Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - As soon as His Holiness the Dalai Lama appeared this morning, monks in Mongolia began to chant the ‘Heart Sutra’, which was followed by a mandala offering presented before a portrait of His Holiness on the throne in Gandantegchenling Monastery.
In introductory remarks, the Khamba Lama paid homage to His Holiness and offered greetings to him on behalf of the monastery and all the monks and nuns of Mongolia. He observed that Jé Tsongkhapa’s tradition has flourished in Mongolia from the time of Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama. The Khamba Lama noted that right from His Holiness’s first visit to Mongolia in 1979 he has encouraged the revival of the Dharma there. The elderly surviving monks were very touched by his concern.
Subsequently, Mongolian monks have been able to go to India to study and some have earned Geshé Lharampa degrees and gone on to complete their tantric studies too. The Nalanda Tradition has been revived in Mongolia, for which the Khamba Lama expressed gratitude. He ended by requesting His Holiness to live long and to continue to turn the wheel of Dharma.
His Holiness began his teaching by reciting the verse of salutation from the end of Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’.
I prostrate to Gautama
Who, through compassion,
Taught the exalted Dharma,
Which leads to the relinquishing of all (distorted) views.
“There’s a verse from the Hundreds of Deities of the Joyous Land— (Ganden Lha gya ma) that we all recite that indicates that however learned you may be, it’s a mistake to use your learning for gain and fame. We must not mix our practice with the eight worldly concerns. The Buddha abandoned them completely when he embarked on path to enlightenment.
“Likewise, Jé Tsongkhapa studied in different monasteries and sat for exams without any thought of the eight worldly concerns. He went into retreat at Wölkha simply to practise. Then at Lhading he engaged in meditation on emptiness. While there he had a vision or dream of Nagarjuna with his five principal disciples. From among them he dreamt that Buddhapalita stepped forward and touched the treatise that bears his name to Jé Rinpoché’s head. Next day, while reading that book, Jé Rinpoché realized dependent arising, that things are devoid of independent existence. He gained a clear realization of emptiness. All his doubts were dispelled.
“If you read the five treatises he wrote on the subject: 'Ocean of Reasoning'; 'Elucidation of the Thought'; the Special Insight Section of the 'Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path'; the Special Insight Section of the 'Medium Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path' and 'Essence of Eloquence', you’ll see how well Tsongkhapa understood the Middle Way.”
His Holiness cited three verses from chapter six of Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ that mention the four logical absurdities that ensue if it is asserted that things and beings exist inherently. They are that a noble being's mind, totally absorbed in emptiness, would be a destroyer of entities; that conventional truth would withstand the analysis of a reasoning mind; that the absolute production of things could not be denied, and that the Buddha's statement ‘phenomena lack self-existence’ would not hold true.
His Holiness repeats these lines to himself and reflects on them daily.
He remarked that Jé Rinpoché states in his ‘Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path’ that the four noble truths are the foundation of both the basic vehicle and the great vehicle. These truths form the framework for all that the Buddha taught.
His Holiness announced that he would read ‘Illuminating the Threefold Faith: An Invocation of the Seventeen Great Scholar-Adepts of Glorious Nalanda’ but would start with the colophon to provide an historical background for the invocations. The sentence that begins: ‘Therefore, in analysing his teachings closely, with an unbiased and inquisitive mind...’ prompted His Holiness to note that unbiased is also mentioned in lines from Aryadeva’s ‘400':
An unbiased, intelligent and interested
Listener is called a vessel.
He clarified that if you are unbiased, you’ll see what is beneficial, if you can’t differentiate between teachings that are right and those that are wrong, you’ll need to be intelligent. In addition to this you’ll need to be interested, to have an aspiration to pursue the path. It’s necessary to analyse the teachings with an unbiased, unprejudiced and inquisitive mind.
His Holiness mentioned that among the ‘aspiring Dharma friends who encouraged him’ to compose these invocations was Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoché.
The first verse offers praise to the Buddha for giving the teaching. In his ‘In Praise of Dependent Arising’ Jé Tsongkhapa writes:
Becoming ordained into the way of the Buddha
by not being lax in study of his words,
and by yoga practice of great resolve,
this monk devotes himself to that great purveyor of truth.
Due to the kindness of my lamas,
I have met the teachings of the greatest of teachers.
There are specific antidotes to particular mental afflictions, but His Holiness quoted Aryadeva's observation that ignorance of reality permeates all mental afflictions just as a sense of tactility pervades the body. By destroying ignorance, all mental afflictions are eliminated.
Verse two invokes Nagarjuna who wrote the Six Collections of Reasoning. His Holiness cited verses from ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ that summarize them.
That which is dependently arisen
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.
