Cutting Through Appearances

The following article is from the Autumn, 1990 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism

By Geshe Lhundup Sopa & Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins

This recent publication is a cornerstone of Buddhismit is a practical manual of meditation and the theory that supports it. This book provides the foundation needed by any sincere practitioner to be able to follow the mahayana and vajrayana paths. By following the meditations explained in Part 1 concomitant with a rigorous cleansing of wrong views outlined in Part 2, a major step can be taken on the Buddhist path. The practice of Tibetan Buddhism is founded on a thorough study of Buddhist theory, the practices being the means of internalizing theory to the point where it becomes spontaneously lived experience.

In Part 1, the three principal aspects of the path, the essence of all the nearly countless scriptures of Buddha and their commentaries, are presented as meditations to be realized. The three aspects are: the intention to leave cyclic existence, the cultivation of an altruistic aspiration to highest enlightenment, and the third is the cultivation of the correct view. These are not to be seen as merely partial or introductory, they are written from the point of view of the highest of the philosophical schools, the Prasangika Madhyamika.

Without firm establishment of these three, no real progress in tantra can be accomplished. The intention definitely to leave cyclic existence is as essential to the practice of tantra as it is to that of sutra; in tantra the discipline is even stricter than that of the sutra systems. The aspiration to enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings is the assumption of the burden of freeing all sentient beings from misery and joining them with happiness and one's consequent wish for Buddhahood, the state wherein one actually has the power to effect one's promise to free all beings through teaching the path. It forms the motivation for tantra practice as well as for sutra practice, the correct view is the realization of emptiness, the realization that all phenomena do not exist inherently, are just imputations by thought, nominally existent and effective but not to be found under ultimate analysis. Emptiness itself is the life of sutra and tantra.

Part 2 is an excellent analysis of the four tenet systems in Buddhism. The Buddha spoke of the importance of tenets in the Lankavatara Sutra: My doctrine has two modes, advice and tenets, to children I speak advice and to yogis, tenets. In order to clear the mind of wrong views which are the root cause of our suffering, the analysis of the nature of reality is delved into with special emphasis on the two truths, consciousness, the hindrances to enlightenment, the paths to freedom and the fruits of practice.

Cutting Through Appearances is available from Snow Lion for $15.95.

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