Shewatsel, Leh, Ladakh, India – Following a postponement of the second day of teachings due to local cloudbursts yesterday, people began gather on the Shewatsel teaching ground early this morning. Eventually, the organizers estimate, about 65,000 people packed into and around the ground, many of them standing to avoid the gentle rain. At 6:30am His Holiness the Dalai Lama emerged from his residence riding in a golfcart, preceded by yellow-hatted monks carrying incense and blowing horns. A ceremonial umbrella, a mark of respect, flew over the vehicle.
Some of the crowd of about 65,000 waiting for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to arrive at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground on the second day of teachings in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
From the platform where he climbed out of the vehicle, His Holiness smiled and waved to the crowd nearby. Inside the pavilion he saluted the image of the Buddha and lit lamps before it. Coming right out to the front of the stage he waved to the crowd before him and many of them waved back. He then took his seat on the throne and addressed the congregation.
“Today, here in Leh, Ladakh are people of unwavering faith and conviction, lay people and monastics. You may all have other things to do, but you’ve chosen to come here to attend the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara, the Great Compassionate One, for which I thank you.
“First of all, I’ll do the preparatory rituals and, in the meantime, you can recite the six-syllable mantra, Om mani padme hum. With regard to Avalokiteshvara, all the Buddhas praise him. Full of great positive qualities, he is the embodiment of compassion, much as Manjushri is regarded as the embodiment of wisdom. He is also distinguished by his participation in a dialogue with Shariputra in the ‘Heart Sutra’.
“The Omniscient Gendun Drup and subsequent Dalai Lamas were like Avalokiteshvara. I don’t have their qualities, but I do cultivate bodhichitta. My daily prayer is:
As long as space endures,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
To help dispel the misery of the world.
“Tibetans have a special bond with Avalokiteshvara, as do people of the Himalayan Region. You also pray to him with the unwavering faith that comes from such a close link. I will give this empowerment to you. Such an opportunity to make this human life worthwhile fills my heart with joy.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama performing preparatory rituals for the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“I may have the title Dalai Lama and may be part of that lineage, but the important thing is that my main practice is to cultivate the awakening mind of bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness. I make both my fundamental, daily practices. Just as you all have faith in me, you recite ‘manis’ with faith in Avalokiteshvara.”
As he began to conduct the empowerment, His Holiness advised the disciples first to correct their motivation. He pointed out that some people seek to enter the mandala just to gain benefits in this life, such as wealth and fame. Others seek to receive the empowerment as a means to gain merit. The proper motivation is to do so to be able ultimately to benefit others by achieving the state of Avalokiteshvara.
He suggested that if we think only of the pleasures of this life, we tend to bring problems upon ourselves and others. He reiterated that the correct motivation is to take the empowerment with the goal of attaining enlightenment in order to be able to benefit all sentient beings.
Next, His Holiness explained how the disciples generate themselves into the deity. He mentioned that in the Highest Yoga Tantra explanation of gross, subtle and subtlest awareness, this involves the dissolving visions of whitish appearance, reddish increase and black near attainment, culminating in the manifestation of the mind of clear light. And that is the mind employed to focus on emptiness. He confirmed that our ordinary perception of ourselves is dissolved into emptiness, and the entity of emptiness transforms into the deity.
Giving a summary of how to meditate on emptiness, His Holiness told the disciples, “Try to find out who you are. Ask yourself whether you are your body or your mind. Where does your self reside within your body and mind? You’ll find that you are empty of any inherently existent person. You’ll find you exist only as designated.”
His Holiness observed that the description of the dissolution of gross and subtler minds has a scientific character that scientists think they can learn from. The mind that is cleansed of adventitious defilements can ultimately be transformed into that of a pure being—a Buddha.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama conferring the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment to a crowd of about 65,000 at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“So,” His Holiness went on,” imagine that you transform into the pure being, Avalokiteshvara, who has overcome all defilements. Keep in mind that a sentient being is obscured by defilements, but an enlightened being has overcome them all and is full of knowledge.
“In the scriptures we find mention of Buddha-nature, the essence of the Ones Gone to Bliss. It is from this that we learn that all mental defilements are adventitious and can be cleared away. This includes ignorance, which is a distorted view of reality.
“The nature of mind is clear light and adventitious defilements are rooted in ignorance. Things appear to the mind as having objective existence, but if they did exist in that way, we should be able to find something when we investigate. Our distorted view that things exist objectively can gradually overcome.
“Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ clarifies that if we check the nature of things, we’ll find that they don’t exist as they appear. They exist in a conventional way merely by designation. Our mistaken conception of how things exist can be overcome. Indeed, if things were to exist in the way our distorted view conceives, we should be able to pinpoint them when we search for them.”
His Holiness alluded to three verses in the sixth chapter of Chandrakirti’s treatise that deal with the absurdities that would arise if things were to exist independently. The verses state that the meditator’s mind absorbed in emptiness, following his own analysis of whether things have any intrinsic characteristics, should find them if they exist. But if they had such characteristics, the meditator’s equipoise on emptiness would destroy them (which is logically absurd).
If things had an inherent identity, without dependence on other factors, conventional reality would have to withstand ultimate analysis (which is also logically absurd). However, the Yogi finds nothing, neither this nor that, to point to. If things had an essential core in and of themselves, this would lead to the logical fallacy of conventional reality’s withstanding ultimate analysis.
