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Thought Transformation and Other Commentaries

 

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The students invited Ven. Chodron to speak in the traditional Chinese Mahayana fashion
The students invite Ven. Chodron to teach in the traditional Chinese Mahayana fashion.

Ven. Chodron offers incense to the Three Jewels before the teaching.
Ven. Chodron offers incense to the Three Jewels before the teaching.

Meditating and setting a positive motivation before the teaching.
Meditating and setting a positive motivation before the teaching.

The audience.
The audience.

After the teachings, Sherrine, Hao Xiang and Chong Yen take turns to offer flowers.

After the teachings, Sherrine, Hao Xiang and Chong Yen take turns to offer flowers.

After the teachings, Sherrine, Hao Xiang and Chong Yen take turns to offer flowers.

 

Many people came up to make offerings and ask questions following the talks, while others request for Ven. Chodron's autograph.

Many people come up to make offerings and ask questions following the talks, while others request for Ven. Chodron's autograph.

Many people came up to make offerings and ask questions following the talks, while others request for Ven. Chodron's autograph.

 

The dedicated team from Pureland Marketing setting up the audio and video systems before the teaching.

The dedicated team from Pureland Marketing setting up the audio and video systems before session begins.

The dedicated team from Pureland Marketing setting up the audio and video systems before the teaching.

 

Ven. Chodron and Ven. Yong Jia of Tai Pei Buddhist Centre
Ven. Chodron meeting Ven. Yong Jia of Tai Pei Buddhist Centre, Oct 2006

Ven. Chodron teaching at Tai Pei Buddhist Centre, Oct 2006
Ven. Chodron at the teachings in Oct 2006.

Offering Flowers
Hao Xiang and Chong Yen offering flowers at the end of the teachings in Oct 2006.

 

Commentary on
Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life

by Venerable Thubten Chodron©



 

Chapter 1: The Benefit of the Spirit of
Awakening (Bodhicitta)
17 to 20 Apr, 2006. Jointly organised by Tai Pei Buddhist Centre and Pureland Marketing, Singapore.

Session 1 on 17 Apr 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Setting motivation; intro to the text and the author, Shantideva ~ The 3-stage process in learning the Dharma: hear, reflect, meditate ~ How to listen to the teachings: analogy of the 3 types of pots ~ Overview of the text.
[20 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Explanation of basic Buddhist principles so that we know the setting or the world view from which Shantideva is speaking ~ What is the mind? It’s not the brain. Mind is clear and aware. ~ How happiness and suffering are created by our own mind, not by something external, and therefore, the path we practise is the path of transforming our own minds.
[22 min]: Download mp3 (Note: the last 1 minute of the recording is not so clear)

Part 3: The 4 Seals – how understanding each of these affects our lives.
[22 min]: Download mp3 (Note: the first 5 minutes of the recording is not so clear)

Part 4: Q&A
[20 min]: Download mp3

Topics covered:

  1. The benefits of offering light
  2. Problems/difficulties faced when propagating Dharma in the West compared to the East
  3. Is there a bigger force called Creator which actually governs our experiences as human beings?
  4. Does karma mean that things are predestined? What do we have control over in our life?
  5. How do we deal with depression and the negative mind?

 

Session 2 on 18 Apr 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Setting motivation ~ The Buddhist worldview: Our Buddha potential. How do we know liberation and full enlightenment exist?
[31 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: To get us going on the path, we need to have the determination to be free from cyclic existence. Also called renunciation, which refers to renouncing suffering, not renouncing happiness.
[21 min]: Download mp3

Without renunciation, mind is small and thinks only of this life, so:

  1. we keep blaming others for our suffering
  2. we have very little motivation to practise because we are putting effort into improving our life in cyclic existence

With renunciation:

  1. we aren’t caught in the “dramas” of our daily life
  2. we want to transform everything in daily life into the path
  3. we see precepts and guidelines as how we want to live because they lead us to liberation, not as ‘shoulds’.

