Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, 22 June 2016 - The worldwide headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in Salt Lake City. This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama paid a courtesy call on the Three Counsellors of the Church before driving out to the newly established Utah Tibetan Community Hall. There he was met by Tashi Shölpa dancers, children holding the ‘Chema Changpu’ traditional symbol of welcome and the President of the Utah Tibetan Association Lobsang Tsering who offered him a ‘kata’. The hall was filled with smiling faces and hands reaching out to him as he walked through to take his seat on the stage. A large group of children sang for him.
In his report, Lobsang Tsering dealt with the acquisition of the Community Hall and the difficulties the Association is having in making progress with Tibetan Language classes for children---although they are determined to continue to try. He concluded with prayers for His Holiness’s long life. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams spoke of the honour he felt in being invited to participate in the gathering in His Holiness’s presence. He announced that the community he represents has declared itself a compassionate community and plans to help the homeless, the elderly and others in need of support. He said:
“We all have the capacity to take care of each other. You, Your Holiness, have inspired us to put our sense of compassion into action.”
Beginning his talk to Utah Tibetans, His Holiness said,
“I thought today I’d talk about Tibetan culture and religion, which is the life force of the Tibetan people, whatever ups and downs we may face. For more than 1000 years we’ve kept our language and writing alive. Singing and dancing is, of course, a part of our culture, but there’s not much in it to share with others. I’ve made you a donation of a painting of the 17 Masters of Nalanda and I’ve done so is because of the contribution their works have made to our rich philosophical tradition. Tibet is an ancient nation, but it is our culture that is important. It is peaceful and compassionate—something worth preserving.
“Therefore, I’d like to explain the background of the Buddha’s. In India there were the Pali and Sanskrit traditions from which arose the Nalanda tradition that was introduced to Tibet by Shantarakshita. This exemplary scholar was invited to Tibet in the 8th century by the Tibetan Emperor Trisong Detsen.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the new Utah Tibetan Community Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA on June 22, 2016. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL|
“All the world’s major religious traditions teach love and compassion, tolerance, self-discipline and contentment. They provide different philosophical views to support the practice of these qualities.
“The Buddha taught in the vernacular and what he taught was later compiled and committed to writing in the Pali and Sanskrit collections. The Pali tradition consists of the common presentation of his teachings and includes the Three Trainings in ethics, concentration and wisdom. The Sanskrit tradition consists of teachings given to more select groups of disciples with pure vision and pure karma. It was carried to China and on to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. However, it was also conveyed directly from India to Tibet and from there to Mongolia. It emphasizes the application of reason and logic.”
His Holiness spoke of discussions he’s held with Thai monks and scholars in which he asked about the way they teach the Four Noble Truths and the 37 Aids to Enlightenment. They explained that they establish these teachings primarily by citing the scriptures.
“The Sanskrit tradition follows the Buddha’s urging not to accept his teaching at face value, but to examine and investigate it with reason and logic. Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ describes how to view reality on such a basis. He establishes which teachings can be accepted literally and which require interpretation. At the same time the Tibetan tradition also incorporates the monastic discipline of the Vinaya. This was also introduced by Shantarakshita who ordained the first seven Tibetan monks to see if Tibetan could keep the precepts.
|Members of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak at the new Utah Tibetan Community Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA on June 22, 2016. Photo/Thom Gourley|
“The higher knowledge of the Abhidharma includes the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, whose explicit content is the explanation of emptiness and whose implicit content is how to progress on the path. Only the Tibetan tradition maintains a rigorous study of the reason and logic on which such teachings rely.
“Indian Buddhist literature was translated into Tibetan at the instigation of Shantarakshita, so today, there is no need to turn to any other language to understand Buddhist doctrine, thanks to the great efforts of the translators and scholars of the past.”
His Holiness mentioned the dharani or mantra that is used in the consecration of statues, reliquary objects and so forth:
Ye dharma hetuprabhava hetum tesham tathagata hyavadat tesham cha yo nirodha evam vadi mahashramana
Of those things that arise from causes,
The Tathagata has taught those causes,
And also what their cessation is:
This is the doctrine of the Great Sage.
Things change in accordance with causes and conditions and in terms of samsara, or the cycle of existence, these causes and conditions are affected by our karma and disturbing emotions. Cessation or liberation is the mind purified of defilements, which is achieved by following the path. His Holiness quoted the Buddha as saying:
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).
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the new Utah Tibetan Community Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA on June 22, 2016. Photo/Thom Gourley|
“Because ignorance blinds us to reality, we need such wisdom. We take refuge in the Buddha, the teacher, the Dharma he taught that is the true refuge and the Sangha, the community who assist us on the path. However, we often pray to the Buddha as if he were like a creator god who could just bring about whatever we wish. Merely reciting prayers isn’t enough. We need to apply what they say. We need to see that things are empty of inherent existence. I’ve been meditating on this for 60 years and I’ve got a taste of it and the fact that the more we understand emptiness, the better we are able to reduce our negative emotions.
“We used to think that study of the Buddha’s teachings was the job of the monks alone. This has to change. Forty years ago I urged ritual monasteries to introduce programs of study and began with my own monastery Namgyal Tratsang. I also urged nuns to study and later this year we’ll be awarding the highest doctorates to fully qualified nuns. However, even study by itself is not enough. We have to be like Milarepa and put the teachings into practice. He rigorously applied the teachings and attained enlightenment. We too need to make the teachings part of our minds.
“In terms of the cause of Tibet, you should know that increasing numbers of ordinary Chinese people support us. And as the numbers of Chinese Buddhists grows, so does the number of those who appreciate the value of our Tibetan Buddhist traditions.”
His Holiness then led the assembled audience, children and adults, in a ceremony for taking refuge and generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta.
After lunch, he flew to Denver, Colorado, and drove out to Boulder where the local Tibetan communities gave him a rousing welcome.