Third 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 2 – 1 December 2012 and Day 3 – 2 December 2012.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Whatever is produced is, by definition, impermanent. When we talk of something being produced, or arising, we see it as being brought about. When we describe something as ‘impermanent’ we see it as disintegrating. However, things are changing all the time. They don’t stay the same, even for an instant. What arises is subject to disintegration because it has a cause.
We can come out of the slumber of ignorance in this life as we see the danger of destructive emotions. We can transform them into wisdom and good qualities and develop stability in our minds.
As we develop the stability of the subtle nature of mind this gives us a stronger basis for carrying this over into future lives. Our gross sensory perceptions is not a sound basis. We therefore have to develop an understanding of this subtle mind through meditation. Shantideva says that there is nothing that does not become easier through familiarisation. We are not striving for nothing, but for happiness as our ultimate goal.
The union of calm abiding and insight comes at a more advanced level on the path. We should focus on developing single-pointed concentration as the purpose of our meditation. We should begin with short sessions and extend the time as we become more adept. We should relax and not be overly strict with ourselves. This way we will avoid becoming dull, and avoid both laxity and excitement. If the alertness in our mind is lost through meditation then this shows laxity has developed in us.
Without the blessings of the lineage and the great masters it is very difficult for us to have any kind of Tantric experience.
There are two forms of prostration, full body prostrations and the short form in which we touch the ground with our forehead, palms and knees. We put two thumbs together in the hollow of our joined palms. This symbolises the combination of method and wisdom. We should recite the Seven Limb Prayer as we prostrate.
The Seven Limbed Prayer
With my body, speech, and mind, humbly I prostrate.
I make offerings both set out and imagined.
I declare every unwholesome action I have ever committed.
I rejoice in the virtues of all beings.
Please stay until samsara ends,
And please turn the Wheel of Dharma for us.
I dedicate all these virtues to the great Enlightenment.
There are also mental and verbal prostrations. Lama Tsong Khapa goes into detail about this.
Mount Meru is not necessarily accessible to us, but the shadow of Mount Meru may be. This is difficult to accept since there is no real place such as Mount Meru. Lama Tsong Khapa says that if we go against something that is accessible to the sensory perception then we should not assert it. It is different if we make mandala offerings, since this is within our mind and imagination.
If we have bodhicitta then happiness will spread and develop from one place to another.
Skilful means combined with wisdom leads to enlightenment.
It is fine to enjoy music, film, books, travel and so on as a means to relax. They can be very beneficial. However, if we become attached to them then they will become a great distraction and could damage our practice. This is particularly true for monks in the monastery.
We should put far more emphasis on developing happiness mentally. We can then decrease our anxiety. Our worries have not gone away but we will have changed the focus of our mind.
The real practice of Dharma comes between meditation sessions. It is really important that we protect the mind from obscurations and set it on something neutral or virtuous.
By training our mind, we can maintain our practice, even while we are asleep.
We should not eat too much or too little, but just enough to keep our practice sharp and focussed. We should avoid nonsensical chatter with people who have no understanding of the teachings. We need to develop a conviction in the teachings through listening, considering and analysing. We will through reason that a compassionate person is happy, while a short-tempered, angry person is very rarely happy. We need to be able to engage in the causes that will bring about the effects that we want. Anger and short-tempered behaviour is not likely to bring about the effect of happiness that we desire.
The first five Paramitas are all means for developing the sixth, wisdom. We usually gain the wisdom of bringing about the effects we desire through practising analytical meditation. The great texts of Nagarjuna and other Indian masters are based on practising analytical meditation. This brings about experience which gives us the reason to believe what the masters say. Simply hearing of the teacher’s experience can never be as powerful as having our own.
Concentration allows us to keep our mind single-pointedly on a chosen object.
Faith is not the only way to transform our mind. We need the antidotes to disturbing emotions in order to enhance our practice. We deepen it through experience. Even among those who claim to be followers of the Buddha, the real practitioners are very few.
We should reflect on the precious human rebirth we have. It is a very rare thing. We should therefore use this precious opportunity to practice. Animals, for example, have no such opportunity.
If we have a good heart we will have greater happiness within ourselves. This will come from the cultivation of bodhicitta. We should seize every opportunity to do this, given that it is rare and precious.
We need to use our precious human life to create virtue. This will not happen by itself.
