Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – As His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked to the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, this morning, he smiled and waved to the crowd, occasionally stopping to greet individuals. The ground was wet and the sky was full of clouds due to the continuing monsoon rains. The 5000-strong congregation chanted the ‘mig-tee-ma’ verse in praise of Jé Tsongkhapa.
Members of the audience inside the Main Tibetan Temple chanting the Heart Sutra in Chinese at the start of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teaching at the request of Southeast Asians in Dharamsala, HP, India on September 5, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Once His Holiness had taken his seat, a group of Theravadin monks chanted the Mangala Sutta in Pali, the ‘Heart Sutra’ was then chanted in Chinese. Representatives of various Buddhist groups, monastics, lay-people, women and men, offered a mandala and representations of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha.
His Holiness addressed the gathering:
“Here, today, are followers of various traditions. We all pay respect to the Buddha, who attained enlightenment having collected immeasurable merit and wisdom. His speech, in particular, fulfils the needs and wishes of the three kinds of beings. Essentially, he taught how we can all become good-hearted. We should investigate the causes through which the Buddha became enlightened. We too have Buddha-nature, but it is obscured by defilements such as the misconception that people and phenomena exist independently.
“As a monk and a follower of the Buddha, it’s my daily practice to reflect on the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the view of emptiness. I recall that things are not as they appear. They only exist on a nominal level. Not only do we need to counter our inclination to grasp at the existence of an independent self, we must also resist our self-cherishing attitudes. The ‘Offering to the Spiritual Master’ (Lama Chöpa) says:
Since self-centredness is the doorway to all torment,
While caring for my mothers is the foundation for all that is good,
Inspire me to make the core of my practice
The yoga of exchanging myself for others.
“We are all the same in wishing for happiness and seeking to avoid suffering. What binds us in the cycle of existence is our misconception concerning independent existence. When I think about emptiness, I consider that everything is like an illusion. By familiarizing myself with this I can reduce my grasping at independent existence. These attitudes, grasping at inherent existence and self-cherishing, have been with us for beginningless time.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the congregation on the first day of teachings at the request of Southeast Asians at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on September 5, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“The altruistic awakening mind of bodhichitta is the primary source of happiness for self and others. When you develop it, your mind relaxes and you’ll be at ease. Whatever unfavorable circumstances you may face, they will not disturb your peace of mind. Think how good it would be if all sentient beings were free of obstacles and defilements.
“Jé Tsongkhapa prayed:
Wherever the Buddha’s teaching has not spread
And wherever it has spread but has declined
May I, moved by great compassion, clearly elucidate
This treasury of excellent benefit and happiness for all.
“As a Buddhist monk I too have studied the classic books and I’m impressed to find that what they and the Buddha say is true. The Buddha’s teaching does not become outdated. Rituals to achieve longevity are one thing, but the best means to ensure we live long is to generate bodhichitta and the view of emptiness.”
His Holiness mentioned that as he was coming to the temple the congregation was chanting the verse in praise Tsongkhapa that begins, ‘Avalokiteshvara, great treasure of immeasurable compassion’. This prompted him to recall that, like Tsongkhapa, he also comes from Amdo and as a follower of Tsongkhapa he plans to continue to teach as he has been doing until he is one hundred years old or more.
When Tsongkhapa was alive there was little discussion of science, but nowadays Buddhism and science are studied together. Both reveal the truth from different angles. His Holiness repeated that he was born near to where Tsongkhapa was born, he studied his works and wherever he can he shares what he has learned with others.
Turning to the text he has been reading to this group of Southeast Asian Buddhists, the auto-commentary to Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’, His Holiness remarked that he had received the transmission of the root text from his Abbot, Ling Rinpoché, and the transmission of the auto-commentary from Sakya Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk.
Members of the audience following the text as His Holiness the Dalai Lama reads from Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ on the first day of teachings at the request of Southeast Asians at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on September 5, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“I reflect on this teaching every day. Sometimes I think of the line of scholar-adepts who have passed it down to us. The line starts with the Buddha and continues with Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti and I allow myself to think that I’m right at the end of the line.
“People belonging to various traditions have come here from many different places. I’d like to greet you all.
“Towards the end of ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ Chandrakirti writes:
This suchness just explained is most profound and terrifying, yet people with past habituation will certainly realize it;
others, however, despite vast learning, will fail to comprehend.
Thus, seeing those other traditions as constructed by the authors’ own minds as akin to the treatises that set forth propositions on self,
forsake admiration for treatises and systems contrary to this one. 11.55
“He implies that even the learned may not understand this point of view unless they really study it. The principal treatises that present the view of the Middle Way are Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’ and Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’. It’s my experience that if we reflect on what these masters have taught day by day, we can bring about a transformation in our minds. Doing that is the proper way to make offerings to the masters of the past.”
His Holiness turned to verse 29 of the second chapter of the ‘Auto-commentary’ to Entering into the Middle Way’ which is where he had reached last year. He began to read about ethics. He emphasized once again the importance of cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the view of emptiness and ascending the path to enlightenment.
His Holiness revealed that he feels that after years of steady practice he is on the verge of reaching the path of preparation. To make further progress will require a combination of concentration and insight. The crucial point is to seize the opportunity that is available to us. He suggested that at a time when Buddhism is declining, we can serve the teaching by cultivating analytical and focussed meditation. He reiterated that it is possible to transform our minds through study, reflection and meditation.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking on the first day of teachings at the request of Southeast Asians at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on September 5, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Noting that Chandrakirti praises great compassion right at the beginning of ‘Entering into the Middle Way’, His Holiness observed that one reason is that this is what really gives rise to peace of mind. He went on say that as human beings we didn’t take miraculous birth. Our mothers gave birth to us and then nurtured us with love and affection. It is because of this that we have the potential to cherish others.
“When you really develop compassion, you feel the suffering of others to be unbearable. That’s why you generate the wish to become enlightened. In addition, the source of suffering, ignorance, is uprooted by realizing emptiness.”
In reading to the end of the second chapter, His Holiness made clear that if we develop compassion and other virtues we will reap good consequences, whereas unwholesome conduct leads to bad migrations or life as a miserable human being. He continued to read the third chapter, the Third Mind Generation, that deals with the Bodhisattva ground called ‘luminous’.
The third perfection, patience, is a cause for safe-guarding other qualities. His Holiness explained that when someone has harmed you it’s something that has already been done. If you resent what has happened and seek to retaliate you create more problems. Patience and forbearance are crucial means of preventing this. The third chapter goes on to review the qualities of patience. When he had completed reading it, His Holiness announced that he would stop for the day.
“Although this is a time when the Dharma is in decline,” His Holiness told the audience, “we have met with it and encountered books composed by great masters of the past. This gives us access to the teachings that we should not waste. Therefore, I urge you to practise well.
“Of course, there’s nothing that does not become easier with familiarity. When I was young, I encountered all sorts of things that seemed difficult to achieve, but as I became familiar with them, they became easier to fulfil. Familiarity brings even what seems impossible within our reach.”