His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Manchester Arena UK June 10, 2012 on the Nagarjuna’s “In praise of Dharmadhatu”. 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.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
This text is traditionally understood to be Nagarjuna’s commentary on the third turning of the wheel of Dharma. It is important to distinguish between the two classes of sutras within the third turning of the wheel.
On one hand there are sutras where within the sutra itself there is an explicit explanation of the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma. The sutra identifies the first two turnings to be interpretative and the third to be definitive.
In other sutras the three turnings are all recognized as identified but with different purposes. The clear light nature of mind is the primary subject matter of Nagarjuna’s text.
The title means ‘in praise of the expanse of reality’. The explanation found here, when taken in conjunction with Maitreya’s Uttaratantra, is helpful.
The first stanza can be read in terms of emptiness, the ultimate reality, the emptiness of mind of all sentient beings. The emptiness of mind is always there naturally. It is not acquired. We can also take the stanza as referring to luminosity, to the clear light nature of mind. Pollutants of the mind arise due to the distorted nature of understanding. They do not penetrate the essential nature of mind, which is always there. Maitreya’s Uttaratantra goes into great detail about this. When all pollutants are removed the clear light nature of mind is naturally there and becomes manifest.
It is the elaborations of the mind that give rise to afflictions which in turn give rise to karmic actions which keep us in samsara.
In the second stanza the ultimate expanse of emptiness is seen as the cause of samsara in the sense that ignorance of the true nature of our mind keeps us in samsara.
As we understand the clear light nature of our mind the very imprints of the afflictions can be removed as well as the afflictions themselves. This leads to the non-abiding nirvana, the state of Buddhahood.
Stanzas three and four discuss the making of butter in this context, and stanzas five and six talk about a lamp hidden in a pot. The nature of the light is seen if holes are made in the pot. So long as our understanding remains simply intellectual we are only at the conceptual level. We need to move to the experiential level to understand fully the nature of mind.
In the examples of stanzas three and four – butter and milk – we cannot simply take the butter from the milk. It has to go through a process. But the nature of the butter is always present in the milk.
Stanza nine – as long as the blue beryl remains in the ore the true beauty and quality cannot be seen. This applies too to the Dharmadhatu, as is shown by stanza ten.
In stanzas 11 to 17 Nagarjuna explains Dependent Origination in terms of causes and conditions and their relations. Stanza 17 makes clear that it is the function of our relationship with this ‘seed’, the understanding of emptiness, that determines whether or not we remain in samsara.
Stanza 20 uses the analogy of material that cannot be burnt. We can put it in the fire to remove stains, but the garment will remain. The same is true of our mind. The pollutants can be cleansed, yet the clear light mind will always remain.
Stanza 22 shows that all the teachings of the Buddha converge in the teachings on emptiness. These teachings will purify the mind but never destroy it or it’s clear light nature.
Stanza 26 shows that cleansing of the mind is gradual. We first need to understand impermanence etc. Only by progression can we realise the true nature of mind.
Stanza 30 – we need to keep in mind Nagarjuna’s overall teachings on emptiness. This stanza could suggest he believes nothing exists. This is not true. It is inherent nature that does not exist. For example, a ‘snake’ in dim light that is actually a rope. It appears as a snake but it is simply a projection of our mind. It does not substantially exist.
In response to a question HHDL said that our conception of reality is dominated by physical things. Negative facts can only be conceptualized by negating something. Emptiness belongs to this category. Because something is true it doesn’t need to be expressed in terms of tangible qualities. To get some understanding of the nature of mind we need to neutralize the sensorial level. If we also deliberately try to eliminate the memory of the past and projection into the future then we can get some insight into the clarity of mind, the experience of emptiness. This is the practice of Mahamudra https://www.sangye.it/altro/?cat=19. We experience the conventional nature of mind in terms of clarity and knowing. From that we can move to meditating on the ultimate nature of mind.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Manchester Arena UK June 10, 2012 on the Nagarjuna’s “In praise of Dharmadhatu” https://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=1046. 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.