Part 3: Chapter 1, Verse 1.
[12 min]: Download mp3

Part 4: Q&A
[24 min]: Download mp3

Topics covered:

  • Who created us – the mind and body?
  • The Buddha talked about heaven and hell. How can we verify that they really exist?
  • How would I know who is my Root Guru? What feeling would I have?
  • How do I handle anger?
  • Prayer request.
  • Dealing with spirits.
  • About conditioned and unconditioned phenomena; contaminated phenomena; impermanent and permanent phenomena; dependent arising; enlightenment.
  • How do we practice impermanence?

 

Session 3 on 19 Apr 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Chapter 1, Verses 2 & 3. Setting motivation ~ Humility goes together with self-confidence; arrogance goes together with low self-esteem.
[22 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 1, Verse 4. ‘Having to do something’ vs. ‘Choosing to do something’.
[34 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Chapter 1, Verses 5 & 6
[15 min]: Download mp3

Part 4: Q&A
[20 min]: Download mp3

Topics covered:

  • Given that each of us is responsible for our own happiness, what does it mean to say that I will take the responsibility to liberate all beings from suffering? How can such an aspiration be fulfilled?
  • We all have Buddha nature, but how did we lose our Buddha nature in the first place? If we gain back our Buddha nature through Enlightenment, will we lose it again?
  • Could you kindly explain how do making prayers help someone’s children who are not doing well in school, someone’s mother who is sick, and someone who is not doing well in her career?
  • What’s the difference between full Enlightenment and liberation?
  • Can prayers be dedicated to those who’ve passed away many years ago?
  • You mentioned that a person is arrogant because he is insecure. How do we deal with him when he becomes difficult?

 

Session 4 on 20 Apr 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Chapter 1, Verses 7 to 12. Setting motivation ~ Definition of bodhicitta ~ Why bodhicitta is so precious.
[30 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 1, Verses 13 to 26
[31 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Chapter 1, Verses 27 to 36; Q&A
[30 min]: Download mp3

Topics covered in Q&A session:

  • About the annual retreat at Sravasti Abbey.
  • You mentioned that a person is arrogant because he is insecure. How do we deal with him when he becomes difficult?
  • Other religions also teach compassion. Is this bodhicitta? Is Mother Teresa a bodhisattva?

 

Chapter 2: Disclosure of Wrongdoing
23 to 26 Oct, 2006. Jointly organised by Tai Pei Buddhist Centre and Pureland Marketing, Singapore.

Session 1 on 23 Oct 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching; Introducing Shantideva. Recap of Chapter One: The Benefits of Bodhicitta. [44 min]: Download mp3

Part 2:
Introduction to Chapter Two
Chapter 2, Verse 1. Explanation of the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Do they need offerings from us? Why make offerings?
Chapter 2, Verses 2 to 6. Why do we imagine the offerings rather than make actual offerings?
[27 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A [38 min]: Download mp3

  • Is it possible to live a life that is completely virtuous? Can we be considered a Buddhist if we are not completely virtuous?
  • You mentioned we’re fortunate to be born here and not in Darfur. What is the karmic cause for that?
  • Can one choose not to be reborn?
  • You mentioned that what one is thinking at the point of death influences what karma will ripen for the next rebirth. What about people who die in their sleep who are not thinking at the time of death?
  • Are realized beings who have the ability to meditate through their death able to choose their rebirth?
  • Are you able to see the good karma from getting ordained from your own experience?
  • What happens if one repeatedly commits adultery? How does one prevent it from happening?
  • Can negative karma be neutralized?
  • Can our merit be measured?
  • Is there such a thing as karmic connection between people that explains why there is strong enmity between some people and good connection between others?
  • Which is more important – training our mind and cultivating love and compassion or just doing mantra recitation? I heard that mantra recitation has many benefits and is a short cut to Enlightenment.
  • How do prayers and offerings made on behalf of people affect their karma and help them? Do ordained people have more potential to improve others’ karma?

Recitation of the verses covered & Dedication of positive potential.

