Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - His Holiness the Dalai Lama opened the third day of teachings he has been giving to young Tibetan students with a reminder that today is the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
“At the end of the Second World War, atomic bombs were dropped first on Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki. I have been to both places. In Hiroshima, near to where the bomb exploded stand the ruins of a building, the Genbaku Dome or the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. You can see where parts of the steel girders of the dome were melted by the intense heat. I’ve met survivors, some of whom were severely burned.
“I’ve also been to Nagasaki. When you see what was the epicentre of the explosion, it feels very unsettling. War is driven by anger, by the urge to eliminate the enemy, and yet otherwise it’s basic human nature to be compassionate.
“I dream of a demilitarized world, a world free of nuclear weapons. Today, on the 75th anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima we must remember that in order to bring about peace in the world, we need to cultivate peace within ourselves. We need to settle conflicts and disputes through dialogue and negotiation. Just as we don’t want suffering, we should not inflict suffering on others. When there is discord between members of a family, other relatives do what they can to resolve the conflict.
“In our interdependent globalized world, the idea of eliminating our enemies is completely out of date.
“It’s important to remember what happened on this day 75 years ago. I’ve been there and it’s unbearably moving. We must work to free the world of these awful weapons and create a true and lasting peace.
“At a time when we face increasing natural calamities, as well as the threat of global warming, to maintain a fervent longing for such weapons is absurd. Here in India we are familiar with the practice of ‘ahimsa’ and ‘karuna’, non-violence and compassion — they should be our guide.
“When we learn that it is mental afflictions or destructive emotions that bring us suffering, even if we can’t remove them altogether, we must work to reduce them. Nagarjuna pays homage to the Buddha for teaching dependent arising in order to eliminate such defilements from our minds.
“There have been many great teachers in India, but what makes the Buddha unique is that he was the only one to teach about dependent arising — that things exist in relation to each other. Nalanda scholars who analysed dependent arising found that it is meaningful and can be applied to any situation.
“We are the followers of Nagarjuna, Aryadeva and so forth who have explained dependent arising through reference to scripture, but primarily through logic and reason. Today, whether we’re Buddhist or not, religious or not, it will be of great benefit to understand dependent arising. If we investigate whether things exist as they appear, that is independently, we’ll find they do not. They actually exist by way of dependence on other factors.
“When we’re angry about something or attached to something, it appears to be absolutely bad or absolutely good. We have a distorted perception of whatever it is. So far, in my discussions with scientists who work with quantum physics, I haven’t had the opportunity to ask if they feel what they have understood about the reality of things affects their emotional responses. But I’d be interested to know.
“If you’re relaxed and examine things in an objective way, you’ll see that they don’t exist as they appear.
“Among the array of great masters of Tibet, Jé Tsongkhapa was one who read and studied all the great Indian treatises on the Middle Way (Madhyamaka).”
His Holiness began to read the text from where he finished yesterday with verse 31. He remarked that as part of the process of learning the Buddha understood that destructive emotions arise out of ignorance. He also recognised that the essence of the mind is clarity and awareness and that distorted aspects of the mind, the mental afflictions, are not of the nature of the mind.
Jé Tsongkhapa, the author of the text His Holiness was reading, was exhorted by Manjushri to go into retreat. Some people were critical of this because it meant he would have to interrupt teachings he had been giving. However, Manjushri assured him that he knew what was best, adding that it is not enough to be expert in the words of the dharma if you don’t put them into practice. Jé Rinpoché became a hermit and achieved realization through his meditation.
His Holiness continued to read through the verses. He noted that although none of us were there to listen to the Buddha or Nagarjuna, their words survive them and are available for us to study. All of Nagarjuna’s works were translated into Tibetan with nothing left out. The Tibetan kings and the translators they commissioned did well.
His Holiness mused that we can also learn from their works something about how the Buddha and Nagarjuna lived. The Buddha lived as a simple monk without a secretary or treasurer. He observed the Vinaya and went on a daily alms round like other monks with his begging bowl in hand. By contrast, in Tibet, lamas acquired households and estates, became local leaders and even rulers in different places. When we look back now, we can understand that the Buddha’s foremost deed was his speech.
