This is the second post in a short series about the memorisation of texts as part of the Foundation Programme (FP) at Kadampa Buddhist Centres. The first can be found here.

Before we look at the texts themselves in detail, let us first ask ourselves a frank question: Why do we attend FP? Is it for the company, the intellectual stimulation or our heartfelt wish to progress along the spiritual path? It is worth asking this question of ourselves, and looking deep into our heart for our true answer.

If we are attending FP because of our heartfelt wish to progress along the spiritual path, our next question is ‘What are the best ways to get the most out of FP and making as swift progress as possible?’

To answer this, we can look at a short passage Geshe Kelsang writes in Meaningful to Behold – a commentary to the great Buddhist Master Shantideva’s eighth century masterpiece ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’.  This is a book we study on FP, and in the introduction to the text Geshe Kelsang writes (in forthright style, in keeping with the Guide itself):

How is Shantideva’s Guide put together and what does it contain? It is composed of ten chapters and we should try very hard to understand the meaning contained in each of them. Otherwise we are like the foolish person who was sent to a shop by members of his household to see what was sold there. Then he returned home they asked him what was available, and he had to reply, ‘I don’t know; I have forgotten.’ His journey was a complete waste of time. Similarly, if upon completion of this text we are unable to recall what is contained within each of its chapters, we should be ashamed of ourselves. If our study of this text is to be worthwhile and not a complete waste of time, we should not only read the words but also try hard to learn their meaning.

The same goes for all the books on FP. Once we have studied a book on FP, we should be able to recall the meaning of each of the chapters for the rest of our lives. If we cannot do this for books we have previously studied, we should ask ourselves a hard question: are studying in the best manner possible, or have we completely wasted our time?

Are we listening to all the advice Geshe-la is giving us?

His advice to us is to memorise the outlines and root texts, not just for the period of study of the book, but for the rest of our lives. He gives us this advice not out of pride or vindictiveness, but out of his deep love for us. If our deepest wish is to progress along the spiritual path, memorisation is an essential component of making our study meaningful, and preventing our sessions at FP turning into a complete waste of time.

Stay tuned for the next post, where we will look at the special qualities of the books of FP.