H.H. Dalai Lama: First Day of Lam Rim Teachings at Ganden
Dicembre 24th, 2014 by admin

First Day of Resumed Lam Rim Teachings at Ganden Jangtse Monastery

Mundgod, Karnataka, India, 23 December 2014 – More than 25,000 people, including more than 2.000 foreigners from 43 countries, eagerly awaited His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Ganden Jangtse Monastery this morning. He descended from his quarters on the monastery’s top floor and walked around the veranda, acknowledging well-wisher’s greetings and waving to old friends, to enter the temple through the main door. Within the temple he was greeted with enthusiastic smiles by both monastics and lay-people. He was received before the throne by Ganden Tri Rinpoche, the Sharpa and Jangtse Chöjeys and Ling Rinpoche, who extended the original invitation for him to teach the 18 Stages of the Path treatises.

The session began with recitations in Tibetan of the ‘Heart Sutra’, the salutations from the ‘Ornament for Clear Realization’ and ‘Fundamental Wisdom’, followed by the Lam Rim Lineage Prayer.

Today, we’ve gathered here at Ganden Jangtse Monastery, where we have a lot of space,” His Holiness began. “I’m going to teach ‘Zhamar Pandita’s Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, which is a commentary on Panchen Lobsang Chögyan’s ‘Easy Path’. I received it from an Amdo Lama. I’ll also teach ‘Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand’, which I received from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. If we don’t manage to finish it this time, we’ll do so next year.”

His Holiness remarked that many of the monks in the audience came from the Three Seats – Ganden, Sera and Drepung, as well as Tashi Lhunpo and Namdroling. He said that in their six hundred years the Three Seats’ influence had extended right across Tibet and into Mongolia. By studying the classic texts, which deal with the awakening mind of bodhichitta and understanding emptiness, their monks serve the Dharma. He commended making the Stages of the Path the foundation of that study.

Contrasting the broad view taken in the Indian classics with the narrower focus of many texts composed in Tibet, His Holiness noted that Tibetans had come into exile, faced hardship and had been scattered here and there. But, as a result, they have acquired a much broader view than they would have gained if they had stayed as they were in Tibet. He mentioned Haribhadra’s comment that there are two kinds of disciple, those moved by faith and those moved by reason. By and large, Buddhist teachings are meant for those with sharp faculties.

His Holiness said that although many would have heard it before he wanted to give a contextual introduction to Buddhism for those who have come from places that are not traditionally Buddhist. He quoted the Buddha’s advice to treat his teaching the way a goldsmith tests gold by investigating and experimenting with it; accept it only when you have established it is true. Nagarjuna and other masters followed this advice to distinguish which of the Buddha’s teachings were definitive and could be accepted literally and which were provisional and subject to interpretation. He remarked that of 7 billion people alive today, at least 1 billion claim to have no faith. Of the rest, many are not sincere, only paying lip service to their preferred religion. His Holiness recalled his admiration for Pope Francis’s dismissal of a German Bishop, who presumably preached simplicity and contentment, but lived a life of luxury himself. His Holiness suggested that Tri Rinpoche and Tibetan Abbots should be equally as strict.

Dividing religious traditions into two groups, those that believe in a creator god and those that ascribe creation to causality and the workings of karma, the gist of the latter is that what happens to us is the result of our own actions. In India there are Buddhists who follow the example of Dr BR Ambedkar who resent the word karma because it is used by Brahmans to justify the existence of the lower castes. His Holiness remarked that while Jains do not accept a creator, they assert an unending self. Buddhists, on the other hand, deny there is any independent self. According to the Madhyamaka school of thought the self is not independent but designated on the basis of the mindstream.

Within Buddhism, the Pali tradition particularly preserves the texts and practice of the Vinaya. The Sanskrit tradition, which includes tantra, spread to China, as well as Korea, Japan and Vietnam. In the 8th century it was brought to Tibet from India by Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava. It was Shantarakshita who encouraged the translation of Buddhist literature into Tibetan and His Holiness said he feels really moved when he thinks of the 73 year old Indian master making the effort to learn Tibetan himself. As a consequence, today, any Tibetan is capable of experiencing the Buddha’s teachings in his or her own language. Sanskrit has become only a scholarly language and Pali does not convey the depth of Buddhist thought. Tibetan, however, is at present the language most capable of expressing Buddhist philosophical ideas, which is why its preservation is so crucial.

