Consecration of the Tathagata Tsal and Teaching at Ravangla, Sikkim

March 25th 2013

Ravangla, Sikkim, India, 25 March 2013 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama had been invited to Sikkim to consecrate the colossal 128 foot hammered copper statue of the Buddha, which he had earlier named Tathagata Tsal, at Ravangla. This morning under sunny blue skies he was escorted beneath a ceremonial yellow umbrella from the new guest house where he is staying down one long flight of steps and up another to the base of the statue.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his way to perform the consecration of the Tathagata Tsal statue, Ravangla, Sikkim, India 25 March 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
There he ceremonially cut the ribbon and opened the doors into the large chamber beneath the throne that has been elaborately decorated with fierce deities on the inner walls and scenes from the Buddha’s life on the outer walls. He examined the paintings admiringly before taking his seat on the throne and, accompanied by Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, conducted the ritual of consecration. They were soon joined by Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and shortly afterwards by the Governor, H.E. BP Singh. Final prayers were said and auspicious rice thrown outside in view of the statue, followed by a ritual circumambulation.

The dignitaries gathered in a pavilion below the statue, but high above the crowd, where the Chief Secretary Mrs R Ongmu gave an exuberant welcome address. His Holiness was invited to release a book about the Tathagata Tsal. The Chief Minister, Mr Pawan Chamling then addressed the assembly, welcoming His Holiness and the Governor as well as all the other guests. He especially thanked His Holiness for naming this project Tathagata Tsal and for taking the time to come and conduct the consecration. He pointed out that the Sikkimese people have long lived in harmony and many faiths are upheld here in a state with 328 Buddhist gompas, 318 Hindu mandirs, 74 churches, 7 mosques and 2 gurdwaras. He hopes that the new Buddha statue complex will attract pilgrims from far and wide. He stated that his government bases its policy on Buddhist values, is committed to supporting the State's various religions and inculcating positive values in the people. He made a point of mentioning that, in accordance with His Holiness’s advice, a library and study centre have been established within the statue complex.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama flanked by Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche (L), Governor of Sikkim BP Singh and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling (R) complete the consecration of the Tathagata Tsal Buddha statue, Ravangla, Sikkim, India 25 March 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
The Governor of Sikkim, H.E. BP Singh, spoke of His Holiness’s fondness for Sikkim and its people. He compared the Chief Minister to the great Indian Emperor Ashoka, who also constructed great monuments, established Buddhism throughout India which he governed according to Buddhist values. He urged the public to remember the Buddha’s teachings about non-violence and compassion.

His Holiness expressed his greetings and said:

“I’ve come to consecrate this outstanding statue, which we did according to the rites of Vajrakilaya, because this locality has historical connections with that meditational deity. The place itself is quiet, open and peaceful and the statue adds to the natural beauty of the landscape, which I hope will inspire an inner transformation within the pilgrims who come here.”

He said that he has known the Chief Minister for many years, admiring his projects to build on Sikkim’s Buddhist heritage, first with the statue of Guru Padmasambhava on Samdruptse hill, now with this statue of the Buddha and with the yet to be completed Chenrezig or Avalokiteshvara statue.

“I pray that all his good wishes be fulfilled swiftly and without obstruction.”

Recalling his own connections with Sikkim he said that he came first when passing through on his way to the Buddha Jayanti celebrations in Bodhgaya in 1956, when he travelled through Nathu la and Gangtok. He has come back several times since 1959.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses the crowd on the occasion of the consecration of the Tathagata Tsal Buddha statue, Ravangla, Sikkim, India 25 March 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
Respectfully pointing out that like the statue of Guru Padmasambhava this statue will last for many years to come, but neither of them will ever speak. He said what we need is guidance about how to train our minds. Twenty years ago, when the Japanese World Peace Stupa was inaugurated in Rajgir in the presence of the President of India, he pointed out that the real stupa needs to be built within ourselves. His Holiness said that the Buddha’s teachings contain many methods for training the mind because of the wide variety of people’s dispositions. This is what is contained in the more than 300 volumes of the Kangyur and Tengyur collections of Buddhist scriptures, which we should study. Books are not just to be treated as objects of respect, we need to open and read them. We need to find out how the mind works, how the emotions function. Prayer is not enough, we have to train ourselves. Buddhist literature is so rich in knowledge about the mind that it is now attracting the interest of modern scientists, who see these methods as authentic sources of inner peace.

The secretary of the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, Tsechokling Rinpoche, offered the final words of thanks. He expressed gratitude to His Holiness and all the other dignitaries and guests for attending the occasion. And he thanked a group from Thailand who were instrumental in gathering Buddhist relics from nine countries to be enshrined in the new statue.


The teaching pavilion before theTathagata Tsal Buddha statue, Ravangla, Sikkim, India 25 March 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
In the afternoon, as the weather became increasingly cold and blustery, His Holiness returned to the pavilion to teach Ngulchu Thogme Sangpo’s “37 Practices of Bodhisattvas”. Saying that he usually gives an introduction before starting the text, he explained that the word Dharma means holding back or saving you from something, which means saving you from suffering. The equivalent Tibetan word chö suggests correction. Dharma is a word that could be applied to all the world’s religious traditions. We might ask how Dharma protects us from suffering. It does so by training us to combat the destructive emotions that give rise to suffering. It enables us to transform ourselves so that we become free from suffering.

His Holiness discussed the differences between the theistic religions that tend to believe in a creator god and the non-theistic traditions that do not believe in a creator, but instead teach about the law of causality - karma. Buddhism teaches that if you do good, you achieve a happy result and if you do bad you create the causes for suffering and discomfort. From this point of view our experience of pain and pleasure is in our own hands. Today, all the world’s major religious traditions flourish in India, where respect for other traditions and harmony among them is an ancient but living reality. 


Elderly members of the public attending the His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings at the Tathagata Tsal Buddha statue, Ravangla, Sikkim, India 25 March 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
Buddhas help beings achieve liberation by showing them the path. The author of this text, Thogme Sangpo, was renowned as a Bodhisattva and an adept. This text has strong roots in the Indian Buddhist classics, all of which find their own source in the teaching of the Buddha.

“Once we’ve gone over this text together, don’t just forget it and let it gather dust on the shelf. Just having it in the house is of no help; you have to read, think about it, and become familiar with it. You have to apply the teaching in your daily life day by day. I received the transmission of this text from the great ecumenical scholar and adept, Kunnu Lama Rinpoche, Tenzin Gyaltsen.”

His Holiness reiterated that the Bodhisattva paths have to be practised not merely remaining the object of prayers; just as the Buddha did, you have to practise and gather merit. This is how we will make our lives meaningful. The “37 Practices” teaches about the common paths, then discusses ways to develop the awakening mind of enlightenment. After this come skilful means, wisdom and the Six Perfections, and finally dedication, which completes the 37 practices.

Tomorrow morning, His Holiness is to give a White Tara Long Life Empowerment, followed by the offering to him of prayers for his long life. 
 

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