1 H.H. Dalai Lama ’08: Teachings on Lamrim Chenmo

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: the Buddha’s body came into being from myriads of causes.

1st day, July 10, 2008. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Teachings on Lam-rim Chen-mo.

In July 2008, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama gave a historic six-day teaching on The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim Chenmo)Tsongkhapa’s classic text on the stages of spiritual evolution. Translator for His Holiness was Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D.

This event at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, marked the culmination of a twelve-year effort by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center (TBLC), New Jersey, to translate the Great Treatise into English. The transcripts were kindly provided to LYWA by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, which holds the copyright. Webcast recordings of these teachings are available through His Holiness’ official website.

The transcripts have been published in a wonderful book, From Here to Enlightenment, edited by Guy Newland and published by Shambhala Publications. We encourage you to buy the book from your local Dharma center, bookstore, or directly from Shambhala.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Good afternoon, everybody. Indeed I am very, very happy to be here to lecture on the Lamrim Chenmo. Firstly, I visited the late Geshe Wangyal’s Center many years ago, during my first visit to America, that was… ’79, because of the historically very close link between Tibetan and Mongolian peoples, and particularly since the Third Dalai Lama’s very unique, close relations with Mongolia. So when we say with Mongolian, this includes Kalmyk, Buryat, all these Mongolian types. There is a very unique sort of relation. Then also in my own case, one of the best Tsenshap [study partner], Ngodrub Chowanyi, was Mongolian. So he helped a lot. So with this Mongolian there was something very close, personally, some close connection, link.

Then, on one occasion, at the late Wangyal-la’s, Sok-po [Mongolian] Wangyal la’s Center, on one occasion, we reflected on all these past sorts of long stories. We, everybody, very much moved, isn’t it? Everybody cried. I also was very much touched.

So the center, Joshua, he is not Tibetan, not Mongolian, but a European American. But you two [Joshua and Diana Cutler], I think, very faithfully carry out the late Wangyal-la’s spirit. So with that, they asked me to give teaching on the Lam-rim Chen-mo. And they also translated Lam-rim Chen-mo. So I promised in the future on one occasion that I am going to teach Lam-rim Chen-mo. So now today it materialized.

But of course, you see, this book is quite a thick book. Reading all this book within few days—impossible. So I am going to explain…[continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So I will proceed by my teaching on this text, primarily summarizing essential points, and, where necessary, I may elaborate on these points.

His Holiness: Although the Lam-rim Chen-mo book, lam-rim book, I think is available, but I brought with me, you see, this, my own personal Lam-rim Chen-mo because this text, 17th March 1959, when I left Norbulingka that night, this book I brought with me.

So up to now, I think ten to fifteen times I gave teachings from this Lam-rim Chen-mo…[greets in Tibetan a late arrival] …from Italy… [continues in Tibetan]

So ‘til now I think at least around fifteen times teaching of Lam-rim Chen-mo I gave. So all these teachings, you see, through this book. So this is personally something— something very dear to me. Like that.

[Chanting of the Heart Sutra]

His Holiness: So as usual, when I give lectures on Buddhism, always there is some kind of procedure. Firstly, there is the Pali Mangalam Sutra or any sutra, chanting because that’s the first, the original Buddhadharma.

Then second, Sanskrit. Since the first century B.C. or second century B.C., I think, then Sanskrit eventually became the main language. Particularly in the Nalanda tradition, the main language is Sanskrit. So the Heart Sutra we are going to have recited in Sanskrit by my Indian Buddhist bhikshu and great scholar.

Then perhaps Chinese. So today these three languages. So….

Bhikkhu Bodhi: The sutta that I will recite is called the Ratana Sutta. This is a hymn of praise to the three jewels—the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha—and it’s a way of invoking the blessings of the three jewels upon this Dharma assembly. The sutta is fairly long but I will recite an abbreviated version of it.

[Chanting of Ratana Sutta in Pali]

Tadyatha gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha [chanted three times]

Global Responsibility

His Holiness: Now as I mentioned in an earlier lecture on Buddhism, one particular text, the Lam-rim Chen-mowas written by Lama Tsongkhapa, a great scholar and a real holder of the Nalanda tradition. I think one of the top scholars, Tibetan scholars.

