Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - This morning, the full-moon day of Saka Dawa, also known as Buddha Purnima, the day that commemorates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and mahaparinirvana, Khamba Lama Gabju, leader of Mongolian Buddhists opened proceedings by offering a mandala in Gandantegchenlin Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
“With deep respect for Buddha Shakyamuni.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama began, “I’ll give a short talk to my Mongolian brothers and sisters. Mongolia and Tibet have a unique connection and most Mongolians are followers of Jé Tsongkhapa.
“The Buddha said, ‘You are your own master. The future is in your hands.’ Other religious traditions suggest that the future is in the hands of God, but the Buddha told us that if we do good, we’ll reap good fruit, but if we don’t, there’s nothing he can do about it. So, whether we experience happiness or suffering is up to us.
“Human beings are intelligent and can take their minds into account. If our minds are unruly, we tend to do harm and suffer the consequences. If we tame our minds, we’ll be happy. All spiritual traditions teach us to discipline our minds, but Buddhism recommends not prayer but working with the mind and thinking things through to do this.
“Because of their not knowing the empty, peaceful, unborn nature of things, beings wander in the cycle of existence. The Buddha, the one led by compassion, employs hundreds of different reasonings to lead wandering beings to freedom.
“Scientists observe that we are social animals. We depend on our communities, so love and compassion for others is important. Right at the start of our lives we are nurtured by our mothers with care and affection, but later we forget that we depend on others and seek to get the better of them. We lead our busy lives and pay less attention than we should to simple love and affection for others.
“From a Buddhist point of view the prime obstacle to showing others love and affection is our predisposition to be self-cherishing. This in turn is based on our strong inclination to view people and things as existing inherently from their own side.
“Quantum physics observes that things appear to exist objectively, which is actually not the case. On top of this we view some people as dear to us and others as hostile. We are attached to those who are dear and averse to the others. However, these labels and categories do not exist objectively as they appear to do.
“What I want to convey to my Mongolian friends is that we all want to create joy and happiness for ourselves and others—and to do that we need to cultivate peace of mind. Most of you are followers of Jé Tsongkhapa about whom it is said in the ‘Hundreds of Deities of the Joyous Land’:
In this degenerate time, you worked for broad learning and accomplishment
Abandoning the eight worldly concerns to realize the great value
Of freedom and fortune; sincerely, O Protector,
I rejoice at your great deeds.
“We too need to study and put what we read and hear into effect. By teaching that things are empty, peaceful and unborn, the Buddha led sentient beings to freedom.”
His Holiness quoted a verse from ‘Words of Truth: An Aspiration for the Spread of the Noble Gendenpa Tradition‘ by Gungthang Tenpé Drönmé:
Outwardly peaceful and subdued through the Shravakas' conduct;
While inwardly possessing the assurance of the two-stage yoga;
You perfectly reconciled the excellent paths of sutra and mantra—
May the victorious Lobsang Drakpa's teachings flourish and spread!
“We too should engage in study of the teachings,” he explained. “When I was in Mongolia, I encouraged you not only to do rituals, but to study and learn. Those of you who are currently training in our monastic Centres of Learning in South India should also encourage others to study when you return to Mongolia.
“Many of us have since childhood have learned about Collected Topics, Mind and Awareness as well as logic. In the Nalanda Tradition that we maintain, the use of logic is emphasized. In due course Chapa Chökyi Sengé formalized Tibetan methods of debate relying on syllogisms and logical consequences.
“In the past, many great Mongolian scholars studied in our monasteries. Among them was one of my own debate assistants Ngodup Tsognyi.
“Today, we need to become 21st century Buddhists, not only by studying philosophy, reason and logic, but also by being able to integrate what we learn within ourselves, rather than just following blind faith. The important point is that understanding the teaching of the Buddha doesn’t depend on blind faith, but on reason.”
His Holiness recalled that one of the first things Tibetans did when they arrived in exile was to set up schools so Tibetan children could study in their own language and be immersed in their own values. Later, His Holiness suggested adding debate skills to the curriculum. In the monastic Centres of Learning he’s also recommended training lay people to debate.
