Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
on The Bodhicaryavatara
Translated by Thupten Jinpa
New York City,
In an era where material development and advances in science and technology is so high, it is very obvious from the fact that we are having this teaching in an auditorium which is very modern, sophisticated. It seems very appropriate to hold this teaching in such a modern auditorium, which reflects the stage of development of the material world. To hold a teaching, which emphasizes essentially the importance of investigating, training, and enhancing the stage of development of spiritual and mental states within oneself, I think it is very appropriate to have this teaching in such an auditorium.
The Kalachakra Tantra is a practice of tantra belonging to the Highest Yoga class, Anuttarayoga which ideally speaking requires a certain amount of training in the preparatory practices and realizations on the part of the practitioners, not only the practitioners but also those who receive the empowerment or in fact just to sit in an empowerment ceremony. Ideally speaking that is the situation. In order to indicate this importance and also in order to give the message that the subsequent teaching which is the empowerment of Kalachakra, belongs to this Highest Yoga Tantra and someone who is sincerely and seriously interested in undertaking such a practice properly, that person requires these preparations on the part of themselves.
In order to indicate that message these preliminary teachings are being held. I thought it would be best if the preliminary teachings were based on Santideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. Since we have only four days for the preliminary teachings, there is no way I can complete the commentary on the whole text so what I will do is extract appropriate verses from here and there and give the gist of the practices and practices which are outlined in this precious text.
As usual the teachings will be preceded by the recitation of certain prayers which includes taking refuge and making prostrations to the Three Jewels, reciting a sutra, reciting the Heart Sutra and followed by Verses of Praise to Manjusri. Finally will be a mandala offering to request the teaching from the teacher. There are different significance for making a mandala offering on the part disciples and also the part of the teacher. On the part of the disciple the mandala is being offered in order to request from the teacher the teaching you are to hear. Whereas on the part of the teacher, the teacher imagines in front of themselves all the masters of the lineage who are related to the transmission of the text and the lama requests from these Lineage Masters the permission to give the teaching to the disciples present.
It is useful when reciting the Verses of Praise to Manjusri to visualize in front of yourself an image of Manjusri.
Among the audience here are people who consider themselves practicing Buddhists and also people who do not consider themselves as Buddhists but have come to the teaching out of interest for Buddhist ideas and practices. Now those who consider themselves practicing Buddhists their attitude and motivation in listening and attending to the teaching should not be such that they are here merely to collect information or increase their knowledge of Buddhism. Rather the primary motivation or aim of attending this teaching should be to tame, discipline and train their mind. Transform an undisciplined state of mind into a disciplined, tamed and calm state of mind. This should be the primary motive of attending this teaching.
The reason being is that in Buddhist religion there is a belief in the fundamental goodness of all living beings. In other words we believe that all sentient beings possess within themselves an inherent nature technically known as the Buddha nature or the Tathagatagarbha. This is the seed that allows within all sentient beings the possibility to actualize within their mental continuum all the great qualities of Buddha’s mind. It also allows the individual to overcome and remove the negative aspects of the mind such as afflictive emotions, negative thoughts, imprints and so on. By listening to this teaching one should undertake the practices in order to activate this potential, in order to activate the seed within oneself. Such should be the primary motive of those who consider themselves practicing Buddhists in attending this teaching.
Those who are not practicing Buddhists but are coming here because of interest in Buddhist ideas and practices; I would like to welcome you as a practicing Buddhist myself. I have always considered the crucial importance of a great harmony between the various different religions. In order to develop this harmony a key factor is to develop a genuine understanding of the values and the principal doctrines of that particular religion. I also believe that since all the various different religions are aimed at fulfilling the spiritual requirements and needs of people and since the mental dispositions of sentient beings are so diverse, the greater the religious diversity the better it is for people as it can serve the wider need of sentient beings. Therefore I have always held this belief and out of this belief I respect the diversity we observe in the multitude of the world’s religions.
