Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Dalai Lama Teaches ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ in Osaka, Part 1

Osaka, Japan, 10 May 2016 - As His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked to the hall of the Osaka International Conference Center this morning, well-wishers, mostly Chinese from Taiwan, lined up to greet him. When he walked onto the stage, the hall filled with applause. Once he had sat down he said:

“As you know I’m nearly 81 years old and I have some problems with my knees, so although a teacher ought to prostrate before the Buddha before teaching it is now quite difficult. However, my brain is still sharp. Every day in my practice, I use my intelligence to the full. I think about reality, analyzing, analyzing.”

He remarked that since there was simultaneous translation into Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Mongolian and English, he would speak uninterruptedly in his own language.

“All human beings have the capacity to differentiate right from wrong, but when we are under the influence of anger or attachment we lose the ability to discriminate. To fully exercise our intelligence we need a calm mind. Folding our hands and saying ‘I go for refuge ... ‘ is not enough, we need to employ reason. And we tend to be ignorant of the nature of the mind. We need to know how to shape the mind, to transform it from being disturbed to being calm. Cultivating the wisdom of listening, reflection and meditation will help.”

His Holiness remarked that of the various miraculous aspects of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind, it is his teaching that is most effective. He stressed the importance of actually understanding the nature of the Buddha, because, as he said, blind faith is not a basis for transforming the mind. Mere faith does not require much intelligence, and it will not guarantee the survival of the Buddha’s teachings. Applying analysis, on the other hand, will ensure that it lasts long. Sound faith should properly be based on understanding and wisdom.

While the first turning of the wheel of Dharma presented the Four Noble Truths, the second, given on Vulture’s Peak, dealt with the Perfection of Wisdom teachings. These assert that whatever is dependent on other conditions cannot be inherently existent. His Holiness noted that he refers to the Pali and Sanskrit traditions because he feels the terms ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ vehicles give people a wrong impression. He went on to say that in the Sanskrit tradition all explanations of the basis, path and result are based on reason.

His Holiness expressed admiration for Dharmakirti, a great master of logic and epistemology, who composed seven treatises on valid cognition. Later, Shantarakshita, a foremost master of Nalanda University, furthered this tradition with the establishment of the Yogachara-Svatantrika-Madhyamika school of thought, which combined the Madhyamaka of Nagarjuna and the Yogachara of Asanga with the logic and epistemology of Dharmakirti.

Modern scientists are interested to compare these modes of thought with their own findings. Where the Chittamatra or Mind Only school asserts the unfindability of external phenomena, Quantum Physics suggests that external phenomena depend on the perceiving mind. His Holiness cited what he considers the Buddha’s scientific approach, quoting him as advising his followers not to accept what he said at face value, out of devotion, but to test it through investigation and experiment and only accept it if it makes sense.

Turning to the text he was to teach, His Holiness stated that its main thrust was generating the awakening mind and an understanding of emptiness. The first chapter begins by outlining the benefits of the awakening mind, while the ninth presents an explanation of emptiness to which the preceding chapters are preliminary. It is observed that while compassion focusses on sentient beings; wisdom focusses on enlightenment.

His Holiness advised that his explanation will extend over four days and that it should be regarded as an opportunity to study and learn, not to receive blessings. He noted that Shantideva’s approach to generating the awakening mind, the exchange of self with others, is for those of sharp faculties when compared to the seven point cause and effect approach that Atisha taught. He also advised that since chapter nine of the ‘Guide’ is complicated and difficult, reading Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’ and Chandrakirti’s ‘Supplement to the Middle Way’ would be helpful.

He said he received an explanation of the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ from Khunnu Lama Rinpoche in 1967. Because he has found it so helpful he teaches it whenever he has the opportunity. But, he said, the key is in applying what it recommends, for example applying what chapter six, which deals with patience, has to say about anger. He recommended that his listeners try to read a little of the text every day and reflect on it as part of their practice.

Setting the text aside for a moment, His Holiness declared:

“First of all, I’m just one of 7 billion human beings alive today. As human beings we are all fundamentally the same. We share a common experience in that we are all born from a mother. We survive because of her care and affection. Scientists working with young infants are coming up with findings that suggest that basic human nature is compassionate. Common sense tells us that even if a family is poor, if they live in an atmosphere of affection they tend to be happy. A wealthy family, well provided for, but afflicted by suspicion and jealousy, tends to be unhappy. Clearly where there is love and compassion, happiness follows.