He talked about his discussions with scientists. Although they’re not much interested in religious matters, they turned out to be interested in Buddhist psychology and ways to cultivate peace of mind.
“I have great hopes in what you can achieve,” His Holiness told his Mongolian audience. “And I believe that the teachings of the Buddha will thrive in the 21st century and into the future beyond. The world is changing—study the Dharma while you can.”
The cameras switched to the great monasteries in South India, where the Ganden Throne-holder could be seen and heard making a mandala offering.
“Today, is the auspicious full-moon day of Saka Dawa and the three great monasteries represented by the Geluk International Foundation, as well as the Drepung Loseling Tulku Association, have requested that I explain the ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’ and lead a ceremony for generating the awakening mind.
“The Three Principal Aspects of the Path represent the essence of the Stages of the Path—the determination to be free, the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the correct view of emptiness. Verses 7 and 8 show how to generate the awakening mind.
Swept by the current of the four powerful rivers,
Tied by strong bonds of actions, so hard to undo,
Caught in the iron net of self-centredness,
Completely enveloped by the darkness of ignorance,
Born and reborn in boundless cyclic existence,
Ceaselessly tormented by the three miseries
All beings, your mothers, are in this condition.
Think of them and generate the awakening mind.
“However, I also find it useful to apply these ideas to myself, to see that I am caught in the iron net of self-centredness and am ceaselessly tormented by the three miseries in order to generate a firm determination to be free.
“We are shrouded in a thick fog of ignorance in which things appear as if they exist inherently from their own side. So, what we have to understand is that things have no true or inherent existence.
“The Buddha first taught the four truths. Later, he explained the perfection of wisdom. In the ‘Heart Sutra’ we find the fourfold emptiness described. Nagarjuna clarified these ideas so sharply that Jé Tsongkhapa expresses his admiration in ‘Praise to Dependent Arising.
When, through the kindness of my lamas, I saw
this unsurpassed vehicle of yours, leaving behind extremes of existence and nonexistence, elucidated by the prophesied Nagarjuna,
his lotus grove illuminated by the moonlight of the glorious Chandrakirti's teachings, whose globe of stainless wisdom moved
freely through the sky of your words,
dispelling the darkness that holds to extremes, outshining the stars of false speakers—it was then that my mind found peace.
“Nagarjuna refers to our inappropriate misconceptions about the self in his ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way':
Through the elimination of karma and mental afflictions there is liberation.
Karma and mental afflictions come from conceptual thoughts.
These come from mental fabrication.
Fabrication ceases through emptiness.”
His Holiness alluded to four logical fallacies that, Chandrakirti explains in his 'Entering into the Middle Way', would ensue if things had objective existence. They are that:
1) An Arya being's mind is absorbed in emptiness following his own analysis of whether things have any intrinsic characteristics. If they had such characteristics, they would have been found by the Arya's mind. If things had any inherent existence, the Arya being's meditative equipoise on emptiness would be a destroyer of that entity— (which is logically absurd).
If the intrinsic characteristics of things were to arise dependently,
things would come to be destroyed by denying it;
emptiness would then be a cause for the destruction of things.
But this is illogical, so no real entities exist. 6.34
2) If things had an inherent identity, without dependence on other factors, conventional reality would have to withstand ultimate analysis— (which is logically absurd). If we could point out an identity, it would have to withstand ultimate analysis. However, the Yogi finds nothing, neither this nor that, to point to. Other schools say that an object of valid cognition must be something objective out there, but a valid cognition is a cognition according to which the object exists as perceived.
Thus, when such phenomena are analysed,
nothing is found as their nature apart from suchness.
So, the conventional truth of the everyday worldshould not be subjected to thorough analysis. 6.35
If things had any essential core in and of themselves, it would lead to the logical fallacy of conventional reality's withstanding ultimate analysis.