I think most of you are already familiar with my commitment, or my view, or my thought. Perhaps some may be new, so I want to mention briefly about my basic views or commitments. Number one. I am just one human being. Among six billion human beings, I am just one of them. I think besides our prayers, these things, in reality we all— six billion human beings—share one planet. We all survive under one sun.

Then in today’s, particularly today’s reality, because of the population and also, I think, the easier communication, these things, and also the modern economy, global economy, the environment issue— because of these new factors actually we simply become one community, one entity. So, according to that reality, there is no separate, independent, individual interest. For each of us, our future entirely depends on the rest of humanity, the rest of the world.

So in ancient times, each nation or each community more or less lived independently. So it seems our usual concept or our view is still that old, sort of…

Thupten Jinpa: …old pattern of thinking…

His Holiness: …old thinking still remains there. So the gap between the reality and our perception — that gap is there. Sometimes increasing. So because of that—our old thinking, old way of viewing—actually with that view, our actions then become unrealistic. This way our view is just, I think, old sort of thinking.

So that’s why I think… I think almost nobody wants more problems. Therefore nobody wants to create more problems, but problems are there. A lot of man-made problems are there because we are lacking that holistic, realistic view.

So, in order to develop a sense of global responsibility, look at the entire planet. Just one small planet, and an individual’s future entirely depends on that. So we have to take care. That’s the best way to safeguard our individual futures, isn’t it? Like that.

So there, we need the sense of concern for the wellbeing of the rest of the people, rest of the sentient beings, rest of the world. So that’s my number one commitment— to make clear that we need a wider view and a sense of global responsibility. That’s my number one commitment.
So I feel that with respect to Buddhist teaching, not to take it as a religion but simply some ideas. To think of entire sentient beings, that’s useful. Maybe it’s unrealistic to be thinking about, concerned about, outer space—too far. It looks as if it does not make much sense—but emotionally it’s very useful. So when we’re thinking about the infinite planets, infinite sentient beings, then when we think about the six billion human beings on this planet, then there is no question. And billions of animals who really suffer immensely under human hands. Isn’t it?

So the Buddhist message—the message of infinite altruism—that’s something very relevant. Not talking about next life. Or not talking about buddhahood. But simply in order to be a happier person, a more sensible person, a more useful person on this planet, I think the message or teaching of infinite altruism is something very useful.

And also in day-to-day life, whenever we are facing some difficulties, some of these ideas are really helpful to equip our minds, or particularly our emotions, so that when we are passing through difficulties still we can maintain our peace of mind. So that also is very, very good for our health. Too much worry, too much adversity, ambition—too much ambition—then bound to increase suspicion, jealousy, these things. Result? More unrest.

So some of these sorts of thoughts, these sorts of ideas, are very, very useful for the wellbeing of one individual mentally and emotionally, and through that way, physically also. Like that.
Then the second commitment… So, therefore, to nonbelievers who have no interest about religion, okay. Listen to some of these ideas. If you feel something useful, then take it. If you feel nonsense then forget. No problem.

Religious Harmony

His Holiness: Then my second commitment is the promotion of religious harmony. I am a Buddhist. Sometimes I describe myself as a staunch Buddhist. Because, you see, those ancient Buddhist masters, particularly the Nalanda masters, their minds are very, very critical, including [analysis of] Buddha’s own words. So their critical analysis about non-Buddhist traditions, their views…[continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: These masters are very erudite and very critical. They are able to find wherever there may be cracks in non-Buddhist positions.

His Holiness: So all these masters, including Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Dignaga, Dharmakirti, and Shantarakshita, these very, very sharp minds and great logicians make clear all the weaknesses of different sorts of traditions within the Buddhist tradition. So my mind also in some way, at least in a little way, is equipped that way to investigate, to analyze. So from that viewpoint I can say I am one staunch Buddhist.

