heart Jewel Sadhana.
First of all, who is Je Tsongkhapa)? Je Tsongkhapa was a monk in the 14th century who reconsolidated all of Buddha’s teachings and presented them in an easy to understand manner. Buddha Shakyamuni, Atisha, and Je Tsongkhapa are all the same mental continuum. Buddha Shakyamuni founded the Dharma in this world, it then spread out in various lineages. Atisha reassembled all the lineages into the Lamrim. It then spread out in various lineages, and Je Tsongkhapa reassembed them all together in the 14th century.
Je Tsongkhapa founded the New Kadampa Tradition, of which we are the latest generation. His main function was to unite Sutra and Tantra. We can adopt the view that Geshe-la is the same mental continuum as Je Tsongkhapa. What Je Tsongkhapa did in Tibet in the 14th Century, Geshe-la is doing today in the modern world.
What is the Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa? What then is the path that he teaches? If the entire path to enlightenment were laid out before us, we would see that there are three stages. They can be thought of like a funnel. The first part is the Lamrim, or the stages of the path. The Lamrim is the condensation of all 84,000 of Buddha’s instructions, reduced down to the essential instructions. By practicing the Lamrim, we are directly or indirectly practicing all 84,000 of Buddha’s instructions. Essentially the Lamrim is a description of reality. What we are doing is we are adopting the perspective of an enlightened being. By adopting this perspective as our own, we will naturally act the way an enlightened being acts. This is the top part of the funnel.
The second major part is Lojong, or training the mind. Technically this is part of the Lamrim, but is extracted as something separate in order to emphasize its importance. Here we are primarily concerned with perfecting our motivation, especially in the face of adversity. Lojong presents powerful methods for transforming every moment of our lives, day and night, into powerful methods for attaining enlightenment. The conclusion of Lojong is we must become a Buddha for the benefit of all. The main wish is to lead all living beings to freedom. To accomplish this wish, we need to first become a Buddha, someone who has the ability to do this. This is the bottom part of the funnel.
The third stage of his path is Vajrayana Mahamudra, or Tantric practice. The conclusion of Lojong was we need to become a Buddha for the benefit of all, to accomplish this aim, we engage in Tantric practice. So the real conclusion of Lojong is we need to enter the Tantric path to enlightenment. In Tantra we find the actual methods for transforming our very subtle mind into the omnsicient wisdom of a Buddha. This is the tip of the funnel.
By drawing closer to Je Tsongkhapa, we draw ourselves closer to all of his Dharma. He is the embodiment of his Dharma. If all of his Dharma took a form, it would look like Je Tsongkhapa.
I would like to focus on three main benefits to the Je Tsongkhapa part of Heart Jewel (many others are explained in the book Heart Jewel): First, the practice of Heart Jewel prepares our mind for meditation. It accomplishes three main functions of purifying our negative karma, accumulating merit, and receiving blessings. This can be understood according to the analogy of driving. To drive, we need three things: a clear road, gasoline and spark plugs to ignite the gasoline. In the same way, through the practice of purification we clear the path within our mind of all obstacles standing in the way of our smooth cruising to enlightenment. We need the gasoline of abundant merit to power our journey, and we need the spark plugs of the guru’s blessings which ignite the gasoline causing the engine to turn.
Second, practicing Heart Jewel draws us closer to Je Tsongkhapa himself. We can understand this in two ways. First, in the sense of him becoming a special friend. It is a mistake to think we can only have as friends beings we can actually see with our physical eyes. Another name for a Buddhist is “an inner being.” This is actually a literal statement. A Buddha is a being who lives inside our mind. We can develop deep and close friendships with them where we feel their presence in our lives every moment of every day. Second, we draw closer to him in the sense of becoming just like him. We become what we mix our mind with. If we mix our mind with the Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa, the result will be to become him ourselves. What does this mean? Je Tsongkhapa is the supreme Kadampa Spiritual Guide. He is the same nature as Buddha Shakyamuni, the supreme guide of Sutra, and Vajradhara, the supreme guide of Tantra. Avalokiteshvara is the embodiment of his compassion. Manjusrhi is the embodiment of his wisdom. Vajrapani is the embodiment of his spiritual power. By drawing closer to Je Tsongkhapa through our practice of Heart Jewel, we will come to embody ourselves all of his good qualities.
Finally, drawing closer to Je Tsongkhapa enables us to gain all the realizations of his Lamrim, Lojong, and Vajrayana Mahamudra. By mixing our mind with Je Tsongkhapa, we mix our mind with his Dharma. Through this, we will receive very powerful special blessings to easily and quickly understand his Dharma. Je Tsongkhapa is the supreme Kadampa, and to wish to be a Kadampa is to wish to have the same spiritual qualities as Je Tsongkhapa.
In short, the most important thing we are striving for is to develop a personal relationship with this living Buddha. We want to bring him into our life, and come under his care and guidance. We want to feel his living presence in our lives, and develop a personal intimate relationship with him.