 

Session 2 on 24 Oct 2006
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching ~ Dealing with problems. [31 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 2, Verses 7 to 23. [40 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A
[35 min]: Download mp3

  • If the world should come to an end, does it mean there is no more chance to be reborn as a human in our next life?
  • How do we see emptiness in daily situations?
  • Will sterilization of animals create unwholesome karma?
  • We all know that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an enlightened master. How come he still cannot give up the attachment of wanting Tibet to be free and independent?
  • How can I advise or help a relative to lessen her negative karma of having done two abortions?
  • Can mentally ill people have a healthy mind in their next life?
  • Can people with mental illness, in particular depression or having panic attacks, practise meditation? If I continue to avoid creating negative karma, create positive karma, and practise metta meditation in this life, will I be reborn without any mental illness in my next life so that I can practise meditation and gain Enlightenment?
  • What is the karmic effect of killing?
  • You mentioned that we are fortunate to be born in a land of plenty while our fellow human beings are suffering in Africa. Shouldn’t they be happy to suffer because without the ripening of the seeds of negative karma, there will be no bliss?
  • Are the viruses that bring the bird blu sentient beings? What is the karma of killing all the birds? Do we have to face the consequences?

Recitation of the verses covered & Dedication of positive potential.

 

Session 3 on 25 Oct 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching. ~ How can we avoid wasting our life? What criteria do we use to help us make decisions? Attachment to approval and good reputation ruin our relationships. [28 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 2, Verses 24 to 29. [35 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Chapter 2, Verses 30 to 39. [16 min]: Download mp3

Part 4: Q&A
[23 min]: Download mp3

  • Taking the bodhisattva vows entails committing to it in our future lives as well. How can we ensure that in our future lives, we will still continue taking this responsibility?
  • How can I learn to let go and watch my children make mistakes? I want to get out of this suffering of worrying and nagging at them.
  • How can I help my late mother to create more positive karma and have a good rebirth?
  • What are your views on worshipping the Buddha’s and his disciples’ relics? Isn’t Buddhism becoming commercialised, or is this my wrong view?
  • If Mother Teresa were a Buddhist, since her heart is pure and brimming with so much loving-kindness and compassion, would she have gone very far on the path to Enlightenment?
  • If people want to do serious Dharma practice, will marriage and childbirth hinder their spiritual progress? On the other hand, what are the benefits of marriage and childbirth to their Dharma practice?

Recitation of the verses covered & Dedication of positive potential.

 

Session 4 on 26 Oct 2006   
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1:
Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching.
Recap of previous material.
Chapter 2, Verses 40 to 48.

[30 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 2, Verses 49 to 65. [35 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A [36 min]: Download mp3

  • What are the differences among the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism?
  • What is proper to think and beneficial to do when somebody is dying? / What can I do when I come across a cat that is dying from a car accident?
  • What is the difference between self-grasping and self-cherishing/self-centredness?
  • It is said that to be kind to others, we have to first be kind to ourselves. What does it mean to be kind to ourselves?
  • What would you suggest as a good practice for victims of wrong-doers to heal the imploded anger, the disappointment and so forth?
  • Many people have questions on how to help others get over their problems. Ven. Chodron stresses the importance of distinguishing between wanting to help and wanting to control.

Recitation of the verses covered & Dedication of positive potential.

 

Chapter 3: Adopting the Spirit of Awakening
17 to 20 Apr, 2008. Jointly organised by Tai Pei Buddhist Centre and Pureland Marketing, Singapore.

Session 1 on 17 Apr 2008  
Download Transcript (pdf format) 

Part 1: Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching. ~ Brief intro to the book. ~ How to develop love and compassion. ~ Love is wanting all beings to have happiness and the causes of happiness. What is happiness and what are the causes of happiness? ~ Compassion is the wish for all beings to be free of suffering and its causes. What is suffering? What are the causes of suffering? ~ Developing the mind of equanimity. [35 min]: Download mp3

Part 2:
Brief recap of the previous two chapters. ~ Chapter 3, Verses 1-3.
[23 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A [28 min]: Download mp3

  • Can ‘oceanic virtue’ in Chapter 3, verse 3 include wisdom?
  • If somebody has an abortion, what should they do to ensure that the unborn child has a good rebirth?
  • Which is more important – wisdom or compassion?
  • Both the Buddha and the beggar have no possessions and both are homeless. So what’s the difference between the Buddha and the beggar?
  • How does turning a prayer wheel help us reach enlightenment faster?
  • What happens if a person who is learning Dharma develops misunderstandings towards their Dharma teacher and does negative actions to that Dharma teacher and create a lot of negativity? What can they do about it?
  • I heard a high lama say: “This body is not mine. I’m not caught by this body. I have not been born and I will never die.” What does he mean?
  • I’ve read that schizophrenia is the experience of a shattered soul. What do you have to say about schizophrenia and depression? Is it possible to become well? What can be done to heal the soul?
  • How can I advise someone who is not Buddhist to stop having jealous feelings towards her loved one? I have already advised her to battle jealousy by feeling happy for her friend but she can’t do it.