Underlying the diversity of the world’s religious traditions there is a common aim, which is to produce a good human being, a warm-hearted person. A human being who would lead his or her life according to spiritual values in order to enable that individual to lead their life in a happy, satisfied and contented manner. This I see as the underlying, common aim of all the various world religions. So those who have come here out of interest to learn something of Buddhist ideas and practices, I welcome you and am very happy to see you here.
For four days starting with today, the preliminary teachings to the actual Kalachakra empowerment will have the format of the teaching followed by a question and answer period.
First we will recite the Refuge formula, the verses for taking refuge and generating bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. We will recite these verses together. The significance of this is that because of the teaching we are conducting here is a Buddhist teaching therefore taking refuge in the Three Jewels is necessary. Since the teaching belongs to the Mahayana tradition generation of bodhicitta or the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is necessary. Let us recite these verses together (in Tibetan).
Ideally speaking tradition also requires that when giving such preliminary teachings, the teachings should first begin with narrating the Lineage Masters, starting with the Buddha through Santideva, who is the author of this text. Since we are short on time and since my memory sometimes fails on the historical aspects of the Lineage Gurus, we will keep it simple.
To give a general introduction to Buddhism first I would like to quote a verse from Nagarjuna in which Nagarjuna makes salutation to the Buddha. He does not reflect upon the great qualities of the Buddha’s body, speech or mind but rather concentrates upon one paramount quality of the Buddha, his great accomplishment in having realized the essence of the Doctrine; dependent origination, emptiness and the Middle Way. Buddha realized that these three doctrines are essentially the same having perceived dependent origination in terms of emptiness and emptiness in terms of the Middle Way. Buddha propounded this doctrine to his followers. Nagarjuna saw this greatest accomplishment of the Buddha and made salutations to the Buddha from this perspective.
The meaning of the doctrine of dependent origination is vast and profound. In a sense one could say the doctrine of dependent origination states that all phenomena in general come about not uncaused, but rather as a consequence of relevant causes and conditions. Particularly those phenomena which have direct relevance by giving rise to our experience of pain or pleasure, our experience of unhappiness or happiness, come about as a result of their related causes and conditions. Therefore so long as we remain as sentient beings for whom the experience of pain and pleasure matters a lot.. …causes and conditions, which give rise to these experiences and that, is what is in a sense stated in the doctrine of dependent origination.
This doctrine of dependent origination and the underlying principle of causation was taught by the Buddha in his first Turning of the Wheel known as the Sermon on the Four Noble Truths. In the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths the Buddha explains two sets of causal chains. One is a set of cause and effects related to our experience of undesirable consequences such as pain and unhappiness. These two are our experience of suffering and the origin or source of this suffering. The source of the suffering being the cause and the suffering itself being the consequence. This is the first causal chain.
At the same time the Buddha taught a second causal chain the implication of which is that although in our ordinary experience we often come across experiences which we normally associate with pleasure and happiness but these experiences are essentially in the nature of suffering and dissatisfaction. Whereas the true happiness which can remain as happiness, a genuine happiness, is a state which is freed from suffering. In other words the cessation of suffering is the true happiness and this is the result. The path or causes, which lead to it, is the cause. Therefore Buddha also taught a causal chain which is related to our own experience of happiness, something we all desire.
The implication of the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths is that if suffering is something we do not desire then we must work hard to remove the causes which give rise to it. If the state of happiness is something which we seek and desire then we must work to accumulate the causes and conditions that give rise to it. This is what is implied in the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths.
Since the basic Buddhist approach as explained earlier is to realize the causal mechanism which gives rise to our experiences of pain and pleasure, suffering and pleasure, belief in an independent self which is permanent, single and indivisible conflicts with the basic Buddhist doctrine of universal causation. Similarly belief in a creator, an independent being who is the original creator of the entire universe conflicts with the basic Buddhist doctrine of universal causation. Within Buddhist thought and practice since the fundamental doctrine is a belief in universal causation, that everything which exists does so as a result of causes and conditions and it is only as a result of causes and conditions that things come into being, therefore Buddhists do not believe in the existence of an eternal person or self nor does it believe in a creator.
