Empowerment Concerning the Buddha Establishing the Three Pledges and a Public Talk on the Virtue of Non-violence

October 21st 2013

New York, USA, 20 October 2013 - In the cool quiet of the early morning today, as the sun was just beginning to light the sky, His Holiness the Dalai Lama sat before a mandala structure on the stage of the Beacon Theater to perform the preparatory rituals for the empowerment he was to give. Later, when most of the 3000 seats in the theater were filled he returned to begin to teach.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama performing preparatory rituals before his teachings at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
On this occasion the Heart Sutra was recited in English, as the entire audience followed Richard Gere’s lead from the stage. His Holiness quoted the Buddha as having said:

“On my part I will show you the path, but you have to travel it,” and quoted the following verse:

“Buddhas do not wash unwholesome deeds away with water, Nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands, Neither do they transplant their own realization into others. Teaching the truth of suchness they liberate (beings).”

He said that as followers of the Buddha we have to embrace this indication that we are our own saviours; we have to make the journey ourselves. The aspiration for a Buddhist practitioner is liberation from cyclic existence and the goal of Buddhahood. To fulfil it we have to accumulate the causes and it is a natural aspect of reality that effects can only arise from causes with which they accord.

The Buddha has a form body and a truth body. It’s the form body that affects his primary purpose - the welfare of other beings. He can only do this by revealing the truth through speech. However, his form body is not mere flesh and blood, but one with his wisdom. It is an expression of his spontaneous activity. Consequently, we need to cultivate the vast aspect of method and the profound aspect of wisdom.

In the sutra vehicle a complete path can be found to the Buddha’s truth body, but the path to his form body is more complicated. What is required to make this complete is deity yoga, in which an understanding of emptiness acquires the form of the Buddha’s body. It needs a path in which realization of emptiness assumes the body of the deity. This is the purpose of deity yoga.


Members of the audience taking part in His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Following this introductory explanation, His Holiness conducted a concise ceremony for generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta. He described the seven limb preliminary practice of prostration; making offerings to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, particularly offerings of realization; declaration of negative deeds; rejoicing in the good deeds of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas; requesting the Buddhas to teach and beseeching them not to pass into nirvana. Following His Holiness’s advice, disciples recited the necessary verses in English.

As he began the empowerment concerning ‘The Buddha Establishing the Three Pledges’ His Holiness mentioned that he had received the empowerment from Chogye Trichen Rinpoche who was head of the Tsharpa branch of the Sakya tradition.

When he returned to the stage after lunch to give a public talk, Richard Gere gave him a succinct introduction:

“It’s great honour for me to welcome here among us, the one man in the world who cares more for us than he cares for himself; His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” which was met by warm, sustained applause. His Holiness began in his customary way:

“Brothers and sisters, I’m very happy and it’s an honour for me to be able to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences. I’d like to thank the organizers for making this possible. Over the last few days I’ve been able to talk about Buddhism and today, I’m here, the same person to speak as just one of the seven billion beings who inhabit this planet. If I think of myself as somehow different, it distances me from the people I’m talking to.

“Physically, mentally and emotionally we are the same. You face problems with your emotions; I do too.

“Firstly I’d like to speak about the demarcation between violence and non-violence. What makes all the difference is the motivation. If you have concern for others and a situation presents a need to use harsh words for a positive reason, it’s not violence. But if you seek to harm, deceive or exploit other people using sweet words, smooth expressions and perhaps by making them a gift; that is a form of violence. Secondly, I’d like to stress that non-violence is not an excuse for inertia.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his talk at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“As human beings, our physical character is consistent with non-violence. Look at the human hand; it’s not suited to violence. Our nails are round and trim, not at all like the lacerating claws of a cat. Similarly, even our teeth are smooth like those of a vegetarian deer. In addition, we are social animals.”

He remarked that violence is invariably related to a strong sense of self-centredness and to the notion of ‘us’ and ‘them’. He said we need to think of all humanity as part of ‘us’, while cultivating a sense of humanity’s oneness. He noted that the twentieth century was a period of wonderful innovation and yet by some estimates 200 million died of violence, including the use of nuclear weapons. We have to find a different way to live. Not unrelated to this, the increasing gap between rich and poor has to be reduced.

“This century is still relatively new with 87 years to go. The future is open and can be reshaped, but while my generation is ready to say goodbye, responsibility for change falls on the shoulders of those who are young today. How can this be done? By improving education. We need a method, a set of ethics, to suit the whole of humanity, not just members of this faith or that.

