Eigth 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 error and omission.
Day 7 – 6 December 2012 and day 8 – 7 December 2012.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
When we see that samsara is like an illusion it does not make us feel despair at cultivating the Six Perfections. Despair and displeasure come from the reverse, clinging on to things as if they have objective existence. Seeing things as an illusion will never give rise to unhappiness.
Wisdom is the thorough knowledge and understanding of all that is to be known. The way to generate wisdom is to meditate on the advantages of developing it and the disadvantages of not doing so. Nagarjuna http://www.sangye.it/altro/?cat=9 said wisdom is the foundation of all great qualities in this and future lives. Wisdom is like the eyes. No matter how wonderful the body, until the eyes are there it is of far less benefit.
When wisdom is present we become skilled at eliminating afflictions and cultivating good qualities. Bodhisattvas depend on wisdom to purify the other five Perfections.
The cultivation of wisdom helps us to be less concerned about others’ perceptions of us.
We should see study as a preliminary or a foundation to practice, but we need to practice to be able to achieve Buddhahood. There are two types of teaching; teaching that is scriptural and teaching that has been put into practice.
If we don’t understand scriptures from the outset we must persevere according to our mental capacity. We should not see study and practice as separate disciplines. If we apply ourselves diligently to study and practice then the good qualities in our mind will develop. Mediocre meditators become mediocre teachers. Strong meditators become strong teachers.
If we have lots of faith but no wisdom we are like water running down a hill. We will go anywhere we are led and we react according to the behaviour of others. When others cry, we cry. When others laugh, we laugh.
Bodhisattvas have but two tasks: to bring to complete maturity and perception their own minds and to work hard to bring the same level of maturity and perfection the minds of all living beings.
Training in the last two Perfections is the way to achieve serenity and insight. All good qualities of the Hinayana and Mahayana are as a result of practising serenity and insight. An undisturbed mind brings serenity, along with one-pointed concentration. Insight comes through analytical meditation.
Serenity and insight encompass all forms of meditation. All that the Buddha says about the limitless states of meditation come from serenity and insight. All yogis, says the text, should definitely rely on serenity and insight.
The path of insight comes through investigation and concentration. This brings the wisdom that distinguishes phenomena.
Why is it necessary to cultivate both serenity and insight? It is like a lamp being used to examine something. The lamp needs two attributes; it needs to be bright so as to give enough light to examine the object, but it also needs to be still and not flickering in the wind so that the light can be used. If the light flickers in the wind, no matter how bright it is we will not be able to see the object clearly. Likewise, serenity will keep our mind stable and bright, and insight will make it solid and still like a mountain. At the moment our mind is unsteady, like a lamp in the wind. A mind that is not in meditative equipoise cannot see the world as it is. Shantideva http://www.sangye.it/altro/?cat=15 said that the one who’s mind is unstable lives within the fangs of the afflictions.
Once calm abiding has been accomplished it will counter our imperfection of wisdom. It will stop our mind being distracted when we are focussing on the nature of reality and selflessness. First we should cultivate calm abiding and then the specific insight which depends upon it.
We should start with very short sessions when we are developing stability in our mind and single-pointed concentration. Five or ten minutes is fine at first and then we can increase it as we gain experience. The quality of the meditation is important rather than how much time we spend. Focussing on getting rid of thoughts and desires is the important thing.
If all things, good and bad, within samsara are ephemeral then why would we attach any kind of importance to them?
A practice needs to be accompanied by bodhicitta to make it a Mahayana practice.
When we focus our meditation on something within us, such as our breath, or an object, such as a Buddha image, our focussing mind has something to hold on to. This can be very useful as we gain skill and expertise in meditation. When we keep our mind on an object for cultivating serenity then we are using just one of the aggregates, form. As we develop we can bring in the other four aggregates. It is useful to focus on solid, identifiable objects at first. This is a skilful method for beginners. As we progress, we can introduce other ‘objects’ of concentration that are not tangible and visible, such as meditating on emptiness.
To understand emptiness we need first to understand the mind since emptiness is based on the mind and its ultimate luminous nature. In order to develop we must progress from meditating on the luminous mind to meditating on the mindstream itself.
Day 8 – 7 December 2012
The 10th December is the anniversary of His Holiness receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 so there will be a special ceremony to mark this occasion. On 13rd December we will do the Long Life Puja in the morning as a conclusion to the teachings.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
We are progressing well with the Lamrim Chenmo and Middle Length Lam Rim so there should be time for us also consider the Essence of Superfine Gold http://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=1036 and the Path of Bliss.
Last year I gave up all political responsibilities and devolved this to the elected leader. I now am only a spiritual leader. This has long been my wish since childhood. It follows the course of the First to the Fifth Dalai Lamas, at least in the early part of his life. The Fifth Dalai Lama also took on political responsibility later in his life.
We pray that in all our rebirths may we meet with our guru and never be separated from the Dharma so that we can ultimately achieve the state of Vajradhara.
I have studied the texts of all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. I also revived the the lineage of the six texts of the Kadampa which had declined in the past.
Amongst lay people there is an increasing interest in the Dharma. This is also true within Tibet itself and in Ladakh and the Himalayan region. As the masters say, the study and practice of the Dharma is the way to preserve it and keep it alive.
We must make ourselves aware of the whole structure of Tibetan Buddhism. We ask to achieve the state of Vajradhara so we need to know precisely what this means, what the path leading to Buddhahood is, and how we proceed along that path. Just being engaged in intellectual study will not help. In fact, it can be a hindrance as it can lead to despising others of lesser knowledge, with the resultant development of pride and arrogance. Some who have come from Tibet have done this when they have come into exile. His Holiness always reminds himself to ‘be careful’. The First Dalai Lama said that to study the Dharma so as to be able to argue with others, rather than to rid ourselves of negative emotions and achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, is wrong.
If we don’t put the study of the Dharma into practice now, when will we do so? Our aspiration to achieve the state of Vajradhara is in that case mere words and makes no sense.
On 17 March 1959 when I was forced to flee Lhasa I took only this text of the Lamrim Chenmo with me. Keep this text always in your mind and supplement it with additional Lam Rim texts. These texts show the path outlined in the Prajnaparamita and Madhyamaka teachings.
When the mind actually stays on the chosen object, is even actually drawn to it, it is, according the Dzogchen teachings, like a hawk coming out of its nest. So the mind should be sharp and highly alert in our meditation. There should be no sense of dullness. This vividness of mind will be blocked so long as there is laxity.
Through faith and belief we have some innate ability to keep our mind focussed on the object. We should therefore use this basic quality that we already have and build on it to make advancement.
Mindfulness helps the mind not to forget the object. We also need introspection, reflection on the object, together with vigilance to avoid becoming distracted. There are two different types of mindfulness, innate and cultivated.
Mindfulness refers not just to having the object in mind, but rather how we keep it in mind, how we use it. Its function is to keep the mind focussed on the object and to stop it wandering away from it. We must goad our mind with the hook of vigilance. The text likens it to training an elephant.
When laxity, lethargy or excitement are setting in we need to be aware of this and use vigilance to prevent them developing.
We can also use the mind itself as the focus of our mediation. Mindfulness becomes like a rope that fixes our mind to the object continually. We need to develop a tight focus so as to ward off laxity. Kamalashila http://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=433 stressed that not only must the object of our focus be clear, but our concentration on it must be tight so that it remains clear and laxity does not ensue. We should ask ourselves whether we are concentrating well or whether we are distracted by external objects, suggesting that either laxity or excitement has set in.