Shewatsel, Leh, Ladakh, India - This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited to the Lamdon Model Senior Secondary School to inaugurate celebrations of its Golden Jubilee and its hosting of the Great Summer Debate. Since the school is located in the upper part of Leh, His Holiness had to drive right up through the city. Tibetans, Ladakhis and some foreign tourists lined the route, silk scarves and flowers in their hands and smiles of joy on their faces.
His Holiness was received by a welcoming committee and escorted to the stage, covered by an awning, erected above the school ground. He first paid his respects before a statue of the Buddha and lit a lamp to auspiciously open the occasion. Next, he unveiled a plaque to indicate the inauguration of the 14th Dalai Lama Open Stadium and launched several books and the Golden Jubilee program. Greeting several old friends on the way, His Holiness walked to the front of the stage to wave to the 15,000 strong crowd.
The customary tea and sweet rice were served as students gave a presentation of their debating skills on the school ground. This was followed by a performance of the school song that tells how the name of the school derives from Atisha’s seminal work, ‘Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment’.
In a personal tribute, Head Girl Tsering Angmo recalled that when she joined the school, she was nervous and shy. At that point, she said, she would have been unable to address such a gathering as this in public—” But now I stand before you full of confidence, which I have acquired at this school.” She observed that the light of the lamp mentioned in the school’s name comes from its wonderful teachers. On behalf of all the students, she thanked them.
Head Boy Nawang Namgail offered a prayer for His Holiness’s long life. He declared that the school had opened up all sorts of opportunities for him and his classmates, for which they are all grateful. He also noted that, following His Holiness’s advice, the school combines modern education with inner values. He too thanked the teachers and staff on behalf of the entire Lamdon family.
President of the Lamdon Social Welfare Society, Phuntsok Angchuk, welcomed guests and supporters, students, teachers and staff and members of the public. He announced that this is the school's Golden Jubilee year and that as part of the Great Summer Debate it is hosting a conference on the theme, ‘Connecting People through Science, Compassion and Universal Ethics’.
He recalled that the school was originally established with the help and support of Ven Kushok Bakula Rinpoché. From humble beginnings the school has grown to be a Senior Secondary School. Starting with just a few students, there are now more than 1000. He announced that the school curriculum now incorporates explanations of Buddhist philosophy and instructions in how to cultivate love and compassion. He ended by expressing gratitude to both His Holiness and Bakula Rinpoché for their steady inspiration and support and invited His Holiness to address the gathering.
“My Dharma brothers and sisters, young and old,” he began. “Appreciative of and faithful to the Buddha Dharma, you are all working together to preserve it. When I come here, I can see your whole-hearted devotion, for which I want to thank you.
“In a verse at the end of his 'Great Treatise of the Stages of the Path' Jé Tsongkhapa writes:
Wherever the Buddha's teaching has not spread
And wherever it has spread but has declined
May I, moved by great compassion, clearly elucidate
This treasury of excellent benefit and happiness for all.
“In today’s world there are many places where the Buddha’s teaching had not previously spread, where there are now many people taking a growing interest in it. In countries where interest in the Buddha’s teaching had once spread but later declined, there are people who have found that material development by itself does not bring peace of mind.
“In my own life I’ve faced all sorts of ups and downs, but I’ve never felt demoralized or angry. Now I’m almost 90 years old, and I feel sure that the Buddha’s teaching has helped me not to lose heart. I remain determined to work for all sentient beings, as it says in Shantideva’s verse:
As long as space endures,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
To help dispel the misery of the world.
“I never feel discouraged, nor do I slacken in my resolve. I retain my peace of mind and remain committed to work for other beings.
“People in this land of Ladakh appreciate the teaching of the Buddha whole-heartedly, as do others throughout the Himalayan Region. The greater the obstacles they face, the greater is their courage.
“Chinese communists have disdain for religion and try to destroy people’s faith in Buddhism by manipulating them. People in Tibet have never let these circumstances bring them down. They too are steadfast in their resolve to follow and support the Buddha’s teaching. What’s more, from Ladakh to Tawang people are single-pointed in their faith in the Buddha and his teaching.
“I have met students from universities in Tibet who have told me that Chinese communists have utterly failed to disrupt Tibetans’ dedicated minds. Indeed, there are also growing numbers of Chinese who are showing interest in the Buddha’s teaching, especially as it has been maintained in Tibet.”
His Holiness spoke about scientists who are taking an increasing interest in the workings of the mind and emotions. They come to see him not to pray but to learn how to achieve peace of mind.
He remarked that throughout the Himalayan Region there is growing appreciation of the Nalanda Tradition that is rooted in the practice of ethics, concentration and insight. These trainings enable a transformation within based on reason.
His Holiness revealed that he reflects on the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness the moment he wakes every morning. And it brings him peace of mind.
“The Nalanda Tradition was established in Tibet due to the kindness of Shantarakshita,” His Holiness clarified. “He advised Tibetans that since they had their own written language, it would be beneficial if they were to translate Buddhist literature into Tibetan. The consequence is the Kangyur and Tengyur collections we revere today.
