Awakening Through Love - Foreword
John Makransky is a mensch. You’re in good hands with Lama John. And I should know that, having observed him closely over the last dozen years. He is my Dharma heir in the nonsectarian lineage of our Dzogchen master Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. Every true teacher wishes to have students and protégés with the potential to surpass him or her. As my protégé, John is such a person, one who has discovered how to love his way all the way to enlightenment. Whether he achieved this more from the three decades he spent learning from Tibetan lamas in Nepal, India, and America, or from his long work as a professor and Buddhist scholar-practitioner, or from his life as a family man, it is hard to say. Undoubtedly his beautiful family—two sons and wife, Barbara— are implicated in making him the beloved teacher, esteemed colleague, and good spiritual friend he is on two continents, in both the East and West.
In 1978, shortly after finishing service in the Peace Corps, John met his first Tibetan Buddhist teachers, Gelug-lineage lamas closely affiliated with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He spent fifteen years immersed in the study and practice of Tibetan Gelug teachings of love, compassion, and transcendent wisdom under their guidance. Then Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, Khenpo Sonam Tobgyal, and I introduced him to the Dzogchen teachings of the Nyingma lineage, and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche indicated to me that John would play a significant role in our teachings and transmission. After further years of spiritual practice, we all saw the practices of love and compassion really come alive in John through the Dzogchen view of innate wisdom—practices that take natural expression in the meditations transmitted here.
After Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche’s demise in 1999, John and I traveled together on pilgraimage to Nepal and Bhutan. Upon meeting John at the Kagyu-Nyingma monastery near Kathmandu, its learned abbot, my old friend Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, seemed immediately to recognize John’s sterling qualities as a scholar-practitioner and asked him to teach annually at his monastery within Kathmandu University’s new Center for Buddhist Studies. John is now senior faculty advisor to the Center and has been instrumental in it becoming partnered with Boston College, where John is a professor of Buddhism and comparative theology.
John has been teaching the love, compassion, and awareness practices in this book for years at our Dzogchen Center retreats. We are reminded through these practices and his example that love is not found outside of ourselves; love is found through loving. Drawing from his immersion in the mind-training teachings of compassion and the Dzogchen teachings of innate wisdom—using plain, practical instruction—he helps readers uncover the unity of love and wisdom in the very nature of their minds. Then he shows us how to actualize those qualities in each aspect of our lives—in family, community, work, service, and social action.
As John always emphasizes, the key to Buddhadharma is practice; this book is based upon his own life of practice, his very pragmatic path of awakening through love. Here he offers us the words of his own teachers and tells many stories past and present of those awakened through this path. He speaks about the power of unconditional love to transform ourselves and thus transform the world. As Buddha said of his own teachings: Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself, test it out. John has followed this wisdom.
Many readers who are not Buddhist will find these nonsectarian practices accessible and applicable to their fundamental beliefs and concerns. John urges all people of faith to explore how their own spiritual paths may be informed and empowered by the practices of love, compassion, and self-transcending wisdom transmitted here. As he teaches, and as the peace master Shantideva says in his classic Way of the Bodhisattva: selfishness is the real demon, egotism is the true enemy, and joy comes naturally from loving and caring for others. We need each other to become enlightened, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says, because we need to develop deep compassion in order to fulfill the journey of awakening. Here in these practical, useful teachings by a contemporary lama, we find the modern means to fulfill that promise.
Lama Surya Das
Austin, Texas October 2006
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© John Makransky, Awakening Through Love (Wisdom Publications, 2007)
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