In the second Turning of the Wheel one can see it as an exploration of the implications of the first public sermon where Buddha talked about the absence of an independently existing self or person. All phenomena are explained as arising as a consequence of causes and conditions. The doctrine of universal causation and its implications are explored by taking it to a more profound level. Reflecting on the fact that if everything and all events come into being as a result of causes and conditions then they depend on other factors for their existence. Anything, which has the nature of depending on other factors for its existence then it, is obvious that it lacks the status of independent existence. Phenomena’s existence and identity come into being as a consequence of the interaction of many factors. Because of this phenomena lack an independent or inherent nature and because of this all phenomena do not exist inherently, in and of themselves or objectively in their own right. What is being stated here is by using the understanding of dependent origination to arrive at a deeper awareness of the nature of phenomena, where all things and events are seen as lacking an inherent or objective existent nature.
The understanding of dependent origination is being used as a ground on which all phenomena are perceived as lacking an inherently existing nature. Dependent origination can be seen in many different ways. One way phenomena can understood is as a causal dependency as all phenomena are dependent on other causes and conditions. Another level of dependence is that phenomena depend upon their parts. In order for something to be whole its very identity and existence depends upon its parts. One of the parts can be called dependent relationship and this is another level of dependence. Furthermore another level of dependence is the identity of phenomena as things or objects depends upon our conceptual thought, our concepts and language.
What all these ways of viewing dependent origination indicates is that phenomena are empty of an inherently existing nature. Phenomena are empty of an independent status therefore emptiness of inherent existence is spoken of. This is how one should look at the doctrine of emptiness. One should not have the notion when Buddhists talk of emptiness that one is talking of the non-existence of phenomena. Emptiness should not be misconceived as a total negation of the very existence of phenomena but rather emptiness should be understood in terms of the emptiness of inherent existence or independent status. If your understanding of emptiness is interpreted in this way then you will be able to understand the essential unity or sameness of the principles of emptiness and dependent origination. This is how one is said to have understood emptiness in terms of dependent origination and dependent origination in terms of emptiness.
Through this way one will also be able to be freed from the two extremes. By realizing that phenomena lack an independent status and lack an inherently existing nature, one avoids falling into the extreme of absolutism. By realizing that things do come into existence as a result of the aggregation of many causes and conditions, one avoids falling into the extreme of nihilism.
In the second Turning of the Wheel the essential doctrine was the philosophy of emptiness, understanding emptiness in terms of dependent origination in which all phenomena lack an inherently existing nature.
In the third Turning of the Wheel, particularly in the Uttaratantra or Sublime Continuum of Maitreya and also the Tathagatagarbha Sutra or The Essence of Buddhahood Sutra, Buddha explains the nature of our mind. In these sutras Buddha explains that the negative aspects of our minds, the afflictive emotions like desire, hatred, anger and so forth, are not innate aspects of our mind but rather are adventitious. They are adventitious in the sense that they arise in our mental continuum as the consequence of circumstantial conditions but they are not essential or basic to the mind.
The pristine clarity and the luminous awareness is an innate aspect of our mind. The negative aspects such as the afflictive emotions as they are not basic to the mind are separable, can be removed from the basic continuum of our mind. This point has been underlined in the sutras that are related to the third Turning of the Wheel.
Another point we need to bear in mind is that irrespective of what might be the ultimate position of the Buddha himself, because there exists among the followers or practitioners of Buddhism such a diverse range of dispositions and mental capacities, one finds among the Buddhist scriptures different types of sutras. Certain of these sutras are interpretable, can not be taken at face value but rather require further interpretation. Whereas there is another category of sutras, which are definitive, do not require further interpretation. Therefore it is crucial to bear in mind that even within the Buddhist sutras there exists diverse scriptures.