“Because of this, Tibetans have been able to study Madhyamika thought in the light of reason and logic, a beneficial approach that yields a broad perspective. This is a good tradition that has granted certitude about the teaching of the Buddha. Therefore, I urge you, my Dharma brothers and sisters not only to recite the refuge verse, but to study Madhyamika thought, logic and the theory of knowledge as well.
“You may or may not believe in past and future lives, but if you engage in practice now, you’ll be able to see the impact of these teachings on your mind in this very life. Today, we talk about secular ethics because these values can be taught and practised without having to adopt any religious stance. And if you invoke this tradition, love and compassion will come about naturally.”
His Holiness recalled meeting Mao Zedong, who he described as a philosopher, several times during his visit to China. On the last occasion they met, Mao took His Holiness’s hand and gave him advice about how to lead people. He told him that he seemed to have a scientific mind, but blind faith in religion was like poison. His Holiness said that he didn’t respond right away and since then has wondered whether in due course Mao might have come to appreciate Buddhism.
His Holiness also remembered an occasion in Beijing when during a thunderstorm the Panchen Rinpoché commented that a dragon was roaring. His Holiness told him that there are no such things as dragons and that, because of an electrical discharge between two electrically charged regions, thunder and lightning take place.
Observing that there are quite a number of monasteries here and elsewhere, His Holiness mentioned that the Vinaya, the code of monastic discipline, states that monks and nuns should not be satisfied with merely wearing monastic robes. They should study and meditate and integrate the practice of love and compassion, bodhichitta, within themselves. He appealed to monks and nuns to keep this in mind.
“We Tibetans and people of the Himalayan Region all pray to Avalokiteshvara and recite his six-syllable mantra,” His Holiness remarked. “But in order to prevent a decline in our compassion we need wisdom. We must pray to Manjushri as the verse says:
I pay homage to Manjushri
Who has a youthful demeanour,
And who’s light of wisdom
Dispels the darkness of ignorance.
“Repeating this prayer will help us enhance our intelligence. To understand the teachings and to see the reality of things we need to sharpen our intelligence. And on the basis of that we can extend our compassion.”
His Holiness gave the transmission of the ‘Praise to Manjushri’ known as ‘Gangloma’ and then invited the congregation to join him in reciting a round of Manjushri’s mantra Om ara patsa nadhi.
“Monastics and lay-people, young and old and especially school-students who recite this mantra will find it improves their ability to study. However, wisdom, or insight into reality, is not enough. We need compassion too, so keep compassion in mind while you pay homage to Manjushri.”
His Holiness read the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’. He noted that this great text was composed by Geshé Langri Thangpa. He disclosed that this is another text that he reads or recites every day and finds to be very helpful in reflecting on the method aspect of the path. Combined with reflection on insight into emptiness, the wisdom aspect, the practitioner is enabled to tread the five-fold path, ultimately culminating in Buddhahood.
Practice of these two principles, wisdom and method, finally leads to the attainment of the Truth Body, the aspect of wisdom, and the Form Body, the physical aspect, of the Buddha.
“We’ve met here today and I’ve been able to give you an introduction to the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’ and the ‘Praise to Manjushri’. Each of us should accord our practice to the teaching of the Buddha.
“At Stok the other day, in front of the great statue of the Buddha I made a prayer to follow the teachings as best I can in conformity with the Buddha’s teaching.
“I respect all the religions of the world, because they all commend the practice of love and compassion. However, Buddhism also has a vast and profound accumulation of philosophy. My Muslim friends might like to examine our explanations of compassion, while maintaining their faith in Allah. Since developing love and compassion is our common goal, there is no place for discriminating between people of one religion or another. We should all live together in harmony.
“I’d also like to remind you all that we established one of our first schools in Mussoorie and others were based on that model. At the beginning, Geshés and Lamas were employed by these schools as Religious Instructors. However, later it seemed to me that such an approach was limited and narrow. So, we renamed these instructors Teachers of Philosophy, a stance that affords more breadth.
“In addition to this, I encouraged Nuns to study and now some of them have become Geshémas. Philosophy prompts you to use your intelligence. This is one of the reasons I was pleased to see young students debating with each other here today.
“If I may be so bold, I sometimes wonder whether, if I had the opportunity to debate with Nagarjuna I might be able to make him scratch his head. Chapa Chökyi Sengé formalized the Tibetan system of debate on the basis of texts dealing with logic and reason and designed an investigative approach that can be employed in relation to any topic in any context. It’s a procedure I admire, and commend you to make yourselves familiar with it. That’s all for today.
“On this 50th anniversary of the school, I’d like to greet the students, teachers and staff and thank you all. We are not talking about preserving the Buddha’s teaching for the next couple of years, but for hundreds of years to come. Thank you and Tashi Delek.”
Students performed several song and dance presentations, some traditional and local and others more modern in praise of His Holiness.
The Principal, Stanzin Dawa offered words of thanks. He said that he intended to convey respect and gratitude to His Holiness. He declared everyone at the school to feel deeply honoured that His Holiness had graced the occasion with his presence. He also thanked members of the local administration, guests and supporters for attending this joyful occasion.
His Holiness waved to the crowd before climbing into his car and setting off down through Leh, where, once again, well-wishers lined the road, and returned to his residence at Shewatsel Phodrang.