Siliguri, West Bengal, India – Yesterday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited to an Official State Luncheon in his honour at Samman Bhawan, the Chief Minister of Sikkim’s residence. As he approached the building, he was welcomed by Tashi Shölpa and energetic Snow Lion dancers. At the door he was offered the traditional ‘Chema Changpu’ and was then escorted to his seat at the head of the hall. Everyone attending enjoyed a sumptuous lunch.
Snow Lion dancers welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his arrival at amman Bhawan, the Chief Minister of Sikkim’s residence, in Gangtok, Sikkim, India on December 13, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
This morning, His Holiness was given a warm send-off in Gangtok before flying by helicopter to Salugara in West Bengal, where he had been invited to teach at Sed-Gyued Monastery. Members of the public lined the road to the monastery to greet him as he arrived. Tashi Shölpa and Snow Lion dancers welcomed him at the gate. Inside, the monastery the monastery was richly decorated with garlands of marigolds. Even the driveway was strewn with marigold petals.
His Holiness waved to the crowd before climbing the ramp to the temple. Once inside he paid his respects before statues of Jé Tsongkhapa and his chief disciples and lit a lamp. Once he had sat down, Khenpo Wangdu, Abbot of Sed-gyued, offered a mandala and representations of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama paying his respects before statues of Jé Tsongkhapa and his chief disciples inside the temple at Sed-Gyued Monastery in Salugara, West Bengal, India on December 14, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Responding to this warm welcome, His Holiness declared that so far on his visit to North-east India his teachings had gone well and that he has been feeling fit.
“The people of Sikkim showed fervent devotion, but I advised them too of the importance of study. Whether you follow a religious tradition or not is a personal decision, but if you do, you need to study to understand what it’s about.
“People in Sikkim seemed to appreciate that I had come.
“People may think that religion is about prayers and rituals, but it also needs to involve study. When I wake in the morning, I recite Jé Rinpoché’s ‘In Praise of Dependent Arising’. I also advised people in Sikkim that it’s important that we discipline our unruly minds, because this is what leads to happiness.”
His Holiness came out of the temple to take his seat on the veranda and observed that among the estimated 30,000 people present there were monks and laypersons young and old. He repeated what he’d said inside that Buddhism is not only about playing various musical instruments, it’s about using our minds. Those who follow theistic faiths pray to their gods, but Buddhists should be able to identify their mental afflictions, their disturbing emotions, and know how to counter them. This can also be done on the basis of secular ethics.
“As human beings,” His Holiness noted, “we all need love and affection, so it’s important that we help one another. Secular ethics is an ethical code that reflects human values free from the trappings of religion, which I speak of admiringly wherever I go. What is crucial to understand is that whether or not we believe in religion, we all need a warm heart.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the crowd of 30,000 at Sed-Gyued Monastery in Salugara, West Bengal, India on December 14, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“When we’re born we’re nurtured by our mother. This is how our lives begin, basking in her care and affection. We must learn to cherish this kind of love and affection throughout our lives.
“We talk about building peace in the world, but we human beings tend to create divisions among us, seeing other people in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Consequently, we fight and waste precious resources on inventing ever more powerful weapons. If we’re really interested in building peace in the world, the way to begin is by cultivating peace of mind.
“Instead of fostering friendly, harmonious relations we quarrel and fight—and as a result, peace is destroyed. We’ve seen what happened in the first and second world wars; now there are people who talk about a third. We must work to reinforce our naturally affectionate feelings and not let them diminish. Our goal should be peace of mind.
“These days I try to make people aware that all eight billion people alive on this planet were nurtured by their mothers. In this respect we are all the same. Every human being on this earth survived after they were born because someone showered them with love and affection—a mother’s love. Remembering this and building on it will contribute to ensuring peace in the world. Indulging in negative emotions like anger and jealousy will not. Just thinking of other people as being the same as you is a step towards peace.
“We may have different cultures, different ways of organizing our lives, or different ideologies, but in the context of the oneness of humanity, as human beings we are all the same.
“The verse we say expressing the four immeasurable wishes, means we should focus on being helpful to one another. Thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is out of date. We no longer need to focus on our victory and the other’s defeat. Peace will not fall from the sky, nor will it spring up from the ground—but as human beings we are naturally disposed to work for peace and harmony.”
A member of the crowd paying her respects during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teaching at Sed-Gyued Monastery in Salugara, West Bengal, India on December 14, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
His Holiness observed that in Tibet, the Land of Snow, different traditions may adopt different philosophical positions, but they all follow the same Buddha Shakyamuni. Even what the Buddha taught varied from time to time and place to place, depending on the interest and capacity of whoever he was teaching. He did not impose his own view, but encouraged his followers to examine for themselves what he had taught.
The Buddha stated that in his tradition caste and social status were unimportant. What made a difference was collecting merit and wisdom for three countless aeons. Ultimately all Buddhas became enlightened through the practice of love and compassion. There is no factor that better fulfils the goals of self and others than bodhichitta.
His Holiness told the crowd, “Bodhichitta is my main practice, and it brings me peace of mind, which also serves to improve my physical well-being. There are Chinese officials who have caused so much trouble in Tibet, and yet I don’t feel angry with them. Rather I feel compassion because they have acted out of ignorance.
“Bodhichitta is the essence of Buddhist practice. It seems that you all appreciate the Dalai Lama and if you want to feel I’m close to your heart, you can cultivate bodhichitta too.
“In India there were different schools of thought. In Tibet we have different Buddhist traditions. I mainly follow the Geluk tradition, but I’ve also received teachings from teachers belonging to the Sakya, Nyingma, Kagyu and Jonang traditions. It’s crucial that these traditions treat each other with respect.
“I thought I would go through the All-Encompassing Yoga Mind with you. On the one hand, because of seeds sown when they are born, it’s natural for human beings to cultivate an altruistic attitude and put others first. On the other hand, things appear as if they have an objective existence, while actually they exist in dependence. They are dependently designated. Things appear to be independent, but they exist in dependence on other factors.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama preparing to depart from Sed-Gyued Monastery at the conclusion of his teachings in Salugara, West Bengal, India on December 14, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“So, think about bodhichitta and imagine that it transforms into a white moon disk at your heart, then think of the wisdom understanding emptiness and imagine that it transforms into a white vajra standing on the moon disk.”
His Holiness led the crowd in reciting the mantra: Om Sarva Yoga Chitta Utpadaya mi.
“It’s not enough just to know about these practices, it’s essential to put them into effect—please, do you best.”
In response to a request His Holiness gave the transmission of the six-syllable mantra, Om mani padme hung.
“For Tibetans and people of the Himalayan region Avalokiteshvara is their patron-deity. As a consequence, we have all been accustomed to say this mantra since we were children. The mantra incorporates extensive compassion, as well as the profound path. I recite it daily and dedicate whatever merit I accumulated through doing so, in order that I and others may become fully awakened.”
A thanksgiving mandala was offered, followed by prayers to Amitayus for His Holiness to live long.