Having already noted that Jé Tsongkhapa was thoroughly well-versed in the works of great Indian masters, His Holiness mentioned some of the Tibetans he studied with. They included a lama at Drikung Til, Chengawa Chökyi Gyalpo, Rendawa, of course, who was a Sakya and the Nyingma master Lhodrak Drupchen, Namkha Gyaltsen. When they met Jé Rinpoché saw Lhodrak Drupchen as Vajrapani and he in turn saw Tsongkhapa as Manjushri.
Tsongkhapa’s writings comprise eighteen volumes. Butön Rinchen Drup was also prolific, but few of his books deal directly with the great Indian treatises. His Holiness stated that in addition to these he has read all the works of the five Sakya patriarchs, the ‘Path and Fruit’ texts for assemblies of people and for specific disciples, as well as the works of the Drukpa master Pema Karpo. He declared that they are all very good, but he feels that the quality of Tsongkhapa’s writing is exceptional. He is also impressed to see how his thought evolved from his early writings to those of his later years.
His Holiness completed his reading of the text and took questions from the audience. With regard to how to practise, His Holiness explained that the Buddha gave different instructions to different people, in different places, according to their particular disposition. It is common for different medicines to be prescribed for different ailments, but sometimes different medicines are recommended for different patients.
His Holiness advised a nun from the College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah, that developing patience is useful when dealing with others who are jealous. He encouraged her to read chapter six of ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ which focusses on the practice of patience. Chapter eight of the same book gives an authoritative account of the practice of exchanging self with others, altruism and bodhichitta. While the ‘Guide’ is the best book to read about the extensive path, Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’ and Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering the Middle Way’ give the clearest account of the profound path.
With regard to his four main commitments, His Holiness clarified that there are seven billion human beings on the earth and he is one of them. He is committed to sharing with others the simple idea that love and compassion are a true source of happiness. He is also dedicated to fostering inter-religious harmony. Although he has retired from political responsibilities now that Tibetans have an elected leadership, he is determined to do what he can to preserve Tibetan language and culture and protect the natural environment of Tibet. Finally, he is moved to revive ancient Indian knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions and encourage its incorporation into the Indian education system.
The Nalanda Tradition that is at the heart of Tibetan culture has been kept alive for centuries in Tibet. With its rational and intelligent understanding of the mind and emotions it has a contribution to make to the world at large. However, without knowledge and understanding you can’t teach, so His Holiness encouraged the student who had asked about it to make herself thoroughly familiar with her native culture.
His Holiness agreed with another student that the pain and pleasure we experience in this life can be attributed to past karma. But it is difficult to distinguish whether karma provides the cause or the conditions for what happens.
Nevertheless, appreciating that positive action gives rise to happiness while unwholesome deeds result in misery can help us not to lose hope.
Discussing the twelve links of dependent arising, His Holiness observed that self-centred attitudes and misconceptions about an independent autonomous self are at the root of the mental afflictions that disturb our minds. When you see that things do not exist as they appear, your misplaced thoughts are reduced.
“If you seek to pinpoint the person that appears to exist, you can’t pin it down, and yet such a person exists by way of designation. Because things can be posited through mere designation, we can talk about causes and conditions — karma and its effects. And because things are designated in dependence on other factors, any essential existence is refuted. As Chandrakirti writes in ‘Entering into the Middle Way’:
Vases, woollen cloth, shields, armies, forests, garlands, trees,
houses, carts, rest houses, and all such things
that people designate based on their bases, know these likewise.
The Buddha, for one, did not quarrel with the world. 6.166
The parts, qualities, attachment, defining characteristics, fuel and so on,
the whole, quality-bearer, object of attachment, the characterized, fire and so on,
none of these exist when subjected to sevenfold chariot analysis.
Yet they exist in another way, through everyday conventions of the world. 6.167
“I meditate every day on emptiness and bodhichitta,” His Holiness vouchsafed, “and I find it very helpful. Meditating on emptiness has the effect of reducing the intensity of my anger and attachment. Exchanging self and others in meditation reduces my self-cherishing attitudes.”
Tsultim Dorje, Director of the TCV Schools addressed His Holiness as the supreme leader of the Tibetan people and thanked him for acceding to their request that he teach. He prayed for His Holiness’s long life and expressed a wish that the next teaching for young Tibetans will take place in the Tsuglagkhang.
His Holiness recited verses of dedication from the ‘Samantabhadra Prayer’, as well as lines from the ‘Words of Truth’, waved to the students on the screens in front of him and the webcast came to an end.