“Once we understand that ethics is in our own interest we’ll be able to conduct ourselves more transparently leading to openness, trust and friendship. Clearly warm-heartedness is the real source of a happy life. Secular ethics can be taught in secular schools. That’s my talk; let’s have some questions.”

One of the first asked His Holiness’s opinion of Buddhist violence against Muslims in Burma. He replied that as soon as he heard of these incidents he asked his representative in New Delhi to make contact with the Burmese embassy, which elicited no response. Then he wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi. He said he has appealed to the Buddhist monks involved to remember the face of the Buddha when they feel angry, saying he’s convinced that if the Buddha were present in person he’d take these Muslims under his protection.

His Holiness also clarified that at the first commemoration service after the September 11th event, he spoken strongly against condemning a whole community, the members of an entire faith, because of the violent mischief of a few people from Muslim backgrounds. Since then he often finds himself speaking in defence of Islam.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama gestures as he answers a question from the audience during his talk at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 20, 2013. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei asked if His Holiness expects to return to his native land. His response was that in 2005 he sent a message to the Chinese government stating that he’d like to visit the Buddhist site of Wutai shan; his request was denied. He commented that over the last 60 years four distinct eras can be seen: Mao’s era of ideology; Deng Xiaoping’s era of creating wealth; Jiang Zemin’s welcoming the better-off into the party and Hu Jintao’s not entirely successful attempts to secure a harmonious society. Harmony is essential, but it is secured by trust and respect not the use of force. Now a new era associated with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang has begun, in which it may be hoped they will exercise common sense and follow Deng’s admonition to seek truth from facts. It’s a time too when every week 10-20 Chinese come to Dharamsala to see His Holiness.

Another questioner observed that many Tibetans come to His Holiness for blessings, but not so many seem to follow his advice to seek a common goal. His Holiness was forthright in his reply:

“90% of the 6 million Tibetans in Tibet feel our goal is realistic and can work. Of the 100,000 or so living in free countries, again about 90% support us.  A small group think differently. One or two of them want outright independence.

“When problems began in 1950 we applied to the UN for support; nothing happened. We tried to reach out to the Chinese government in 1952 and in 1954 I visited China and met several times with Chairman Mao and other leaders. When I was going I was apprehensive, but when I returned I felt optimistic. In 1956 violence broke out and I had the opportunity to visit India, where I met Pandit Nehru and other leaders all of whom advised me to go back to try to work things out with the Chinese. I tried, but in 1959 things ran out of control. We raised the issue of Tibet at the UN in 1959, 1960 and 1965, all to no avail. Nehru was quite clear in telling me that the USA would not go to war with China over Tibet.
“In 1974, we decided that when the time came - China was still in the throes of the Cultural Revolution - we would have to talk to the Chinese authorities and that’s when we decided on the Middle Way Approach.

“In 1978, Deng made some positive moves and my brother went to see him on our behalf. As a result border controls were relaxed and members of families on both sides were able to visit each other. Fact finding delegations went into Tibet. In the 80s, under Hu Yaobang we were hopeful, but he was dismissed and in China a democratic movement began that culminated in the Tiananmen incident. Not until 2002 did dialogue open again under Jiang Zemin.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama shaking hands with members of the audience at the conclusion of his talk at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Our stand is not to seek independence but genuine autonomy. We want to modernize Tibet. But we must be able to preserve our fragile natural environment, whose waters serve a billion people in Asia, and we must be able to protect our culture, language and religion. The monastic centres of learning in Central Tibet made for unity between Kham, Amdo and U-tsang as students from all over Tibet came to study. This is a unity we seek to restore.

“The Middle Way Approach is in the interests of all concerned. A small group want complete independence, but they have come up with no method for achieving it. They have no strategy. We have to be realistic.”

To a question about how to help young people develop better ethics, His Holiness responded that you have to implement them yourself. And since showing affection to children results in their growing into secure, confident adults, affection is a crucial factor.

His Holiness summed up:

“This is the last day here after 3 days in Atlanta, 6 days in Mexico, and 3 days here in New York. Sometimes I feel I’ve just come to make people laugh, but I think I’ve made some small contribution. However, since I’m leaving tomorrow, your problems remain for you to solve wisely and effectively. Until the next time, thank you, and goodbye.”
 

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