His Holiness the Dalai Lama Begins Teaching ‘The Jewel Lamp: a Praise of Bodhichitta’ in Sydney

June 14th 2013

Sydney, Australia, 14 June 2013 - Soon after breakfast this morning, more than 200 Chinese students, scholars and friends waited eagerly to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his second day in Sydney. He greeted them in Tibetan that was immediately translated into Chinese:

“Our connection is not just on a personal, individual level, but people to people. Historically a longstanding relationship has existed between Tibetans and Chinese. Political systems come and go, but our spiritual and cultural relations will not change.”

Referring again to the past, he said that in 7-9th centuries Tibet and China were separate nations as recorded in Chinese documents. But, he went on, things change and today China is a highly developed economic power, while Tibet is economically relatively undeveloped. Therefore, there is potential benefit in Tibet’s remaining with the People’s Republic of China. Tibetans have their own unique language and a sophisticated Buddhist culture; what they need is genuine autonomy as provided for in the Chinese constitution.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama waves to the audience on his arrival at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on the first day of three day teaching in Sydney, Australia on June 14, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
At the Sydney Entertainment Centre, after the customary salutations, His Holiness took his seat in an armchair near the front of the stage. He was surrounded by monks and nuns of several Buddhist traditions. At his instruction the Mangala Sutta was recited first in Pali, followed by the Heart Sutra in Chinese and a short verse in Tibetan.

“When I’m giving a lecture on Buddhism I like first to give an introduction to set it in context.” He said, “We are 7 billion human beings on this planet. We all have a sense of ourselves as well as feelings of pain and pleasure. We have an innate desire to lead a happy life. What differentiates us from animals is the power of thought and imagination. Our sense of a happy life is not limited to our sensory experience.”

He described how people have sought solace and hope in religion, relying emotionally on mysteries. Some religious explanations are theistic and include a creator; others that do not involve a creator are non-theistic. In India arose ideas of liberation, achieved by wisdom’s overcoming misconception and engaging in physical mortification to purify the body. The Buddha taught a middle way between the extremes of austerity and luxury. He asserted that physical hardship does not remove mental obstructions, which can only be done by the mind.

He recounted that non-theistic Samkhyas, like Jains and Buddhists have no belief in a creator. What differentiates Buddhism is the instruction that there is no self separate from the body and mind. What is unique to Buddhism is that the self is regarded as a mere designation on the basis of the body and mind. He then alluded to different levels and degrees of subtlety of body and consciousness. The dream body is subtler than the ordinary physical form and the body and mind in deep sleep are even subtler.

His Holiness cited a German neuroscientist called Wolf Singer who has described the brain as having no central authority, which he suggests fits well with the Buddhist notion of no independent self.

According to the law of causality, responsibility for what happens to us, and what will happen to us rests on our own shoulders. If our actions are good we reap the positive consequences, they are not we don’t. The demarcation between good and bad action is that what benefits others is positive and good, while what harms them is negative.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his teachings at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Sydney, Australia on June 14, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Drawing attention to apparent contradictions in what the Buddha taught at different times and in different places, His Holiness laughed and said it wasn’t because the Buddha was confused or was trying to confuse others. He gave teachings differently because of people’s different dispositions. The Buddha also advised that we are our own masters and that although he had taught, we have to practise.

He revealed the Four Noble Truths, the basis of all Buddhist traditions. No one wants suffering, but to overcome it faith and prayer alone are not sufficient; we have to eliminate the cause of suffering, which involves overcoming ignorance.

The self that is designated on the combination of body and mind under investigation cannot be found. This is why we have to say the self is a mere designation.

During the break for lunch between the morning and afternoon sessions of teachings, His Holiness met more than 1000 Vietnamese, who he greeted in his familiar way:

“I am pleased to meet my Vietnamese brothers and sisters here; you have had similar experiences to us Tibetans and have had to work hard to preserve your culture. Recently, a group of Vietnamese came to attend my teachings in Dharamsala and I have met other groups in France and Switzerland, so the sing-song sound of your language has become familiar to me. As a refugee community it’s really important to keep up your language, culture and traditions.”

As the audience of more than 3500 returned to the hall, His Holiness resumed the teaching he’d begun in the morning stating that the root of cyclic existence is misconceiving the self of persons to which the antidote is the selflessness of persons. All disturbing emotions are likewise rooted in ignorance. He said we have to use our human intelligence to the full if we are to transform the mind. The very nature of the mind is clarity and awareness. Removing the obstructions to that awareness with wisdom is the basis of enlightenment. That wisdom is augmented by the aspiration to highest enlightenment in order to liberate other sentient beings which is a powerful source of tremendous merit.

Turning to ‘The Jewel Lamp: a Praise of Bodhichitta’ he said:

“I received oral transmission of this text directly from its author Khunu Rinpoche, the first teaching I received from him. It deals with cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta, which is an altruistic aspiration to reach enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. There are two principal ways to go about this; the Sevenfold Instruction of Cause and Effect, which involves recognising all beings as having been your mother, recognising their kindness and nurturing the wish to repay it. The second system called Equalising and Exchanging Self and Others, is found in Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’”

Some of the over 2,300 people attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Sydney, Australia on June 14, 2013. Photo/Rusty Stewart/DLIA 2013
His Holiness explained that Khunu Rinpoche was born in Kinnaur, North India and went to Tibet, first Central Tibet and later Derge in Kham to study. He took a non-sectarian approach although his local monastery belonged to the Drukpa Kagyu. He cultivated bodhichitta sincerely and regularly and in the course of his analytical meditation would compose a verse of praise every day. Later, someone came to know about this and prevailed on him to compile and publish the verses in a book.

The great practitioner Trehor Kyorpon, who on completing his own studies had chosen the life of a solitary hermit, saw this text and commented that in it the author had extracted the essence of many great classic texts. Khunu Rinpoche was a scholar familiar with all the major and minor topics of study who had mastered poetry, grammar and composition. When he taught these skills to others he composed sentences and verses that reflected the content of the five great topics. Khensur Pema Gyaltsen, himself a foremost scholar, expressed astonishment at the depths of Khunu Rinpoche’s knowledge.

“He lived the quiet, humble life of a hermit in the ashram of a friend in Varanasi, where I was moved to receive this instruction from him,” His Holiness recalled.

After noting that the first verse was a salutation to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, he remarked on the importance of knowing what those words mean and what it means to take refuge in them. As he has done elsewhere, His Holiness urged his listeners to be 21st century Buddhists, suggesting that their practice be built not only on faith, but on understanding and reason.

His Holiness is to continue the teaching tomorrow.

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