His Holiness the Dalai Lama 2nd Day of Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland of the Middle Way’
October 4th, 2019 by admin

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting monks from Taiwan as he arrives for the second day of teachings at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, HP, India on October 4, 2019. Photo by Ven Tenzin Jamphel

October 4, 2019, Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, India – Following the recitation in Pali of the Mangala Sutta and the chanting of the ‘Heart Sutra’ in Chinese, His Holiness the Dalai Lama drew attention to a verse that Chinese Buddhists add at the end. May the three poisons be eliminated,
May the light of wisdom shine forth,
May we face no inner or outer obstacles
And may we train in the bodhisattva path.

All spiritual traditions encourage us to restrain ourselves from harming others and falling prey to destructive emotions,” he explained. “The mind is not unchangingly polluted by defilements, but we have become accustomed over beginningless time to being subject to the three poisons. Here we pray that we be free from them. The remedy is to cultivate wisdom, so the next line prays that the light of wisdom shine forth. To support that we need to cultivate single-pointed concentration, which in turn is based on discipline and the observance of ethics.

Thus, overcoming the afflictive emotions involves the three trainings—ethics, concentration and wisdom. These are strengthened and enhanced if we cultivate bodhichitta. We need to make effort and use our intelligence. To focus on the object we want to understand takes concentration. Generating that requires mindfulness and introspection.

A Buddha is one who has overcome all defects and shortcomings. To attain enlightenment we need wisdom and the awakening mind of bodhichitta. The root of highest enlightenment is compassion, which endows us with the determination to reach enlightenment and the conviction that it is possible to do so.

Attaining Buddhahood involves the Truth Body and the Form Body, which are achieved through accumulating wisdom and merit respectively. The essence of the Dharma is the awakening mind of bodhichitta and wisdom understanding emptiness. Practice of these will yield enlightenment, but even on a day to day basis they are useful. As Shantideva writes in his ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’”:

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.

If I do not actually exchange my happiness
For the sufferings of others,
I shall not attain the state of Buddhahood
And even in cyclic existence shall have no joy.

If you are selfish, you’ll be miserable, even in this life. The more you dedicate yourself to others, the happier you’ll be. Selfishness is short-sighted and narrow-minded. All 7 billion human beings are equal in their desire to be happy and avoid suffering, but we cause problems for ourselves. If we remained as we were when we were children, the world would be more peaceful. But as we grow up, we become more calculating and discriminatory.

Look at the world today. The violent conflicts we see here and there are a direct result of selfishness. The mechanism of warfare originates in a feudal outlook. Despite cherishing their own dear lives, soldiers fight, kill and are killed because they take orders. Traditionally kings and lords have given those orders on the basis of a divisive outlook that views others in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

If you’re able to reduce negative behaviour in your day to day life, avoiding harming or bullying others and gaining some experience of bodhichitta, you’ll be more contented, your health will improve and you’ll find members of your community are friendlier towards you. Making a point of helping others wherever you can is a cause of the high status Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’ refers to. Dedicating yourself to the benefit of others brings courage and inner strength.”

His Holiness observed that when the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, what is true suffering, true origin, true cessation and true path, he also explained the selflessness of persons. In the subsequent perfection of wisdom discourses he asserted that not only do persons lack an independent self, but the mind/body combination, which is the basis of a person, is empty of intrinsic existence too. This indicates the selflessness of phenomena.

His Holiness noted that consciousness is the basis of the designation of self, and that for proponents of the Mind Only School this is the foundational consciousness. The Mind Only School asserts the reality of mind, but denies the external existence of phenomena. The Middle Way School asserts that nothing has any intrinsic existence whatever, even the mind. Things exist merely by way of designation. Within the Middle Way School, the Autonomists retain a sense of objective existence when they declare that the object to be negated in analysis is the notion that things have independent existence without reference to cognition. They don’t break through to realize emptiness.

Chandrakirti, presenting the Consequentialist position in his ‘Entering into the Middle Way’, states that we cannot assert any form of objective existence in anything whether it is external or internal—otherwise there would be logical fallacies.

The key is to distinguish what is definitive and what is provisional. Texts belonging to the Buddha’s third round of teachings, such as the ‘Unravelling of the Thought’ suggest that what was taught in the first and second rounds are provisional, while what was taught in the third round is definitive. The focus of the second round was the object clear light, but the focus of the third round was the subjective mind of clear light. The content of the three rounds of the Buddha’s teachings, the Four Noble Truths, the Perfection of Wisdom and Buddha-nature, the luminous mind of clear light progressively leads you to enlightenment, much as climbing a mountain brings you to the summit.

Soon after his enlightenment the Buddha is said to have expressed his thoughts as follows: ‘Profound and peaceful, free from elaboration, uncompounded clear light, I have found a nectar-like Dharma. Yet if I were to teach it, no-one would understand what I said, so I shall remain silent here in the forest.’ We can understand this verse as anticipating the teachings he would eventually give. ‘Profound and peaceful’ refers to the first round of the Buddha’s teachings; ‘free from complexity’ refers to content of the second round, while ‘uncompounded luminosity’ refers to the third round.

His Holiness picked up his copy of the ‘Precious Garland’ and began to read, starting with the title in Sanskrit—Ratnavali. The verses deal with how to achieve high status by refraining from the ten unwholesome deeds as well as another six, including drunkenness. High status, such as life as a free and fortunate human being, is the basis for attaining definite goodness, which is defined as liberation.

As His Holiness stopped for the day, he told the audience that he would read the remainder of the first chapter of the book tomorrow. He will also conduct a ceremony for generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta and grant the permission of a deity, Rigpa Macha Chenmo, which is popular amongst Chinese and Japanese Buddhists.

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