Ven Geshe Kelsang Gyatso introduced A Moral Discipline Guide – The Internal Rules of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) to all the Resident Teachers at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in 2001. Here are extracts from that talk.
I need to give some information about the development of our Internal Rules. At the end of this meeting you will receive a copy of this booklet, called ‘A Moral Discipline Guide – The Internal Rules of the New Kadampa Tradition’. We know that every religion, every organization, every family or group — even a couple — have some Internal Rules or internal traditions. Everybody has these. Sometimes we say that a family has their own traditions, which they carry strictly. In reality, this means their Internal Rules. Everybody has these. So we need these. Generally, we say ‘Internal Rules’ but in reality our organization is a religious or spiritual organization or community, so of course our Internal Rules are a moral discipline guide. We need this. I believe this Moral Discipline Guide will solve many problems in the future. It will guide you in a correct direction and prevent you from going in a wrong direction.
We need this because Mahayana Buddhist organizations, especially Kadampa Buddhism, are completely new in this country. Because it is a new development, we have no example to copy. We cannot copy the Tibetans because our societies are completely different — our tradition, culture, mind, life, society, lifestyle, and way of life are completely different. We cannot follow the Tibetan tradition. We cannot do like Christians, we cannot do like Hindus, and we cannot do like Muslims. Everything is new, so we need to create our own moral discipline guide by ourself.
I have been thinking about this for nearly three years because I have had the intention that in the future, after my death, people need to know how to care for our NKT — they need guidelines. However, because it is new and society is different it has been difficult to know what kind of Internal Rules are needed. This is not easy, but is very complicated. But fortunately every year, through experience, you and I have gradually improved our understanding about what kind of Internal Rules are needed. Every year my experience of how to run and care for the NKT has become more and more clear. Finally this year I completed them. These came from me. Some people helped me with the English, but otherwise I organized or designed everything.
Now we have nineteen points, like commitments. At first I thought that during this meeting I would explain everything in more detail, but this is impossible — it would take many hours. But in reality if you read it carefully you will understand it. Actually I remember that I sent you a copy of this and requested you please to read it to the members of your individual Dharma centre, so you already know this.
The New Kadampa Tradition, or NKT, is the hundreds of our Dharma Centres united into one common spiritual path. Materially these centres are independent, but spiritually they are following one way. From a spiritual point of view, no centre is independent, but from a material point of view centres are independent. Because the organisation is only spiritual, it is very easy to organize. There are no political or material things, so it is very simple. Until now we have run the NKT Office very simply with only two people — the Secretary and Treasurer — and me. This is because there has not been any political or business activities, but only spiritual activity. It is therefore very nice and wonderful.
So, spiritually what is the New Kadampa Tradition? From a spiritual or religious point of view all the individual Dharma centres are the NKT. Otherwise, who else? There is nothing. I am not the NKT, the Secretary is not the NKT, and the Treasurer is not the NKT. The NKT is all the individual Dharma centres, but because religious rules or guidelines for daily activity are not included within government legal constitutions, there is a difference between religious rules and legal rules. We don’t need to think much about the government legal rules because the guidelines for religious activity or religious rules are not included within government laws or constitution. We need our own internal constitution, which we call our Internal Rules. Because this organization is spiritual, it therefore has spiritual rules. Nothing is contained within these rules that is not related to spiritual practice. All the nineteen points are related to spiritual practice so therefore we have called it ‘A Moral Discipline Guide’.
As I said, the NKT is the many hundreds of Buddhist centres united into one common spiritual path. It is very important to maintain this union from generation to generation, and for it to increase and not to degenerate. This is very important. For this purpose I made these Internal Rules. There is also another reason. Our main aim is for individual practitioners to improve and make progress through Dharma practice, to make themselves more and more pure; to improve and progress from being a lower or impure being to becoming a higher or pure being. So, both from the point of view of individuals improving themselves through Dharma practice and from the point of view of maintaining our society as a pure society, a pure Dharma community, we need this kind of Internal Rules. We say Internal Rules but in reality they are spiritual commitments.
If you check carefully, within the Internal Rules no permission is given to change them. Some people said we need to give exception to make changes in the future because situations change, society changes, and many circumstances and conditions change so maybe it will be necessary later to make changes. But I said no. This is because it is not an ordinary constitution, but a spiritual constitution — they are spiritual commitments. It is like the Kadampa Geshe Chekhawa when he taught Training of Mind or Lojong, extensively making eighteen commitments as a method to improve practitioners’ experience of Lojong quickly and unmistakenly. Similarly I made these nineteen commitments.
