Final Day of Teachings at Sera Jey

January 4th 2014

Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India, 3 January 2014 - It was chilly and dark when His Holiness the Dalai Lama emerged from Sera Jey Monastery this morning to take the short walk to the teaching ground. Even at that early hour the path was lined with smiling faces as he made his way to begin rituals in preparation for an Avalokiteshvara empowerment. He had instructed that while he was doing that, monks should engage in debate, which they did with gusto.

When he was ready to teach, he began, saying:

“Our incomparable teacher, the Lion of the Shakyas, appeared in this world 2600 year ago. I’d like to report a conversation I had once in Amritsar at an inter-religious gathering that sets what the Buddha taught in context with other religious traditions. A Sufi scholar - Sufis are Muslim mystics who emphasise love and compassion - told us that all religions seek to answer three questions: what is the self? Does it have beginning and does it have an end?

Ganden Tripa Rizong Rinpoche making traditional offerings at the start of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's final day of teachings at Sera Jey Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on January 3, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
“With regard to what self is, before Buddhism all religious traditions seem to have believed in a single, permanent, autonomous self that governs our combination of body and mind. Buddhism asserts no such self exists. The idea occurs because of our innate misconception about self; that it is single, permanent and autonomous. Only Buddhism challenges this.

“Theistic faiths say the self comes into being at the beginning of creation. I asked a Christian friend and scholar what would be wrong if Christians were to accept previous lives. He answered that that couldn’t be, because this very life was made by God. Non-theistic Samkhyas on the other hand says that the ‘I’ has no beginning. I met a Hindu scholar who said there is no beginning to the conscious self. In Buddhism, there is no creator god and no permanent self, so it doesn’t have a beginning either.

“When we ask theistic schools what will happen when we die the answer is vague and unclear. Christians traditionally have buried the body in a coffin to wait for the final judgement. A lower Buddhist school asserts that at moksha, liberation, there is extinction like the going out of a lamp when its fuel is gone.

“Then 200 years or so ago, science came into the picture. These days some neuroscientists have shown that mind and thought can bring about an impact on the brain. Consciousness with cognitive clarity can affect the brain. There are scientists who show interest in what I call Buddhist science.”

His Holiness announced that he was going to give an empowerment of Avalokiteshvara with 1000 hands and 1000 eyes.  He said that in connection with it he would give the lay-person’s vows, lead the ceremony for generating the aspiration to enlightenment followed by Bodhisattva vows, which would be a fitting completion to the Lam Rim teachings he has been giving.

When the empowerment was complete, the Kalon of the Department of Religion & Culture, the Speaker of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and the former Chairman of the Kashag, Kasur Samdhong Rinpoche addressed the assembly. This prompted His Holiness to speak again,

Members of the audience during the empowerment given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the final day of teachings at Sera Jey Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on January 3, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
We have quite a number of Tibetans from Tibet here and we’re meeting in a free country. People in Tibet continue to hope that those in exile will not forget them. It’s been 54 years since we came into exile and 64 years since 1949. And yet, the Tibetan spirit has not been subdued. Today, the spirit of even small children is strong. Meanwhile, hardliner, narrow-minded Chinese leaders may exert harsh authority over Tibet, but the Tibetan spirit only grows stronger. I’d like to express my thanks to those of you who here who represent the Tibetans in Tibet. I think you and your spirit are amazing.

“Before Buddhism came to Tibet, we didn’t hesitate to fight, but since the arrival of Buddhism among us we have had a compassionate culture that is potentially useful for the world today. Westerners and Chinese who travel to Tibet see that Tibetans are especially compassionate. However, I have heard that some people are becoming corrupt. We should try to preserve and improve our reputation in the eyes of the world. We need to keep our good name intact. And those of us in exile need to keep this in mind too.

“We are held together by our language and culture. Buddhism is a major part of our identity, so we should take interest in it as Tibetans. Those of you foreigners who are showing interest in Tibetan Buddhism can help because our religion and culture are at a crucial pass. Whether they will survive is not easy to say.

“I’ve tried all kinds of ways to pursue our just cause. We have to build a better more equal world through peace and non-violence. When we face problems we should apply non-violence. We need dialogue, sitting down together to talk problems through. The 20th century was a period of violence. The 21st century should be an era of non-violence. Those of you abroad, who are showing interest and friendship here today, make people in your own countries aware of the situation in Tibet. Remember, as I often say, those who are friends like you are not so much pro-Tibetan as pro-justice. Thank you.”
 

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