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Introduction

Ganden Ling Institute is the first Buddhist congregation of the Gelug Order to be recognised in France. It pursues the work begun by Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche in 1978 alongside Guépèle Institute and the humanitarian and cultural organisation Entraide Franco-Tibétaine. The institutes serve to share the Buddha's teachings with those who so desire, be it in France or abroad, and to allow for study, reflection and meditation on them. Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche and the institutes have had the honour of receiving over twenty masters, including Their Eminences Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche (the two tutors of His Holiness the Dalai Lama) and more recently His Holiness himself.

The Buddhism practised in Tibet is of the Mahayana or Great Vehicle. Its distinctive feature is that it has successfully kept alive the authentic instructions given by Buddha Shakyamuni. It is at once a religion, a philosophy and a way of life. It offers methods to achieve both self-mastery and complete openness to others thus enabling all beings to find peace and happiness in their lives.

The Buddha

Around 2600 years ago, at Lumbini in the Śākya kingdom of Northern India, the child who would become Buddha Shakyamuni was born. His father, King Śuddhodana, and his mother, Queen Māyā, named him Siddhārtha, “He who achieves his aims”. He enjoyed all the pleasures and luxuries of his father's palace but was never allowed to leave because of a prophecy stating that he would live the life of an ascetic if he ever renounced being a ruler. His father dreaded this eventuality and tried to shield him from the miseries of the world. He educated him according to his rank and the customs of the times so that he could succeed him one day. Prince Siddhārtha was trained in technology and athletics and showed great talent in both. At sixteen he married Princess Yasodharā who gave him a son, Rāhula.

Nevertheless Siddhārtha managed to leave the palace, which led to four decisive encounters: with a sick man, an old man, a corpse and an ascetic. Having thus discovered the realities of the world, his greatest wish became to relieve the kind of suffering he had witnessed. Realising that the solution would not be found in the kind of worldly life he was living, at 29 he left the palace renouncing his family, position and throne. For the next six years he followed various spiritual masters and practised asceticism to an extreme. When this failed to lead him to his goal, he abandoned it and went to sit under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, determined to meditate until he discovered the way to free all beings from suffering.

In due course, at the age of 35 he understood the ultimate truth, which allowed him to eradicate his remaining faults and perfect all his good qualities and thereby achieve Buddhahood. Seven weeks later he met his old companions in asceticism in the Deer Park at Sarnath. They became his first five disciples when he taught them the Four Noble Truths.

For the next forty-five years the Buddha tirelessly taught the Dharma, always taking into consideration the aptitudes and abilities of those listening. He taught the Pratimoksha-yana (the vehicle for personal liberation) and the Mahayana, the latter including the Perfection Vehicle (Pāramitā-yana) and the Esoteric Vehicle (Tantrayāna). His discourses are classified in different ways: in the Tripitaka (Three Baskets) according to subject matter and in the Three Dharma Wheels according to when they were given.

When the Buddha was 80, feeling his strength decline, he gathered his disciples around him at Kushinagar. He then lay down on his right side, gave his final words of advice and achieved parinirvana.

The Buddha's teaching spread through India and from there found its way to many other Asian countries. It was brought to Tibet in the 7th century where it developed for the next two centuries. After a brief period of decline, in the 11th century it flourished once more largely under the impetus of the great Indian master Atisha Dipamkara Shri Jnana.

A Short biography of Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche

When Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche was born in Tibet in 1932, His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama identified him as a tulku – the reincarnation of a spiritual teacher. He was thus destined to head several monastic communities after completing his Buddhist studies under numerous, highly distinguished masters. He was the first Tibetan lama to immigrate to France where he began working in the academic community in 1960. He eventually taught his language and culture at I.Na.L,C,O, ––the school for oriental studies in Paris–– for almost thirty years. Since 1978 he has taught Buddhism to an ever increasing audience, founding centres for the study and practice of Buddhism in many countries in the East and West.