However, I also accept the value or potential of all these major traditions. That’s the positive side. The negative side—conflict, division in the name of religion—is so bad. So sad. Some innocent, genuine, faithful people sometimes suffer. So therefore the effort—the promotion of religious harmony with mutual respect, mutual understanding— is very, very essential. So, in order to develop a closer understanding with those non-Buddhists, it is useful to learn about the Buddhist structure. Like that.

So in fact yesterday I made one pilgrimage to Ajmer in Rajasthan, a famous Muslim holy place, mainly a Sufi center. The most holy place, I think, according to Sufism. From there, yesterday, in the very early morning… for five days or one week they have their annual religious sort of prayer. The whole night they pray. So they invited me.

So I preferred to participate in the morning. So yesterday from 3:30 up to 4:30, I participated at prayer with a Muslim hat—Buddhist monk’s robe and Muslim hat. So there, very, very hot and very humid and too much crowd, so still my robe has some smell. Of course, the Indian public, I think, a hundred thousand, several hundred thousand people, very, very crowded. And of course… [continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: in very close proximity to each other…

His Holiness: …so some [in Tibetan]…

Thupten Jinpa: …so maybe we can call it the scent of sound ethical discipline, Muslim ethical discipline…

His Holiness: …plus…[in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: …mixed, of course, with sweat.

His Holiness: So I really enjoyed that meeting. Very good. So actually… I think a few weeks ago, again one international Muslim conference took place in Delhi. They invited me. So I think I was the only non-Muslim in participation in that conference. And in the afternoon again I visited Delhi…

Thupten Jinpa: …Tomb of…

His Holiness: …the mosque in Delhi, the ancient one…

Thupten Jinpa: [and others]: …Jamma Masjid…

His Holiness: … Jamma Masjid. So I went there, prayed together with Muslims, thousands and thousands of Muslims. So this is the first time, you see, that I wear the Muslim white hat, so I had a little doubt. I personally was very happy but a little hesitant because some hard-liner Hindus may feel a little different way, I thought. But later, the response from the Hindu community was also excellent, very good. So seems as if people appreciate my effort to promote religious harmony and genuine respect.

So if you really like that kind of effort then please practice it yourself. Make closer contacts with other traditions, with followers of other traditions, and particularly with Muslim brothers and sisters. I think this is very, very important. Since September 11th event, sometimes some negative sort of impression, so that’s totally wrong.


Of course, from a Buddhist viewpoint, I think in the past, in past history, many Indian Buddhists suffered a lot under Muslim hand. Past is past. No use, you see, to think along these lines and then to keep hatred. Absolutely foolish. Past is past.

Now, today, now for example, those Muslims in the Bodhgaya area, I think their ancestors came to Bodhgaya in order to destroy the Buddhist temple there. But now, today, they are best friends of Buddhist pilgrims. Like that. Whenever I visit Bodhgaya they always invite me, they provide for me, they give me tea and some very delicious nuts. I always enjoy.

So now that’s today’s reality. And anyway around a thousand million, a thousand million Muslims there. Very important. Those genuine Muslim practitioners—wonderful persons.

The Buddhadharma: the Nalanda Tradition

His Holiness: Okay. So now the lecture on the Buddhadharma. Firstly…[continues in

Thupten Jinpa: So according to the conventional understanding of history, Buddha came to the world almost 2,600 years ago.

His Holiness: So eventually, I think, Buddhadharma then spread from India to different countries, many in Southeast Asia and East Asia. So today, like Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, in these areas mainly the Pali tradition. Then in China and Korea, Japan, Vietnam mainly, and then also in Tibet and Mongolia. Of course, the Pali tradition is also there, and on top of that, the Sanskrit tradition.

So it seems in the Sanskrit tradition, the major foreign language other than Sanskrit is first, most importantly, the Chinese language. Then second, I think, is the Tibetan language. So Buddhism flourished in China at least three to four centuries earlier than in Tibet.

So I always consider that firstly the Pali tradition is senior-most. That’s the foundation of Buddhadharma. The holders of the Pali tradition are the elder students, elder-most students of Buddha. Then Chinese. In the Sanskrit tradition, the Chinese Buddhist is the senior-most Buddhist student. Then we Tibetans and Mongolians. So wherever I give teachings to the Chinese community I always, at the beginning, express my salutation because they are the elder students of Buddha.

