Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – As His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked through the yard of the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, this morning, he paused here and there to respond directly to people’s greetings. After he had taken his seat on the throne and begun preparatory rituals for the White Manjushri permission he was going to give, members of the Dharamsala Buddhist Study Group, several elderly men and women among them, robustly recited Akya Yongzin’s ‘Compendium of the Ways of Knowing’ by heart. Students from Sherab Gatsel Lobling, the Tibetan Transit School, followed them with a debate presentation focussing on the permutations of karma and what defines an action as wholesome or unwholesome. They had just begun to question how self-immolation could be considered when their presentation was brought to an end.
His Holiness immediately took up the point: “Yesterday the book we are reading touched on this point, that where it is motivated by compassion and for the benefit of others, the Buddha has permitted actions to be taken that are otherwise forbidden. I don’t know whether we can therefore say that self-immolation is a wholesome deed.
“We’ll continue to read from the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’. None of us wants suffering, we all wish to be happy and yet as the text says:
Although wishing to be rid of misery,
(Beings) run towards misery itself.
Although wishing to have happiness,
Like an enemy they ignorantly destroy it.
“Our experience of pain and pleasure can be mental and physical, yet the effect of the mind is much stronger. Once I was on pilgrimage to Bodhgaya and fell ill with a painful gastrointestinal complaint. On the way to seek treatment in Patna I saw impoverished children by the side of the road and in one place an old man with matted hair lying alone on a bed with no one to care for him. His condition filled me with concern such that my sense of my own pain subsided.
“Elsewhere I’ve noticed that no matter how advanced the physical facilities may be, people can still be unhappy. Ancient Indian traditions, including Buddhism, have observed that it is disturbing emotions that disrupt our peace of mind. That’s why disturbing emotions are regarded as harmful, yet means can be developed to tackle them. What Shantideva makes clear is that under their sway, despite wishing for happiness, people run after suffering.
“In tackling disturbing emotions we need to use our intelligence and our ability to communicate through language.
“The root of suffering is being driven by self-centred attitudes and clinging to our misconception of independent existence. These will create trouble as long as they remain within us. This is why we need to recognise the faults of self-cherishing and the advantages of concern for others. At the start of our lives, our mothers give birth to us and nurture us in their care. When we’ve grown up, to be confined by ourselves makes us uneasy. We’re much happier in the company of others, which is why all religious traditions emphasize the importance of love and compassion.”
His Holiness resumed reading from the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ halfway through Chapter Eight. After noting a reference to the equality of self and others, he highlighted the following verse:
Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
Having completed Chapter Eight His Holiness set Chapter Nine—Wisdom—in context. To fully understand the topic he recommended reading Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’ and commentaries to it by Chandrakirti and Bhavaviveka. He noted that the first two verses indicate the direction of the chapter:
The Sage propounded all these branches [of teachings]
For the sake of wisdom.
Therefore, those who wish to pacify suffering
Should generate wisdom.
Conventional and Ultimate,
These are accepted as being the two truths.
The Ultimate is not the object of mind;
The mind is spoken of as conventional.
He further recommended that students memorize two verses from Chapter 24 and one from Chapter 18 of ‘Fundamental Wisdom’:
That which is dependent origination
Is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation,
Is itself the middle way.
There does not exist anything
That is not dependently arisen.
Therefore there does not exist anything
That is not empty.
Through the elimination of karma and affliction there is nirvana.
Karma and affliction come from conceptual thought.
These come from mental fabrication.
Fabrication ceases through emptiness.
As he read through the text he drew attention to the introduction to the Four Mindfulnesses—Mindfulness of the Body, Feeling, the Mind and Phenomena, the importance of recognizing the object to be negated and the crucial factor of interdependence.
Once he had completed reading Chapter Nine, His Holiness turned to the White Manjushri permission that comes from the Rinjung Gyatsa collection. He explained that to understand wisdom in particular requires analysis and for that it’s useful to rely on Manjushri. He noted that in addition to his support of wisdom, White Manjushri also embodies attributes of compassion. As part of the ritual His Holiness led the assembly in generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta. In conclusion, he asked everyone to join in reading Chapter 10 of the ‘Guide’, which is a long dedication of merit.
Regarding Khunu Lama Rinpoche’s ‘Jewel Lamp: A Praise of Bodhichitta’, which he had intended to read, His Holiness suggested that since the text had been made available in Tibetan, people could read it themselves whenever they had time. He remarked that it was a work that Khunu Lama Rinpoche had written, composing a verse a day, around the time His Holiness left Tibet.
Out of concern that the Thai monks in the audience could leave to begin their lunch before midday, His Holiness instructed the Chant-master to restrict the final prayers to a recitation of the ‘Words of Truth’. He then left the temple, as usual joyfully interacting with people in the crowd as he walked all the way to the gates of his residence.