Dedicated to the Yelpa Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism

Recorded Teachings

The Four Dharmas of Gampopa

Enjoy a taste of Rinpoche’s teachings, in this set of four teachings on the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, recorded in 2023.

Four Dharmas of Gampopa

4 Videos

Notes on the Teachings

Gampopa and the First Dharma

Tana Rinpoche provides the first installment of his commentary on the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. In this session he covers the first of these: “Turn the mind to dharma.” (Clayton Ingerson is translating, and he notes other, perhaps more familiar translations of the first Dharma, including “My mind becomes one with the dharma”.)

Rinpoche begins this teaching with a brief biography of Gampopa, adding details that aren’t well known.
To help us appreciate the compelling importance of “turning our minds to the dharma”, Rinpoche vividly reminds us of the inevitability of death, karma (cause and effect), impermanence, and the fact that we can’t predict when we will die. He underlines that the contemplation of death is not pondering an abstraction: every single moment of our experience represents the death of the previous moment – the permanent ending of the moment that has just passed.

Rinpoche explains vividly that upon our physical death we will lose all of our material possessions, all of our relationships and all of the accomplishments we may be proud of. The only thing that will remain with us will be our mind essence, including the wholesome or unwholesome habitual tendencies that we have developed; in short, our karma. For this reason it is paramount that we dedicate ourselves to our practices.

Rinpoche asks everyone to deeply consider the samsaric world we live in. He suggests that each of us write a couple of sentences about what it means to us personally to turn our minds to the dharma.

Answering questions, Rinpoche touched upon a variety of subjects, including an exploration of how Gampopa’s integration of the Kadampa schools and the Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism included Maha Ati and the great perfection.

Clayton Ingerson provided translation.

The Second Dharma

Rinpoche begins the teaching by reviewing some points from last month’s teaching. He focuses upon the important role that contemplating impermanence can play in our daily meditation and post-mediation practices. Reality changes every moment – it’s as if every moment we die and awaken to a new reality. A deep appreciation of this allows us to fully engage the nature of impermanence. Rinpoche described techniques used by great siddhas to accomplish complete enlightenment thru vivid reminders of impermanence. Rinpoche continues in this vein to list additional benefits to our meditation practice that derive from the contemplation of impermanence.

The main subject of this teaching is the second dharma of Gampopa: Dharma becomes the path. Rinpoche begins by exploring the subtleties and the pitfalls of relative and ultimate dharma practices. When viewed from the relative standpoint, the ultimate view and practices are critically important. But, when viewed from the ultimate view, relative practices and insights are “indescribably important”. In fact, these two views and the practices that we associate with them are inseparable. Rinpoche notes that an authentic engagement of the moment-to-moment practice of relative virtues is an ultimate view practice. Rinpoche provides a cautionary note regarding ultimate view: when we reify the ultimate view, we fall into the error of eternalism.

Rinpoche also answered questions including an exploration of how to best practice the cultivation of virtues and what 3-fold reification means.

Clayton Ingerson provided translation.

The Third Dharma

Rinpoche begins this teaching by defining the 3rd Dharma of Gampopa as clearing up misunderstandings and clarifying confusion. The rest of the teaching offers a variety of means through which a practitioner can accomplish this. He vividly points out how, through contemplation, we can understand and experience the impermanent and illusory nature of our fleeting existence. Rinpoche describes how these contemplations also result in a variety of good outcomes in our illusory existence: emotional and physical wellbeing, fortunate rebirth, and so on. Encouraging us to focus upon the obvious and undeniable illusions that we habitually harbor, Rinpoche notes some of the ways in which this sets us on a path of practicing relative bodhicitta.

Rinpoche then moves the focus to the insight and experiences of ultimate bodhicitta. Rinpoche details how the physical and mental well-being benefits of these contemplations, are all temporary. He underlines how the only enduring, and by far the most important benefit, of contemplation and practice is the accomplishment of Buddhahood. Rinpoche emphasizes the importance of embracing the truth that we are all completely capable, including in this very moment, of Buddhahood. He also explores the cost of habitually denying this.

Clayton Ingerson provided translation.

The Fourth Dharma

The teaching is focused on the Fourth Dharma of Gampopa: “Delusion transforms into wisdom.”

Rinpoche begins with a review of the previous teachings on the four dharmas.
Once we have glimpsed the awakened mind, it becomes natural to cultivate a desire to bring all beings to liberation. Rinpoche suggests practices that clarify confusion: ways in which we can avoid becoming stuck in our negative views and develop genuine compassion for everyone we encounter.
Rinpoche reminds us that all of the practices he’s described before could be considered practices that allow us to purify our obscurations. These practices serve to promote our readiness and cultivate insights that increase our attunement to the direct experience of emptiness. The direct experience of emptiness, imbued with the compassion of bodhicitta, is the most powerful fruition practice.
Rinpoche explores the relationship of experiencing the relative world as dreamlike and the direct experience of emptiness.

“Delusion arises as wisdom.” connotes the ultimate goal that is to be achieved. Rinpoche explains in detail how, from a fruition standpoint, delusion itself doesn’t need to be abandoned. He explores how the ultimate nature is inseparable from the reified delusions that constitute the relative reality. Using an analogy of a dream, Rinpoche suggests ways in which we can enhance our practices to realize the absolute nature

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