Living, Loving, Laughing and Dying: the Buddhist Way - Mumbai - Second Day

May 31st 2014

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, 31 May 2014 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first appointment this morning before resuming his teaching, was to inaugurate the Somaiya School in another part of the Somaiya Campus. He was greeted by a troupe of children dancing exuberantly to the insistent beat of a drum. He unveiled a plaque at the door and was ushered inside. In the school auditorium, before a gathering of children, parents and teachers, children recited the campus prayer in Sanskrit and another group performed a South Indian dance.


Students of the Somaiya School performing for His Holiness the Dalai Lama during their inauguration program in Mumbai, India on May 31, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
“Young brothers and sisters,” His Holiness began, “I’m very happy to be here with you and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank three generations of the Somaiya family for their friendship. I appreciate all the work you are doing for education.

“India is the world’s most populous democratic country, a country where the world’s major religious traditions live together in peace and harmony. To improve people’s lives we need more education. Governments have taken initiatives but perhaps the funds didn’t reach their intended goal because of corruption. Private institutions like this clearly have a role to play. I have also witnessed the effective contribution various organizations have been making in rural areas and suggest that more cooperation and exchange of ideas and experiences among them could be very helpful.”

He went on to point out that China is not yet a democratic country, although it is changing. There are many areas in which India can set the Chinese an example. Amongst several ancient civilizations, it is India that has produced the greatest number of influential thinkers and philosophers. Ahimsa, non-violence, is a long-standing tradition here, which has also supported the flourishing of inter-religious harmony.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to students and staff of Somaiya School in Mumbai, India on May 31, 2014.
Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

“Anyway, the past may have been great, but we can’t just repeat it, we have to move forward. India has to build a future based on its ancient values. This will benefit not only the 1.2 billion citizens of India, but also contribute to the well-being of Asia and the wider world. China is waking up and can provide India with positive competition. India needs to focus on education and work hard. Modern education by itself is not sufficient; there is also a need to incorporate basic inner values. In my discussions with scientists I regularly extol the value of ancient India’s profound knowledge of the mind and emotions. We need to learn from this how to counter negative emotions like jealousy and greed with positive emotions like compassion and love and include such knowledge in education. Just as we teach about physical hygiene to maintain health, we also need to teach emotional hygiene.”

His Holiness stressed the need to prevent our human intelligence being diverted by destructive emotions, something that gave rise to several tyrants in the 20th century. Instead we would be better to emulate Mahatma Gandhi who emphasised love and compassion and living a simple life.
“You young boys and girls belong to the 21st century and as you grow up you’ll have to deal with many of the problems, such as ecological damage, that my generation created in the 20th century. Those of you here who are teachers need to teach in a way that opens up these children’s minds, that doesn’t just fill them with information. Learning logic and psychology is useful for encouraging initiative and creativity. Children need to learn warm-heartedness and a sense of responsibility for the rest of the community.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama dropping by one of the auditoriums with the overflow audience members attending his teaching at Somaiya Vidyavihar campus in Mumbai, India on May 31, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
His Holiness’s teachings are being simultaneously broadcast in several small theatres on the campus and he visited one of them to greet listeners in person on his way to the actual teaching venue. Taking up the Invocation to the 17 Masters of Nalanda, he remarked that Nagarjuna always praised the Buddha for teaching dependent arising and that he had done the same. In the next verse he called to mind Nagarjuna himself, who composed works of praise in addition to his philosophical works like his key text, ‘Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way’. This was translated into Chinese in the 4th or 5th century and was influential in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, before it was translated into Tibetan.

Aryadeva was Nagarjuna’s principal disciple and composed the ‘400 Verses on the Yogic Deeds of a Bodhisattva’. He was followed by Buddhapalita whose commentary to the ‘Fundamental Verses’ took his own name. He was challenged by Bhavaviveka in a work called ‘Blaze of Reasoning’. Chandrakirti came next and wrote about the complete path of sutra and tantra. He commented on Nagarjuna’s thought and clarified the Prasangika-Madhyamaka School, but also explained the extensive practices of a Bodhisattva. These too were the theme of Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ and ‘Compendium of Practices’.

