Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India, 8 June 2016 - The second day of teachings requested by the Nalanda Shiksha began with senior members reciting the ‘Heart of Wisdom’ in Sanskrit.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at Main Tibetan Temple on the second day of his teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India on June 9, 2016. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL|
His Holiness began by recalling that more than 30 years ago he conceived a wish to engage in discussions with modern scientists. Since then he has had conversations focussed on cosmology, neurobiology, physics, and especially quantum physics and psychology. He laughed as he told the gathering that one result is that he has ceased to believe in the cosmology found in Buddhist scriptures that describe a flat world with Mount Meru at the centre.
“Our discussions have been immensely helpful and mutually enriching,” he said. “And anyway the main purpose of the Buddha’s appearance in the world was not to contribute to map-making, but to help put an end to suffering.”
He remarked that the various Indian traditions that cultivate concentration (shamatha) and special insight (vipashyana) have acquired a profound understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions. Studied in an academic context this knowledge can be helpful today.
He observed that as human beings we all want to lead a happy life and indeed have a right to do so. Since many of the man-made problems we face today come about because of an underlying lack of moral principles, he appealed for more attention to be paid to incorporating secular ethics into the education system. This was taken up when His Holiness invited questions from the audience and he noted that India has a secular constitution. He suggested that simply engaging in rituals is not sufficient to achieve positive change; the use of reason and study are essential. Expressing appreciation of the role of temples in the community, he proposed housing books in them too for people to study. He further recommended that spiritual masters not only tell edifying stories but also explain philosophical views.
“Another Indian quality I very much admire is the longstanding tradition of ahimsa or non-violence,” he said. “There are two parts to this, the action of non-harming and the motivation of karuna or compassion.”
When asked to talk about his own spiritual development, His Holiness answered:
“Until I was a teenager, I had no interest in study or practice. I just wanted to play. But when I was about 15 or 16 I developed an interest in philosophy and the idea of pratitya-samutpada—dependent arising. For the last 60 years or so, my first thought on waking in the morning is to recall the Buddha and his teaching of dependent arising.
|Members of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the second day of his teachings at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on June 9, 2016.|
“50 years ago I developed some experience of the selflessness of persons and since then I’ve paid attention to the selflessness of phenomena. This understanding has a real effect on reducing such disturbing emotions as attachment. And on this basis I am convinced that the cessation of suffering is possible. However, one aspect of practice I lack is single-pointed concentration, and I would have to go into quiet retreat to acquire it. This presents me with a dilemma, retiring into solitude to make spiritual progress or working with others for the greater welfare. The example of the first Dalai Lama, who, after some opportunity for practice, dedicated himself to establishing Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and teaching others, impressed me.”
Asked to advise on how other people should conduct their practice, His Holiness remarked that the Buddha taught that the source of suffering is ignorance. He added that there is mere ignorance, just not knowing something, and ignorance that is a distortion of reality. He quoted a verse from Nagarjuna’s treatise ‘Fundamental Wisdom’:
Through the elimination of karma and disturbing emotions there is cessation.
Karma and affliction come from conceptual thought.
These come from mental exaggeration or fabrication.
Fabrication ceases through emptiness.
He reported that Khunu Lama Rinpoche explained that in Sanskrit the final line could read ‘Fabrication dissolves into emptiness.’ His Holiness then drew attention to two more verses from Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ that he values and recites to himself every day:
That which is dependent origination
Is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation,
Is itself the middle way.
There does not exist anything
That is not dependently arisen.
Therefore there does not exist anything
That is not empty.
Citing the ‘Ornament for Clear Realization’ as saying that the root of the awakening mind of bodhichitta is compassion, the wish for others to be free from suffering, and that it becomes active when the aspiration to actually help them out of suffering is present, His Holiness opened the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ at Chapter Four. He discussed several verses in the chapter before reporting a conversation he had had with Khunu Lama Rinpoche about verse 46, which reads:
Deluded disturbing conceptions! When forsaken by the eye of wisdom?
And dispelled from my mind, where will you go?
Where will you dwell in order to be able to injure me again?
But, weak-minded, I have been reduced to making no effort.
In answer to His Holiness’s remark that the disturbing emotions are very powerful, Khunu Lama Rinpoche said, “No, they are not that strong. It doesn’t take nuclear weapons to eliminate them, it’s understanding of suchness, an understanding of reality, that helps us destroy them.”
His Holiness announced that tomorrow there will be a ceremony for generating the awakening mind.