One fundamental aspect of the Buddhist approach especially in the Mahayana tradition is to be able to distinguish among Buddha’s own original sutras which are literal or definitive and can be taken at their face value, whose literal meaning can be accepted without any objection and those which can not be taken at their face value, which require further interpretation. These sutras were often spoken for specific purposes, not to be taken literally.
In the important sutras, which are the sources for the philosophical doctrines of the Cittamatra School or the Mind-Only School of Buddhism, distinctions are made between the three natures of phenomena. Imputational aspects of phenomena are according to these sutras stated as lacking an inherently existing nature. Whereas dependently originated phenomena and the ultimate nature of phenomena are said to be absolute and are said to be inherently existent and possess some form of objective reality.
This distinction from a Madhyamika point of view is something untenable. If the Cittamatra doctrine is subjected to Madhyamika reasoning then it is obvious that one can not maintain such a distinction. Therefore sutras which make such distinctions can not be taken at their face value but must be interpreted. One should look at these sutras as specifically spoken to benefit beings who share the philosophical sentiment and whose mental dispositions are such that they are more attuned to the doctrines of the Cittamatra or Mind-Only School.
A similar approach should be used for many other doctrines, which are found in the Buddhist scriptures. For instance, take an example of a verse from Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa or The Treasury of Knowledge in the third chapter where he discusses the cosmology of Mount Meru as the center of the universe. He also mentions the size of the sun and the moon and also the distances between them and the earth. If we were to take them literally, they contradict the measurements made scientifically. The cosmological views expressed in the Abhidharmakosa are refuted by direct observation and therefore can not be taken literally. They must be interpreted. Such must be the Buddhist approach because any doctrine or concept which contradicts either direct, valid perception or which an established inferential knowledge or has internal inconsistencies then that doctrine or concept can not be accepted as valid literally.
Another example, in the Abhidharmakosa, Vasubandhu discusses various types of mental states at the last moment of death. According to Vasubandhu the mental state at the last moment of death can be virtuous, non-virtuous or neutral. Whereas in Asanga’s Abhidharmasamuccaya or The Compendium of Knowledge he explicitly states that the mental state at the last moment of death can never be neither virtuous nor non-virtuous but always be neutral. The literature of Highest Yoga Tantra states that not only can the mental state at the final moment of death can be virtuous but in fact can be transformed into an entity of the path.
If we look at these diverse views on a single issue the question arises, on what grounds do we determine which text should be taken as valid? Personally I feel that this is an issue in which one can not reason or directly verify which is the valid stance. I feel one must approach this in a different manner by looking at it from various angles. Highest Yoga Tantra literature is an extensive body of literature where the nature of the mind and the various techniques designed for training and cultivating the full potential of the mind is presented in such a refined and advanced manner that there is no comparison with other classes of scripture like the Abhidharmakosa. One can infer or surmise, since it is the Highest Yoga Tantra literature, which is seen as authoritative when dealing with the nature of the mind, that the position on the state of the mind at death of Highest Yoga Tantra is valid.
These different examples show the need to look at scriptures not literally and not to believe in a certain doctrine just because Buddha said so in a sutra. In short, Buddha’s having stated something in a sutra is not sufficient grounds for accepting its validity literally.
Investigation is very important not only in Buddhist practice and thoughts in general but especially in the Mahayana tradition. There are many external instruments, which can be used to investigate the external world, but ultimately the decision is made by the human mind. Since it is the mind or consciousness which is the ultimately deciding factor it becomes very crucial first of all to understand the nature of mind itself. The decision needs to be taken by a state of mind, which is valid and unmistaken in relation to its object. Decisions and conclusions arrived at by a distorted consciousness can not be considered as valid. Therefore in Buddhist literature one finds extensive discussion of the mind and mental factors.
Unlike the mere investigation of the external world, in investigating the nature of the mind, the primary aim is to bring about some form of positive transformation or change within one’s own state of mind. One transforms the undisciplined and untamed state of mind into a disciplined and tamed state of mind characterized by calmness and serenity. Therefore in Buddhist literature one finds extensive discussion of the nature of the mind and mental factors. One also finds the process through which an individual’s state of mind moves from an initial state of misconception to a state of knowledge or valid awareness.
