Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - This morning, 8500 people from 56 different countries, including 700 monks, nuns and laypeople from the Sherabling and Chango communities who had requested the empowerment, gathered at the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He beamed with joy and waved to members of the public as he walked steadily from the gate to his residence to the temple.
“Today, Tai Situ Rinpoché is with us,” he announced from the throne. “He has requested the Chenrezig Gyalwa Gyatso (Avalokiteshvara Jinasagara) empowerment. Avalokiteshvara can be practised according to all four classes of tantra, but Gyalwa Gyatso belongs to Highest Yoga Tantra.”
His Holiness referred to Avalokiteshvara as the supreme deity of compassion and recited a couple of verses in his praise.
“Hrih, praised exceedingly by all the Buddhas
You have accumulated all sublime qualities
On you was conferred the name Chenrezig,
To the ever compassionate one I bow down.
“Your 1000 hands represent the 1000 Universal Monarchs,
Your 1000 eyes represent the 1000 Buddhas of this fortunate aeon,
You appear to different beings in accordance with what will tame them best,
I pay homage to Venerable Avalokiteshvara.
“Before we begin preparations for the empowerment I’ve been asked to give a reading of Jé Tsongkhapa’s ‘Concise Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, which I’ll do now, after we’ve recited the ‘Heart Sutra’.”
Tai Situ Rinpoché offered a mandala and the three representations of the body, speech and mind of enlightenment. His Holiness observed that he and Rinpoché have been friends for a long time and that Rinpoché has been unwaveringly loyal.
His Holiness mentioned that Jé Rinpoché composed great, medium and concise treatises on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment that are based on Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path’. He begins here by paying homage to Manjushri, followed by a verse of praise to the Buddha.
I bow my head to the greatest of the Shakyas,
Whose body is formed by ten million perfect virtues,
Whose speech fulfils the hopes of limitless beings,
Whose mind perceives everything as it is.
“The teaching of the Buddha doesn’t just depend on faith, it’s based on reason. What the Buddha said can be put to the test of reason. Later, the masters of Nalanda, such as Nagarjuna, showed how important it is to examine the Buddha’s teaching in the light of reason and establish that he was an incomparable teacher.
“India has a good, longstanding tradition of showing respect for all spiritual traditions and many different traditions have flourished in this land.
“I’m a Buddhist monk who has studied logic and epistemology. I’ve learned that views like those propounded by the Mind Only School regarding the non-duality of subject and object can be put to the test of reason. Today, even scientists admire Buddhism’s vast and reasoned presentation of the workings of the mind and emotions. When we are children in the monasteries we study mind and awareness; we learn about the 51 mental factors. As for me, I’ve studied Collected Topics, mind and logic, as well as the Perfection of Wisdom and Madhyamaka teachings. It’s important to study the classic texts, some of which I also memorized.”
His Holiness recalled a verse from Jé Rinpoché’s ‘In Praise of Dependent Arising’, which also applies to him.
Becoming ordained in 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.
He noted that in exile Tibetans had sought the help of the Government of India, led by Pandit Nehru, first in establishing separate schools where Tibetan children could study in their own language. Later, great monasteries that had been centres of learning in Tibet were re-established in South India.
Harking back to the seventh century His Holiness described how King Songtsen Gampo, despite several close connections to the Chinese, chose to model Tibetan writing on the Indian Devanagari alphabet. A century later, when Shantarakshita was invited to Tibet, he recognised the potential of the language and strongly recommended that Buddhist literature be translated into Tibetan. This resulted in the more than 300 volumes of the Kangyur—the words of the Buddha—and the Tengyur—subsequent treatises, to which were eventually added 10,000 treatises by Tibetan scholars.
Chinese communists have tried unsuccessfully to restrict Tibetan Buddhist culture, and it is clear that Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is more profound than Chinese communism. In contrast to that ideology, Tibetans exercise a kind of Buddhist democracy in their monasteries and nunneries. Tibet’s traditions are vast, deep and profound and have the potential to be combined with modern science.
