Public Teachings, Addressing Tibetan Residents and Visiting the State Legislature in Madison, Wisconsin

May 15th 2013

Madison, Wisconsin, USA, 14 May 2013 - Having been given a better than clean bill of health by his doctors in Rochester, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was accorded a traditional Tibetan welcome on arrival yesterday at Deer Park, the Buddhist Center founded by Geshe Lhundup Sopa near Madison, Wisconsin. On this his ninth visit to Madison, Geshe Sopa and Deer Park requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama to give a public teaching. Consequently, this morning, he came to the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, where every seat was full and 3500 people were gathered to hear him. He was introduced to the audience by Zorba Paster, who thanked Geshe Sopa for inspiring the invitation and everyone who contributed to making the event possible.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting the audience on his arrival at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin on May 14, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Good morning everybody,” His Holiness began, “I’m happy to be here once more. Since I first came to America in 1979 this has become one of my favourite places to visit and I count this great scholar, Geshe Sopa, as one of my friends. I also knew his teacher, Geshe Thabkay and his teacher’s teacher, Lhundup Tsondru, who was the first Geshe to be approved by the 13th Dalai Lama, when he was reassessing the Geshe system, and someone who went on to become Ganden Throneholder. I knew Geshe Thabkay when I was very young.

“With regard to Geshe Sopa, he was one of those who were selected to debate with me when I took my Geshe exam in 1959. The topic he chose was Buddha nature as explained in Maitreya’s Uttaratantra. I was quite nervous on that occasion, so I remember it clearly. He’s now 90 years old and physically frail, yet he has dedicated his whole life to the Dharma and the cause of Tibet, so there is no room for regret.”

He said that he was pleased to see how many people had come to listen to his explanation of this Buddhist text, but that he would like to give an introduction first. He mentioned that over the last 4-5000 years human beings have developed a sense of religion. Because of differences of location, ways of life and philosophical outlook, different traditions have evolved.

His Holiness recalled attending an interfaith meeting in Amritsar, India, at which a Sufi scholar declared that all religious traditions concerned themselves with three main questions. The first was, Who am I? Or what is the self? In answer to this, all traditions except Buddhism believe in a soul, although some also believe in causality, so that what happens to us in our lives depends on what we do. Buddhism has no concept of a creator, but describes the self as designated on the body and mind. The Buddha said that the idea of the self is the cause of our problems and that the person is based on our five psycho-physical aggregates; although the person is devoid of any sense of independent self. Some ask whether that means there is no person, but the Buddha says that is not the case, for like a chariot that is dependent on its parts, the person is dependent on the aggregates and is designated on a combination of body, speech and mind.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his teachings at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin on May 14, 2013. Photo/Sherab Lhatsang
Consciousness, which has an important part in this, is of two categories: sensory consciousness that is related to physical sources and mental consciousness. His Holiness explained:

“When I look at you the first appearance arises from eye consciousness, then I recognise you and think, ‘This is my friend.’ When I then close my eyes the remaining image is on a mental level. And this is the level on which we experience wisdom and compassion. When we dream, the sensory consciousnesses are inactive, and in deep sleep there is another level of consciousness. So consciousness has many levels.

“These days, scientists are taking some interest in cases in which it appears that clinical death has occurred, but the body remains fresh for 1, 2, or 3 weeks, for which the Buddhist explanation is that a very subtle consciousness remains in the body;  decay only begins when it departs. We have observed about 30 cases of this happening over the last 50 years and it is something we need to investigate further.’

The two remaining questions that religions address relate to whether the self has a beginning or end, and in the Buddhist view it has neither a beginning nor an end. His Holiness laughed and said:

“I’m a Buddhist and this seems logical to me. Nevertheless, I don’t propagate Buddhism when I’m asked to speak at centres in the West. I believe members of different religions can learn from each other without having to change the faith they were born to. For example, in the 70s and 80s we had very successful exchange programs with Christian monks and nuns.

“However, there may also be individuals who find Buddhism helpful and attractive and if it’s effective for them to adopt it, that’s ok, but it’s important that they maintain respect for their family religion.”


The Alliant Energy Center, venue for His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings in Madison, Wisconsin on May 14, 2013. Photo/Sherab Lhatsang
“The text I’m going to explain was composed by Je Tsongkhapa, who lived in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Right from the start he had a strong interest in ultimate reality and received teachings from all the existing Buddhist traditions in Tibet. Then he rigorously applied himself to the practice of meditation. This text he composed at the end of a long retreat as a hermit to express his profound joy and gratitude to the Buddha for his teaching on dependent arising.”

His Holiness gave a brisk reading of the verses, punctuated with essential commentary, and concluded:

“This text is quite short, but is immensely helpful if you think about it carefully. I memorized it in 1953 and whenever I have some leisure I recite it to myself and think about it - this and the Eight Verses for Training the Mind are particularly worthwhile. I consider thinking about these texts to be more effective than reciting Om mani padme hung, although of course I do that too.”

His Holiness led the gathering through a short recitation of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta. During a break for lunch, the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, paid His Holiness a visit. After that, His Holiness addressed a gathering of Tibetans who live mostly in Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Young Tibetans in traditional dress listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his meeting with the Tibetan community in Madison, Wisconsin on May 14, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“During this visit to Madison, I am glad to have this opportunity to meet with those of you resident here - my greetings to you all. We’ve been in exile for 54 years, the third generation, but young and old we have kept our identity and pride as Tibetans. The number of people in the world at large who are aware of the Tibetan struggle has increased, and the number of Chinese who are aware of our cause and offer us sympathy has grown too. If the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping forms his policy on the basis of reality, taking a realistic view, there are grounds for hope that things may improve. Both in Tibet and in exile there has been no slackening of our determination, nor of our dedication to non-violence.”

His Holiness touched on the issue of Dolgyal or Shugden which he said poses an obstacle. If you take refuge in Dolgyal it is an obstacle to taking refuge in the Three Jewels and it also poses a threat to the harmony among Tibet’s various Buddhist traditions. He quoted the Panchen Rinpoche saying that our admiration for other religious traditions should be like the effulgence of a jewel - radiant in all directions.

Invited to address the Wisconsin State Legislature, His Holiness was introduced as someone who had included Madison in his first visit to the USA in 1979, who gave his first Kalachakra Empowerment in the Western World here in 1981, and who was here in Madison when he received news of having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He greeted the members of the assembly:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama is introduced during his visit to the Wisconsin State Legislature in Madison, Wisconsin on May 14, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Brothers and sisters, it’s a great honour to address you who represent the people of this state. I have been an admirer and promoter of democracy since witnessing the bullying of the Regent in Tibet. I learned about the virtues of democracy and the power of an independent judiciary when I was a boy. These are things to admire. In 1951, I took power and in 1952 set up a reform committee, although it wasn’t very successful because the Chinese wanted to implement reforms their way. In 1959, after escaping into exile, we started to change our system. With the first election of a leader in 2001, I became semi-retired and with the election of a new leadership in 2011, I decided the time had come not only for me to retire completely, but also for the institution of Dalai Lamas to retire from political concerns.

“One of my commitments is to promoting human values in the interest of human happiness; my second commitment involves fostering inter-religious harmony. The third commitment involves Tibet because I am a Tibetan. I used to exercise temporal and religious authority, but now I’m concerned to work to preserve Tibet’s Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and non-violence. This is what I am trying to do. Thank you.”

Tomorrow, His Holiness will participate in a dialogue on the theme, ‘Change your Mind, Change the World.’
 

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