Except in the case of superficial illusions such as misperceiving a simple object, when it comes to more profound aspects of the perceived object, one can not instantly change from a state of misconception into a state of knowledge. The process is gradual. For instance initially one might start from a state of total misconception single-pointedly holding on to the opposite, contrary to what it is. As one then proceeds on their investigation then after seeing reasons contrary to the originally held belief, then one may change from a state of total misconception into wavering doubt.
From the state of wavering doubt by further investigation one goes to the next stage which is a presumption where one sees that the previous conviction is wrong and at the same time has yet to arrive to a state where they are totally convinced of the conclusion. As one proceeds further in the investigation one arrives at a state where one is totally convinced of the validity of the conclusion. This is the state of knowledge where for the first time one has inferentially understood the conclusion. This inferential knowledge is not direct. When further developed through constant familiarity and reflection then it is possible through meditation to arrive at a state of non-conceptual understanding, which is direct and intuitive.
This process reflects how from a state of total misconception one can through a gradual process through investigation, through analysis, arrive at a direct and non-conceptual understanding. Because of the complexity of the process and the different levels of mind, one finds in the Buddhist literature extensive discussion of what one might call Buddhist psychology.
It is important to bear in mind that the whole purpose of investigation is to seek the truth. Truth is not something that is mentally constructed. In Buddhism when investigation is being undertaken, it must be based on an understanding of certain laws of nature. For instance when investigating the nature of the mind, one must accept that the mind is in the realm of subjective experience based on the mere luminosity and knowing nature of the mind itself. The mind is non-obstructed and non-physical. On this basis one can proceed with the investigation of mind.
Similarly when anger arises in our mental continuum, we can investigate what kind of experience it generates or what kind of emotional state does it generate. Also when an intense state of desire arises in our mind, what kind of state does it give rise to or what kind of experience do we undergo? These are not facts but emotional states.
In the material world when different atomic particles come together, a new emergent property different from the separate particles comes about from the aggregation of the atomic particles. The whole field of chemistry is based on this principle. Similarly in the mind, certain mental events individually may not have certain capacities but when combined may have quite different effects.
It is upon understanding these natural laws plus the laws of dependence and function that one can employ correctly and appropriately logic or reasoning. An altruistic state of mind conflicts with hatred therefore by cultivating within ourselves and reinforcing the power of altruism and love within our mental continuum, we automatically reduce the force and intensity of hatred and anger within our mind. This is possible because of a contrary relationship between love and hate which naturally occurs.
All these indicate that when discussing investigation we need to base it on these various aspects of nature and then apply the reasonings and analysis appropriately. One should not have the notion, because Buddhism talks about all phenomena as being mere designations or labels designated by conceptual thought, that all concepts are equally valid. This is false. Although Prasangika Madhyamika philosophy states that all phenomena exist as labels designated by the conceptual mind, this does not imply all concepts are equally valid.
Since investigation and understanding are so crucial in engaging in the practice of Buddhism, one finds in texts such as the Commentary to Abhisamayalamkara mention of two general types of practitioners. The first type is a practitioner who emphasizes their own understanding through reason and the other type is one who follows or undertakes a practice mainly on the basis of faith. Of these two the first type of practitioner is said to be ideal. Such a practitioner does not accept a doctrine nor engage in a practice on the basis of faith but rather they investigate the doctrine or practice. If they see it does not contradict any valid knowledge or experience then they will undertake the practices.
This approach is in conformity with the general approach of many Buddhist texts where emphasis is placed on reasoning where the spiritual trainee develops an initial understanding through logical reasoning such as consequential or inferential reasoning. The ideal practitioner must be in a skeptical position so far as the issue at hand is concerned. Someone can not start an investigation with a foregone conclusion rather one must adopt a skeptical position. Therefore I always state that ideally speaking, for Buddhist practitioners, initially it is important to maintain a skeptical position on a given issue.
