Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – The weather was dark, cold and stormy this morning when His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to the Tsuglagkhang. He greeted the Lamas sitting around the throne and took his seat. Introductory prayers were quickly over and His Holiness addressed the crowd.
“There is a note in the colophon to this book in which Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk wrote that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had requested the transmission of a text in the Tengyur, Bhavya’s ‘Essence of the Middle Way’. He suggested that with annotations of the text based on the ‘Blaze of Reasoning’ a transmission could be created. His Holiness asked that this be done to help the Dharma—do your best, he said. So it was that at the age of 83, during a visit to Taiwan, Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk worked on these annotations while receiving treatment for a broken leg.
“In his 400 Verses, Aryadeva states that emptiness should be explained on the basis of the Two Truths to those who have doubts about the slightly hidden teachings of the Buddha. This is about the disparity between appearance and reality.
“Because of ignorance, not appreciating the difference between appearance and reality, people get angry and try to overcome their opponents, but they can never achieve their narrow aim of total victory. If, on the other hand, they were to cultivate compassion they could see even their foes as friends.
“We all want happiness and because of that we have to take care of the environment in which we live. But we also need to acknowledge how dependent we are on others and how peace of mind contributes to our health and well-being. Our different religious traditions, some theistic, some not, advise how to do this. The Buddha’s teaching is uniquely based on a recognition of dependent arising.
“Ignorance refers to our misconception of reality, which in his ‘400 Verses’ Aryadeva says permeates our disturbing emotions.
As the tactile sense [pervades] the body
Confusion is present in all [disturbing emotions].
By overcoming confusion you will also
Overcome all disturbing emotions.
“Overcoming this ignorance requires making an effort to understand dependent arising.”
“Ignorance is depicted in the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising that are part of the painting of the Wheel of Existence often found on temple verandas. They begin with the image of an old blind person that illustrates ignorance and end with a corpse that depicts death. We are led into the cycle of existence by ignorance. We create karma that leaves imprints on our consciousness, which gives rise to birth and death. In the usual painting the Buddha is shown pointing at the moon which indicates cessation and the path to it.
“All our problems are due to ignorance, our misconception of things as being independently existent, which leads to wrong thinking and to the development of attachment and anger. This is why Aryadeva again advises:
“First prevent the demeritorious,
Next prevent [conceptions of] self;
Later prevent views of all kinds.
Whoever knows of this is wise.
His Holiness mentioned two goals: high status or higher rebirth and definite goodness or liberation. He cited sixteen causes of high status listed in Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’. They consist of thirteen activities to be avoided, the ten unwholesome deeds: killing, stealing and adultery; false, divisive, harsh, and senseless speech; covetousness, harmful intent, and wrong views. Three additional activities to be restrained include drinking alcohol, wrong livelihood and doing harm. There are three further activities to be adopted—respectful giving, honouring the honourable, and love.
In order to attain definite goodness we have to eliminate not only misconceptions of self, but also cognitive obscurations. The wisdom understanding emptiness must be supported by the awakening mind of bodhichitta. His Holiness remarked that we need to understand what emptiness means and to follow the path indicated in the Heart Sutra mantra. He defined bodhichitta as the intention to become a Buddha to help others. He pointed out that understanding emptiness is significant in the beginning, middle and end and reiterated that we should gain firm conviction in the teachings of the Buddha by means of reason and training the mind.
Resuming his reading of ‘Essence of the Middle Way’ His Holiness completed Chapter Three, ‘The Quest to Understand Reality’ and went on to read Chapter Four, ‘Dealing with the Principles of the Shravakas’ and Chapter Five, ‘Dealing with the Principles of the Yogacharins’, at which point he stopped for the day. He announced his confidence that he will complete the transmission of this text tomorrow and his intention to give a Manjushri permission the day after that.
Due to the inclement weather His Holiness stopped less frequently than usual as he walked past the temple and down the steps into the yard where he climbed into a car to drive back to his residence.