The next online course with Trinlay Rinpoche to study Moonbeams of Mahamudra by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal is scheduled for four successive weekends March 9-31, 2024. The course format is about 90-minute sessions of teachings and Q&A each Saturday and Sunday, which begin at: 12:00pm Eastern / 11:00am Central / 9:00am Pacific in the USA and 6:00pm CET in Europe over multiple weekends.

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A Student’s Perspective on Karma Trinlay Rinpoche’s Online Course on Moonbeams of Mahamudra

Since April 1, 2023, Karma Trinlay Rinpoche has been giving in-depth teachings on the Buddhist text Moonbeams of Mahamudra by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal. This is the third part of a broader set of teachings on the “51 Mental Events” (the Buddhist Abhidharma teachings), and is meant to serve as a primer for meditation practice and dealing with the afflictive states of mind. This class is geared towards lay practitioners with some meditation experience and previous background in introductory teachings in the Abhidharma.

The main English-language text used by Rinpoche in teaching the course is a translation by Elizabeth M. Callahan published by Snow Lion in 2019. Rinpoche has also been using the Tibetan source text for the book and the texts cited within Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s guide to compare and contrast different translations and provide his own commentary. This is helpful for students to understand the text and the limitations of the English language in communicating experiential and subtle aspects of meditation and Buddhist ideas.

In the first set of teachings in the most recent course, Rinpoche held 90 minute classes on Saturday and Sunday over 3 successive weekends. During each class, Rinpoche reads the text aloud and provides in-depth commentary and explanation. The class thus proceeds in a thoughtful, deliberative way which helps practitioners of all levels to be able to absorb the material and get a feel for how it would be beneficial to approach the text themselves. The course has covered chapter 1 of Moonbeams (which discusses the common exposition of śamatha and vipaśyanā) so far, and within that chapter we’ve covered explanations of the causes of śamatha and vipaśyanā, elimination of the obscurations to śamatha and vipaśyanā, identification of the essences of śamatha and vipaśyanā, objects of meditation for śamatha and vipaśyanā, presentation of the divisions of śamatha and vipaśyanā, analysis of the order of śamatha and vipaśyanā, the way to cultivate the unification of śamatha and vipaśyanā, and the results of śamatha and vipaśyanā.

At the start of the course, Rinpoche provided his own introduction for the text, including its relationship to the Mahayana preliminary and meditative practices. Rinpoche’s introductory explanations help to guide students to appreciate how the subject matter of the text fits within their own study and practice. Each subsequent class proceeded with Rinpoche reading the text and providing commentary, and sometimes longer background explanations, in order to provide the appropriate historical and cultural context for Western lay practitioners and students. Rinpoche takes time to answer questions during each class, and provides insightful and comprehensive answers to every person, which I usually find to be very helpful even if I didn’t have the same question myself.

So far, this course has personally helped me to deepen my understanding of how to develop calm abiding and the importance of ethics and the preliminary practices (specifically, contemplating the four thoughts that turn the mind away from cyclic existence) to progress in my meditation practice. This has benefited my daily meditation practice, and given me increased motivation to continue and improve in that practice. It has also inspired me to go back and review Rinpoche’s previous online teachings, particularly those on the “Four Immeasurables,” as practicing them are important for making progress in meditation and on the path generally. 

I highly recommend Rinpoche’s course to interested and serious students of Buddhism that want to deepen their understanding of the practical aspects of meditation covered by Moonbeams, even for students who have studied the text on their own. Rinpoche is an excellent, comprehensive and compassionate teacher, and extremely effective at making important and subtle aspects of Buddhist philosophy understandable for a Western audience that includes students and lay practitioners of various degrees of experience. For those who are interested in gaining additional background on Rinpoche’s previous online courses in the Moonbeams series as well as the “Four Immeasurables” and the “51 Mental Events,” the recordings are available.

–Written by Christopher Carlson

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[Photo by Robert Polly]