Dear friends,

I am pleased to announce that under the sponsorship of Do Ngag Kunphen Ling of Redding, CT and the Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Center of Howell, NJ an extraordinary teaching event will be held in New York City this summer, from August 13 to August 21. Gyume Khensur Lobsang Jampa Rinpoche, an esteemed Lama trained in the Gelukpa tradition, has accepted a request to present a teaching on Nāgārjuna’s Five Stages (S: pañcakrama, T: Rim pa lnga pa). This verse text, consisting of five chapters, is universally recognized as a vital resource on the completion stage instructions associated with the Guhyasamāja tradition of Anuttarayoga Tantra. Two teaching sessions will be held each day. There will be no charge for any of the classes.

A major goal of this teaching is to provide Western Buddhists with an opportunity to pursue the study of Mahayana Tantric Buddhism at the most advanced levels here in the United States. In addition, the organizers wish to extend this invitation to practitioners affiliated with all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism as well as to academic scholars who specialize in this area of study. The sole requirement for attending is that you have received a complete Anuttarayoga Tantra initiation from a qualified Buddhist master.

Gyume Khensur Lobsang Jampa Rinpoche was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1937. He entered the Mey College of Sera Monastery at the age of ten and studied there until 1959. After fleeing to India following the March 10 Lhasa uprising, he resumed his religious training there, first at Buxar in West Bengal and then in South India in 1970 when the exile seat of Sera Monastery was established at the Bylakuppe Settlement Camp. In 1986 he was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree. After this, he entered Gyume Tantric College, near the town of Hunsur in the Mysore District of Karnataka State. Upon completion of his tantric studies, he held the positions of Gekö (T: dGe bskos)—or Proctor—and Lama Umdze (T: Bla ma dbu mdzad), the leader that presides over the daily Tantric rituals. In November 1996, His Holiness the Dalai Lama appointed him as Khenpo, or Abbot, a position which he held for three years. During this time, he taught the curriculum of Tantric studies to successive classes of Geshe monk scholars. Khensur Rinpoche first visited the United States in 1996. After returning to the U.S. again several times, he accepted a five-year position as resident teacher at the Guhyasamaja Center in Washington, D.C. He currently resides at Do Ngak Kunphen Ling in Redding, CT.

Within the Gelukpa tradition, the instructions and practice associated with the Guhyasamāja Tantra are considered to represent the pinnacle of Mahayana Tantric Buddhism. They form one of the many bodies of instruction that the founder of this tradition, Je Tsongkapa Losang Drakpa (T: rJe Tsong kha pa bLo bzang grags pa), studied and mastered. As the Tibetan scholar and historian Gö Lotsawa Shönu Pel (T: ’Gos Lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal) wrote in the Blue Annals:

In the lineage of disciples descending from ’Gos [Lo tsā ba Khug pa lhas brtsas], Bu ston [Rin chen grub] is recognized as having been the most knowledgeable. He taught the Guhyasamāja instructions to Khung po lhas pa gZhon nu bzod nams. They were heard from the latter by the great rJe Tsong kha pa. That individual—that is, the great rJe Tsong kha pa—benefited the overall [Buddhist] Teaching extensively and, in particular, filled [the realm that lies on] the surface of the earth with the Guhyasamāja teachings.

Later in the same work, Gö Lotsawa also wrote:

The great rJe Tsong kha pa used Bu ston’s treatise on the Five Stages and the oral instructions of gSer sDings ba gZhon nu ’od upon which [Bu ston’s work] is based as the foundation for identifying a range of important topics. Then, after having thoroughly examined and analyzed both the Sūtrayāna and Tantrayāna canon in general, and, in particular, the Guhyasamāja Root and Explanatory Tantras, as well as the major Indian commentaries [on these canonical works] and various Tibetan traditions [on the Guhyasamāja practice], he composed [a series of] instruction manuals on the Five Stages, as well as his Lamp that Illuminates the Five Stages (T: Rim lnga gsal sgron), which is a detailed commentary on the meanings contained in [Nāgārjuna’s] work. By doing so, he restored the Guhyasāmaja system [of teaching and practice] that had fallen into decline.

In his Lamp that Illuminates the Five Stages, Je Tsongkapa points out that the principal aim of all Mahayanists, Tantric and non-Tantric alike, is to fulfill the needs of all sentient beings in the highest possible manner, and that this is accomplished by achieving a Buddha’s physical body. He further notes that the supreme method for achieving such a body is the completion stage practices of the Anuttarayoga Tantra path. Moreover, the Guhyasamāja Tantra works in general and the Five Stages in particular teach the unique methods for attaining the two stages of the māyādeha (T: sgyu ma’i sku), or “illusory body,” that lead ultimately to Buddhahood. Je Tsongkapa further states that while the Yoginī or Mother Tantras present detailed teachings on the unique form of knowledge that combines bliss and emptiness inseparably, they do not explain with the same fullness how to achieve the illusory body that is generated from a combination of subtle wind and mind. He then asserts that the instructions on this topic represent the unsurpassed characteristic of the Guhyasamāja Tantra system.

Gyume Khensur Rinpoche’s teachings will be based on the explanations of the Guhyasamāja instructions that are presented in Je Tsongkapa’s Lamp that Illuminates the Five Stages. He will also use two additional texts, both of which were written by the Panchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyeltsen (T: bLo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan). One is an abbreviated presentation of Je Tsongkapa’s work, known as The Essence of the Lamp that Illuminates the Five Stages (T: Rim lnga gsal sgron gyi snying po). The other is a commentary that provides literal explanations of each of the verses in Nagarjuna’s root text. Its shortened title is The Treasury of the Jewel-like State of the United Pair (T: Zung ’jug nor bu’i bang mdzod).

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Art Engle

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