 

Session 2 on 18 Apr 2008
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching ~ How the self-centered mind works. How it interferes with our happiness now and in the future. ~  Opposing it and replacing it with the thought that cherishes others. [33 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 3, Verses 4-10. [36 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A
[22 min]: Download mp3

  • What’s the significance of taking refuge and the five precepts?
  • Is there a limit to helping someone?
  • In your book, you advised not to move somebody’s body after they have died for at least three days. In this case, wouldn’t it be impossible for us to donate our organs?
  • I have a friend who has cancer who practised tong len (taking and giving meditation). His condition worsened. Although it’s said that doing this meditation does not cause bad effects, sometimes it appears to do so. According to the law of attraction, when we want suffering and sickness, our subconscious may help bring this about. What’s your opinion?
  • Chapter Two, Verse 57 says: “If I stand very attentive even on a smaller cliff, then how much more so on an enduring chasm of a thousand leagues?” What does this verse mean?
  • When we practise love and compassion, will we eventually become attached to being helpful and good as well as be attached to the feeling of being good and helpful?
  • What would you say to someone who says: “I didn’t ask to be born” to their parents?
  • Is it realistic to vow or aspire to give everything away, i.e. are we supposed to take what Shantideva said literally?

 

Session 3 on 19 Apr 2008
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1: Homework on being kind to others. ~ Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching. ~ Taking responsibility for our unpleasant experiences without hating ourselves. Don’t follow the instructions of the self-centered mind. ~ The best way to bring happiness to ourselves is to cherish others. However it doesn’t mean that we always do what others want us to do.
[29 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 3 Verses 10-20. [41 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A
[24 min]: Download mp3

  • Please tell us more about the situation of Western monastics in the US.
  • Because of their noble intentions, Buddhists generally become more docile and people with other religious attitudes become more successful in life. If I become more successful, I may have more power, money, etc to benefit more people. What’s your opinion?
  • How can we help the victims in the recent Tibet crisis? Can we chant for them?
  • What does it mean when we say karma is ripening?
  • I’ve heard that sometimes when one is a novice monk or nun, some of his/her karma will ripen faster. Why is this so?
  • If I plan to join retreats or become a nun in the long term, how should I prepare myself?

 

Session 4 on 20 Apr 2008
Download Transcript (pdf format)

Part 1:
Setting a positive motivation for listening to the teaching. ~ Exchanging self and others. Tong Len: the Taking and giving meditation. Generating bodhicitta. [31 min]: Download mp3

Part 2: Chapter 3 Verses 22-33. [29 min]: Download mp3

Part 3: Q&A [23 min]: Download mp3

  • One of the precepts is not to kill. If we eat meat, isn’t that killing? How do we encourage people to be vegetarian?
  • In the book on Tara that you wrote, it’s said we can pray to Tara for wealth and Tara will grant it. But aren’t we encouraged as Buddhists not to be attached to wealth? My friend has been praying to Tara for years for wealth but still hasn’t gotten it. Why hasn’t Tara granted him wealth?
  • Gambling is not one of the five precepts. Does this mean that gambling is not a negativity?
  • One of the main tenets of Buddhism is the law of cause and effect. It seems very mechanical to me. Does grace has any place in Buddhism?
  • I prostrate when I’m at the temple but I don’t prostrate to the Kuan Yin statue at my mum’s altar at home. Should I prostrate to the Kuan Yin statue when I come home from work?
  • How do we apply justice and equality in daily life? Does justice mean equal treatment for all? That’s difficult.
  • I see the importance of benefiting sentient beings and that’s very noble. But I don’t see the importance of enlightenment. Why is attaining enlightenment a worthy goal?

 

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