Fourth 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 any possible errors and omissions.
Day 3 – 2 December 2012 and Day 4 – 3 December 2012
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
As long as we are subject to delusions we will have a karmic, samsaric body subject to the three sufferings: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and pervasive suffering.
Whilst in samsara we can use our precious human realm rebirth to collect merit and discipline our mind. An unruly mind will create the causes for a lower realm rebirth.
We talk about omniscience and training our minds, whilst at the same time creating all the karma that propels us to a rebirth in the lower realms. Consideration of the sufferings of the lower realms will help us to avoid pride and arrogance.
In the Lamrim Chenmo Lama Tsong Khapa says that he does not, in principle, consider the Buddha better than others and he is not averse to other teachers. He considers the one who resorts to reason to be the better one. Our taking refuge should be based on logic and reason so that we are confident in the refuge we take. Our refuge will be of little value if have no confidence in it. Chandrakirti says in his Seventy Verses on Taking Refuge (Trisarana-gamana-saptati): Taking refuge in the three pursuers of refuge Is the root of the eight [sets of] vows. Also: Those who take refuge in the Buddha will not take birth in the lower realms. Having abandoned the human body They will obtain a celestial body.
Chandrakirti says that the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are the only refuge for those who desire liberation.
Followers of all religions praise their leaders. However, in Buddhism we praise the Buddha by really developing understanding of his teachings. Teachers in many traditions demand unquestioning faith and belief in what they teach. On the other hand, the Buddha says we should examine and experience what he teaches in order to understand. We should not follow him out of blind faith.
If we look at an image of the Buddha while we are angry we will gain much merit. This is true even if we have no concept of taking refuge. Because the Buddha over countless eons cultivated love and compassion this brings great merit to us when we contemplate the Buddha’s image. This can have a great positive effect on our agitation.
Our actual refuge is the Dharma jewel. Once we have achieved it we are free from fear.
Once we die we do not have a choice over where we are reborn. We are completely under the control of our karma. The power of good karma is said to be weak and the power of negative karma to be very strong. So we should do all we can to avoid accumulating negative karma. To this end, three precepts are advised:
Do not take refuge in other gods.
Abandon all causing of harm to other sentient beings.
Do not befriend non-Buddhist philosophers.
The Buddha said that we need to understand suffering. Compositional, or pervasive suffering, is difficult to comprehend. This stems from our inability to understand things as they really are.
We need to attain a conviction about karma and its effects. If we engage in actions that cause others to suffer then we will suffer also. We will not experience karma for things we haven’t done, but the karma for what we have done is inescapable.
It is impossible for happiness to arise from non-virtuous karma. It is impossible for suffering to arise from virtuous karma.
We need to see things from our own point of view. We all have different views of what constitutes happiness and suffering.
Real practitioners may not always appear intelligent or clever, but the happiness they enjoy will be very great. The King of Concentrations sutra http://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=4717 says that even in 100 eons karma does not perish. The karma from our actions will never perish but will surely ripen in this or a future life.
If we behave violently within the practice of Tantra but can visualise the deity as empty of inherent existence, then our practice can still be of benefit to all sentient beings.
His Holiness tells the story of a Cuban refugee he met who was a Christian. He told of oppression and many hardships under Castro. He prayed to God that Castro would die soon and be taken to heaven. Does wishing for someone’s death always come from a bad motivation? In this case the motivation was to relieve the suffering of very many people. It is also noteworthy that he prayed for Castro to go to heaven and not to hell.
All the good and virtue that is accumulated over a thousand eons can be destroyed by a single moment of hatred.
Persons of middling capacity are aspiring to liberation from samsara. So the teachings of the Buddha are also meant for this group. Those of small scope aspire only to achieve a future human rebirth within samsara. There are many non-Buddhist traditions which aspire to this goal also.
Karma can be separated into throwing or propelling actions and completing actions.
Buddha gave monks and nuns different vows because there were cultural differences at that time. However, monks and nuns should have the same rights.
The suffering of suffering also affects the animals. All, even non-Buddhist practitioners, are aware of this and seek to avoid it. From this, the wish to be free of all other kinds of suffering will generate itself. It is very difficult to uproot suffering. Just like a tree cut down it will grow from the root again and again.
There are many things which we think bring us happiness and fulfilment but their nature is suffering. For example, when we get something we really want we feel happy. And yet, this can quickly turn to suffering when we become dissatisfied with it and seek something else.
It is karma and ignorance that bind us to samsara. We project the self as being dependent on the body. However, in our mind we can be conscious of the self without an awareness of the body. The connection we project is the consequence of ignorance. Once we understand the real nature of the mind, that is profound emptiness, then we can break this connection.
The five aggregates, form, feeling, cognition, compositional factors and consciousness, must be seen as flawed as they have suffering as their nature.
We can understand liberation by considering the example of an illness. If we take medication we can be liberated from an illness. But it is vital first to recognise that there is an illness and then examine it to discover the cause. In this way, the correct medication to bring about liberation from the illness can be achieved. Of course, we have to believe that we can be freed from the suffering of the illness otherwise we will see the taking of the medication as of no benefit.
The core of the introduction to Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths; see https://www.sangye.it/wordpress2/?cat=47, www.sangye.it/wordpress2/?p=1918, https://www.sangye.it/wordpress2/?p=1921. There is no better way to understand the fundamentals of Buddhism.
To eliminate our self grasping nature we need to contemplate it and see it as a wrong view. We see from an understanding of dependent origination that nothing has intrinsic existence. As we perceive this more deeply then our self grasping will naturally reduce.
Day 4 – 3 December 2012
In the monasteries there is the tradition of the monks learning the Dharma through debate. This has been the case for more than 2000 years. This method was followed with great emphasis by Shantarakshita and the great Nalanda masters.
The root texts of Dignaga and Dharmakirti were greatly treasured in Tibet and many commentaries were written on them. Dialectical debate and epistemology flourished in Tibet and was considered very important. It is still very prominent in Tibetan Buddhism today. Madhyamaka is the view of the Prajnaparamitas and the Abidharma is the detailed analysis, the focus on the perfection of wisdom. This way of learning has already spread into other subjects such as languages and grammatical studies. The Sakya also has the tradition of learning through debate. The Kagyu and Nyingma set great store by studying the 13 classic texts.
The world is full of technological advance but people lack the means for transforming the mind. To transform the mind we need to know how it works. People turn to drugs, travel, music and so forth to distract themselves from their disturbed minds.
If we can reduce self-centredness and cultivate an altruistic attitude this will reduce our stress and disturbing emotions and lead to a calm mind.
For six or seven years now the study of science has been included in the syllabus for the Geshe degree in the Tibetan monastic institutions. All this knowledge can then be used to help others.
Buddhists do not focus on converting others. We do not propagate the Dharma but we should use Dharma knowledge to help others in any way that we can.
The teachings on dependent origination is very relevant to scientific study. So, Buddhist science and philosophy can be seen as universal in nature, even though the more spiritual aspects of Buddhism clearly are not. Dependent origination is as relevant to the environment, international relations etc as anything else. Similarly in the areas of health and hygiene. Medical experts say that good mental health is essential for good physical health. The more self-centred and arrogant we are, the more closed minded we are.
The things we learn in Buddhism that can be used to serve humanity should be used in that way. It is not enough simply to put the 300 or more volumes of the Tengyur and Kangyur on the altar, but we should study them, give thought to them and relate them practically to our lives. Our faith must be based on reason. Blind faith is not enough.
Many bring up arguments against the Dharma. We can use our logic and reasoning to counter these in our own mind. When people argue against the Dharma it gives us a challenge and this is very good!