Monday, March 23, 2015
Interacting with Students and Teaching from Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’
“I am very happy to be here with you young people,” he told them. “Physically you are full of energy, still growing. For a person of 80 like me to be with you makes me feel fresh, whereas when I’m with other old people I tend to wonder who’ll go first me or them. As human beings, whether we are young or old, from the North or the South, whether we have a religious faith or not, there are no real differences between us. That’s why I always stress that we need to cultivate a sense of the oneness of all 7 billion human beings alive today.
“We’ve all been born from a mother who showered us with affection. Indeed without it we wouldn’t have survived. This maternal instinct is common to all mammals like us, but can even be seen in the way a butterfly looks for a safe place to lay her eggs on a leaf, since she will not be there when they hatch. Starting with our mother’s care, we all have experience of receiving help from others. People who benefit in infancy from their mother’s affection are happier later in life and more able to show affection to others.”
He said that if, on the contrary, we are full of fear, we will trust no one, and when we trust no one, we have no friends. Today, as people grow up, they tend to see things in materialistic terms of money and power. When there is also a lack of moral principles, this too easily leads to corruption, cheating and exploitation at a local and national level. The idea of war in which one side is victorious and the other is defeated is out of date. Now that we are so interdependent, our enemy’s destruction harms and does not benefit us.
His Holiness then told his audience he would like to hear their questions and the first, from a young man was a request for him to clarify his stance on homosexuality. He replied:
“This depends a lot on the individual’s situation. In general, if you are religious, you should try to follow the rules of your faith. There are a variety of activities that the Buddha’s teaching refers to as sexual misconduct. It’s better to avoid these, but if you do them, it doesn’t mean you cease to be a Buddhist. Those who hold the vows of a lay practitioner, a novice or a fully-ordained monk or nun are bound by four main pledges: not to kill a human being; not to tell a great lie, deceiving others about your spiritual attainments; stealing and sexual misconduct. If you commit any of these, you lose your vows and, for example, cease to be a monk or nun. In this context, sexual misconduct includes oral and anal sex, whereas masturbation, although considered wrong, does not entail your ceasing to be a monk,
“On the other hand, if you follow no religion, you are 100% free to do what you like, provided what you do is safe and doesn’t put you or anyone else at risk.”
A young woman wanted to know how to acquire genuine friends and His Holiness told her that you gather the kind of friends who stand by you, even when times are hard, by being honest, truthful and compassionate yourself. He said that if, on the other hand, you are filled with suspicion, you won’t easily attract such friends.
Another questioner asked if science and technology in general are helpful or harmful. His Holiness replied that he views them as helpful. He said:
“I love science and I admire the way most scientists are open-minded, free of bias and depend on reason.”
Asked how society should deal with terrorists, His Holiness agreed that it is a serious problem, but one that is a result of our past mistakes, particularly the idea that problems can be resolved by force.
In answer to a question about Chinese behaviour in Tibet, His Holiness said he wanted to distinguish between the Chinese people as a whole and the Chinese government. Within the government he wanted to distinguish between ordinary people and the hardliners who are lacking in knowledge. He said the existence of three empires, Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries is a historical fact. He contrasted this with India that emerged as a united country after independence in 1947, having previously been only a collection of smaller kingdoms.
Before the session came to an end, student representatives announced projects they were taking on to make a contribution to creating a better world. They included efforts to support human rights, the sustainability of the environment, providing educational help to the economically weaker sections of society, providing educational help in villages and supporting the rights of women and children. Each announcement was met with applause. His Holiness remarked:
“These projects are wonderful. I’d like to share some of my experience with you. At the age of 16 I lost my freedom, at 24 I lost my country. I’ve spent 56 years as a refugee during which time the news has been continuously sad. But even under such circumstances I never lost hope or gave up my determination. Your success too will depend on your determination and self-confidence. Remember, if you benefit society, society will support you.”
In the afternoon, His Holiness returned to a completely different audience consisting of more than 340 adults, virtually all of them Indians. Rajiv Mehrotra, Secretary of the Foundation for Universal Responsibility, introduced His Holiness, who responded:
“Thank you Rajiv, my long-term, trusted friend. I appreciate your good work. Thank you for organizing this annual gathering again.”
He said that to gain a deeper understanding of reality, we need to employ intelligence and analysis to address our destructive emotions that are rooted in ignorance.
“As a practitioner I am now 80 years old and for the last 30 or 40 years I have thought seriously about what Nagarjuna has taught. I’ve found it’s really useful in tackling our destructive emotions. Practice isn’t just a matter of closing your eyes, but really engaging in analysis. Some friends ask why the Dalai Lama used always to talk about compassion, compassion, but now always seems to talk about shunya or emptiness. It’s because this is what I’ve found to be effective.”
He said that the Mulamadhyamakakarika, Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ is the most important of his six collections of reasoning and consists of 27 chapters.
He remarked that the Buddha’s first turning of the wheel of Dharma consisted of his explanation of the Four Noble Truths, their nature, function and result that comes from practice. He pointed out that the Buddha was once an ordinary sentient being like any of us, but due to previous Buddhas’ teachings he set out to transform his mind and eventually became a Buddha.
His Holiness mentioned that all four schools of Buddhist thought, the Vaibhashika, Sautrantaka, Chittamatra and Madhyamaka accept the Two Truths, the truth of conventional appearance and the truth of deeper reality. The first two, the Vaibhashika and Sautrantaka accept that things exist externally. The Chittamatra or Mind Only school, however, say that so long as there is an observer there can be an observed object, thus challenging that it exists externally. This corresponds to Quantum Physics’ assertion that things have no objective existence. For Madhyamakas, things exist on the basis of designation. They do not exist ultimately, but do exist by way of convention.
Observing that, of the three great ancient civilizations, the Egyptian, Chinese and Indus Valley civilization, the latter seems to have produced a far larger number of great thinkers. He recalled a moving occasion when he actively returned aspects of the ancient Indian heritage to its Indian heirs by granting the Guhyasamaja empowerment to four teachers from the Benares Sanskrit University including Professors Tripathi, Upadhyaya and Tiwari.
His Holiness began his explanation of Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ by reading the first six verses of Chapter 24. He said that to defeat the ignorance that is the basis of destructive emotions it’s necessary to refute the misconception of self. He noted that destructive emotions arise spontaneously and impulsively, whereas positive emotions that are a result of reasoning arise more slowly, but are more stable. This is why, he said, he has been encouraging scientists to participate in drawing up a map of the emotions.
As he continued to read through the verses, His Holiness explained that during the first turning of the wheel of dharma and the explanation of the Four Noble Truths, the explanation of the third Noble Truth hinted at the understanding of reality that can eliminate destructive emotions. During the second turning of the wheel, he elaborated on the experience of emptiness and during the third turning of the wheel, he clarified the nature of consciousness.
Towards the end of the session, His Holiness took questions from the audience. He will resume his reading of ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ tomorrow.
DalaiLama.com link including photos: http://dalailama.com/news/post/1246-interacting-with-school-students-and-teaching-from-nagarjunas-fundamental-wisdom