“We are social animals. We need friends and friendship depends on trust. Showing concern and affection for others is how we establish trust. Because we are interdependent, love and compassion are important in our lives. Recently I was encouraged to hear on the BBC that increasing numbers of young people regard themselves as global citizens.

“Similarly, the creation of the European Union is an instance of nations that once fought each other putting the past behind them and giving priority to their common interests. We could all do well to adopt such a mature approach and regard ourselves as global citizens. Instead we tend to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, despite, as I mentioned above, the fact that as human beings we are all the same; members of one family.”

Describing education today as focussed on materialistic goals, but with little to say about how to find peace of mind, His Holiness noted that that used to be the province of religion. Today, however, when religion no longer commands the universal appeal it once had, there is a need instead for a secular approach to human values. He mentioned proposals to introduce secular ethics into modern education.

Looking back to the origins of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness recalled the efforts of the bodhisattva abbot Shantarakshita working with the adept Guru Padmasambhava and King Songtsen Gampo. Later, after Tibet had fragmented politically, the King of Ngari invited Atisha. He wrote his ‘Lamp for the Path’ and established the Kadampa tradition. ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ is one of the six classic texts of the Kadampas.

“Today, the crucial thing is to study,” His Holiness advised. “In exile, monasteries that only performed rituals in the past have instituted programmes of study. Nuns too have been studying and the first group will shortly graduate and will be awarded Geshe-ma degrees. We all need to be 21st century Buddhists, which means we at least understand the nature of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the teacher, his teaching, the path to cessation, and the community of those who put it into practice.”

Coming back after lunch His Holiness repeated what Khunnu Lama Rinpoche had told him that since it was composed in the 8th century, ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ has been the single most important text for training the mind. He said the point is not to simply recite it, but to put what it says into effect. He glossed the meaning of the term ‘bodhi’ in the title ‘Bodhicharyavatara’ as referring to the abandonment and realization of great enlightenment. He noted the translators’ homage to Manjushri and the author’s pledge to compose the work.

He clarified that we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in order to achieve liberation. Liberation is the fruit of eliminating the disturbing emotions. It is intense misconception or grasping in the mind that gives rise to the disturbing emotions. He mentioned the American psychiatrist Aaron Beck who told him that when we are angry the object of our anger appears to be totally negative. This impression is 90% mental projection. In other words, conceptual thought exaggerates the nature of the object and provokes anger or attachment.

“I’ve been reflecting and meditating on emptiness for more than 60 years at my teacher Ngodrup Tsognyi’s prompting and I’m aware of what Nagarjuna says:

Through the elimination of karma and affliction there is liberation.
Karma and affliction come from conceptual thought. 
These come from mental fabrication.
Fabrication ceases through emptiness.

The root of all suffering is disturbing emotions and their root is ignorance. Those who wish to pacify suffering should generate wisdom. Verse two of chapter nine says: ‘Truth is recognized as being of two kinds: conventional and ultimate. Ultimate reality is beyond the scope of the intellect. The intellect is called conventional reality.’ The two truths are of the same entity, as the Heart Sutra states: form is emptiness; emptiness is form, and so forth. Chapter nine continues: In the light of this, people are seen to be of two types: the contemplative or yogi and the ordinary person; the ordinary people are superseded by the yogis, which implies that they perceive the ordinary, worldly person’s viewpoint to be incorrect.

His Holiness read rapidly through the first and second chapters. In the first he distinguished between the mind that aspires to awaken and that which ventures to do so. The difference is whether the bodhisattva is engaged in the six perfections. The second chapter, dealing with disclosure of evil stresses the inevitability of death:

Remaining neither day nor night, 
Life is always slipping away 
And never getting any longer, 
Why will death not come to one like me?

Announcing that he had completed the first two chapters, His Holiness repeated that this was an opportunity to study and learn, not just receive blessings. He said what his listeners would gain from these eight sessions could have an impact for their entire lives. He introduced Ven Yangten Rinpoche, who he described as a good young scholar, who would answer whatever questions people had about what had already been read.

Link to part 2:
The Dalai Lama Teaches ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ in Osaka, Part 2

Original link & photos: http://dalailama.com/news/post/1392-beginning-to-teach-guide-to-the-bodhisattvas-way-of-life-in-osaka

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