Because of the importance of maintaining a skeptical position when starting an investigation in a Buddhist way, I see it very important for Buddhists to learn and be aware of many of the facts confirmed through many centuries in many scientific disciplines such as cosmology, sub-atomic physics, neurobiology and psychology. Therefore I feel it is very important for Buddhist scholars to undertake comparative research into areas where there is a convergence of interest between science and Buddhism.
One distinction must be made here which I think is quite crucial, among the issues which are not accepted scientifically there two categories. First are issues, which have been established as negated as they contradict accepted fact. The second category of issues which science does not accept based not on negation established by fact but on the fact that they are not observable. This distinction between rejecting from having disproved something and rejecting because they can not see it is very important.
If there is an issue or doctrine where through scientific investigation it has been disproved, then as a Buddhist who emphasizes the importance of logic and investigation one must accept the conclusion of it being disproved. If there is any point which is mentioned in Buddhist literature and accepted generally but if it is proven not to be the case and that belief in the doctrine contradicts a body of established knowledge then as a Buddhist we must accept the conclusion of scientific investigation.
Dependent origination is the fundamental principal upon which the entire Buddhist practice and theory is based. Buddhist theory is the understanding of the dependent origination of all phenomena particularly the understanding of emptiness. Since phenomena come into existence, come into being, as a consequence of depending on other factors, causes and conditions, they lack an independent status. Because they lack an independent status they do not exist inherently or objectively in and of themselves. Rather their very existence and identity is a product of their dependence on other factors.
Looking from this perspective, dependent origination as a doctrine explains the Buddhist view of emptiness, which is the philosophical view. From a different perspective dependent origination lays the foundation for the Buddhist way of life, the Buddhist conduct of non-violence and non-harming. This is because the principal of dependent origination states that all of our experiences, be it desirable or undesirable, painful or pleasurable, come about as a consequence of causes and conditions. Therefore if suffering is something we do not desire, we must work towards cessation of its causes. If happiness and pleasure is something we seek then we must work towards aggregating its causative conditions.
When we talk about our experience of pain and pleasure, unhappiness and happiness, we are talking about phenomena, which are not isolated. Our experience of happiness and unhappiness are intimately linked and connected with the fate of other sentient beings. In fact all of our experiences of joy and happiness are very much linked with the fate of other beings’ experience and happiness. Therefore it is unwise to work selfishly towards fulfilling one’s own desire of happiness and avoiding suffering. In fact if one pursues one’s own welfare totally oblivious to the welfare and well-being of other sentient beings, the result is one’s loss of happiness. Whereas if the person works for the welfare of other sentient beings, one’s own welfare is accomplished in the process.
Looked at this way, the principle of dependent origination underlines the importance of the Buddhist practice of non-violence and non-harming. Related to the two factors, the Buddhist view of emptiness and the Buddhist conduct of non-violence, are all the associated practices of meditation and so forth. One can say that the principle of dependent origination is the foundation of the entire Buddhist practice and theory.
The single syllogism that something is not inherently existent because of being dependently originated sums up all of Buddhist practice and theory. The principle of dependent origination as explained earlier underlies the Buddhist conduct of non-harming therefore it explains all the practices which are related to conventional truth, the factors of method or skillful means, compassion and so forth. The thesis of the non-inherent existence of phenomena outlines the entire Buddhist practice of wisdom, the understanding and insight into the ultimate nature of reality, emptiness.
The two aspects of the path, method and wisdom, are the key subject matter which is discussed in the text, Santideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. The text is composed of ten chapters. The ninth chapter deals with the practice of wisdom, particularly an understanding and insight into the nature of emptiness. The other nine chapters deal with the practices related to the skillful means or method aspect of the Buddhist path.
