Second part of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings November 30 – December 13, 2012 on the 18 Great Stages of the Path (Lam Rim) Commentaries at Gaden Monastery and Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, India, see http://www.jangchuplamrim.org/ and video here http://www.dalailama.com. Translated from Tibetan into English by Mr Tenzin Tsepag. Trascript by Dr. Peter Lawrence-Roberts, first revision and editing by Dr. Luciano Villa within the project “Free Dalai Lama’s Teachings” for the benefit of all sentient beings. We apologize for possible errors and omissions.
Day 1 – 30 November 2012 and Day 2 – 1 December 2012
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Conditions for a favourable rebirth have to be accumulated through the appropriate causes. We should study chapters 26, 18 and 24 of Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’, see https://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=513, in that order. This will give us a good overall understanding of the text.
Something is wrong, says Lama Tsong Khapa, if we have studied the teachings and yet do not know how to practice.
By using reason and analysis we find teachings that clearly cannot be taken literally. We should respect the Buddha for having taught in so many different ways according to the dispositions of the disciples. We can interpret the teachings. We don’t need to take them literally. There are teachings that suit the followers of the different individual traditions.
The Middle Length Lam Rim is also known as the Short Lam Rim since it is so much shorter than the great Lamrim Chenmo.
Atisha brought together the two aspects of profound practice and conduct. He used the principle of exchanging self with others, also used by Shantideva. Atisha’s text is seen as a great jewel, complete in terms of content and easy to put into practice.
The nature of the Buddha’s teaching is two-fold: scripture and realisation.
We need education for material benefit, for food, clothing, shelter etc. So, similarly, we can also use education to overcome ignorance and negative emotions. Through ignorance we can, for example, become angry, fight with others, become depressed, and even commit suicide.
We want happiness and joy for ourselves, but instead we become subject to negative emotions. If we want peace of mind we should know which things disturb us and learn how to avoid them. If we have light we can’t have darkness. If we have heat, we can’t have cold. So, to reduce anger we can cultivate the countermeasure of love and compassion. The anger must then diminish. We know that desire and anger disturb us. So we need to apply the teachings as effective countermeasures, not just listen to them or read them.
We have many obstacles on the path, but we can use these to help with our spiritual transformation. Transformation will never come by prayer or making offerings alone. It will only come from working hard to cultivate good qualities and emotions.
We need to liberate ourselves from the prison of samsara by our own efforts. The Buddha cannot do it for us. Learning some subjects, such as history, will not transform our minds. Putting into practice the lessons of our teachers, fully understanding the Dharma, will help us.
Teachings should be broad and expansive so that students understand the Dharma broadly. They should not be partial teachings that leave uncertainty.
We need to be aware of the pitfalls and avoid them. It is folly to just enjoy the words. It is like someone who waits until the time of death then tries to get the benefit of the teachings. To transform our minds takes time. We have to develop the aspiration to practice. This comes from conviction and that can only come from hearing and studying the teachings.
We need to develop a goal for our practice. Shantarakshita said that even if we know we will die tomorrow we should still seek to learn something. This is like depositing money in the bank for use later.
We should seek to help others by passing on the teachings if requested. However, we should investigate first to ensure that he or she is a suitable recipient.
We can think of the benefits of listening to the Dharma. The text says wisdom is born and stupidity vanishes, mental obscurations are conquered. We will ultimately be delivered from samsara.
Buddhism is about practice based on an understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
Different religious traditions will have their own definition of what constitutes wrong view.
We create our own suffering, not deliberately but through ignorance. We create the causes, without necessarily being aware of it, that bring about suffering for us.
We should make three prostrations to the lama as he ascends the throne, and visualise the lineage masters while prostrating. We should focus on others as higher than us.
The Lamrim Chenmo makes clear the necessary qualities of a teacher. Of course he or she must be knowledgeable, but far more is required. It must be someone who can actually lead us thorough the Mahayana path to Buddhahood. The sutra says that those who have no mental discipline themselves cannot teach discipline for the minds of others. According to Maitreya three qualities are highlighted as necessary in a teacher. He or she needs to be disciplined, serene and thoroughly pacified. Teachers must also have a wealth of spiritual knowledge in order to pass on a deep understanding to others.