The three poisons of attachment, anger and ignorance give rise to negative actions. Helping others assists with the creation of Dharma. The ten virtuous actions and the ten non-virtuous actions of body, speech and mind are all evaluated in terms of their connection with others. For example, an American scientist has shown that those who lie frequently suffer greater stress because they are not transparent. If we always think of harming others with malice and so on we will never be happy and will damage our own health and well-being.
Death is certain. The time of death is uncertain. Only our practice will help us at the time of death. We cannot turn death away by simply repeating mantras. We cannot add any time to our lifespan, and yet there are constantly things that threaten to shorten our lives. What is the use off worrying about death for it will surely come? We should meditate on the certainty of death from many different perspectives.
The passage of life is like lightning in the sky. It moves quickly like a waterfall – so says the sutra. Even while we are alive there is little time for spiritual practice so we should put all the more effort into it.
The maximum human lifespan is 100 years or so. We lose out to youth at the beginning and old age at the end. We also lose much time in sleeping, eating, sickness and so on, so there is very little time left over for practice.
We should assume that we will die today. If we think that we won’t die today, or probably won’t die today, then we will make no preparation for it. So when it comes we will die in sorrow. Even if we don’t die today we will at least have practised well and will have acted for the benefit of our next life.
We can contemplate that the causes of death are very many and the causes of life are very few. Think of all the people we know who have died and contemplate that the same thing awaits us. The contemplation of the uncertainty of death is the most powerful of the three roots.
When we have a disturbed state of mind there is always an antidote. However, the subtle, luminous, clear light state of mind can never be destroyed or damaged.
Past lives cannot be explained other than on the basis of continuing consciousness.
The only concern during the process of dying is the positive and negative karma that we take with us. So positive imprints we leave in our mind during our lifetime can help us at the time of our death.
Day 3 – 2 December 2012
People have come here from all over the Buddhist world, all the different monastic institutions and universities, European countries and some Indians too. We are all followers of the same teacher.
All major religions have their own philosophical backgrounds. They each have huge numbers of followers. There are clear differences between the traditions, but all agree that the cultivation of love and compassion is central and beneficial to all. For example, Muslims see Allah as the embodiment of love and compassion.
All traditions agree that self centredness and focus on the ‘I’ is damaging. So, in theistic religions people submit themselves wholly to God. So we should not discriminate between traditions. They all help their followers, and others, so we should respect them. We should avoid sectarianism and bigotry.
We tend not to look inwards at ourselves and the negative emotions we experience. We tend rather to look at others and their errors. All the problems of our world spring from indisciplined mind. Negative emotions of the desire realm really disturb our peace of mind. The basic mind is not disturbed but various external agents disturb us. Buddhism probably has the most detailed teachings on the mind of all the major world religious traditions.
The Buddha was an ordinary person like us. He worked and developed his mind over many lifetimes. We need to understand the map of the mind for the ordinary level at which we function.
Many afflictions are categorised as non-views and others as views. The non-views are rooted in the views.
Ignorance cannot be uprooted by developing love and compassion, or by making prayers. We need to be familiar with the antidote. The stronger the antidote the more we will overcome the distorted mind. The Heart Sutra mantra refers to using our intelligence gradually to overcome ignorance by developing wisdom.
Pabongka Rinpoche says that at the end of our life we even have difficulty breathing. When we see a graveyard we should remember that this is how we will end up. So we should focus on developing wisdom in order to reach the ultimate goal of Buddhahood. Unless we have a real understanding of Dharma and what we are trying to achieve then repeating mantras thousands of times will have little benefit.
We need to be familiar with the whole structure of Buddhism. We should study the Prajnaparamita and Madhyamaka philosophy thoroughly. This can then form the foundation for the use of the Lamrim Chenmo in our practice.
I am proud to say that Tibetan Buddhism is in the pure Nalanda tradition. Without close study of texts it would be difficult to preserve the teachings and their purity. The Tibetan community now has three great seats of learning – Gaden/Drepung, Sera Jey and Tashilunpo.
The hell realms and hungry ghost realm are not accessible to us but we can see continuous sufferings in the animals. The human realm is one of the higher realms but we still have much suffering and many problems. Shantideva teaches us the benefits of cultivating patience to deal with our suffering.
The conditions for being born in the hell realms are very easy to accumulate and we collect many of them each day. So we should never be complacent about our practice. Much detail on the hell realms is included in Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend https://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=671.