Monday, August 22, 2016

A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life’

Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India, 18 & 19 August 2016 (from news reports) - Almost thirty thousand devotees thronged the Shiwatsel ground to attend teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama here today. Four days of teachings, with sessions in the mornings only, have been organized by the Ladakh Buddhist Association of Leh in collaboration with various volunteer organizations.

As a prelude to His Holiness’s teachings, monks and scholars from various monasteries participated in formal debates with each other, employing dialectical methods to explore the niceties of the doctrine.

Beginning his explanation of the 8th century CE Nalanda master Shantideva's ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life’ (Bodhicharyavatara; spyod-jug), His Holiness addressed the congregation on the importance of learning and understanding what the Buddhist scriptures actually teach. “Faith without understanding the essence of what the Buddha taught is merely maintaining tradition as a kind of social custom,” he advised.

“We are not gathered here to witness some sort of performance nor even just to hold a meeting together. We are here to explore the teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, if our endeavours are to be fruitful, both teacher and students must generate a pure motivation. Otherwise we’ll just be wasting our time.”

Under the harsh Ladakhi sun, the crowd, consisting of Ladakhis, Tibetans, Western devotees and tourists, listened to His Holiness call for harmony between all religious traditions. In discussing the benefits of the awakening mind of bodhichitta, he said it is this spirit of awakening, the aspiration to attain enlightenment to benefit all sentient being that motivates the Bodhisattva's way of life. The text he is teaching explains how to cultivate and sustain this altruistic aspiration. There are two aspects to the awakening mind—the aspiration, the wish to awaken and actually engaging in practices that lead to that awakening. These bodhisattva practices are commonly known as the Six Perfections and first among them is the perfection of generosity.

“Every sentient being, including animals, seeks happiness,” His Holiness remarked. “Therefore, showing others respect and trying to understand and help them solve their problems is a source of happiness."

“We have two enemies, the self-cherishing or self-centred mind and the misconception of self. Crucial to Buddhism in general, but especially the Nalanda tradition, is the need to use our intelligence and transform our emotions. This will be a far more effective source of happiness than resorting to the short term pleasures of drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs.”

His Holiness highlighted the verse in the first chapter of ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ that describes sentient beings’ predicament:

Although seeking to avoid pain,
They run headlong into suffering.
They long for happiness, but foolishly
Destroy it, as if it were their enemy

The teachings will conclude on 20 August. The following day, 21 August, His Holiness will confer the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara—the Bodhisattva embodying compassion.

Continuing to teach Shantideva’s ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ His Holiness the Dalai Lama today suggested:

“The more we practice altruism and help others, the more we will benefit ourselves. The resultant peace of mind helps us live longer, able to serve humanity longer.”

He recommended that devotees pray with a good motivation to live longer in order to have greater opportunity to practise the Buddhadharma, cultivate bodhichitta, and attain Buddhahood. He added:

“Right from childhood we are under the influence of destructive emotions. We have an instinct to harm others, to kill insects and so forth, due to our past karma and being habitually driven by negative attitudes.

“From the beginning, we are accustomed to being ignorant about reality and adopt a self-cherishing attitude. Now, due to encountering the teaching of the Buddha, we are awakening from the slumber of ignorance. Therefore, we should try to generate the awakening mind of bodhichitta. In the immediate short term it will bring us peace of mind and better health, while in the longer term it will ensure that we take a higher rebirth.”

As His Holiness came to the end of his explanation, hundreds of monks and members of the public, led by Ganden Tri Rinpoche and Ladakh Buddhist Association President Tsewang Thinles, performed ceremonial prayers for His Holiness’s long life and good health. On behalf of the entire people of Ladakh, Tsewang Thinles expressed thanks to His Holiness for coming and showering his blessings on them. He further requested His Holiness to visit Ladakh again and again in the future.

In his response His Holiness said,

“These prayers made with great faith and devotion will help me live longer, giving me the opportunity to work for the welfare of all sentient beings.”

On 21st August, the last day of the four days of public teachings, His Holiness conferred an Avalokiteshvara empowerment. In the preamble he encouraged Buddhists among his listeners to adopt a vegetarian diet and curtail their use of alcohol. He urged everyone to be more compassionate and sincere and to recognise that we are all brothers and sisters belonging to one human family.

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