The Chinese language interpreter, one of 15 languages available as live webcasts, translating His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s words on the second day of teachings at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Finally, if things with an essential core arose from a cause, ultimate production could not be denied. Then, the Buddha’s teaching that phenomena are empty of self-nature would not be true. When we say something is empty, the very thing we are analyzing is said to be empty of inherent existence or self-nature.
Chandrakirti’s view is that ignorance that grasps at or misconceives true existence, is countered by understanding that things are actually merely designated.
His Holiness discussed five modes of reasoning that are employed to prove that phenomena do not exist independently or objectively. ‘Diamond slivers’ is used to analyze things from the perspective of causes. ‘Refuting existence or non-existence’ analyzes things from the perspective of effects.
The reasoning known as ‘Possibilities of arising’ analyzes things from the perspective of causes and effects, whereas the reasoning ‘Refuting existence as neither one nor many’ is used to analyze the essential nature of all phenomena. Finally, ‘Dependent arising’ is referred to as the King of Reasons and is used to establish the lack of true existence of all phenomena.
After giving a summary explanation of emptiness and how Avalokiteshvara arises from the clear light mind, His Holiness began the formal process of the empowerment. He gave the Bodhisattva vows, which he mentioned he takes afresh every day. Costumes that are the insignia of a yogi were distributed among the Lamas seated close to the throne who included Taglung Matrul Rinpoché, Tatsak Kundeling Rinpoché, Ugyen Chöphel Rinpoché, Gomang Khensur Rinpoché and Gyumé Khenpo Rinpoché.
In leading the disciples through the cultivation of the All-Encompassing Yoga Mind His Holiness noted that the altruistic aspiration for enlightenment is indispensable on the path to Buddhahood. He pointed out that even the Buddha entered the path as an ordinary being and then demonstrated the process of purification.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama conferring the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment on the second day of teachings at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“I have many friends with experience of practice,” His Holiness revealed, adding, “I can say that I have experience of cultivating bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness myself, which has come about because I have met with this human life and encountered the Buddha’s teaching and I’ve made effort. I, Lhamo Dhondup, from Amdo have practiced with such exertion that, if I can achieve single-pointed concentration, I’m looking forward to reaching the path of preparation.”
Returning to the All-Encompassing Yoga Mind, His Holiness encouraged the disciples to cultivate the awakening mind of bodhichitta and to then imagine it taking form as a moon disc at the heart. Urging them to reflect on how things are not independent, but exist only as designated, he instructed them to imagine this insight as a white five-spoked vajra standing on the moon disk at the heart. He then prompted them to think of attaining Buddhahood on the basis of conventional and ultimate bodhichitta represented by the moon and the vajra. He led them in reciting the mantra: “Om sarva yoga citta utpatayami.”
Part of the proceedings involve tossing a flower into the mandala. The congregation were represented by President of the Ladakh Gonpa Association, Ven Tsering Wangdus and the President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, Thupten Tsewang.
As His Holiness continued to grant the empowerment, he reiterated the strong connection the disciples have with Avalokiteshvara, whose 1000 arms represent 1000 universal monarchs and whose 1000 eyes represent the 1000 Buddhas of this fortunate aeon. He emphasized practitioners’ need to feel confident about engaging in the path.
“I don’t do any harm,” he told his listeners, “I don’t even think of harming others. And I feel only compassion for those who do harm.
“You’ve taken this empowerment from me today and everyone here is equal in having received it. We should not focus on any alleged differences of status. We should not look down on anyone, but regard each other as equal. There are occasions where some people decline to accept food or drink from those they consider to be lower than them. However, we shouldn’t think of anyone as lower than us. We are all the same. Everyone here, as I said, is equal in having received this Avalokiteshvara empowerment.
Members of the crowd, many protecting themselves against the rain, listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama as he confers the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“Khunu Lama Rinpoché was a lay practitioner, but I had no hesitation in receiving a thorough explanation of Shantideva’s ‘Way of the Bodhisattva’ from him. I single-pointedly relied on him as one of my root gurus. You too should regard all those who have received this Avalokiteshvara empowerment today as your equals.
“I recite the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’ daily, which include the lines, ‘Whenever I am in the company of others, may I regard myself as inferior to all and may I accept defeat and offer the victory to them.’
“I’m sitting here on a high throne and I have a big name, but I think of myself in a lowly position. The definitive Avalokiteshvara is to have a good and a warm heart that expresses itself as a wish to help others. We need to remember the oneness of humanity, without looking down on or reviling anyone, only seeking to be kind to others.
“If you avoid disparaging, looking down on or bullying others, you’ll be happy and they’ll be happy too. By accumulating good qualities you’ll experience the Dharma and reach the goal.
“In our society there may be some who turn to drugs in search of temporary bliss. Some take pills and so on. But these actions have no lasting benefit, whereas if you cultivate a good heart based on your faith in Avalokiteshvara, the benefit will be of long duration. If you see other people taking pills or other substances, don’t copy them. Think to yourself, ‘This isn’t what I want to do since I’ve received the empowerment of the Great Compassionate One from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
A group of Ladakhi drummers playing as His Holiness the Dalai Lama departs for his residence at the conclusion of the second day of teachings at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, India on July 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“That’s all for today, let’s make a thanksgiving mandala.”
His Holiness waved to the crowd once more from the stage and again from the golfcart as he drove back to his residence—and at last the sun began to come out.