Verse three invokes Nagarjuna’s chief disciple, Aryadeva, who advised:
First prevent what is lacking in merit,
Next prevent [ideas of a coarse] self;
Later prevent views of all kinds.
Whoever knows of this is wise.
Verse four calls to mind Buddhapalita, while the fifth verse praises the erudite Bhavaviveka who asserted a view that helped those disciples who were unable to accept mere designation. The sixth verse invokes Chandrakirti whose tantric writings include the ‘Clear Lamp’ and who composed ‘Entering the Middle Way’, its auto-commentary and ‘Clear Words’ to elucidate the Madhyamaka view.
Shantideva, invoked by verse seven, wrote ‘Entering into the Way of a Bodhisattva’.
“The transmission of this book had declined in Central Tibet,” His Holiness remarked, “so I made a special effort to receive it from Khunu Lama Rinpoché. And since that time, I always keep a copy with me and read it—especially chapters six and eight.”
The eighth verse calls to mind Shantarakshita who Tibetans have to thank for introducing an approach to the Buddha’s teaching that combined study of philosophy with logic. Next is Kamalashila, his disciple, who warned against the dangers of solely relying on non-conceptual meditation.
Subsequent verses invoke Asanga, Vasubandhu and Dignaga who wrote the ‘Compendium of Logic’ that opens: ‘I salute the one who has become an authoritative person’. Following them are Dharmakirti, Vimuktisena, Haribadra, Gunaprabha, Shakyaprabha and Atisha.
Nagarjuna explained the perfection of wisdom teachings that are alluded to in the first two lines of verse twenty:
Through understanding the meaning of the two truths, the ground reality of how things are,
I ascertain by way of the four truths just how beings arrive in and leave cyclic existence;
Verses 21, 22 and 23 represent an aspiration to study and practise, while the 25th concludes: Due to these invocations, may I work for sentient beings as long as space endures. His Holiness commented that what he had given was a brief guiding teaching of the text he composed twenty years ago.
There followed a brief interlude during which the Director of ‘Achlalt khuukhduud’, an orphanage and nursing home, offered heartfelt greetings to His Holiness. He explained the NGO he leads helps orphans, the destitute, the elderly and disabled. In 2015 they launched a project to build a care centre to fulfil these aims. He expressed great gratitude to His Holiness for his donation supporting their work.
His Holiness responded: “As human beings we all depend on the community or society in which we live. We are born alone, but we can’t live alone. We are naturally connected to and dependent on others, therefore we need to be compassionate and kind towards them.
“One thing we must work hard to do is to reduce the gap between rich and poor. We need to constantly consider the happiness of the whole of humanity. This is why it is so important that we look after the needy, especially those who are old and infirm.”
While answering questions from the audience, His Holiness advised that if we seek guidance through divinations when we face difficulties, it’s important to consult a reliable, qualified person to do it for us.
Residents and miners from the city of Erdenet sought His Holiness’s advice about mining and protection of the natural environment. He replied that digging the earth for its natural resources has been going on from time immemorial. However, if it is done excessively it can lead to an imbalance of nature. These days it’s evident that, for example, continuing to burn coal results in damage to the environment. There are alternatives. We can rely instead on using solar energy and wind turbines to generate electricity, which are more protective of the environment.
Someone asked what to do when their efforts to do good make others angry. His Holiness recommended cultivating humility, regarding yourself as inferior to all, accepting defeat and offering the victory to them.
Another questioner wanted to know why it seems that those motivated by compassion and truth become victims, while those who are unfair and abusive are successful. His Holiness pointed out that the key word here was ‘seems’. The reality is, he said, that those who abuse their power are not happy. Ill-will makes you miserable, whereas if you are honest and sincere people will trust you and you will feel content.
Asked to compare Mongolians with other peoples he’s met, His Holiness observed that Mongolians are Buddhists living in a Buddhist country. Historically there were great scholars among them who through study, reflection and meditation became learned while remaining humble and kind. He noted that today scientists and neuroscientists are increasingly interested in what Buddhism has to say about the workings of the mind.
Finally, His Holiness explained that ‘ethics beyond religion’ involves taking the whole of humanity into consideration because we all want to survive. Therefore, we need to live here and now as good human beings. We need ethics to guide our thought and behaviour because we all need to live together in harmony. We need love and compassion. Since the gap between rich and poor in the world will only be a source of trouble, we need to find ways to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth.
The coordinator thanked His Holiness for his teaching, wishing that he will live long in order to benefit the Dharma and sentient beings. He announced that the day’s session was at an end. His Holiness declared that tomorrow he will teach the ‘Three Principles of the Path’—”See you then”—and waved goodbye.