I taught extensively for almost 25 years until now and I wrote many Dharma books and organized many Dharma centres, and now I have made nineteen commitments as a method for gaining authentic results from Dharma practice, as a quick method for individuals to attain the ultimate goal, and for maintaining the NKT as a pure society or community that will be a very special example in the world. This is why I made these nineteen spiritual commitments. No one can change these. When Buddha Shakyamuni gave Bodhisattva teachings he made nineteen root and forty-six secondary commitments of the Bodhisattva vows in order for people to make quick progress on the Bodhisattva path. Similarly, with Tantric ordination. No one can change these. Just because society, situations, and people are different we cannot say that we need to change Geshe Chekhawa’s eighteen commitments. We can’t say this because this is spiritual practice; it is Dharma so therefore no one can change. So, I do not accept that changes need to be made to the Internal Rules.
Most of these commitments are related to Spiritual Directors and Teachers. There are very few related to normal practitioners, with the exception of some rules for those practitioners living in Dharma Centres. Most commitments are made for the General Spiritual Directors, National Spiritual Directors and Resident, or main, Teachers. The reason for this is that it is very necessary for these people to have such rules. The Spiritual Directors and main Teachers will gradually gain the power or ability to spread Buddhadharma. They can be powerful to spread Buddhadharma or they can be powerful to destroy Buddhadharma. They can do both because people believe and follow them, so they need a special discipline of rules and commitments. So, the main point is that we need these Internal Rules mainly for General Spiritual Directors, National Spiritual Directors, and main Resident Teachers in the future.
Also, in the very beginning it explains the purpose of the Internal Rules. So, I hope you will understand that it is very precious, and that it will become your eyes through which you will see which direction to go in, the correct path, preventing you from following the wrong direction. It will become your Spiritual Guide giving very profound advice. Most of our problems are those of motivation. We have motivation problems, view problems, and also faith problems. Through relying on these spiritual rules you can solve all these problems and always maintain pure actions of body, speech, and mind. In this way, you will become your own Spiritual Guide, like Buddha Vajradhara. So hopefully this is a most precious object for you.
Otherwise, it is very possible that we will receive big motivation problems in the future, because I have already experienced these previously. Some teachers in the very beginning were very pure disciples, and we had such a beautiful, pure relationship. I regarded them as wonderful disciples. Because from one point of view they themselves were very intelligent, and from another point of view they were receiving my blessings, they were later very successful and many people respected them and made offerings. Gradually more and more grasping developed and then a bad motivation [developed]. Then, instead of developing Dharma realizations, they had strong grasping at reputation, money, and especially power; and then they wanted everything themselves.
According to these Internal Rules we share power within the NKT. This is because we are living in democratic countries. Even though we are a religion, still we need to respect our country’s customs. If you read these Internal Rules you will see that power is shared everywhere. The people who have the main power are the members of the Education Council, this means you people, all the Resident Teachers.
The most important thing is that Resident Teachers have faith in Buddhism, a good intention, and correct view. These three are the most important qualifications of a Dharma teacher. If their motivation is wrong, even if they have completed the Teacher Training Programme it won’t work. If we have no faith in Dharma, it is empty. If we have wrong views, this is a serious obstacle, so then we achieve nothing. Any person with the three qualities of faith, a good intention, and a correct view can join the Teacher Training Programme, and you can encourage them to become a qualified Teacher, and teach.
We can think, “I need money, I need reputation, and good conditions because I am a human being, but I will never use Dharma for these aims. My main aim in studying and teaching Dharma is to benefit others, to spread Buddhadharma, so that people receive immense benefit. My main aim is that I would like to make my life meaningful. Of course I need some money, reputation, and good conditions, but my main aim in teaching Dharma is that my activities are meaningful. Money, reputation and other conditions do not give my life any real meaning. Only Dharma makes my life meaningful. For this reason I am trying to practise Dharma myself, and to teach others.” A bad motivation is a serious problem. You will destroy not only yourself, but also your students. … Due to obstacles this can happen to even a person who is normally good, so you therefore need these Internal Rules.
In this way we have found inner protection and after my death you can use this. I am now seventy years old. You don’t have much hope for me to remain much longer because generally human beings lives are very short, and especially most of my life has already gone — maybe a few years are left. And a year goes quickly, you know. Year by year, even ten years goes very quickly. So, then there is nothing left. But you can use these kind of spiritual rules continually, and through this you can maintain this special unification of Centres. Then, with harmony and good relationships you can work together and spread Kadam Dharma throughout the world. Every country and city should be filled with Kadam Dharma. The mental continuum of every person in the West and the East should be filled with wisdom, understanding reality, ultimate truth. You know what kind of subject we are now studying — try to understand and teach this. You know how precious, important, and profound it is.
Nowadays you see scientists and many other scholars have so many discussions … Although we emphasize the practical way, Lamrim, we are studying very carefully, and not only just believing or imagining. We are really seeking and searching the real nature of phenomena, each object and subject, basis, path, and result. We can prove everything with valid, logical reasons, and not just say ‘Buddha says this’ or ‘Geshe Kelsang says this’.
