Monday, March 2, 2015

Dalai Lama on Buddhist Teachings Related to the Eight Verses for Training the Mind

Copenhagen, Denmark, 12 February 2015 - A group of Danish Parliamentarians representing all eight parties present in parliament were the focus of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first meeting this morning. He greeted them saying:

“In 1973, as I was about to set out on my first trip to Europe, the BBC correspondent Mark Tully asked me why I was going and I told him that although I was a refugee I considered myself a citizen of the world. I have a commitment to promoting human values such as love and compassion, which rather than money or power, are the real source of peace of mind. Looking inward brings inner strength and self-confidence, which enables us to work transparently, openly and honestly.”

Remarking that all human brothers and sisters want to live a happy life he teased the parliamentarians that they seemed to be human too. As a Buddhist monk he is aware of religious traditions’ common aim to help and serve humanity, which is why he seeks to foster harmony between them. He told the group that he is now fully retired with no political responsibilities regarding Tibet.

“I appreciate your support and your concern for human rights in Tibet and elsewhere in the world.”

With regard to his homeland, His Holiness expressed concern for the ecology of the Tibetan plateau, labelled by one Chinese ecologist, the Third Pole. Asia’s major rivers rise in Tibet affecting the lives of 1 billion people downstream. He hoped the parliamentarians would support experts making an objective assessment of the current ecological situation there. He also expressed concern for the well-being of Tibetan culture, which, as a culture of peace and compassion, is something China also needs. He recalled a meeting with Chinese writers and intellectuals who told him that moral standards in China were lower than they had been for 5000 years. Xi Jinping recently mentioned in Paris and New Delhi the important role Buddhism has to play in reviving Chinese culture.

Finally, he said, India and China, the world’s two most populated nations, are neighbours. As long as China views Tibetans with suspicion she will continue to station large numbers of troops there. These troops are a source of apprehension on the Indian side. Therefore, normalizing the situation in Tibet has a bearing on peace in the region.

Asked what Denmark and the EU can do to support self-determination in Tibet, His Holiness told the parliamentarians that China is increasingly important economically and militarily. There is no point trying to isolate her. Reach out, make friends, overcome her suspicions, he said, remarking that this is true of Russia too. He reiterated his judgement that censorship is wrong, that the Chinese judiciary needs to be raised to international standards, because at present no one represents the peasant farmers.

When one member of the group voiced the paradox that His Holiness counselled them to reduce Chinese suspicions and yet merely meeting with him might stoke them, His Holiness replied:

“You can report what we discussed about the environment, that we are not seeking independence, that what we seek for Tibetans are the rights already provided for in the Chinese constitution. Don’t worry, we’ve had relations with the Chinese for more than 2000 years and I’ve been dealing with them since the 1950s.”

Reaching the teaching hall once more, His Holiness greeted the crowd:

“Good morning everybody, I hope you all got enough sleep. Today, we’ll go through an introduction to Buddhism and in the afternoon I’ll read the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’.”

Teaching largely in English, His Holiness said the common message of all religious traditions is love, compassion, tolerance and self-discipline, despite their different philosophical views. In answer to the question ‘What is the Dharma? What’s its purpose?’ he said it is what saves and protects us from suffering. This applies to the Samkhyas, Jains and Buddhists who have no belief in a creator and the Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews, Christians, and Muslims who do. They hold different philosophical views because people have different dispositions. They provide different ways to strengthen and approach the practice of love.

His Holiness mentioned that one of the ways he expresses his respect for these religious traditions is, whenever he can, to visit their sacred places as a pilgrim. In such a spirit he has visited Lourdes, Jerusalem and Fatima.

He also remains concerned for the 1 billion people who assert they have no faith, belief or interest in religion. He feels they are human beings, who also wish to be happy and so need to know about inner values like love and compassion. Drawing on Indian tradition, he suggests that education can incorporate secular ethics on the basis of common sense, common experience and scientific findings.

Turning to the origins of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness explained that the powerful Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo had married a Nepalese princess and a Chinese princess. Both brought statues of the Buddha with them to Tibet, which sparked an interest in Buddhism. A subsequent Emperor Trisong Deutsan invited a top scholar from India’s Nalanda University to come to Tibet to teach and despite his advanced years, Shantarakshita agreed. He came and taught logic and philosophy as well as monastic discipline.

His Holiness explained that the basic structure of the Buddha’s teaching can be found in the instructions about the Four Noble Truths and the 37 Factors of Enlightenment, which are common to both the Pali and Sanskrit traditions. The 37 Factors include the 4 foundations of mindfulness, the 4 supreme efforts, the 4 means to accomplishment, the 5 strengths, the 5 faculties and the Noble Eightfold Path. He then went to some lengths to explain the Four Noble Truths with their 16 attributes.

Of the Four Truths, suffering, origin, cessation and path, the Buddha advised - know suffering, overcome its origin, achieve cessation and cultivate the path. Within that context the four characteristics or attributes of suffering are impermanence, suffering, emptiness and selflessness. The four characteristics of the origin of suffering are causes, origin, strong production and condition. The four characteristics that refer to cessation are cessation, pacification, being superb and definite emergence, while the four characteristics that refer to the path are path, awareness, achievement and deliverance. Studying these attributes contributes to wisdom, which is in contrast to the observation that the source of this body we have now is ignorance.

Corresponding to wisdom is altruism of which Shantideva advised:

Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.

His Holiness mentioned that the author of the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’ Geshe Langri Thangpa was a disciple of the Kadampa Geshe Potowa and lived 1054-1123. He said he memorized the verses when he was young and recites and thinks about them every day.

The first verse shows that all the good things we achieve, higher rebirth, liberation or enlightenment, come about in reliance on other sentient beings. The second advises us to regard others as higher than us. His Holiness gave the example of comparing ourselves to an insect. It may be small and we may have the larger brain, but we can use our brain for extremely destructive purposes which the insect will never do, which makes us lower. Hatred, anger, and other destructive emotions arise in relation to self-centredness.

The third verse shows that whereas selfishness is harmful, altruism is mutually beneficial. However, in our daily lives we are habituated to the influence of destructive emotions. We need to tackle them so that when anger is about to arise, we pay attention and put a stop to it. The fourth verse advises that we view ourselves as the lowest, but that does not mean we should be demoralized. In combating self-centredness we need courage and confidence. What it does mean is that we should not look down on people like criminals, lepers or AIDs patients.

Verses five and six tell us that when someone criticizes us we should maintain compassion for them. We accept all the blame that falls on them and give them the victory. Similarly when those we have helped turn against us, we should be grateful to them for teaching us patience and compassion. The seventh verse sums up the method for offering benefit and joy to others. Verse eight, concerned with wisdom, tells us that although things appear to exist independently, in actual fact they don’t. When we realize this we’ll see them as like a mirage or illusion. In reference to this His Holiness remarked that when people ask him where to start to understand emptiness, he recommends they study Quantum Physics.

His Holiness recommended those who were interested in what he had taught to read the books of other great Indian Buddhist masters.

“Read them again and again. Read them and think about what you’ve read. If you are interested in the Nalanda tradition, study steadily and change will come. Study and think but don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations. Good night.”

On behalf of the several organizers Lakha Lama Rinpoche thanked His Holiness for coming and for teaching. He thanked the translators for scrupulously rendering the teaching into Danish and English and thanked all the volunteers for enabling the occasion to take place. The hall filled with warm and respectful applause.

Tomorrow, His Holiness will travel back to India.

Original link with photos: http://dalailama.com/news/post/1240-buddhist-teachings-related-to-the-eight-verses-for-training-the-mind

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