Concluding the ‘Precious Garland’ and Reading the ‘Letter to a Friend’

July 9th 2014

Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India, 8 July 2014 - Following the verses of homage from the ‘Ornament of Clear Realization’ and ‘Fundamental Wisdom’, at the start of the third day of teachings preliminary to the Kalachakra Empowerment, came a wish for the perpetuation of the Dharma.

“After working for countless aeons the Buddha finally attained enlightenment;
by the power of that may the Dharma last long.”

His Holiness remarked that while the Buddha’s body, speech and mind have many qualities, his predominant quality is his love and compassion. Therefore, Buddhism can be described as a system based on compassion. The Bodhisattva path that involves compassion and wisdom is the means by which to attain enlightenment. All good comes from compassion and all drawbacks are the result of cherishing yourself. In the world at large, from international conflicts down to family squabbles, all arise from a basic self-cherishing attitude. The ‘Precious Garland’ says: “If you are only concerned for yourself, let alone achieving enlightenment, you won’t even be ordinarily happy.” A Bodhisattva has two aspirations: to liberate all sentient beings and to attain enlightenment for them.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama waving to well-wishers as he arrives for the final day of Preliminary Teachings for the 33rd Kalachakra Empowerment in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on July 8, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
His Holiness announced that since he had not yet completed the ‘Precious Garland’, he would read quickly through it, stopping here and there to explain particular verses. He began by mentioning the emptiness of emptiness, which counters the sense that somehow the lack of inherent existence found under analysis might itself be inherently existent. What is found is like an illusion. His Holiness remarked that understanding emptiness is not easy; it takes time and dedication to understand it.

Shantideva observes that while everyone wishes to find happiness, many of us fail to do so; we tend to destroy happiness as if it were our enemy. Children on the other hand, full of joy, respond to each other with honesty and transparency. His Holiness recalled watching children from different communities at a Pestalozzi Village in Switzerland playing easily together because they lacked the sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that develops as they grow up. He said that as human beings we are social animals with a natural inclination, a biological tendency, for affection. If we cultivate it we will achieve happier lives and a more peaceful world. By using reason and intelligence we can develop an extensive sense of affection that even wishes for our enemies to be happy.

To achieve the definite goodness mentioned in the text, there are two approaches to developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta: the 7-fold cause and effect and exchanging self and others. Those of sharp faculties favour the latter method, which involves not only a wish to save other beings, but also an understanding of emptiness.

His Holiness pointed out that the collection of virtuous actions that Nagarjuna discusses here, with the exception of wrong view, are common to all spiritual traditions. Contemplating them leads disciples to understand the preciousness of the human life they give rise to and its rarity. He said that in his ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’, Je Tsongkhapa explains how by overcoming attraction to the pleasures of this and future lives the disciple can develop a determination to be free and generate the awakening mind of bodhichitta. Towards the end of the second chapter and into the third, Nagarjuna lists for the king he is writing to the 32 major and 80 minor marks of a Buddha’s body and the virtues that produce them. He also reiterates that the awakening mind is not intent on liberating a few sentient beings, but all beings across the expanse of space. It is intent on placing all of them in enlightenment.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the final day of the Preliminary Teachings for the 33rd Kalachakra Empowerment in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on July 8, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
Noting that education is important the world over, while most of us live our lives motivated by self-cherishing based on a misconception of self, His Holiness clarified that to be a Lama requires training and education. He again quoted Je Tsongkhapa’s saying that to tame others, teachers must first have tamed themselves. Therefore, some understanding of the Dharma is not sufficient; a spiritual teacher also needs training in morality, concentration and wisdom.

