I usually speak from the perspective of the experiential psychology of Vajrayana. All vehicles however, share the same essential purpose and it is important to recognise this. I am stressing this point this evening because there are people here who come from different backgrounds. We are the guests of the Lam Rim Centre – and some of you will have studied with Geshé Damchö and other Gélug Lamas. Some here have studied with Karma Kagyüd Lamas – and some with me.
I am from the Nyingma Tradition—Nga’gyür Nyingma1—which means ‘Tradition of the Early Translations’. The early translations were not word-for-word – but rather they relied on the inspiration of Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel for direct meaning according to the essence. My perspective will therefore have slight differences. These differences have more to do with emphasis, than with any significant divergence of view – so I’m going to speak experientially in order to provide an overview which I hope will prove useful.
As I said, I usually speak in the experiential language of psychological Vajrayana – and from this perspective we can speak of Sutra in the language of Tantra.
We can also speak of Tantra in the language of Sutra – as in the text ‘Bridging the Sutras and Tantras’ by Jé Tsongkhapa.2
There is a purpose for each approach. To speak of Tantra in the language of Sutra enables students of Sutra to approach Tantra. To speak of Sutra in the language of Tantra enables students of Tantra to incorporate Sutric perspectives, thereby enriching their practice.
According to the Nyingma Tradition there are nine vehicles and so it is possible to speak in the language of each of the nine vehicles – about each of the nine vehicles. This may sound complex but all Lamas weave with the vehicles when they speak. They do this not only to display the inseparability of the vehicles – but fundamentally to communicate whatever is most pertinent to the lives of students.
It is from this perspective that I wish to discuss something that is basic to all schools of Buddhism – the fundamental certainties and the path of alignment. This subject is usually translated as ‘the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path’ – but as we shall be looking at this subject in terms of our experience I have chosen to use contemporary language. I have also chosen to use language that expresses something directly in terms of our experience.