According to one of the traditions of Zapay (?) Rinpoche the ten chapters of the Bodhicaryavatara are divided into four parts. The first three chapters deal with the practices related to generating bodhicitta initially, the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. These practices deal with the initial generation of such a mind. The next three chapters deal with practices, which are aimed at maintaining such a generated mind and protecting it from degeneration. The next three chapters (seven, eight and nine) deal with practices essentially aimed at reinforcing the already generated mind and enhancing it. The last chapter is the dedication of merit. I feel this is a good way of dividing the text. I will give my commentary on The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life according to this division.
Bodhicitta or the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is a state of mind which can not be cultivated or which will not be generated in one’s mental continuum simply by praying for it to come into being. Nor will it come into existence by simply developing the understanding of what that mind is.
…generate that mind within one’s continuum. In order to engage in meditation with sustained effort and for a long period of time, what is crucial is to first be totally convinced of the positive qualities, the benefits and merits, of generating such a mind. It is only when one has seen the qualities and benefits of generating such a mind that one will be able generate within oneself a genuine enthusiasm, perseverance, for engaging in the meditation which will enable one to generate the mind. Therefore in the first chapter Santideva explains the merits and benefits of generating bodhicitta.
Question: Can Buddhism be successfully transmitted to the West through its own arts and show business?
Answer: The essence of Buddhism as in other religions is altruism. In a special case in Buddhism is also the idea of interdependency. These can be expressed through art. Some modern art seems to me to be meaningless but some has deep meaning. Surely some artist could express these ideas through these mediums.
As far as show business in some cases I think this is more effective. I always believe that the purpose of becoming a warm-hearted person not only benefits the individual but also the world community. This should not be looked upon as only a religious matter but something concerning our own survival, our own future. I think artists and TV producers all have a responsibility to show the proper way to achieve a happier, human society; more peaceful, more friendly, and more compassionate. It is not only the responsibility of religious people, I think everyone has the responsibility.
Question: As you have stated, the mind innately has the qualities of awareness, clarity and luminosity. Are these qualities inherently existent or are they subject to dependent origination? In what manner does the enlightened mind exist?
Answer: When we talk of the luminosity, clarity and awareness as being innate qualities of the mind and at the same time stating that these are dependently originated, one should understand that the mind’s qualities are not consciously created or deliberately constructed but rather are given aspects of the mind. The meaning that they are dependently originated is that that they are not static, not permanent but they are processes in the sense that from one instance to another, they change. They are momentary in the sense that the earlier moment gives rise to the later moment. They are in a dynamic process.
At the same time we find in some texts mention of these innate qualities of mind not produced by causes and conditions. Here we must bear in mind what is meant by this statement. Because the innate qualities of the mind are not the product of circumstantial conditions, they are in that sense not produced, in that sense not products. But if you look at it from another point of view because they are processes they are momentarily changing. They are composed of various instances and from this point of view, they can be viewed as dependently originated and view as products of causes and conditions.
One must bear in mind what is the meaning of certain terms used in a particular context. Sometimes permanence is defined in terms of a never-ending continuum. In this sense these innate qualities of the mind can be said to be permanent as in terms of their continuum they are beginningless and endless. From another point of view as they are processes they are composed of instances they can not be taken as permanent entities but rather impermanent and transitory.
Question: As a person of Irish heritage I ask this question, how does a person compassionately yet straightforwardly confront another person or group who have committed crimes of genocide against them?
Answer: When talking about compassion and compassionately dealing with such situations one must bear in mind what is meant by compassionately dealing with such cases. Being compassionate towards such persons or groups does not mean that you allow the other person to do whatever that person or group wishes to do such as inflict suffering on you or others. Rather compassionately dealing with such a situation has a different meaning. When a person or group deals with such a situation and tries to prevent such crimes, there are generally speaking two approaches or motivations. One is out of confrontation with hatred as a motivation. The other approach is even though the action taken may be the use of force or strength; the motivation is one of compassion towards the perpetrator of the crime. If you allow the other person to unjustly perform the crime out of their own negative habits, the other person or group will suffer the ill consequences of their negative action. Therefore out of consideration for that potential suffering on the perpetuator of the crime, one confronts the situation and applies equally forceful countermeasures.
