** If you see your Guru as a Buddha, you will recieve the blessings of a Buddha ** If you see your Guru as a Boddhisatva, you will recieve the blessings of a Boddhisatva ** If you see your Guru as a friend, you will only receive the blessings of a friend **

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November 2019
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Gharwang Rinpoche sharing His Thoughts on the Buddhist Path

My Thoughts On The Buddhist Path

 
I was born into a Buddhist family in Sikkim and studied Buddhist teachings for seventeen years in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
by the name of Rumtek. Having been brought up as a Buddhist, I can relate to the Buddhist worldview set forth in Peter Harvey’s Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. In particular, Harvey’s presentation of the sources of guidance to Buddhists, or the three jewels (Tib. dkon mchog gsum), resonates with my own outlook. It is my understanding that the core principles of the Buddhist teachings are based on love and kindness, and the teachings about karma and its effects are the foundation of the core values of Buddhist ethics.
My background is quite unique. In 1965 my parents went to visit the 16th Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. During a special ceremony, instead of accepting an offering from the ceremony leader, the Karmapa pointed to my mother, the princess of Sikkim, and said, “There is a boy in her womb who is the reincarnation of a holy lama from Zurmang known as Zurmang Gharwang.” Therefore, even before I was born, I was already chosen by my guru, the 16th Karmapa. My future had already been planned due to the good effects of my previous karma and the blessings of all my gurus.
For many people it may sound quite cruel to separate a seven-day-old baby from his mother, but this was my special situation, and so since the age of seven days I lived with my uncle. The 16th Karmapa insisted that I should be a monk and follow the same steps as all the previous Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoches. At the age of eleven I said goodbye to ordinary life and entered the monastery. As Harvey mentions, “Entry into the monastic Saṅgha is by two stages,” novice and full ordination (95). I took the novice vows of a monk at the age of thirteen and when I was twenty-six I took full ordination. I have continued to follow the monastic way of life until today.
From eleven to sixteen years of age, I studied Buddhist rituals, Buddhist philosophy, and Tibetan reading and writing. When I reached sixteen, I joined Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies in Rumtek, Sikkim and graduated in 1992 at that age of 26. Even after my graduation, my learning has never stopped. I began to travel throughout Asia, Europe, Canada, and the United States to give Buddhist teachings, and whenever I have the chance, I study and practice. My hunger to learn brings me to Harvard to study further.
As Harvey states, “In the ethical development of a Buddhist, importance is attached to the development of heart-felt feelings of lovingkindness and compassion” (103). In my experience love and compassion are two of the most important Buddhist values without which Buddhism would be merely a hollow belief. Many of the Buddha’s teachings, such as the four immeasurable (tshad med bzhi), emphasize love and compassion. Harvey explains that in the Buddhist context, lovingkindness refers to “the aspiration for the true happiness of any, and ultimately all, sentient beings,” and compassion is “the aspiration that beings be free from suffering” (104). Here, these ideas are meant to be more than simply words, and Buddhist practice is about truly loving and respecting others. Today we are living a chaotic world and it is not easy to be patient and share love and compassion. However, if we let our negative emotions take over us, then as a Buddhist practitioner even before we begin we have already lost the battle. Therefore, I feel that it is very important that Buddhists practice love and compassion according to our abilities and capacities.
As a sincere Buddhist follower, I appreciate the Buddha’s advice that wealth, fame, and power do not bring genuine happiness, and instead rely on the sources of Buddhist refuge: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Buddha is someone who has tamed and eradicated all poisons. The Dharma is the doctrine and the perfect path which, when practiced diligently, leads to the attainment of nirvana. The Sangha is the assembly who demonstrate the right path to achieve nirvana. These sources of refuge are believed by Buddhists to bring temporary and ultimate relief from the fire of hatred, attachment, and delusion.
Harvey rightly points out the importance of karma and its effects as foundational to Buddhist ethics (14). Karma literally means action. The function of karma is very complex, but according to the Buddha’s teachings, it is the consequences of our actions that shape our future. For example, happiness and suffering are the direct consequences of my actions in this life or previous lives. Therefore, it is very important to know how to behave in accordance with the rule of karma.
In conclusion, as a sincere liberation seeker, I feel fortunate to be born Buddhist, to have grown up in a Buddhist family, and also to have had the opportunity to study Buddhism. As a Buddhist, my beliefs are largely in accordance with Harvey’s presentation of Buddhist ethics, in particular his emphasis on the importance of love and compassion, the three jewels, and karma and its effects
Boston.21/9/13