In the meantime I also mention, half teasing, as far as knowledge is concerned, junior student is sometimes better. I think because Tibetan Buddhism was established by Shantarakshita. Shantarakshita was one of the topmost logicians and philosophers of the Nalanda institution. So he personally came to Tibet. And then Kamalashila came, one of his important students. Both great scholars. You can see— their writings are still available. Oh really great logicians and philosophers, Madhyamika philosophers. So naturally the teacher himself—monk, top scholar, logician. So, you see, naturally he wants his student to be that way. Isn’t it?

I think up to now, the 21st century, there is the rigorous study of all these important texts. At first learn by heart. Then, word by word explanation. And not only just explanation but learn through a thorough sort of debate. So precise… precision through debate. So generally the Tibetans’ sort of knowledge about the Buddhadharma is nothing special, but because of these sorts of great teachers, I think they are a real holder of the Nalanda tradition. I think as it has a more complete form or more depth, I think the Tibetan tradition is the best.

So then, there are differences…. In all those Indian masters’ texts and Tibetan masters’ texts, there are differences—different styles because of the different circumstances. In India there were not only Buddhists but also non-Buddhists, and a lot of discussions among top scholars of these different traditions there. So the writing by Nagarjuna or Aryadeva, all these…

Thupten Jinpa: …more comparative in their perspective…

His Holiness: … more sort of analyze…[continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: There’s more detailed, deeper analysis as well.

His Holiness: Then for Tibetan masters’ sort of texts, generally the circumstances were only Buddhist. So therefore the audience, I think, take for granted they are Buddhist. So there was not much emphasis on comparison. Like that.

Atisha, the Great Treatise and Transmission

So this book, this text, [Bodhipathapradipa, or Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment] of course was written by Atisha Dipamkara, one Bengali. In the eleventh century he came to Tibet. Shantarakshita came in the eighth century. In the eleventh century Dipamkara came to Tibet. Then I think basically the Nalanda tradition was already established well. So Atisha Dipamkara then wrote a small text that is… [continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So Atisha composed this short text, since the Nalanda tradition was already well established, and the aim of the text is to provide a kind of a method on how to integrate the knowledge of the various Buddhist teachings in the context of a practitioner of different levels of mental capacities.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So this text, known as Bodhipathapradipa, or Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, became the root of all the lam-rim texts, stages of the path texts.

His Holiness: So this Lam-rim Chen-mo is actually… [continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So in that sense one can treat this, Tsongkhapa’s text, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, as a kind of an extensive commentary or exposition of that short text of Atisha.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: Do any of you have the text [The Great Treatise] itself?

His Holiness: …thick book?

Thupten Jinpa: …the thick book.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: Can you raise your hands?

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: The transmissions of this Lam-rim Chen-mo teaching I received are ones from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and another one from Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, my two tutors.

His Holiness: The lineage of Trijang Rinpoche came from Thukje Pabongka Rinpoche, in that way. Then in Ling Rinpoche’s lineage Pabongka Rinpoche is also there, but one main lineage was from the 13th Dalai Lama. So the 13th Dalai Lama gave a teaching on Lam-rim Chen-mo in the Norbulingka. Ling Rinpoche was then quite young, but he received teaching from the 13th Dalai Lama.

In July 2008, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama gave a historic six-day teaching on The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lam-rim Chen-mo), Tsongkhapa’s classic text on the stages of spiritual evolution. Translator for His Holiness was Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D.

This event at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, marked the culmination of a 12-year effort by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center (TBLC), New Jersey, to translate the Great Treatise into English.

These transcripts were kindly provided to LYWA by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, which holds the copyright. The audio files are available from the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center’s Resources and Linkspage.

The transcripts have been published in a wonderful book, From Here to Enlightenment, edited by Guy Newland and published by Shambhala Publications. We encourage you to buy the book from your local Dharma center, bookstore, or directly from Shambhala. It is available in both hardcover and as an ebook from Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, and Kobo. http://www.lamayeshe.com/article/chapter/day-one-afternoon-session-july-10-2008