Buddhist Christmas 2014

Merry Buddhist Christmas and a happy New Year 2015! 

Dear readers,

another year has passed. Christmas is just around the corner. Isn't our calender a wonderful tool that reminds us of impermanence. Time goes by so quickly. Without noticing, New Year 2015 is suddenly approaching. We have again become a year older. Of course, it shouldn't have come as a surprise, because the clock has been constantly ticking. Without noticing it, our life-span has  decreased with each moment that passed.

Christmas decoration - a branch of a Christmas tree and a star

Therefore, we can also relate to big and joyful events like birthdays, New Year and Christmas as reminders of impermanence. So many extra-ordinary people have passed the last year. The loss of the great Tibetan Buddhist master Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche is still present in the minds of Tibetan Buddhists. Also numerous celebrities like Robin Williams, Shirley Temple, Peaches Geldof, Philipp Seymour Hoffman, Maximilian Schell, Eusébio, Mickey Rooney, James Garner and Lauren Bacall have left us forever this year. We may have had to mourn the demise of close ones, friends  and dharma brothers and sisters around us.  

Buddhist teachings tell us, that every being which has been born will surely die one day. If even the greatest among us are subjected to death, the Lord of Death will certainly not spare us either. For a practitioner, it is actually important to become aware of death. In the Parting from the Four Attachments, which have been the subject of the last post, it is said that "if one clings to this life, one isn’t a dharma practitioner". In  the context of these instructions, it is therefore explained that one should make an effort to develop an understanding of death and impermanence. This acts as a remedy for being too much involved with this life. 


The Parting From the Four Attachments

Instruction on the Parting From the Four Attachments

By Jonang Kunga Drolchog 


Kunga Drolchog (Kun dga’ grol mchog, 1507-1566), considered to have been a previous rebirth of the famous Tāranātha, was an important master of the Jonang tradition. Traditionally, the Jonang tradition has been closely connected with the Sakya tradition as this work witnesses. It is a commentary on the important Sakya doctrine, the Parting from the Four Attachments (zhen pa bzhi bral) attributed to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158), founding father of the Sakya tradition. The verse is generally understood to be a summary of all of the Buddha's teachings. 

 The Parting from the Four Attachments

[1.] If one clings to this life, one isn’t a dharma practitioner (tshe ’di la zhen na chos pa min)
[2.] If one clings to the three realms, it is not renunciation. (khams gsum la zhen na nges ’byung min)
[3.] If one clings to one’s own benefit, it is not bodhicitta. (bdag don la zhen na byang sems min) 
[4.] If grasping occurs, it is not the view. (’dzin pa byung na lta ba min)
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo 

Sakya Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1246) informs us that that Kunga Nyingpo received this fourfold instruction at the age of twelve in a direct vision from the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, having spent half a year in retreat under the guidance of Bari Lotsāwa (1040–1112).

Shows the orange form of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, holding sword and scripture
Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī
Being an important key instruction of the Sakya tradition, there are several collections of commentaries on these lines which have already been translated into English, but Kunga Drolchog's commentary has not been included in these collections. This explains why it is generally not so well-known, and why it is the only of the older existent commentaries on the Parting from the Four Attachments that has not been previously translated into English. The commentary is a synthesis of explanations by Rigdzin Drakpa and Sakya Paṇḍita and follows both commentaries very closely. A specificity of these commentaries is  that they equate the four formulations of the Parting from the Four Attachments with the famous Four Dharmas of Gampopa