Wouldn’t It Be Better to Practise the Dharma?

The Heart Teachings of Atisa and His Disciples

The precept of the Lama is more important than scriptures and commentaries.

In the early days of the Order, Sangharakshita held a seminar on a book called The Door of Liberation, which consisted of seven Tibetan texts, translated under the auspices of Geshe Wangyal. The Kadamthorbu was one of those.

It’s a really wonderful text, consisting of dialogues between Atiśa and his closest disciples, especially with his principal disciple, the layman Dromtönpa, who later founded the Kadam school. It’s an informal exposition of how to live as a bodhisattva, and its main topics are compassion, emptiness, renunciation, the importance of practice, and Bodhicitta. Whenever I (Ratnaguna) read the text I feel that I’m listening in on a real spiritual community, talking about the fundamental aspects of the Dharma, and Atiśa comes across as not only wise, but very approachable, human, and friendly.

The ‘precept’ of the Lama is not a kind of rule, but a specific teaching chosen by a teacher for a disciple’s specific needs. It is, as Bhante puts it “more like a clarification and a throwing light on rather than telling someone just to go off and do this and do that.”

In the transcription of the seminar, we can see Bhante doing just that for those present. For instance, when explaining what Sunyata really means, he said

… you can’t really say what life is. This is the sort of thing that the teaching of Sunyata is getting at. Life is bigger than your ideas about life. Life cannot be reduced to your ideas or to any system of your ideas. This is what sunyata really means, about higher and higher levels of the experience of life. That life is unique and indefinable, unconceptualizable.

Recently a new translation of the text has been published in The Book of Kadam, translated by Thupten Jinpa. We’ll use the one from The Door of Liberation, as that’s the one Bhante used in the seminar, but we’ll also refer at times to Thupten Jinpa’s, as I believe it is more accurate.

Retreat Timings

The timings given are based on those booked, if your time zone isn’t shown, let us know and we can add it.

UK (UCT)Germany (CET)Australia (ACST)
Session 110.15-12.3011.1520.45
Session 216.30-17.3016.3002.00
Session 319.45 until end of ritual20.4506.15

Mining for hidden treasure: This event is based on material from seminar transcripts. Read further on how we approach this material hier.

Wouldn't It Be Better to Practise the Dharma?

Led by Saddhaloka, Shubhavyuha & Prajnaketu


Atisa was known for his ability to distil the general principles of the Dharma into 'precepts' - specific teachings for his personal disciples. In this retreat we'll see how Bhante follows the masterclass of Atisa, and his immediate disciple, Drom, in the art of giving and receiving precepts; showing in the process how to combine profound wisdom, an immediate down-to-earth quality, and gentle humour.

This retreat is for members of the Triratna Buddhist Order

Start Date: 21st Jan 2022
End Date: 28th Jan 2022
Event Type: Residential + Online

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