His Holiness reported that some years ago Chinese Buddhists told him of Tibetan teachers turning up in China with grand titles and attracting eager disciples. The disciples were eventually dismayed to discover that these so-called Lamas’ principal interest was money and sex. They asked His Holiness to do something, but he replied there was little he could do from India. His advice was that before committing themselves, disciples should examine a Lama to see if he or she is truly pacified, knowledgeable and compassionate. He recommended that they commit themselves to a Lama only after assuring themselves of his or her qualities. To protect the teachings a teacher needs to be transparent. Deceiving others is wrong. In Chinese the word for Lama means ‘Living Buddha’, but in Sanskrit the equivalent word is guru, meaning one who is qualified to teach.

The stories of Jetsun Milarepa’s relationship with Marpa and Naropa’s with Tilopa make clear the importance of the relationship between guru and disciple. A Lama’s appearance in an ordinary form makes him or her accessible to us and gives us the opportunity to learn.

His Holiness pointed out that chapter five of the ‘Precious Garland’ includes explanations of the seven types of pride, the ten grounds of a Bodhisattva and, from verse 465, twenty verses that comprise the Seven Limb Practice. He recommended it would be good to recite these regularly. They culminate in a summary of the awakening mind of bodhichitta:

May I always be an object of enjoyment
For all sentient beings according to their wish
And without interference, as are the earth,
Water, fire, wind, herbs, and wild forests.

May I be as dear to sentient beings as their own life,
And may they be even dearer to me.
May their ill deeds fructify for me,
And all my virtues fructify for them.

As long as any sentient being
Anywhere has not been liberated,
May I remain [in the world] for the sake of that being
Though I have attained highest enlightenment.


Some of the over 100,000 people gathered to attend the final day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Preliminary Teachings for the 33rd Kalachakra Empowerment in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on July 8, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
Having completed his reading of the ‘Precious Garland’, His Holiness turned to Nagarjuna’s ‘Letter to a Friend’, which he again said he would read through quickly. He indicated where it described the eight worldly concerns and where it surveyed the various realms of existence including the domains of animals, hungry ghosts and hells. He remarked that the nature of cyclic existence is pervasive suffering due to karma and delusion. Because of this, as long as we wish to attain enlightenment, we have to meditate on selflessness, but unless we actually do so, no change will take place.

Towards the end of the text it says that within the treasury of the Buddha’s words there are none so precious as his explanation of dependent arising. From ignorance comes action, and from that comes consciousness. Thence name-and-form appears. From that arise the six sense faculties, from which comes contact. These are the twelve links of dependent arising taught by the Buddha. From contact, feeling comes to be, and based on feeling, craving appears. Again from craving grasping is born, then becoming, and as a result of that there is birth.

Once there is birth, there is untold misery: sickness, ageing, frustrated wishes, death and decay; in short a great mass of pain. If birth is stopped, this will not occur.

His Holiness quotes the text as indicating that the solution is to adopt the Eightfold Path to pursue which requires mindfulness, effort and good conduct. Nagarjuna’s principal advice to the king is to cultivate a peaceful mind, for the mind is the root of the Dharma. In his concluding advice His Holiness said:

“Although there hasn’t been time to explain Nagarjuna’s two texts more thoroughly, you’ve received the transmission and you have the books so you can read them for yourselves. Then think about what they mean. You can also hold discussions of them among yourselves. I’m happy that for the last three days we’ve been able to conduct this Dharma discourse. Be humble and respectful of others and don’t think only of yourselves.


The completed Kalachakra Sand Mandala for the 33rd Kalachakra Empowerment in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on July 8, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
“The day after tomorrow we will begin the Kalachakra Empowerment with entry into the mandala and the initial empowerments. If it’s hot in the afternoon be careful to cover your heads from the sun. Lay-people can use umbrellas and monastics can protect themselves with their upper robes.”

In the afternoon, as on previous days, His Holiness participated in prayers and rituals associated with the Kalachakra Empowerment. Construction of the sand mandala had been completed and the monks of Namgyal Monastery who had worked long on it had packed up their tools. Prayers and rituals will continue tomorrow, including, in the early afternoon, the Offering Dance performed first by the Namgyal monks, but in which other monastic and lay groups have also been invited to participate.
 

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