His Holiness acknowledged that there are some who dispute whether the Mahayana and Tantra were taught by the Buddha and, therefore, whether Tibetan Buddhism is a pure tradition. However, Je Tsongkhapa says in his ‘Great Treatise’ that the Four Noble Truths are taught in all traditions of Buddhism, while all Buddha’s teaching are based on the Two Truths. And to understand the Two Truths you have to rely on the Madhyamaka school of thought. Turning to ‘Zhamar Pandita’s Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, His Holiness mentioned that there was a photograph of the author, Zhamar Rinpoche, in the 13th Dalai Lama’s palace at the Norbulingka. He pointed out that before listening to any teaching we should correct our motivation. We should not listen with expectations of reward, nor in order to be able to boast about how many teachings we have heard. He suggested that taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha makes us Buddhist. Generating the awakening mind makes us part of the Mahayana. Considering the status of the ‘I’ who takes these steps leads us to understand that the self does not exist the way it appears.

Zhamar Pandita’s Treatise’ begins with the six preliminary practices, setting the motivation, arranging offerings and so forth, which His Holiness read before opening Phabongka’s ‘Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand’.

Everyone attending the teaching was offered a free, simple, vegetarian lunch.

Coming back after the break, His Holiness said: “If you think only of your own welfare, it’s enough to aspire for liberation, but if you want to help others, you need to attain enlightenment on the basis of the awakening mind. So long as you are preoccupied with self-cherishing thoughts, they are an obstacle to this. And without the awakening mind of bodhichitta, whichever of the tantric practices you do will not serve the purpose. What’s more we need an understanding of dependent arising. In his ‘Praise to the Buddha for Teaching Dependent Arising’, Je Rinpoche expresses his admiration of this doctrine, not merely from the depths of his heart, but from the very marrow of his bones.”

His Holiness mentioned that in the late 19th and early 20th century. Ju Mipham expressed some criticism of Je Rinpoche’s exposition of the view. This was aptly countered by Minyak Kunsang Sonam, a disciple of Paltrul Rinpoche, as Khunu Lama Rinpoche told him. His Holiness remarked that it’s not enough only to memorize a text, we have to look inside it and use the understanding we gain to combat the misconception of self. He added that there are some who think of instructions as what is to be put into practice, while the five classics are only a source of intellectual understanding. As for styles of teaching, he mentioned experiential instruction in which the master teaches a portion of the teaching and only gives the next when the disciples have generated some experience of what they have already heard. He cited the example of Milarepa, who would only leave his retreat to consult his master when he needed a clarification. Once he had received it he would return to his cave. In his case, Phabongka Rinpoche says he intends to give a practical discourse.

Where it was the Nalanda tradition to begin by outlining the three purities, the purity of the master’s instruction, the disciple’s mind and the content of the Dharma, the Vikramashila tradition described the greatness of the author, the greatness of the teaching and how to listen. ‘Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand’ gives an elaborate account of Atisha’s life and his coming to Tibet. At the end, His Holiness said: “That’s what Atisha was like. We should all aspire to be like that: intelligent, learned, good natured and moral.”

His Holiness mentioned that the 13th Dalai Lama favoured Phabongka Rinpoche in the early part of his life when he took an ecumenical stance, citing the Hayagriva retreat and the making of pills that Trijang Rinpoche had told him about. However, after Phabongka’s encounter with Shugden, as a result of which he became overtly sectarian, in the latter part of his life, the 13th Dalai Lama and he were distant.

Before the end of the session, His Holiness observed that two important texts, Kamalashila’s ‘Stages of Meditation’ and Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path’, were requested by Tibetan kings. He also drew a comparison between the approach of Je Tsongkhapa’s ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’ and that of Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path’. The one is based on the four ways of turning the mind away from the attractions of cyclic existence, while the other describes the approach of the persons of three capacities.

The session concluded with the rousing chant of the Lam Rim Prayer filling the temple. The teachings will resume in the morning.

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