Concluding ‘The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ and ‘37 Practices of a Bodhisattva’

August 26th 2014

Hamburg, Germany, 25 August 2014 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited the Museum of Ethnology, Hamburg, this morning. It is currently holding an exhibition entitled ‘Tibet - Nomads at Risk. He was appreciative of the photographs depicting the nomads’ way of life, traditions and the threats that put them at risk. He talked about the negative effects of deforestation, reckless mining for minerals, and the forced settlement of nomads that ultimately leaves them at a loss.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama looking at the Nomad Exhibition "Tibet - Nomads at Risk" at the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg, Germany on August 25, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
Prompted by a photograph of Tibetan flags he told the story of how Chairman Mao Xedong gave him permission to fly it. He noted another photo of imprisoned Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, while a picture of yaks reminded him how much more confident he felt riding a yak in the mountains than a horse, because their hooves give them more stability.

A fault in the Museum’s old lift caused His Holiness to arrive at the Congress Centre for the second day of teachings slightly behind schedule. Once he and the audience were settled in their seats, he invited them to ask questions. The first person to step forward turned out to be an NKT/ISC demonstrator who stridently challenged His Holiness with the allegation that Trijang Rinpoche had described Shugden as an enlightened being, asking why he had lied in contradicting his own lama. His Holiness chuckled and began:

“But that’s just your side of the story. I’ve been a Buddhist monk almost all my life, and I’m now nearly 80 years old. A key aspect of a monk’s discipline is not to tell lies; all my actions have been transparent ... “

Despite being afforded the opportunity to make his point, the questioner did not do His Holiness the courtesy of listening to his answer, but continued to heckle him about lying. Since he had become disruptive, security personnel quietly removed him from the hall.

The next questioner wanted to know how we can live in a world where so many children live in poverty and danger. His Holiness replied that the violence, the unthinkable killings, and the corruption we hear about in the news are clear signs of a lack of moral principles. He repeated his conviction of the need to foster secular ethics widely through education, which could result in the later part of the 21st century being more peaceful and compassionate.


A member of the audience asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during the morning session of the second day of teachings in Hamburg, Germany on August 25, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
To a similar question about the violence in Gaza, Iraq and Syria he said that once people’s emotions are aroused it is difficult to reason with them. However, by taking a long term view we can try to avert a repetition of such situations in the future. To a suggestion that it is difficult to think of the emptiness of other people’s suffering, His Holiness clarified that positive emotions do not seek an independent target, so we can develop compassion for all sentient beings, but cannot become angry with all of them. Negative emotions are based on a misconception of true existence and understanding emptiness is an antidote to that.

A young man said he accepted that understanding emptiness can eliminate negative states of mind and asked if he would be better to do that or try to help people. His Holiness told him that at 31 it might be more practical to try to help others with respect and a positive aspiration, which would generate merit that might later make understanding emptiness easier.

Resuming his explanation of Shantideva’s ‘Guide’, His Holiness said he was going to talk about altruism and the awakening mind. He picked out verses from Chapter One that say that those who wish to dispel sentient beings’ difficulties and experience joy should not give up the awakening mind. One who gives rise to the awakening mind is known as a child of the Sugatas and becomes worthy of respect. He quoted Vimuktisena saying that the path to awakening focuses the mind on compassion and on sentient beings. What’s more, whereas ordinary virtue wanes like the plantain tree, the awakening mind flourishes without end. The text says that the awakening mind can be seen as of two kinds: one that is only an aspiration and one that involves active engagement.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking on Religion and Dialogue in Modern Society organized by the University of Hamburg's Academy of World Religions in Hamburg, Germany on August 25, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
During the lunch break, His Holiness met with a group from the University of Hamburg convened by Prof Dr Wolfram Weisse to talk about religion and dialogue in modern society. The Professor asked if dialogue with other spiritual traditions was a natural part of Buddhism. His Holiness answered:

“In his life the Buddha encountered other scholars and practitioners, but whether we can say there was dialogue between them I don’t know. On the other hand he seems to have given teachings from different points of view depending on the circumstances and who he was teaching. In our own time, it is noteworthy that Pope John Paul II introduced the Assisi interfaith meetings and began to refer to religions in the plural.”

Back in the teaching hall, His Holiness again invited questions from the audience. One woman expressed love for the Buddhist tradition but found herself too lazy to engage in it. His Holiness told her that he tends to be lazy himself, but that he has found that it’s easier to be lazy when the goal is unclear and that when the goal is clear it is easier to achieve. Another woman wanted to know how to teach children and adults in school how to meditate on emptiness and he replied:

“It would be better to teach children about love and compassion. And teaching through words alone is not enough; you need to set an example too. If you try to teach compassion with a stern face, who will learn anything?”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the afternoon session of the second day of his teachings in Hamburg, Germany on August 25, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
Chapter Four of the ‘Guide’ deals with conscientiousness, leading our lives in a meaningful way. The fifth chapter involves introspection and mindfulness. Chapter Six, concerned with patience, also deals with the drawbacks of anger and hatred. “There is no vice like hatred, and no practice like patience. Therefore, I shall earnestly cultivate patience in various ways.” It also includes the realistic and practical advice that if your examination of a problem reveals a remedy, what’s the point of anxiety or anger? And if there is no remedy, anxiety and anger are of no use. Patience has the great advantage that even if you are provoked you will not be overcome by anger, but will keep your peace of mind.

Chapter Seven deals with enthusiasm and Eight with Meditation. There is advice for cultivating single-pointed concentration, for employing mindfulness to cope with the two obstacles of laxity and excitement. It also deals with generating the awakening mind. One approach is the method of sevenfold cause and effect, but Shantideva, following Nagarjuna, presents the method of equalizing and exchanging self and others. He says, “After meditating on the advantages of solitude and having calmed your discursive thoughts, you should cultivate the awakening mind.” Why?

“I should eliminate the suffering of others because it is suffering, just like my own suffering. I should take care of others, just because I am also a sentient being.

“When happiness is equally dear to others and myself, what is so special about me that I strive after happiness for myself alone?

“When fear and suffering are equally abhorrent to others and myself, what is so special about me that I protect myself but not others?”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the afternoon session of the second day of his teachings in Hamburg, Germany on August 25, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer
His Holiness continued to read rapidly through the text, stopping here and there to highlight a point, concluding with Shantideva’s summary:

“Someone who does not exchange his own happiness for the suffering of others, surely does not achieve Buddhahood. How could he even find happiness in the cycle of existence?”

He then read swiftly through the short text, ‘37 Practices of a Bodhisattva,’ written by the Tibetan master Thogmey Sangpo. He was known by the epithet Gyal-sey meaning Son of the Conqueror or Bodhisattva. He was a contemporary of the great scholar Buton Rinchen Drup who lived in the 14th century CE. His Holiness pointed out that like the Lam Rim the text follows the progress of the person of small, medium and great scope, going on to elaborate on the practice of the six perfections.

Considering that he was giving the transmission of the text in Tibetan, when he had read to the end, His Holiness instructed his interpreter not to translate what he’d read into German because his listeners had a copy of the text.

His Holiness explained that he will lead a ceremony for generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the Bodhisattva vow tomorrow prior to giving an empowerment of Avalokiteshvara. While the teachings he has given so far have been open to everyone, he mentioned that in order to create and maintain a pure teacher-disciple relationship he requests that people who persist in propitiating the spirit Dolgyal, which it is entirely a matter of their own choice to do, should not attend tomorrow’s teachings. Because there will be an opportunity to meditate on them together tomorrow, he recommended that his listeners think about bodhichitta and their understanding of emptiness this evening in preparation.
 

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