Sixth part of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings Nov. 30 – Dec. 13, 2012 on the 18 Great Stages of the Path (Lam Rim) Commentaries at Gaden and Drepung Monasteries in Mundgod, India, see http://www.jangchuplamrim.org/ and video here http://www.dalailama.com Translated from Tibetan into English by Lotsava 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 4 – 3 December 2012 and day 5 – 4 December 2012.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
For those who have ethics it is happiness. For those who breach ethics there is suffering.
People of great capacity are Bodhisattvas and have a wish to free all beings from samsara. This vehicle, taught out of compassion by the Buddha, is focussed only on helping others. Those who see suffering and are moved to act for the benefit of all sentient beings are called practitioners of great capacity.
Lama Tsong Khapa has the great quality of going through points in fine detail. When he discusses points of great complexity or difficulty he always uses reason to explain them fully. He says that the Mahayana is the origin of good for us and for all other beings.
For the realisation of emptiness to become ultimate bodhicitta it must be accompanied by conventional bodhicitta also. If we think that performing harmful actions will only harm ourselves this is somewhat limited. We need to spread out and do good to others. Shantideva says that if we don’t seek the benefit of others, not only will we not achieve Buddhahood but we will find no happiness in this life either. If we cultivate altruism then the first person to benefit from that is we ourselves. With altruism we feel greater personal happiness and therefore also better health as a result. This basic principle was taught by Buddha, Nagarjuna, Asanga, Shantideva, Lama Tsong Khapa and many others.
Day 5 – 4 December 2012
Nagarjuna was regarded as the second Buddha. If one wants to attain Buddhahood one needs a profound understanding of emptiness, bodhicitta and great compassion. This is described in detail in the Precious Garland, see http://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=611. If we eliminate all obscurations and distortions then we will attain the highest level of Buddhahood and great happiness. We needs to have ultimate bodhicitta which is an understanding of profound emptiness.
Developing such bodhicitta depends on having the mind of great compassion. If we use our wisdom simply for material benefit, then we will lack the mind wishing to bring happiness to all sentient beings we may make mistakes and think only of our own interest. So we have to use the wisdom generated in a positive way. All of the teachings have the primary purpose of generating benefit for all sentient beings. There are both immediate and ultimate benefits.
The Buddha’s teachings are based on the Three Trainings of Ethics, Concentration and Wisdom. Both the Theravada and Mahayana are similar in this.
There are more than 100 volumes of the Tengyur, the direct sayings of the Buddha, and more than 200 volumes of the Kangyur, the commentaries of the great Indian masters on those teachings. There are also the Tantric texts composed by Saraha and others.
Some Tibetan monks want to obtain the Geshe degree as quickly as possible, and then earn money from it. If this is our view, it is a great mistake. If we consider the great Indian masters, we will see that their focus was to obtain the maximum spiritual benefit in this life, to eliminate wrong views, and develop wisdom.
If we give wrong explanations of the teachings through a lack of clear knowledge we can cause harm to others and, more widely, damage to the whole Dharma. Just having faith in, and devotion to, the teachings is not enough, even for lay people. We need a full understanding of the Dharma. Other than some specific Vinaya texts, the Buddha’s teachings were for all, not just monks, without discrimination. If we have too many distractions in this materialistic world then we will not develop a depth of understanding. Developing the spirit of enlightenment is the only entrance into the Mahayana. The supreme enlightenment is the ultimate teacher.
Bodhicitta is the ultimate form of happiness, bringing immeasurable benefit to all. We will also gain great peace of mind and inner strength from the practice of bodhicitta.
Bodhicitta is the best kind of medicine that will cure all illness. It is also the best way to extend our lifespan. The bodhisattva attitude strengthens our immune system so is a kind of medicine for us. Cultivating enmity and hatred will weaken our immune system and thereby shorten our lifespan.
We should think that our attainment of Nirvana, the state of Buddhahood, is getting nearer each day. The mind of enlightenment and bodhisattva attitude will assure us a higher rebirth in a future life. So, the greatest benefit from intending to benefit others actually accrues to ourselves.
Our century is a century of ignorance and greed. People are under the influence of afflictive emotions, which form the basis of all the problems and anxieties in the world.
When we talk of having compassion it is also important that we have an attitude of compassion for ourselves. If we don’t have the mind to cultivate compassion for ourselves then we can’t possibly develop it towards others. We should, however, care for ourselves with a realisation that we depend upon others in so many ways. So, our intention should always be to show compassion for others at the same time. If we think of ourselves as far more important than others this is a foolish way of reasoning and caring for ourselves.
The mind of bodhicitta has two aspects; to care greatly through compassion for all sentient beings, and to wish to attain enlightenment for their benefit. For many, the generation of bodhicitta by training in exchanging self with others is the most beneficial. The practice of patience is similarly of great help. This means patience for someone who is our enemy and is hostile towards us. Patience towards those who love and care for us is easy! We have to think that the hostility of others is merely a projection of our mind. With a compassionate mind we can cut off the root of anger and impatience.