His Holiness divulged that since it is Monday, he had this morning consulted his physicians who assessed his pulse, examined his urine and so forth. They judged him to be completely fit. His Holiness laughed and exclaimed exuberantly, “Lhamo Döndhup kyi hee hee.”
As he read through the verses of the ‘Concise Stages of the Path’ His Holiness noted the respect paid to the profound and extensive lineages of the path to enlightenment and their trailblazers, Nagarjuna and Asanga. Their practice fulfils short and long-term goals.
The following verse outlines the four great qualities of the Stages of the Path.
You will know that the teachings are without contradictions;
How to take all the scriptures as personal instructions;
You will easily discover the Victor's intentions,
And will also be protected from the abyss of great error.
When the refrain, ‘I, a yogi, have practised in this way; you, who aspire for liberation too, should do likewise’, first occurred, His Holiness clarified that this is what Tsongkhapa originally wrote. However, when his text came to be recited as a prayer these lines were adapted to read: ‘This is what my revered and holy teacher did, and I, who seek liberation, will do likewise.’
A real aspiration for freedom will not arise,
Without effort to consider the drawbacks of true suffering;
Unless you think of its sources—the stages of involvement
In cyclic existence—you won't know how to sever its root.
This verse marks the beginning of the path of a person of intermediate capacity.
His Holiness remarked that if he had remained in Tibet, he wouldn’t have been able to deepen and extend his understanding of the world. As it is, in exile he has met all kinds of people from all walks of life and learned from them. Moreover, technological innovations, such as the internet and mobile phones, have meant that he can exchange views with people everywhere.
He reported comments made by Appa Pant, former Political Officer for India in the erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim, when he visited him at Swarag Ashram. Looking out over the distant view he said, “It’s very good that you’ll stay here from where the light of your words will spread throughout the world.”
On another occasion a Congressional representative in the US pointed out that although the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was made up of a million soldiers, they could not outdo the lone Dalai Lama.
With the verse that begins: ‘Giving is a jewel fulfilling the hopes of living beings,’ the text begins to describe the practice of the six perfections. These include giving, ethical conduct, patience, and steady effort, culminating in concentration and wisdom.
Concentration is a king with dominion over the mind.
Once placed, it remains immovable, like the king of mountains.
When directed, it engages with every kind of virtuous object,
And induces the great bliss of a malleable body and mind.
Wisdom is the eye for seeing profound suchness;
The path which totally uproots worldly existence,
And the treasure of knowledge praised in all the scriptures,
Renowned as the best lamp to dispel the darkness of confusion.
His Holiness alluded to four logical absurdities that, in his 'Entering into the Middle Way', Chandrakirti explains would ensue if things had objective existence. He disclosed that he reflects on these four points every day in his meditation. Whether you think of the self of persons, consciousness or whatever, he went on, everything appears to have some kind of objective, independent existence. When the object of negation appears to your mind and you wish to refute it, you're conducting analysis of how things exist.
1) The 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 intrinsic 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 intrinsic 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.
Lower schools of thought say there should be a valid cognition with self-defined characteristics. If that were the case, that object would withstand ultimate analysis. In fact, there is no object that has intrinsic existence—it is conventionally designated.
Thus, when such phenomena are analysed,
nothing is found as their nature apart from suchness.
So, the conventional truth of the everyday world
should 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 intrinsic 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
His Holiness concluded that reflecting further on the verses that close chapter six of 'Entering into the Middle Way', he aspires to reach the path of seeing.
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
He added that Chandrakirti warns that suchness, as it has been explained, is most profound and terrifying, yet people with past habituation will certainly realize it, although others, despite vast learning, will fail to comprehend it.
His Holiness undertook his preparations for the preliminary rites of the Avalokiteshvara empowerment that he will give tomorrow. While he did so, the congregation recited ‘Om mani padme hung’. He encouraged them to enter the mandala to ensure that they will be taken care of by Avalokiteshvara in life after life.
The preliminary rites included generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta, the distribution of blessed water, protection cords, as well as short and long pieces of kusha grass. Individuals were encouraged to examine their dreams.
As he brought today’s proceedings to a close, His Holiness assured the gathering:
“We’ll meet again tomorrow.”