I think this is quite relevant and important in modern society especially a competitive society. When someone who practices genuine compassion, forgiveness and humility, sometimes others may try to take advantage of them. At that times it is often important to take countermeasures, without negative emotion but through analyzing the situation, see the necessity for the countermeasures. Although the countermeasure may be the same but it is performed out of compassion and reason rather than negative emotion. This is more effective and appropriate.
For example in my own case with Tibet it is an international struggle against injustice without using negative emotion. It seems to be more effective.
Question: What is the Buddhist view of other life forms such as animals?
Answer: From a Buddhist point of view all living beings which possess the capacity to experience pain and pleasure, which has a subjective experience, innately posses the desire to enjoy happiness and to overcome suffering. Because of this innate or instinctive desire they have the right to be happy and overcome suffering. As far as this is concerned, all living beings are equal to humans in having this basic right.
There is a question as to on what grounds do we determine what is a sentient being and what is not. Empirically to determine this question is extremely difficult. I have heard scientists have some sort of criteria such as mobility to determine this question. Buddhism accepts the existence of beings who are formless though there are differences of opinion as to what is meant by formless and what form of subtle material body these beings may have. One viewpoint such as from the Abhidharmakosa it is maintained that the Formless Realm is where beings are completely devoid of any level of physical existence. In this view when a being from the Desire Realm takes rebirth in the Formless Realm, at the moment of death they instantly take rebirth in the Formless Realm, as there is no sense of movement from one realm to another. According to this viewpoint in order to take rebirth in the Formless Realm there is no need to go through an intermediate state.
There is an alternative view from Highest Yoga Tantra where the Formless Realm is not understood to be totally devoid of any level of physical existence but rather is devoid of the gross levels of physical existence. As long as someone is a sentient being that being must posses the subtle energy which irrespective of its subtlety, is a physical entity.
Earlier I spoke of the importance of relying on reasoning, investigation and the reasoning developed through investigation but now we have a problem. On what grounds do we prove the existence of the Formless Realm? If this is posed to me I honestly have no answer. The existence of the Formless Realm in general is an extremely hidden phenomenon. By reasoning alone it is difficult to prove or disprove its existence but there is an alternative way to address the issue. This is by relying on a third person’s authority.
Buddhism in general makes the distinction of three categories of phenomena; apparent or obvious, hidden phenomena, which are known through inference, and the extremely hidden phenomena. These latter phenomena can only be understood by direct experience of an enlightened mind or by relying on the authority of someone else. The difference here is that we don’t accept this because someone says so but rather the authority upon which we are relying has been tested by us on other issues and found that authority to be reliable and valid. We also examine the motives of such a person to see if there is any reason they would lie or go beyond stating simple fact. Through such means having found the person as reliable and authoritative, one could take their word on the issue of extremely hidden phenomena.
Another way is to advance our own realization of meditative states. At a certain stage we might then be able to experientially determine the answer we seek. An example is the date of my birth, which is July 6, 1935. Why do I accept this? On the basis of statements from my mother and other people who have direct knowledge. On my own I can not state that this is the truth.
In our day to day lives we constantly deal with these three categories of phenomena. We deal with apparent phenomena through our direct experience of our sense faculties. We deal with hidden phenomena by reasoning and recollection of previous experience in which we infer from one thing within our experience to another beyond it. For extremely hidden phenomena because we lack any direct means of knowledge within our experience and rely on the validity and authority of a third person. If we examine our daily experience we are constantly dealing with these three categories of phenomena.
Transcribed and typed by Phillip Lecso from audiotapes obtained from Buddhist Studies on Audio Cassette entitled The Path of Compassion Teachings. I take full responsibility for all mistakes that have occurred, through hearing and writing incorrectly what was taught, for these I apologize. May all be auspicious. May any merit from this activity go to the long life and good health of His Holiness. May all sentient beings quickly attain the state of the Glorious Kalacakra even through these imperfect efforts.