The First Day of Teachings in New Delhi for a Group of Russian Buddhists

December 21st 2013

New Delhi, India 21, December 2013 - The skies over Delhi were misty and grey as His Holiness the Dalai Lama set out this morning, the Winter Solstice, to drive to the Kempinski Hotel where he was to resume teaching a group of Russian he had begun to teach last year. He was received at the door by Yelo Rinpoche and Telo Rinpoche, his Russian hosts and the hotel managers who escorted him to the ballroom. There 1300 Russians, 20 Chinese and about 120 Tibetans and other foreigners awaited him quietly, their faces smiling in rapt anticipation. Having greeted the audience and the Lamas sitting around the throne, His Holiness took his seat.

“Because it is you who are acquainted with your own mind,” he began, “it is you who can best judge whether there has been any change or not. If you dedicate yourself to helping others, you’ll be happier. I myself try to imbue my life with spiritual practice and although change doesn’t occur overnight, if you look back over some years, you should be able to see some improvement.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting members of the audience on his arrival at the Kempinski Hotel in New Delhi, India on December 21, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Buddhism is about transforming the mind, with the result that whatever happens you won’t be disturbed. Ancient India acquired a great deal of knowledge of the workings of the mind in the course of developing ‘shamatha’ a calmly abiding mind. As a science of the mind, Buddhism gives expression to much of that knowledge.”

His Holiness went on to say that the practice of the Dharma is rooted in having a disciplined mind.

The Heart Sutra was recited in Russian. His Holiness reminded his listeners that whatever was being taught, whether it is of spiritual value or not depends on our motivation. He explained that a key point of differentiation between spiritual traditions is the way they seek refuge. Christians seek refuge in God and Jesus Christ, Muslims in Allah. Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, as a result of which whatever practice of body, speech or mind we do becomes Buddhist practice. Some Buddhists only seek their own liberation, others, concerned for all sentient beings, follow the Mahayana or great vehicle. They take refuge in a Mahayana way and cultivate the awakening mind when they say, “By whatever virtue I create, May I become a Buddha for the sake of all sentient beings.”

Different spiritual traditions, even different schools of Buddhism, may propound different philosophical views, but they convey a common message of love and compassion. Consequently, it is appropriate to keep faith in our own tradition, but maintain respect for others. In today’s world, His Holiness explained, there may be 1 billion who declare they have no interest or belief in religion, but among the remaining 6 billion are many whose lives do not accord with their apparent faith and whose actions are touched by corruption. However, altruism is something even those not spiritually inclined require. Therefore, secular ethics is important today. When things go wrong for us, it’s usually because of our self-centred attitude.

“Warm-heartedness is the root of happiness and it’s the basis of secular ethics. This is not about the next life, nirvana, god or the Buddha; it’s about how to be happy in this life, now. This is why, wherever I go I talk about secular ethics. As for me, I don’t think I’m anything special. If I dwell on being the Dalai Lama, it creates a sense of distance between me and others. I prefer to be open and honest and to think of myself as the same as everyone else.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the first day of his three day teaching at the request of a group from Russia in New Delhi, India on December 21, 2013. Photo/Kate Surzhok
His Holiness clarified that it is a Mahayana practitioner’s intention to help others. He quoted Shantideva as saying that unless we exchange our happiness with others, we won’t be happy. He said that we can develop and enhance the sense of affection that we are biologically equipped with by using our intelligence.

“If you believe in God, you can see your enemy as God’s creation and reduce your animosity towards him. A Muslim friend told me that since all are created by Allah, that’s grounds for respecting them. So, it’s not only Buddhists who seek to extend love and compassion to all beings.”

He remarked that the first chapter of ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ deals with the benefits of altruism and developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta. Altruism is the basis of secular ethics and if we discuss it with our family and friends, they will discuss it with others and the message will spread. This is how we can influence our families and communities. He mentioned being engaged in a project with educators and scientists in the USA, Europe and Asia to promote secular ethics through education. There are two groups of people in the world: those with no interest in spiritual affairs and those who regard them as valuable. Secular ethics can be of benefit to both.