Shantarakshita, a great scholar who created the Yoga-chara- Svatantrika- Madhyamaka school that synthesized the thoughts of the Mind Only and Middle Way schools. He established Buddhism in Tibet, a task in which he was assisted by his student Kamalashila. The latter debated with Chinese monks who declared the only way to practice was through non-conceptual meditation, and in Tibet composed ‘The Stages of Meditation’. These masters so far belong to the lineage of profound view. They are followed by praises to masters of the lineage of extensive practices. First among them is Asanga, who founded the Mind Only school of thought, his brother Vasabandhu, who in his work on Higher Knowledge or Abhidharma, outlined Buddhist cosmology. He was followed by the masters of logic and epistemology, Dignaga and Dharmakirti. Next is Vasubandhu’s student Vimuktisena, who is reputed to have surpassed his master, and Haribadra who commented on the Maitreya’s ‘Ornament of Clear Realization’ and the Perfection of Wisdom literature.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama enjoying a moment of laughter during the second day of his four day teaching at Somaiya Vidyavihar campus in Mumbai, India on May 31, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
Up to Haribadra the masters were concerned with the Sutra and Abhidharma sections of the Buddhist canon. Gunaprabha and Shakyaprabha wrote extensively on the Vinaya. Finally, Dipamkara Atisha, author of the ‘Lamp to the Path’, restored monastic discipline and influenced the development of all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

His Holiness turned to Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’ which was composed as a letter to his friend King Gautamiputra. The first verse describes the Buddha as the sole friend of all beings, because he is the one who showed the path to others, who made clear what needs to be overcome and what adopted. He it was who developed the path of altruism and understanding of emptiness within himself. He taught that to attain higher rebirth and definite goodness we need to understand the law of causality, to restrain negative actions and promote the positive.

Returning from lunch, His Holiness invited the audience to begin the session with questions. The first wanted to know about how he leads his day when he’s at home, He answered:

“First of all as a Buddhist monk I live according to the Vinaya rule. I observe the 253 precepts of the Mulasarvastivadin tradition. As a student of the Nalanda masters we were talking about earlier, whenever I can I read and study, particularly the works of Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti and Shantideva. I read, think and meditate almost daily. I get up at 3am and meditate for 5 hours. Then I meet people and spend the time going blah blah blah. At 7 - 7.30 I go to sleep. My practice to cultivate altruism and an understanding of emptiness is of immense benefit. I’m 79 years old, I’ve lived the majority of my life as a refugee, but I think it has been quite useful.”

Regarding the redevelopment of the University of Nalanda he explained that in 1956, when he came to India, he carried with him a cheque from Zhou Enlai to contribute funds to the project. After he came to India in 1959 not much progress was made until former President Abdul Kalam took an interest. However, some political considerations caused him to withdraw.

He was asked how to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and he replied that although the Buddha is seen as the teacher, the real refuge is the Dharma we develop in our minds. Another questioner wanted to know how to make the teachings of the ‘Lotus Sutra’ relevant today and His Holiness at first said he was not very familiar with that book. He said he was sceptical about the ability of one book or one form of prayer to deliver rebirth in one particular Pure Land and recommended the questioner read more from other books.


A member of the audience asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during the second day of the four day teaching at Somaiya Vidyavihar campus in Mumbai, India on May 31, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
To a question about vipasyana His Holiness explained that there are different levels of consciousness: everyday awareness, the dream state, deep sleep, and the subtle consciousness at the time of fainting and of death. He mentioned that over the last 55 years there have been several cases of lamas whose bodies have remained fresh after they displayed clinical death. He cited Trisur Rinpoche who remained in that state for 23-24 days, time enough for trained people from the Delek Hospital in Dharamsala to go and attach investigative instruments to the body. The readings they recorded revealed otherwise inexplicable activity in the brain that Tibetan Buddhists explain as the continued presence of extremely subtle consciousness, which can be employed to realize wisdom.

Resuming his explanation of the first chapter of Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’ His Holiness rapidly surveyed the remainder of the 100 verses. He touched on the description of the wheel of life an illustration said to have been commissioned by the Buddha as an educational tool. He described the pig, rooster and snake at the hub that represent ignorance, attachment and anger; the six realms of existence and round the rim, the 12 links of dependent origination beginning with ignorance and ending with aging and death.

When he reached the end of the chapter he remarked that it is difficult, but that he has been making himself familiar with understanding emptiness since the age of 13. He reported that when he was about 30 he developed a sense that the source of suffering is ignorance but that liberation was possible. He said that cultivating altruism is very good, but it is not an antidote to ignorance, only an understanding of emptiness can do that. He spoke of meeting a remarkable swami last year, a man who does great work feeding the poor. He told him that Buddhism and Hinduism are like twin brothers who share practice of morality, concentration and wisdom in common. The only difference was that the swami believed in atman and derived benefit from it and His Holiness believed in anatman, the lack of an intrinsically existent self, but in each case it was their own private business.

His Holiness said good night to his listeners, having taught for an hour longer that scheduled. He will resume the teaching again in the morning.
 

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