Third Day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Teachings in Sarnath

January 9th 2013

Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, 9 January 2013 - This morning the Sri Lankan bhikkhus’ chanting of the Mangala Sutra in Pali was followed by three recitations of the Heart Sutra. The first was in Japanese, the second was a poignant chant by monks in Vietnamese, and finally there was a straightforward reading in English.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama then began without further ado:

“In order to overcome ignorance, which is the root of all suffering, we need to understand reality. Nagarjuna praises the Buddha for revealing the unmistaken view that enables us to do that.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama acknowledging the audience on his arrival for the third day of his teachings in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, on January 9, 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
He went on to clarify that if we are ignorant of the alphabet in general and some letters in particular, we will not overcome this ignorance by prayer, or by meditation on compassion or deities, nor by performing prostrations. We need to learn specifically about the alphabet. Similarly, ignorance of reality is overcome by understanding suchness and dependent arising. The Buddha taught the Dharma to overcome ignorance about the multiplicity of things and things in particular. Most of all he taught according to beings own disposition. His own achievement was realizing the union of wisdom and compassion.

Unlike animals, we human beings can cultivate both wisdom and compassion. But to do so, we need to take a holistic approach, taking perspectives from different angles to achieve our goal. For example, a dice has 6 facets and a different number of dots on each. To say that it has 2 dots would not be untrue, but it would be incomplete. It would not present the whole picture.

We live in a world in which we are dependent on others; we cannot expect to fulfil our goals while disregarding others’ needs. Again, we need to look at things from different angles.

Happiness arises as a result of different causes and conditions. If you harm someone out of anger, you may feel some superficial satisfaction, but deep down you know it was wrong. Your confidence will be undermined. However, if you have an altruistic attitude, you’ll feel comfortable and confident in the presence of others. Even in ordinary society short-tempered people are not well regarded. Similarly a barking dog attracts no companions, whereas a calm dog gathers others around him.

The Buddha taught with the intention of addressing human beings’ different dispositions. Be that as it may, His Holiness made very clear that he doesn’t approve of attempting to propagate Buddhism widely in the world. He suggests discussing Buddhist philosophy, compassion, patience and conscientiousness in connection with combating the disturbing emotions. He says that many of his Christian friends have borrowed from Buddhism and he recommends that Buddhists could borrow from them in emulating their social work. Buddhists use the notion of dependent arising for spiritual purposes, but it can be applied in other fields too, because it is helpful in understanding reality. This is an example of the contribution Buddhists can make to the world.

Many of the over 2,000 monastics attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teaching in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, on January 9, 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
His Holiness mentioned that so much killing goes on today. Animals are slaughtered for food as if they have no other value. If people are not kind to animals, they may not be kind to other human beings either. Because this is the situation, ideas as compassion and dependent arising are very relevant in the world in which we live.

Buddhist literature can be summarized as dealing with Buddhist philosophy, science, such as psychology and the workings of the emotions, and religion. The Buddha’s explanation of the Four Noble Truths: that there is suffering, it has a cause, there is cessation and there is a path to it represent a scientific approach. In addition, the Buddha taught according to the dispositions of those who came to hear him. Again, His Holiness reiterated his belief that Buddhist science and philosophy can make a useful contribution to the world. Striking a personal note he said,

“For 50 years I have met many people: scholars and various kinds of experts. I don’t have a modern education and my English is not very good, although I started learning in secret in 1940. Nevertheless, I find I am not too far behind the scientists because of the logical and reasoning skills I acquired in my Buddhist education. I often find inconsistencies in scientists’ presentations which make me ask questions that prompt them to think again. This I think is evidence of the value of an education based on Tibetan literature and an indication that we do have something to contribute to the world from our heritage. “

He then resumed his reading of the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life at the point he reached yesterday in the Sixth Chapter, which deals with patience. He soon moved on into Chapter Seven - Enthusiasm, commenting that the confidence Shantideva refers to is not about arrogance, but concerns taking responsibility for others’ welfare.

In the afternoon, he reached Chapter Eight that deals with meditation and single-pointed concentration. He remarked that Tibetan texts refer to 51 mental states, while he has heard that some Pali texts mention 200, but he has not yet had an opportunity to confirm this. Modern science meanwhile talks about 15 emotional states related to specific facial expressions. The 51 mental stated are in five sets, one that concerns making distinctions another about concentration and another about intelligence and wisdom. Concentration and intelligence are faculties that can be strengthened. As you develop concentration you can focus on an object for longer periods of time, but it takes training. For most of us, the mind is unstable, not focussed and wandering here and there. Training in concentration is like harnessing a flow of water to generate electricity.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the third day of his four day teaching in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, on January 9, 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
“The Buddha’s teaching can be summarized as morality, concentration and wisdom. The purpose of morality and concentration is to enable us to understand reality by meditating on suchness. When we realize this as a result of meditative analysis, our fabrications about appearances lapse. When we emerge from meditation things appear like an illusion, which is useful in placing a check on attachment and anger. Negative emotions like these have their root in ignorance.”

His Holiness remarked that the higher training in wisdom is based on the higher training in concentration which in turn is based on the higher training in morality.

“However, even if you live in physical solitude, if your mind wanders here and there, you’re not really in solitude.”

Part of Chapter Eight’s explanation of meditation includes how to develop the awakening mind of bodhichitta, and within that is what Shantideva refers to as engaging in the secret. This is the practice of visualizing giving away happiness and taking on suffering focussed on observing the movement of the breath. It requires you to see sentient beings as dear to you and your developing a strong wish to free them from suffering.

When he reached the end of Chapter Eight he announced that tomorrow he will give an Avalokiteshvara empowerment and along with it the generation of the awakening mind, the layperson’s precepts and the bodhisattva’s vow. He also intends to read Chapters Nine and Ten.

Because the empowerment and receiving of vows involves making a pure spiritual bond with the Lama, His Holiness cautioned those who propitiate Shugden or Dolgyal, described by the Fifth Dalai Lama as a perfidious spirit, and who intend to continue to do so, not to attend tomorrow’s session. His Holiness mentioned that many of his friends had stopped doing the practice, as he himself has done, and met with no negative consequences. He encouraged people to give it up, not just because the Dalai Lama asks them to, but for the various reasons he outlined today and elsewhere.

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