Lam Rim Teachings Begin at Sera Jey

December 25th 2013

Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India, 25 December 2013 - Although the entire teaching is taking place in the covered courtyard of Sera Jey Monastery, His Holiness is staying for the first week at Sera Mey. It’s a short drive through narrow lanes from one monastery to the other, but because of the size of the crowd, it’s a relatively long walk from the car to the throne. However, today His Holiness enjoyed interacting with people on the way, catching the eye of an old friend here, waving to another there, and shaking many outstretched hands.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting audience members as he arrives at the teaching ground at Sera Jey Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on December 25, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“I’m very glad to see how many of you have come today,” he began. “We started this teaching of the Lam Rim or stages of the path texts last year. We’ve finished some of them already. Let’s see how we get on and how much I can do without straining my eyes. We’ve gathered here to try to make the most of this life, which will ensure a good life in the next. First we’ll recite the Praise to Shakyamuni Buddha and then the Lam Rim Lineage Prayer.”

He advised that whatever the topic of the discourse, we need to set a proper motivation. Whether an action is positive or not depends on the motivation with which we do it. Once it is tainted by any of the eight worldly concerns it ceases to be a proper practice of the Dharma.

“It’s not enough to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha only for this life, or for the good of the next life, or even to attain liberation; we need to take refuge until the attainment of complete enlightenment. The verse we recite includes the word ‘I’, when we say ‘may I attain enlightenment’. What we have to do is examine whether that I or self exists the way it appears.”

His Holiness said that there were about 30,000 people present, with translations being done into 10 languages. Each one of these people wants happiness and does not want suffering. The Buddha explained the drawbacks of having an undisciplined mind and the advantages of taming it. Taming the mind is what we need to do to fulfil our wish for happiness, not to please anyone else. The mind is clouded by a misconception that things have true existence, to overcome which we need to understand selflessness. And in order to overcome self-centredness, loving kindness is not enough; we need to develop the awakening mind of bodhichitta. Therefore, we need to make the most of our human intelligence and develop a warm heart.

His Holiness spoke of misapprehensions he has encountered about Tibetan Buddhism, recalling that the late Nelson Mandela once introduced him at a meeting as the head of Lamaism. On another occasion, at a World Parliament of Religions meeting in Australia, a couple of Burmese monks expressed a wish to meet him. They acknowledged looking to the same teacher, the Buddha, but said there remained differences between them. His Holiness agreed but disarmed them when he said, “But the practice of Dharma needs to be based on Vinaya, where you follow the Theravada tradition, we follow the Mulasarvastivadin,” because they seemed not to know that Tibetan Buddhists observe Vinaya.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama accepting a mandala offering from H.E. Ling Choktrul Rinpoche on the first day of the Lam Rim teachings at Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe on December 25, 2013. Photo/Rio Helmi
Since he had married a Chinese and a Nepalese princess, each of whom brought a statue of the Buddha with her, Emperor Songtsen Gampo could have sought Buddhist knowledge in China, but instead turned to India. These days views differ about whether Thonmi Sambhota created a new script to translate Indian Buddhist literature into Tibetan or improved an existing form of writing. Between them the Emperor- Trisong Deutsan, the abbot - Shantarakshita and the adept - Padmasambhava, established Buddhism in Tibet. It became a tradition that includes the entire teaching of the Buddha, which has been preserved through rigorous study and practice.

In 7th, 8th and 9th centuries the whole of Tibet was united and records tell of three empires, the Hor or Mongols, the Chinese and the Tibetans. After Tibet fragmented, the eleventh century Ngami King, Yeshe Do wanted to invite Dipankara Atisha from Vikramashila to Tibet and his nephew fulfilled his wish. The Kadampa masters who followed Atisha emphasised the Stages of the Path and Mind Training traditions of the sutra vehicle in contrast to tantra. Dromtonpa divided Atisha’s various lineages among the Three Noble Brothers as scriptural traditions, oral transmissions and the pith instructions; Je Tsongkhapa later received all three and recombined them in the Stages of the Path of the three kinds of beings.

His Holiness announced that today he would begin to read the Third Dalai Lama,
Sonam Gyatso’s ‘Essence of Refined Gold.’ He said:

“I received the transmission of this text from Khunnu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen at Bodhgaya. He told me about it and that night I had a dream that a relative of Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso offered me a blue scarf, which Rinpoche regarded as a propitious sign. The Second and Third Dalai Lamas were great masters who spread the teaching of the Buddha in Central Tibet and into Mongolia. Because this text is by a previous Dalai Lama I feel quite close to it. So, we’ll read ‘Essence of Refined Gold’ and the ‘Sacred Word of Manjushri’ and Ngawang Drakpa’s Essence of Fine Speech after that.”

He concluded the morning session saying:

“The path is what brings us to the state of enlightenment. We must apply it to our minds.”

Simple lunch, arranged by the Organizing Committee, was served to people where they sat in the teaching area. The afternoon began with a discussion of the qualities of a spiritual master. Even in an ordinary school the quality of education depends on the quality of the teacher. He or she needs to have a warm heart, which will attract the students’ attention.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the first day of the Lam Rim teachings at Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe on December 25, 2013. Photo/Rio Helmi
The next topic was concentration or the development of a calmly abiding mind. His Holiness described the optimal seven point posture, the slightly bowed position of the head, the right hand resting in the palm of the left with the thumbs touching. He commended the practice of observing and counting the breath, citing friends who are able to count 1000 breaths without break, although he conceded that bouts of 21 breaths at a time might be more practical. He quoted Je Tsongkhapa saying that a combination of analytical and concentrative meditation is very productive.

He remarked that we have to make the most of this life, with its freedom and fortune. He recounted that when he gets up in the morning his first thought is to remember the Buddha’s kindness and compassion, which gives him a sense of happiness and calm. He quoted the 5th Dalai Lama saying that whatever he had learned was a result of his having made the effort. Similarly, His Holiness reads and thinks about the works of Nagarjuna and others.

His Holiness mentioned that human beings are social animals who depend on each other for survival. But perhaps because they are too intelligent, they tend to disregard the community and adopt a self-centred point of view. Curiously, children are not like this, having little sense of racial or class distinctions, which we seem to acquire as we grow up. We need to act more responsibly.

Life is precious, but one of our errors is clinging to it as if it’s permanent. The solution is to think about the nine point analysis with its three main headings: death is certain, when death will strike is unknown and the only thing of worth at the time of death is our experience of the Dharma. Even conditions conducive of life can change and become causes of death.

“If you think about impermanence, death and the awakening mind of bodhichitta during the day, you may think about them in your dreams. It’s my hope that I’ll at least be able to think about bodhichitta when death strikes. Many Westerners don’t want to even hear the word death, while some doctors have difficulty informing their patients they have cancer. Actually, we need to think that we might die at any moment. I visualise the process of death five or six times every day in the course of my practice. And I’m telling you, not out of a wish to boast, but to encourage you to think about death too. What I do know is that when I die I’ll not just disappear; there’ll be the next life for which I have to prepare.”

Because today was the 30th anniversary of the passing away of His Holiness’s Senior Tutor, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, the afternoon session ended with the celebration of a tsog offering. His Holiness explained how sad and bereft he’d felt when Ling Rinpoche died, but that he’d transformed the situation by deciding instead that it was an opportunity to do his best to fulfil his tutor’s wishes.
 

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