Previously my problem, or the problem with Tibetans, was the language. We don’t know your mind, or way of thinking, or way of life. Now you know all these things, and you know Dharma too. You know your culture, your people’s minds, way of life, and so it is very easy to present and offer this special, precious instruction everywhere. It is not just imagination or belief, but is reality. Therefore my understanding is that the NKT is a very important organization. I am not saying that other organizations are bad, and you are good.
If one or two people or teachers do bad things, everyone altogether can prevent this by supporting the Spiritual Director in their responsibility.
All General Spiritual Directors serve for four years. We also elect a Deputy Spiritual Director, as well as National Spiritual Directors for the individual countries. Therefore in these Internal Rules, if the General Spiritual Director dies or resigns, the Deputy Spiritual Director automatically becomes the General Spiritual Director. It is explained here how to choose — what kinds of qualifications are necessary. The Deputy Spiritual Director spends many years learning with the General Spiritual Director. All Spiritual Directors have a four year term, but if you are happy you can re-elect them. After that we don’t need to elect a General Spiritual Director because the Deputy has already been elected. Therefore this is our lineage. This is similar to the democratic tradition, not the Tibetan one. We need to respect our countries’ traditions, even if we are a religious organization. We are also Mahayana Buddhists and therefore need equanimity, sharing power everywhere. So this is my answer.
So my job is nearly finished. Then there will be no Tibetans here, so you will be independent; it will be Western Buddhism. We can’t say [it is] “Tibetan Buddhism” as this will be completely Western Buddhism, Kadampa Buddhism. But you need harmony and good relationships, working together, supporting your General Spiritual Director and National Spiritual Directors. The National Spiritual Directors have the responsibility to improve and care for the Dharma centres in their own country, so this is very important. You also are very important because you are the main teacher of a Dharma centre, and many people will respect and follow you. The most important is to keep a good heart and faith in Dharma and try to be free from wrong views. Try to make your view and the Dharma view the same. Then you will have confidence to teach Dharma, otherwise it is quite difficult. It is very necessary for our view and Buddha’s view to be the same. You can improve these qualifications gradually.
Generally until now we have done a very good job, of course. You know how the NKT is flourishing. But still we need to be careful. Sometimes our self-cherishing is too strong, and then obstacles are possible, so therefore try to receive continual blessings and develop and maintain faith in Dharma. And enjoy Dharma yourself. If you yourself do not enjoy Dharma, then how can you teach it? If we are too much enjoying samsara, then how can we teach renunciation? We say always “Samsara’s pleasures are deceptive, give no contentment, only torment”, teaching the disadvantages of samsara, but if we enjoy samsara too much people won’t believe us! So we need to try to enjoy Dharma and seek happiness inside, not outside. We will never find real happiness from outside, never. If we seek happiness outside, maybe we will find happiness, maybe we will find suffering, we don’t know. Instead now we seek happiness inside, from the mind, from inner peace, contentment, patience, wisdom, compassion. Enjoy Dharma yourself. At least even if you don’t gain authentic realizations, at least you will become a real Dharma practitioner.
If our practice gives you a happy mind, this is a clear indication that you are doing very well. If our daily practice never gives you a happy mind, but you find it boring, this indicates that something is wrong, and so you need to change. The best thing is try to put all our Dharma studies, including Ocean of Nectar, into Lamrim practice, and then teaching Joyful Path of Good Fortune and Eight Steps to Happiness will be very beneficial for your personal motivation and view and faith, for your daily activities.
Western countries are democratic, free societies, people have the authority to say anything, therefore the Tibetan tradition does not work here. The best thing is to do is to be like Gandhi or this old nun Mother Theresa, whom everyone respects. We should do like this. Then everyone will follow and respect you. Then you will have the great opportunity to spread Buddhadharma, benefiting millions of people through Dharma. This is best. Or for us the best way of life, view, and intention is that of Geshe Langri Tangpa, as explained in Eight Steps to Happiness. Therefore, we should improve these kinds of qualities, and work together.
In this way, when the person of my next life, maybe a young girl or boy comes, at that time the NKT will be a hundred times better than during my life, you know. During Dromtonpa’s time, Kadam Dharma increased 100 times more than during Atisha’s time. During Geshe Potowa’s time, Kadam Dharma spread 100 times more than during Dromtonpa’s time. I hope that the Kadam tradition here can be similar — increasing with each generation. If we engage in pure actions, then our tradition will have immense benefit for people. If we are not pure and our way of life is not pure, and our teachings and practice are not pure, then there is not much meaning in it spreading. Therefore we need both.
© New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union 2001.