His Holiness the Dalai Lama Teaches a Group from Russia in Delhi - Day One

December 24th 2012

New Delhi, India, 24 December 2012 - After the audience of nearly 1500 people, more than a thousand of whom were Russian, had warmly greeted him, His Holiness explained that his voice was hoarse because he had recently spoken for more than 50 hours over two weeks while giving an important teaching in South India.

“In my hurry to finish the texts I caught a cold and that’s why my voice is croaky today.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama greets the audience at the start of the first day of his four day teaching to Russian Buddhists in Delhi, India, on December 24, 2012. Photo/Yurkov Alex
He welcomed the Russian guests, telling them that in the past there were many great masters who came from Buryat, Kalmykia and Tuva to study in Central Tibet and later became accomplished. He said this is the heritage that is being revived today. At the same time there are others who have become interested in Buddhist philosophy and have become Buddhists. He said that while he generally advises people to stick to the religion they are born with, he acknowledges that sometimes people feel Buddhism can be more helpful to them. However, he stressed that it is important not then to lose respect for the religion their families belong to.

He also noted that there people who had come from Tibet in the audience and he had words for them:

“I know the spirit of the Tibetan people remains very strong, but despite that it is difficult for you to study in Tibet, or to receive teachings from properly qualified masters, so please listen carefully while you are here.”

Conducting a survey of spirituality, His Holiness said that whether they look at people and the world from a philosophical viewpoint or not, from a theistic or non-theistic standpoint, all our religious traditions teach about love and compassion. He said that the source of our problems is self-centredness. Theistic religions tackle this by complete submission to God, whereas Buddhism reduces self-centredness by focussing on selflessness, the lack of a single, autonomous self, and the advice to regard others as more important than us. He counselled that once we understand that our different religions have common goals, we understand the grounds for granting them equal respect.

“I read recently that here in the twenty-first century, of the 7 billion people alive today, one billion describe themselves as non-believers, which means 6 billion regard themselves as believers in one religion or another. But when we see that apparently religious people indulge in corruption and don’t seem to want to reduce their self-centredness or combat their destructive emotions, we might ask how deep their spiritual belief really is.”

He said that when we are in the grip of destructive emotions we are unhappy, but when we develop love and compassion for others we feel happier and more at ease. Competitiveness and jealousy give rise to fear and mistrust; we lose friends and become lonely. When we are free from fear, trust and friendship grow. When our minds are at peace, we are less anxious and free from fear. And today, scientists and thinkers recognise that true happiness comes from peace of mind.

“Compassion brings peace of mind and with it better health; so cherish compassion.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the first day of his four day teaching to Russian Buddhists in Delhi, India, on December 24, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
His Holiness then turned to the topic of secular ethics, his belief that in a materialistic world we need to find ways to foster and encourage people to nurture fundamental, humane, inner values. He feels that this can best be done through the medium of secular education, using the word secular as the Indian constitution does, not to exclude religion, religious believers or non-believers, but to accord all of them an inclusive respect. He encouraged his listeners to understand that if they passed on their interest in what he had to say about this to others, the word would spread.

Before embarking on his explanation of Shantideva’s Buddhist text, he invited the assembly to recite the Heart Sutra in Russian. He explained how the Buddhism of Tibet derives almost wholly from the tradition of Nalanda University, whose principal masters were depicted in the large painting behind him. He spoke of the great abbot Shantarakshita’s coming to Tibet at the invitation of the Tibetan Emperor and his establishment of monastic ordination, the translation of Buddhist scriptures and the study of Buddhism. To eliminate negative forces the same Emperor invited the Precious Guru, Padmasambhava. Later, Shantarakshita’s disciple Kamalashila also came to Tibet and many Tibetans went to India to study. Later, Atisha, who studied at Vikramashila, but had strong links to Nalanda, came to Tibet. Both the Sakya and Kagyu traditions trace the lineages of their teachings to Nalanda masters too.

His Holiness explained that Tibetan Buddhism includes the complete range of the Buddha’s teachings. It is founded on the monastic discipline of the Vinaya that is essentially the same as that upheld in the Pali tradition. He mentioned recently meeting with Thai masters and that they learned how similar their practices were. And although Tibetan Buddhism also includes the Perfection of Wisdom traditions and Highest Yoga Tantra, these are both founded on the Vinaya.

He emphasised that the transformation of the mind that is the heart of Buddhist practice is not something that can be done by force. It needs to be approached voluntarily, using intelligence to understand the aspiration and paths leading to the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

During the lunch break, His Holiness gave an interview to Russian television. He told them that most of our problems are our own creation, despite the fact that none of us wants to face problems. Our short sighted and narrow focus on our individual needs, neglecting the oneness of humanity, sets the scene. Consumerism, which involves a complete lack of awareness of reality, is an expression of this. It may provide short-lived material comfort, but very little mental well-being. He said that if we place all our hopes in materialism we will be disappointed.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama during an interview with Russian television in Delhi, India, on December 24, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He was asked what it is to be moral and replied that any action that brings happiness and comfort, either temporarily or in the long run, to ourselves or others, is positive. It is positive because happiness is what we want. However, he also pointed out that in the Buddhist view everything is relative and nothing is absolute. He illustrated this by showing how his ring finger is longer relative to his little finger, but shorter relative to his middle finger.

Questioned about Russians who had impressed him, he answered without hesitation, “Sakharov”, explaining that although he had been unable to meet the man himself, he’d enjoyed meeting his wife Yelena Bonner. Mikhail Gorbachev, a Nobel Laureate, he has met many times and admires. Then, he remembered meeting Khrushchev and Bulganin in Peking in 1954. The journalists also asked his opinion about whether the embalmed body of Lenin should now be buried and he told them it was none of his business, but went on to say that he felt Lenin had placed too much emphasis on power. He had adopted the ruthlessness and secrecy that may have a role in wartime and made them part of the communist state system. His Holiness remarked that while the Bolshevik Revolution aimed to overthrow the tyranny of the Tsar and his family, the revolutionaries eventually ended up in the same position, distant from the public and veiled in secrecy. His final words to the journalists were,

“As human beings we are all the same; we are born the same and we die the same. We need to emphasize the oneness of humanity, how we are all the same as brothers and sisters. Millionaires are on the increase in Russia and India, and yet the poor remain poor. We have to make an effort to do something about this and not simply remain indifferent.”

Resuming his teaching, His Holiness said that the very nature of mind is knowing and that we have to overcome and eliminate the mind’s defilements, our negative thoughts and emotions, as well as their imprints, which prevent our achieving omniscience. To do this we need the wisdom understanding emptiness. He quoted Je Tsongkhapa’s praise of the Buddha, “Whatever you have taught is based on dependent arising, There is no teaching of yours that does not lead to peace.”

Introducing Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, a Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, he said it was composed in the 8th century in India and is one of the principal instructions for developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta. His Holiness received a vivid explanation of it in 1967 from Khunnu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen, an Indian Lama, who in his youth had visited Dzogchen Monastery in Kham, Eastern Tibet and received it there. He explained that the title means engaging in the practices of a Bodhisattva. It prompts us to examine what enlightenment is, whether it can be achieved and, if we decide it can, to cultivate the aspiration to lead others to enlightenment too.

The teaching will resume tomorrow.
 

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