Indicating the 17 Nalanda masters in the painting behind him, he said they wrote texts explaining the general structure of Buddhism, which is why we need to study them. With regard to which of the texts he was referring to have been translated into Russian, he suggested that it would be very valuable if Dharmakirti’s ‘Pramanavarttika’ could be translated, since Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ and Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering the Middle Way’ have already been done. He was pleased to know that Kamalashila’s ‘Stages of Meditation’, written at the behest of Tibetan Emperor, Trisong Deutsan, has been made available in Russian. The Nalanda masters tended to have three objectives, refuting the views of others, establishing their own views and criticizing others’ arguments. Tibetan masters in turn have examined and analyzed these works and then written about them.

“And it’s as a result of my studies of what they have written that this boy from Amdo has some confidence. That’s the importance of study.”


The Hindi interpreter working during the first day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teaching in New Delhi, India on December 21, 2013. Photo/Kate Surzhok
Resuming after lunch, the session was opened with recitation of the Heart Sutra by monks from Tuva. His Holiness explained that the Buddha began his teaching with the Four Noble Truths, but when he met the five disciples in the Sarnath, Varanasi, he gave them advice on how to wear their lower robes, which was the first instruction of the Vinaya. Later, on Vulture’s Peak above Rajgir, he taught the Perfection of Wisdom sutras that are preserved in the Sanskrit tradition. These were not given in public. The Heart Sutra describes a dialogue between Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara, but for someone without the pure karma required to be able to see the great bodhisattva, it might have appeared that Shariputra was talking to himself. During the third turning of the wheel of Dharma at Vaishali, the Buddha explained about Buddha nature.

“We aim to put an end to our disturbing emotions,” His Holiness declared, “and ultimately to do this we need to understand how they work. As a result of ignorance and negative emotions we create karma. This is depicted in the illustration of the 12 links of dependent origination, from which it is clear that once you put an end to ignorance the other links cease too. This is why we need to understand emptiness and what it means to say, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

The Buddha taught that we can transform the mind, an ordinary person’s mind, by training it to realize Buddhahood. His Holiness revealed how the mantra from the Heart Sutra can be understood as illustrating progress through the five paths. The first ‘gate’ indicates the path of accumulation, the second ‘gate’ the path of preparation, ‘paragate’ indicates the path of seeing, ‘parasamgate’ the path of meditation and ‘bodhi svaha’ the attainment of enlightenment.

To overcome our disturbing emotions, we need a means to achieve the transformation. We need to employ our own minds to transform the mind. The way the mind works provides a basis for dialogue with modern scientists. Where Buddhists talk about the two truths, relativity and the law of causality, quantum physicists say there is nothing definitely to be found. A partless particle with no dependence on other things cannot be found. His Holiness announced that a book has recently been compiled in Tibetan containing Buddhist science drawn from the Kangyur and Tengyur. There are firm proposals to translate it into English, Chinese and Hindi.


One of the over 1300 Russians audience members taking notes as she listens to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teaching in New Delhi, India on December 21, 2013. Photo/Kate Surzhok
The Perfection of Wisdom teachings are the most important of the Buddha’s teachings, dealing as they do with method and wisdom. Nagarjuna commented and elaborated on what they had to say in his Six Collections of Reasoning. Following that example, in the ninth chapter of the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ Shantideva explains emptiness and refutes the views of other traditions and other schools of Buddhist thought.

His Holiness pointed out that conventional bodhichitta is the aspiration to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings. The resultant state of Buddhahood is a state totally free from all defilements and endowed with knowledge of everything. Wisdom is essential to achieve this path. Shantideva follows Nagarjuna’s lead, not by citing him, but by employing reasoning. He also wrote a companion volume to the ‘Guide’, the ‘Compendium of Training' and there was a tradition in Tibet of teaching the two together. His Holiness was pleased to learn that both texts are now available in Russian.

“We should regularly remind ourselves that we follow the Buddha and that we have an interest in the awakening mind of bodhichitta,” His Holiness advised, “not losing it even in dreams. If you have bodhichitta, you’ll be totally dedicated to the benefit and welfare of other beings.

“The greatest impact this practice has had on me has been on my peace of mind. I make no claims to have realized emptiness or to have cultivated bodhichitta, but I have some understanding of emptiness and it is acquaintance with bodhichitta that has given me courage and self-confidence. It’s very, very helpful.”

Having begun to read the verses of Chapter Five of the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’, His Holiness suggested that tomorrow morning’s session might begin with questions and answers.
 

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