Monday, February 2, 2015

Dalai Lama Reading the Dhammapada in Sankisa, India

Sankisa, UP, India, 31 January 2015 - When representatives of the organizers, the Youth Buddhist Society of India, came to see him this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama first of all thanked them for inviting him to this important Buddhist place. He said:

"Although the historical Buddhist site is in ruins, the Buddha's teaching is not ruined. In fact many intelligent people today are taking an interest in it."

He mentioned that since he first came to Sankisa in 1960 several temples have been built. However, he stressed, as he said he always does, that the teachings are more important than temples and statues. Publishing books and establishing a library, as the YBS is doing, is more effective. He advised that work has begun on extracting Buddhist scientific and philosophical explanations from the 220 volumes of the Tengyur that include the works of the masters of Nalanda University. He hopes these can become the basis not so much of religious as academic study.

A short drive up the road from his hotel brought His Holiness to where Shechen Monastery has built a chörten that they had requested him to consecrate. This is part of a project to fulfil the wish of the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to build chörtens in the Buddhist pilgrimage places. His Holiness performed a brief ceremony and posed for a photograph with Khyentse Rinpoche's present incarnation.

At the YBS grounds he was asked to bless an impressive new replica of the Sankisa Ashokan pillar that stands some 40 metres tall and is topped by a whole elephant capital complete with trunk and tail. Taking his seat on the stage at the teaching ground before an audience of several hundred monks, several thousand local laypeople, many hundred Tibetans and a handful of foreigners, he began:

"This is the place where the Buddha descended to earth after teaching his mother. I came here once before and I'm here again at your invitation. The YBS has started a library here and I'd like to express my appreciation of all the hard work that has gone into it. In this place that is sacred to the Buddha I pray there may be more such development.

"We'll begin with a recitation of the Mangala Sutta in Pali by local monks, followed by the Heart Sutra mantra. While the basis of the Pali tradition is the teaching of the Four Noble Truths, the 12 Links of Dependent Arising and the 37 Harmonies of Enlightenment, the basis of the Sanskrit tradition is the collection of Perfection of Wisdom Sutras."

He said that Nagarjuna had commented extensively on the explicit meaning of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, emptiness, and Maitreya had explained the implicit meaning, the path. This is why he likes to start a teaching by reciting the salutation verses from Nagarjuna's ‘Fundamental Wisdom' and Maitreya's ‘Clear Ornament for Realization'.

"I'm going to go through the Dhammapada," he announced. "I'll read it with some explanations here and there. The Pali text is the Dhammapada, but in Tibetan the equivalent is the Udanavarga, which was one of the six principal texts of the Kadampa masters. In addition to the Jatakamala, these included Shantideva's ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life' and ‘Compendium of Training', Asanga's ‘Bodhisattva Grounds' and Maitreya's ‘Ornament of Sutras'."

He opened the text of the Dhammapada and read the first two verses as an introduction.

Mind precedes its objects. They are mind-governed and mind-made. To speak or act with a defiled mind is to draw pain after yourself, like a wheel behind the feet of the animal drawing it.

Mind precedes its objects. They are mind-governed and mind-made. To speak or act with a peaceful mind is to draw happiness after yourself, like an inseparable shadow

His Holiness remarked that both the teacher and his or her audience should correct their motivation for giving and listening to the teachings. The teacher should check that he or she is not teaching in order to earn name and fame, while the students should not attend merely to run up a score of teachings they have heard. Asking what the Dharma is and whether it is relevant today, His Holiness said it has the function of protecting us from suffering. As the first verses make clear, if your mind is peaceful, you'll be happy. This alludes to our dealing with our disturbing emotions.

Material development only gives us sensory pleasure, but to be lastingly happy we need to develop our minds. We need calm minds.

"If your mind is disciplined you'll be happier, whether you are religious or not. Today, even scientists are finding that if you have peace of mind, you'll be happier and your family will be more content. This is the basis of the kind of secular ethics that can appeal even to those who have no religious faith. And in this context I use secular in the Indian sense of having respect for all religious views and those who have none."

His Holiness explained that among the major religions are those who believe in a creator god and those who don’t. Among the non-theistic are Buddhists, Jains and part of the Samkhyas. The two latter traditions believe in an intrinsically existent self, while Buddhists don’t. Nevertheless, the purpose of all religious traditions is the same, to help us become better people. For this reason they are all beneficial and therefore should live in harmony with one another. This harmony that has existed for centuries in India is a treasure that should be preserved and protected.

The Three Trainings of Buddhism, morality, concentration and wisdom are practices found in common with other classic Indian traditions. The difference between them is whether they accept the selflessness of anatman or the intrinsically existent atman. Many people misunderstand this selflessness to mean that there is no self at all when what is actually refuted is a permanent, singular, autonomous self. The explanation is that the person is designated on the basis of the psycho-physical aggregates.

His Holiness read three verses from Chapter 20 of the text:

All processes are impermanent. When you see this with understanding, then you are disillusioned with the things of suffering. This is the Path of Purification. 277

All processes are painful. When you see this with understanding, then you are disillusioned with the things of suffering. This is the Path of Purification. 278

All processes are out of my control. When you see this with understanding, then you are disillusioned with the things of suffering. This is the Path of Purification. 279

He said that the solution to suffering will not be found merely through praying to the Three Jewels. We need to take action on the basis of the four aspects of suffering, the first Noble Truth, that it is impermanent, miserable, empty and selfless. He clarified that ignorance can be a matter of simply not knowing, but it can also involve wrong conceptions that distort reality.

His Holiness reminded his audience that following his enlightenment, the Buddha spent 49 days pondering what he had realized. He thought that while he had discovered the path to liberation, no one else would understand it, which is why we now have to make an effort too.

As he left the stage for lunch, he stopped to answer questions from journalists. They asked what he thought of Mr Obama’s comment that India must preserve harmony among its religious traditions. His Holiness replied that India is a living example that religious traditions can coexist and live together side by side. He added that in our increasingly globalized world we need to acknowledge that there are several religions and several truths. With respect to Mr Obama’s visit to India, His Holiness spoke of the importance of good relations between India, the democracy with the largest population, Japan, the most industrialized and developed Asian democracy and the United States that is the leader of the free world.

Another questioner wanted to know if he had anything to say about Mahatma Gandhi, the anniversary of whose death by assassination fell yesterday. He answered that Gandhi had dedicated himself to fostering the ancient Indian traditions of non-violence and inter-religious tolerance and harmony. Regarding Indo-Chinese relations he remarked that these two great countries have to live together and it would be better to work to build trust and better relations between them.

In the afternoon session, His Holiness explained how the Buddha had taught the Four Noble Truths. He had first stressed the need to identify suffering, its cause, cessation and path. Then it’s necessary to respond to what you have identified, to know suffering, to overcome its causes, to achieve cessation and to cultivate the path. Once that is done the result is that there is nothing to know, nothing to overcome, nothing to achieve and nothing to cultivate.

His Holiness resumed his reading of the Dhammapada with verses 11 and 12 of Chapter 1.

To see the essence in the unessential and to see the essence as unessential means you can never get to the essence, wandering as you are in the road of wrong intentions. 11

But to see the essence in the essential and the unessential as the unessential it is means you get to the essence, being on the road of right intentions. 12

He concluded the first chapter with the observation that “Even if he is fond of quoting appropriate texts, the thoughtless man who does not put them into practice himself is like cowherd counting other people’s cows.”

In this spirit, His Holiness suggested that it is more effective to take refuge in the Three Jewels if you understand what they are. Faith supported by reason will lead to liberation, which means we need to use our brains to the full.