Teachings on Sūtra | Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche

This Chötrul Düchen Teachings on Sūtra episode features Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche speaking on ‘Aspiration.’ 

On the day of Chotrül Düchen, which celebrates the miracles performed by the Buddha in Śrāvastī,  Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche gives a talk on aspiration. He explains how—whatever we are doing—we should check whether what is inspiring us to do it is limited to our own immediate concerns with their short expiry date, or extends into a longer term and encompasses the needs of others. By noticing the wide range of intentions we all experience, and being aware of the difference between fantasy and realistic goal setting, we can bring our own aspirations gradually closer to resembling those made in past lives by the Buddha Śākyamuni, culminating in his final attainment of the complete awakening we celebrate on these special days.

During the teaching, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche tells the story of the Buddha’s previous life as Samudrareṇu (“Ocean Particle”) in The White Lotus of Compassion (Karuṇāpuṇḍarīka-sutra, Toh 112). 84000 will be publishing the translation later this year.

The White Lotus of Compassion describes the origin of buddhas and bodhisattvas, focusing in particular on the Buddha Śākyamuni. The “white lotus of compassion” in the title refers to Śākyamuni himself, emphasizing his superiority over all other buddhas, like a fragrant, healing white lotus among a bed of ordinary flowers.

Most of the sūtra’s narrative takes place in the distant past and concerns the cakravartin king Araṇemin, his thousand sons, his chief court priest Samudrareṇu, and Samudrareṇu’s eighty-one sons and his disciples. One of Samudrareṇu’s eighty-one sons is the Buddha Ratnagarbha, who prophesies the buddhahood of all these individuals. He states that King Araṇemin will become the Buddha Amitābha, Samudrareṇu will become Śākyamuni in our fortunate eon, and 999 of Samudrareṇu’s disciples plus his five attendants will become the other 1,004 buddhas of our eon.

The narrative also emphasizes generating the aspiration for the attainment of complete enlightenment. This entails becoming a samyaksambuddha (“one who has attained complete buddhahood”), which means attaining buddhahood in a world where the Dharma does not exist and teaching there. This stands in contrast with the pratyekabuddha, who on attaining buddhahood in a world without the Dharma remains in solitude and does not teach. The sūtra repeats many times the concept of the “highest, most complete enlightenment,” but its main import is to explain how the Buddha Śākyamuni is greater than other buddhas and bodhisattvas who had previously appeared within the Mahāyāna tradition, despite their long lives and pure realms. In fact, it is Śākyamuni’s short life and the impurity of his realm that make him superior. Śākyamuni is shown to accomplish miracles beyond anything previously described in Mahāyāna Buddhist literature—such as bringing trillions of bodhisattvas into his body—and there are narratives of previous lifetimes in which his generosity and self-sacrifice are unparalleled.

In this sūtra, only eight bodhisattvas are said to make the vow to be buddhas with a short life in a kaliyuga—a time of the five degeneracies—one of whom is Śākyamuni. The other seven, along with a considerable number of other personages, appear exclusively in this sūtra and nowhere else.

About Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche

Rinpoche is the youngest son of Kangyur Rinpoche and was recognized as the incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, and the 16th Karmapa. He spent many years studying under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in Nepal and Bhutan. Rinpoche moved to France in 1980, where, under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, he and his brother, Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, established the retreat center Centre D’Études de Chanteloube.

Over the past 40 years, both Rinpoche and his brother have invited many great lamas to visit and teach in the West, including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, Nyoshül Khen Rinpoche, and Trulshik Rinpoche. 

Rinpoche oversees the projects of Padmakara Translation Group, leads retreats, and teaches seminars all over the world. Rinpoche is also the principal advisor at Khyentse Vision Project. 

Related Reading

Sūtras and sūtra passages on the Buddha’s aspirations:

From The Play in Full, four of the Buddha Śākyamuni’s previous aspirations are listed at 15.29-34.

A passage on the good and less good ways of aspiring to awakening: in The Absorption of the Thus-Gone One’s Wisdom Seal 1.74-78

On the aspirations made by other buddhas:

The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Seven Thus-Gone Ones (Toh 503)

The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Blessed Bhaiṣajyaguru­vaiḍūryaprabha (The Medicine Buddha, Toh 504)

The Array of Virtues of Mañjuśrī’s Buddha Realm (Toh 59)

The Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī (Toh 115)

Other texts on aspiration in general:

The Prayer of Good Action (The Stem Array, Toh 44 ch 45, 56.72) and the whole Samantabhadra Chapter

The Dedication “Fulfilling All Aspirations” (Toh 285)

The Dedication “Protecting All Beings” (Toh 286)

The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates (Toh 526)

Auspicious Night (Toh 617)

The Aspiration Prayer from “Destroyer of the Great Trichiliocosm” (Toh 813):

The Teachings on Sūtra webinar series draws from our translated collection of the Tibetan Buddhist canon and explores key themes from the sutras. Each event brings in teachers of the Buddhadharma to speak about the theme with reference to specific texts in the Kangyur, and takes place on what are considered to be the four most auspicious days of the Buddhist calendar: Celebration of the Buddha’s Miracles (Chötrul Düchen), Celebration of the Buddha’s Birth, Awakening, and Parinirvana (Saga Dawa), Celebration of the Buddha’s Teachings (Chökor Düchen), and Celebration of the Buddha’s Return from the Realms of the Gods (Lhabab Düchen).

Posted: 22 Feb 2023