Third part of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Klagenfurt Austria May 18-20, 2012 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.liness the Dalai Lama.
Atisha – Lamp For the Path to Enlightenment
This is a text from the 10th century Lamp For the Path to Enlightenment https://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=1095. Tibet was then already divided into small distinct areas. At this time there was a small kingdom in Southern Tibet. From there they bought Atisha to Tibet from Vikramashila in India. When Atisha came to Southern Tibet he was asked to write a text. He said that they didn’t need an extensive text so he would write a short text that captured the essence of Buddha’s teaching.
When Atisha came to Tibet Buddhism was already well established and there were not many different views. So he didn’t need to set out a refutation of different belief systems.
After Atisha composed this text some Tibetan masters wrote commentaries on it, particularly Longchenpa and Gampopa. It is very clear that these are based on Atisha. Also, Lama Tsong Khapa own Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment is also based on Atisha.
We can meditate on different levels of dependent arising. Meditating on the grosser levels will help us to avoid non-virtuous action. If we don’t avoid this we will have an unfortunate rebirth.
We should avoid the 10 non-virtues. However, to become a Buddhist precept this must be accompanied by going for refuge. We also need to heed the law of cause and effect. These practices belong to a small scope practitioner.
Another level into eliminate fundamental ignorance which is the root of cyclic existence. Practitioners who can do this are middling scope practitioners.
Those who understand dependent arising not only eliminate the delusion of affliction but also the affliction of omniscience. These are great scope practitioners. Aryadeva highlights these three levels.
When selflessness is supported by understanding and by the practice of bodhicitta this is the great scope.
When the Four Noble Truths was explained by Maitreya he illustrated it by saying you first need to understand the illness (First Noble Truth). When you understand the illness you need to understand the cause (Second Noble Truth). When you understand the causes you avoid them or abandon them. When we avoid these causes we will be healthy (Third Noble Truth). Full cessation of illness can only be secured by following the path that leads to health. To be free of illness and the causes of illness we need to take the medicine (Fourth Noble Truth).
In order to be free of the suffering of suffering we must avoid gross non- virtues supported by the refuge and practicing the law of cause and effect.
The best way to avoid the ten non-virtues is to understand their result, which is suffering.
Our life has tremendous potential but won’t last forever so we should meditate on impermanence and use the benefit of a precious human rebirth in our practice.
We need someone to help us gain these insights. So what kind of teacher is necessary? A whole range of teachings is good from the Vinaya up to the Highest Yoga Tantra. In the Mahayana there are ten characteristics for a teacher. Lama Tsong Khapa https://www.sangye.it/altro/?cat=22 said that if one’s own mind is not transformed then it is very difficult to help others transform their’s.
The first three characteristics are Ethics, Concentration and Wisdom. A person must be a scholar but also a practitioner. A teacher must practice what they teach. Just to be a great scholar is not enough, but one does need to be a scholar to understand the teaching.
The Kadampa masters said that a teacher must have knowledge of so many teachings as would need to be carried by a yak. The Nyingma masters talked of teachings for private individuals which can range from a few lines to teachings in great detail. Marpa adopted this technique of using a few short statements with Milarepa.
In order to benefit people generally it is important to have an understanding of a vast number of teachings. Then we can be helpful to those who are listening. We can use Lam Rim texts as a basis but also use other texts such as Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’https://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=4145 and Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’ https://www.sangye.it/altro/?p=611.
A teacher should have both knowledge and some experience.
A Kadampa master close to his death put his head into the lap of his disciple. The disciple started to cry and the tears fell on the master’s head. The teacher asked why he was crying. He said ‘up to now you have been my teacher and given me everything. Now you are dying, who will be my teacher?’ The master replied that the great teachings would be his teacher.
The Middle Scope training is the Three Trainings: Concentration, Ethics and Wisdom.
The Great Scope is the cultivation of Bodhicitta. The best text for this is Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’. This is an extremely useful text to learn and study.
As Bodhicitta strengthens and develops we can take the bodhisattva vow. This is explained in Atisha’s text. We also need to cultivate the union of calm abiding and insight as Atisha tells us. There are two types of calm abiding – Buddhist and non-Buddhist. There is nothing special about this.
There are also two types of vipassana: insight into worldly things and insight into emptiness. If this is combined with taking refuge then this becomes a Buddhist practice.
Meditations connected with Mahamudra are in the context of Highest Yoga Tantra and so the focus is on single-pointed meditation. When we are doing shamata or vipassana meditation it is best to have a mind in equanimity – neither too excited nor too dull and sleepy. Kamalashila gives clear instructions on how to apply these techniques.
Atisha’s main teaching is the gradual path to enlightenment. It finishes with a brief explanation of the Vajrayana.