Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - This morning, escorted by representatives of the patrons of these teachings His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived in the Tsuglagkhang at 8.30 am. He acknowledged the members of the audience, shaking hands with some, smiling and waving at others, and took his seat on the throne.
“The magnificent teacher Nagarjuna said the Buddhas teach on the basis of the Two Truths, conventional and ultimate truth,” he began. “Conventional truth is based on appearances and includes the practice of love, compassion and bodhichitta. Ultimate truth relates to reality and emptiness of intrinsic existence.”
He continued, citing Matriceta’s famous verse:
Buddhas do not wash unwholesome deeds away with water,
Nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands,
Neither do they transplant their own realization into others.
Teaching the truth of suchness they liberate (beings),
the gist of which is that Buddhas help other beings by teaching about reality as it is. His Holiness mentioned that education is generally considered to be important as a way not only to help people improve, but also to eliminate ignorance. At present due to ignorance we harm our health and damage our environment. We create problems for ourselves because of a short-sightedness that amounts to blindness. However, he said, all kinds of ignorance are rooted in a basic misconception about the independent existence of things.
“Here and now in the 21st century,” His Holiness declared, “it is not enough to follow the Buddha as a custom. We need to be warm-hearted, to cultivate love and compassion, as is taught in all major religious traditions, but we also need to know what the Buddha’s teaching is about. Meditating on emptiness with single-pointed concentration will yield insight into reality and an understanding of liberation.
“If you don’t understand what liberation is, you won’t understand cessation. Then you won’t understand the Dharma, the true path. When, you consequently don’t understand what the Sangha is, you won’t understand the role of the Buddha—someone who teaches reality as it is. This is why it’s important to understand what the Buddha taught. It’s through understanding that we will be able to preserve his teaching, therefore it’s necessary for the general public to understand too and not to let knowledge rest only with the monastics. One of the clear features of the Nalanda tradition is to use your intelligence to the full.
“Yesterday I referred to the commentary to this text by Chandrakirti. There’s also a short commentary by Khenpo Shenga, and I may refer to that by Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen. There are 16 chapters here, the first eight of which focus on the method aspect of practice, the second eight focus on ultimate truth. The first four chapters deal with abandoning belief in permanence, in pleasure, in purity and in pride.”
His Holiness began to read and explain the verses of the text. In the course of his explanation he again mentioned the trouble that climate change is creating for us all. He noted the damage that carbon emissions are doing by inducing global warming, but was confident that if we really make the effort change can be achieved. He cited the example of the damage to the ozone layer and the effective steps taken to reverse it. He stressed that if we make real effort to reduce carbon emissions, to curtail our use of fossil fuels, switching instead to clean sources of energy, such as solar and wind power generation, it will offset and repair the damage already done.
Discussing the nature of consciousness and its continuity His Holiness remarked that one source of evidence of previous lives is memory. He mentioned a couple of Indian girls he had met who both had clear and vivid memories of their previous lives. He observed that scientists are beginning to take more interest in consciousness as something other than just a function of the brain. He reported asking whether in a case where the physical components for a human life, the ovum and sperm, meet under perfect conditions it is guaranteed that a conception will take place. Scientists have told him that it is not, suggesting that the presence of another factor—consciousness—is also involved.
His Holiness spoke of the 30 or so people in the Tibetan exile community since 1959 whose bodies have remained fresh for some time after clinical death. He said this is due to the most subtle mind’s not having left the body. This most subtle mind has no beginning and no end. It is what goes all the way to Buddhahood.
Advice towards the end of Chapter 4 directed towards kings and rulers prompted His Holiness to remark that here in the 21st century we favour democracy in which leaders are elected to serve the people’s wishes and remain accountable to them.
The first four chapters that His Holiness has completed concerned giving up the pleasures of this life with a view to gaining a higher rebirth in the future. Tomorrow he will begin the next chapters, describing the means to attain liberation, and focussing particularly on the deeds of a Bodhisattva.