The Buddhas do not take away the sins of others, like removing a thorn from our body, but by showing the Noble Eightfold Path and so on we can reach the goal. A teacher cannot transfer his or her realisation into others. They help us by teaching us to know reality. We can use our own intelligence to know right from wrong.
Even if people revere you as the highest you should view yourself as the lowest in your own mind. We should check the teacher has the qualities of scholarship, humility and gentleness, and who can serve as an example for others. At the very least the guru should have more knowledge than the student and be compassionate.
Day 2 – 1 December 2012
The path to enlightenment must come from ourselves. It cannot be conveyed to us by a blessing or from a teacher.
Buddhism has now been in the world for 2,600 years or so. Some scholars say 2,000 years and some say 2,900 years. In any event, the Buddha was a historical person. He is seen as the embodiment of compassion who taught non-violence.
The training of the mind has become generally popular, and Buddhism has been seen as very practical in calming the mind.
If we understand dependent origination then we have a holistic view of what happens in the world. We often try to find an absolute target for what has caused a problem and then we become angry or attached. An understanding of dependent origination helps us to realise that there are multiple causes and conditions. This understanding diminishes disturbing emotions.
Within the Sanskrit tradition we have the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, which has the Four Noble Truths at its heart, along with the concept of bodhicitta. We should not disregard the Pali or Theravada tradition, but see it as the foundation of our Mahayana practice.
There were some who said that the Mahayana is not the teaching of the Buddha. There are still some who say this today.
The First Dalai Lama had visions of White and Green Tara and wrote homage to them. All the Dalai Lamas down to the Thirteenth had visions. The only Dalai Lama who hasn’t had any visions is me! But I am the most famous Dalai Lama! Because of the turmoil in Tibet etc I have become well known.
Scientists don’t claim to know everything. Some say that past and future lives are possible. In Buddhism we use logic to infer what is not always possible to know directly.
Nagarjuna said that where emptiness is feasible then everything is feasible. Where emptiness is not feasible then nothing is feasible.
In the Tantra there is the focus on achieving enlightenment through the luminous and subtle clear light nature of mind. Nagarjuna and other great masters have used their intelligence to check the teachings of the Buddha. Chandrakirti said that those teachings of the Buddha that cannot be taken literally are the provisional teachings. Those that can be taken literally are termed the definitive teachings. These masters emphasised the importance of logic in analysing the teachings.
It is clear from the writings of Aryadeva, author of the 400 Verses, that he practised Tantra. It is therefore logical that his teacher Nagarjuna, also practised Tantra. It is very important to practice the Dharma after studying it.
To obtain the Geshe degree and then become a businessman selling the Dharma is not good. Teaching should be done from the good motivation to benefit all sentient beings.
It is important for us to combine study, meditation and reflection.
We should examine teachers carefully before we regard any as our lama. Even if we don’t accept them as our teacher we can certainly see them as our friend in the Dharma. We should have few teachers, and not many different gurus.
First, we should gain reliance on a qualified master and then develop faith and trust through reason. We should not have blind faith. Faith cuts through gloom and clarifies the mind. The Lam Rim teaches us to see the lama as a Buddha. This links with the guru yoga practice in Tantra.
We should not look for faults in the guru. Faults will be there, but focussing on them harms our trust in the lama, and therefore the benefits that we can gain.
When we meditate we first visualise the guru in order to do purification and then accumulate merit. We visualise our root guru from whom we have received the most teachings, and then we see other gurus from whom we have received teachings as emanations of the root guru.
We should think of the kindness of the guru and his teachings and see his or her kindness to us as even greater than that of all the Buddhas.
The sutras tell us not to listen to non-virtuous instructions. If the guru tells us something that is not in accordance with the Dharma then we should avoid this. Sometimes it may not be straightforward. For example, in the Vinaya teachings there are things that the Buddha first allowed and then later prohibited.
Atisha’s master, Serlingpa, disagreed with him at times. But we should never show disrespect for our lama. By relying on a teacher we can become closer to Buddhahood. Serving our teachers can bring us great benefit. To be successful we should rely continuously on the teacher.
We can visualise the guru and see imbued in him or her all the benefits of refuge.
The term ‘meditation’ in Tibet has the idea of ‘to familiarise oneself with’. Sometimes the mind won’t focus on what we want it to focus on or vice versa, so we aim through meditations to calm the mind.