The practice of patience does not mean we accept everything regardless of what it is. The person most affected by the anger is the person displaying it or engaging in negative actions linked to it. So, if we can stop the negative action it is ultimately beneficial to the other person, as well as to ourselves. If we understand that the suffering of another can be stopped by our action, then we should take that action out of compassion.
Scientists say that the brain behaves in a specific way when we demonstrate compassion.
Our motivation is important. We can take crying as an example. We can cry tears of extreme joy or extreme suffering. The physical manifestation is identical but the motivation for each is very different.
Manjushri said that great compassion is what motivates bodhisattva deeds.
There is a love which exists innately in the body itself. We see this in animals who care instinctively for their young. This is nothing to do with Dharma teachings, but is innate. This same kind of love is shown by humans to each other. A few animals don’t feel this, for example turtles who lay their eggs in the sand and then disappear. These species are self-sustaining. This innate love is useful not just when we are very young, but throughout our lives. This is the root of compassion. All traditions and religious teach this. We all know that we want happiness and to avoid suffering. This helps us generate love and compassion. In theistic religions all beings are seen as creations of God and therefore we should love each other on the basis of our common origin.
This kind of innate compassion can create a division between our loved ones and our enemies. It is not enough to think ‘if only all beings could have happiness and be free of suffering’. We need to take whatever action we can to bring about this result.
Developing the mind of equanimity is important if we are to gain great compassion. Otherwise we find compassion only for those who are close to us.
To lessen attachment we can think that we have all been enemies and killed each other in former lives, so how can we be attached to each other?
For those who do not feel so close to their mother, for whatever reason, they can meditate on their great closeness to another person who has acted selflessly like a mother to us. This could perhaps be a father or another close relative.
When we have achieved equal compassion for both enemies and friends we should then extend it to all sentient beings in the ten directions. Kamalashila says that when we feel for all sentient beings the compassion that a mother feels for a suffering child then we have achieved the great compassion.
We must realise that ‘self’ and ‘other’ do not exist intrinsically. In reality it is not so. If we can realise this it becomes the antidote to self-centredness combined with afflictive emotions.
Shantideva’s http://www.sangye.it/altro/?cat=15 text The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life dates from the 8th century. Even after more than 1000 years there is no better text for developing bodhicitta. His Holiness says he has been trying to achieve an understanding of emptiness for many years. ‘I always thought that the cultivation of bodhicitta was so far off, not something to be accumulated quickly, but since studying Shantideva’s text I have used it as my guide in developing these qualities’.
The two effective methods for developing bodhicitta are the Seven Points of Mind Training and Exchanging Self with others. If we fail to practice exchanging self with others correctly we will not achieve Buddhahood. We should see the cherishing of the happiness of others as of great advantage and cherishing our own happiness as a source of problems. If we familiarise ourselves with cherishing others as we would ourselves then we are practising correctly. Exchanging self with others does not mean to think of the other person as ‘me’. Rather, it means to exchange rank, to see others as more important than ourselves, to see self-cherishing as our enemy. We will then work for the happiness of others without any thought for our own happiness.
When we say ‘I take refuge’ we have to bring into our minds the mere designation of the word ‘I’. By doing this, we continually reemphasise to ourselves that the ‘I’ does not exist. This helps greatly with gaining the non-objectifying merit that brings benefit to ourselves and others.
There are four dark practices that prevent our reaching enlightenment:
– Deceiving lamas, gurus, abbots etc who are worthy of offerings.
– Making others feel regret for things that are not regrettable.
– Speaking disparagingly to a being who has entered the Mahayana.
– Using deceit and misrepresentation to gain the service of others.
There are four light practices which keep the spirit of enlightenment:
– Not deceiving anyone, remaining sincere and keeping an extraordinary attitude to all.
– Abandon lying knowingly even for the sake of one’s life.
– See all bodhisattvas as teachers and proclaim truthful praise about them in all directions.
– Help all beings to adhere to mature perfect enlightenment.
We do not know who is a bodhisattva and who is not so we should develop a pure view of all humanity equally.
If we think ‘I will never achieve Buddhahood then we will lose the spirit of enlightenment.
I generate bodhicitta and take the bodhisattva vows each day as part of my practice.
If we want to work for the benefit of others then first we need to have self-discipline and take the teachings to heart. It is not enough to desire to attain Buddhahood. We must engage in the methods for achieving it. The practice must be unmistakeable and complete and carried out in the correct sequence.
We can consider the instructions contained in Lama Tsong Khapa’s Golden Rosary of Excellent Explanation. If we focus on the Buddhanature within ourselves then through practice we will undoubtedly reach Buddhahood.
We cannot say that insight can only be gained through analytical meditation. In the practices of Highest Yoga Tantra there are also methods for gaining insight without using analytical meditation.
Lama Tsong Khapa http://www.sangye.it/altro/?cat=22 praised the Buddha for his teaching on dependent origination. When we have an understanding of dependent origination it can prevent us from falling into extremes.
We need to practice with the aspiration to become a bodhisattva for without this it is impossible to become a Buddha. Buddhahood cannot be achieved simply by realising emptiness. The arhat and solitary realisers also realise emptiness. To achieve Buddhahood the practices of the Prajnaparamita teachings are also necessary.