Ever since I read a book by the Dalai Lama I have been hooked on Tibetan Buddhism. I even spent a year as a Buddhist monk 2003/2004. I spent six years studying full time living in a retreat hut at a Tibetan Buddhist centre in Queensland Australia where I learned a great deal about the subject and had some amazing realisations about my self and the world. I have since gone my own way trying to translate the deep wisdom I found into understandable and modern ways.
Tibetan Buddhism is a unique depository of eastern thought. The country is nestled between China and India, Kashmir and Nepal and has adopted elements of different traditions including Shaivism, Indian Tantra, Japanese Zen, of course Indian Buddhism and also includes elements of the shamanistic tradition of Bon which was native to Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism in the 8th century. Tibetan Buddhism is an eclectic mix of the best of the orient which can make it difficult to penetrate so different Tibetan masters over the years have summed it up into several main categories. It has even become a curriculum of gradual stages to enlightenment expressing all the great traditions in a step by step path to complete and full enlightenment. This blog is in that vein trying to sum up the many and various practices of Tibetan Buddhism into an easy to understand spiritual path.
The four main spiritual practices of Tibetan Buddhism are Renunciation, Bodhicitta, Emptiness and Vajrayana.
Renunciation has the connotation of turning away from something. What is not as widely known is it’s also a turning toward something. It means to turn away from worldly pursuits to achieve happiness and turn toward inner and spiritual means to achieve happiness and fulfilment. It is the beginning of the spiritual quest after realising the limitations of wealth, fame and material possessions to bring lasting happiness.
Often in the west we think if I’m just successful in my career and have abundant wealth I will surely be really happy. Of course people who have achieved these measures of success have discovered the ancient truth for themselves that these things are not inherently satisfying and have no meaning other than what we attribute them. Sometimes it takes a ridiculously wealthy and successful person like Russel Brand to remind us of this truth:
“Increasingly I’ve realised; everybody has beauty within themselves, and if you find this and accept this, then you will be happy regardless of external attributes or material things.”
Money can’t but happiness is a cliché however the Buddhists go further and meditate on the fact that everything changes and therefore no material possession can bring lasting satisfaction.
It is written as a noble truth that all conditions of the world are unsatisfactory, constantly changing and have no lasting substance. Through meditating and contemplating this noble truth a person turns away from pursuing these things and in faith turns toward what mystics and masters have advised will bring lasting happiness and fulfilment, namely enlightenment and the freedom of clinging onto worldly conditions to satisfy our desires.
When you are convinced of these facts right down to your bones you have entered a spiritual path and have realised renunciation.