3) If things with an essential core arose from a cause, ultimate production could not be denied. 4) The Buddha's teaching that phenomena are empty of self-nature would not be true. When we say something is empty, the very thing we are analysing is said to be empty of inherent existence or self-nature.
In the context of suchness, certain reasoning disallows arising
from self or from something other, and that same reasoning
disallows them on the conventional level too.
So, by what means then is your arising established? 6.36
Empty things dependent on convergences,
such as reflections and so on, are not unknown. 6.37
“Ignorance that grasps at or misconceives true existence,” His Holiness went on, “is countered by understanding that things are actually merely designated. At the end of the sixth chapter of ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ Chandrakirti states:
Thus, illuminated by the rays of wisdom's light,
the bodhisattva sees as clearly as a gooseberry on his open palm
that the three realms in their entirety are unborn from their very start,
and through the force of conventional truth, he journeys to cessation. 6.224
Though his mind may rest continuously in cessation,
he also generates compassion for beings bereft of protection.
Advancing further, he will also outshine through his wisdom
all those born from the Buddha's speech and the middle buddhas. 6.225
And like a king of swans soaring ahead of other accomplished swans,
with white wings of conventional and ultimate truths spread wide,
propelled by the powerful winds of virtue, the bodhisattva would cruise
to the excellent far shore, the oceanic qualities of the conquerors. 6.226
Taking up the pages of the ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’ His Holiness remarked that Jé Tsongkhapa’s disciple Ngawang Drakpa had returned home to eastern Tibet. From there he wrote requesting a concise teaching. Jé Rinpoché replied:
O intelligent Ngawang Drakpa,
Follow my instructions
And practise as I have done throughout all your lives
In deed and prayer. Then, when I become enlightened,
I will share the nectar of (my teaching) first with you.
The reference to ‘my son’ in the last verse can equally apply to all of us if we study and practise as advised.
As he read the text His Holiness elucidated different points. He stated that the first line, ‘I bow down to the venerable Lamas’ not only acknowledges the importance of the teacher, but also indicates the three capacities of spiritual practitioners. Tsongkhapa’s words in the first verse, ‘I will explain as well as I am able’, are an expression of humility.
The next verses indicate the reasons for developing a determination to be free, how to develop such a determination, and the measure of having done so. Verse six points out that a mere determination to be free is not a cause for the omniscient state of a Buddha. Morality, concentration and wisdom may yield liberation, but to achieve Buddhahood we must cultivate the awakening mind. All sentient beings are the same in not wanting to suffer, but they cannot even imagine being free from suffering. The text counsels us to think of their plight and generate the awakening mind.
Tsongkhapa writes, ‘Though you practise the determination to be free and mind of enlightenment, without wisdom, the realization of emptiness, you cannot cut the root of cyclic existence, therefore, strive to understand dependent arising.’ Understanding dependent arising gives rise to an understanding of emptiness.
His Holiness discussed trying to identify and pinpoint the self. He described being unable to find it in the body, in the parts of the body, such as the hands and fingers, nor even in the mind. He mentioned the first verse of Chapter 22 of Nagarjuna’s 'Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way' which reveals that the Tathagata does not possess the aggregates, nor is he to be found in the aggregates. His Holiness likes to rework the argument to apply to himself.
I am neither one with the aggregates, nor different from the aggregates,
The aggregates are not (dependent) on me, nor am I (dependent) on the aggregates.
I don't possess the aggregates.
What else am I?
He remarked that in tantric practice there is an account of the three visions leading to the mind of clear light. But none of these is the self either. He mentioned that in Dzogchen emptiness and the clear light mind are taught together and that he reflects on this every day. He revealed that he received the Seven Treasuries of Longchen Rabjam from Trulshik Rinpoché and that Rinpoché gave him a commitment to read at least one verse of the ‘Treasury of Dharmadhatu’ every day.
As mentioned above Jé Rinpoché wrote 'strive to understand dependent arising.' Choné Lama Rinpoché, in his versified commentary to 'In Praise of Dependent Arising', noted 'Dependence does not deny suchness; arising does not deny worldly convention.' Similarly, Drom-tön-pa observed that fire and a hand have no inherent existence, but if you put your hand in the fire, it gets burnt. So, although there is no inherent existence, there is function.
Things are empty, since they cannot be found when their identity is analysed, because they are dependently arisen.
The text concludes: ‘O son, when you realize the keys of the three principal aspects of the path, depend on solitude and strong effort, and quickly reach the final goal.’ His Holiness stated that we can all feel included in this advice, adding that he has an additional reason for feeling close to Tsongkhapa because they both come from the same part of Tibet.
His Holiness read a final verse from the colophon.
I, who also aspire to liberation, shall put what Guru Manjunath (Tsongkhapa),
Whose kindness is greater than all the Victorious Ones, has taught into practice.May I, your son, be blessed to catch up with you (in experience).
This conclusion is in accordance with the traditions of past holy beings.
His Holiness reiterated the importance of study in the Tibetan tradition, tracing this approach back to Shantarakshita’s introduction of the Nalanda Tradition in the eighth century. He quoted Jé Rinpoché’s statement in ‘Destiny Fulfilled’:
In the beginning, I sought much learning.
In the middle, all teachings dawned on me as spiritual instructions.
In the end, I practised night and day.
I dedicated all this virtue for the dharma to flourish.
Thinking this over now, how well my destiny was fulfilled!
Thank you, Noble Lord, Wisdom Treasure!
“Study and practice,” His Holiness stressed once more, “are the best way to commemorate the Buddha, the Seventeen Masters of Nalanda and so forth.”
Announcing that he would conduct a ceremony for generating the awakening mind His Holiness cited the salutation from ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ to illustrate the importance of great compassion.
Shravakas and middle-level buddhas arise from sovereign sages.
Buddhas are born from bodhisattvas.
The compassionate mind and nondual cognition
as well the awakening mind: these are causes of bodhisattvas. 1.1
As compassion alone is accepted to be
the seed of the perfect harvest of Buddhahood,
the water that nourishes it, and the fruit that is long a source of enjoyment,
I will praise compassion at the start of all. 1.2
His Holiness commented that Buddha Shakyamuni took birth as a prince of the Shakya clan in ancient India about 2600 years ago. The Pali and Sanskrit Traditions declare that he attained enlightenment at dawn of the full moon day that we call Buddha Purnima. He was not enlightened from the beginning, but through meeting the right conditions and striving for many aeons to accumulate the two stores of merit and wisdom, he became a Buddha. According to the Sanskrit Tradition, that entailed his manifesting the four bodies of a Buddha—the Natural Truth Body, the Wisdom Truth Body, the Complete Enjoyment Body and the Emanation Body.
A Buddha's complete absorption in meditation on emptiness is the Wisdom Truth Body, from which he manifests in different forms. The Complete Enjoyment Body appears to Arya Bodhisattvas, while the Emanation Body is visible to all. Buddha Shakyamuni was a Supreme Emanation Body, the source of a continuous flow of activities to benefit sentient beings.
His Holiness described how to visualize the Buddha surrounded by bodhisattvas and masters of the various traditions. He then led the virtual audience in repeating the verses for taking refuge and generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta.
Shakor Khentul Rinpoché offered thanks to His Holiness. “We requested you to teach,” he said, “and on behalf of everyone involved would like to thank you. We pray that you live a long life and that you will continue to teach us and take care of us in this and future lives.”
Referring to the covid pandemic that has become widespread in India, although the situation shows some signs of improving, His Holiness expressed concern for people in Mön, Ladakh and Nepal.
“In order to help pacify the effects of this pandemic,” he requested, “please recite Arya Tara’s ten syllable mantra. This will be beneficial for individuals who are patients as well as nations affected by this illness. I recite several hundred Tara mantras every day with this intention and I also say one round with the prayer that I don’t contract covid. You can all do this too.”
A thanksgiving mandala was offered in conclusion, along with a prayer for His Holiness’s long life.