1 His Holiness The Dalai Lama: Commentary on The Precious Garland “Ratnavali” of Nagarjuna
The teachings were held at UCLA June 5-8, 1997.
Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
We are now beginning a series of teachings which will be starting today for 3 and 1/2 days. The first part of the series of teachings will be a lecture on The Precious Garland, Nagarjuna’s text, which I shall present as a lecture, more as a kind of introduction into the basic teachings of Buddhism. The 2nd part of the teachings will be an empowerment ceremony that I will be more of the sort of traditional religious teaching for which there is a requirement for the teaching to be conducted in the traditional format of the guru giving instructions to disciples.
At the beginning of the session today, the elders from the Theravada tradition will be doing a recitation of the Mangala Sutta, which I feel would be very auspicious.
[His Holiness and the Theravada monks, which were led by the late Ven. Havanpola Ratanasara, chant the Threefold Refuge formula, followed by the monks reciting the sutra. See below.]
I feel that it is a great honor that the lecture sessions are being opened with a recitation from the Pali Sutras [the early collection of “scriptures”, written in the Pali language], because I believe that when I reflect on the words of the meaning of the Pali sutras, particularly the one that has been recited here, which began with a salutation to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, I feel that this tradition of reciting these sutras has a very early origin in the history of Buddhism. And I believe that many of the sutras that we find in the Pali teachings, many of the ideas and thoughts, that are taught in the Pali Canon really are the foundation and the core of the Buddhist tradition and teachings.
Generally, when in a Buddhist congregation such as this, where there is a substantial representation of the Chinese Buddhist sangha, sometimes I request them to undertake the recitation of a really wonderful and very moving four-line prayer which I found in the Chinese tradition. But since there doesn’t seem to be a substantial number of Chinese sangha here, we will be doing the preliminary recitations in Tibetan. We will be doing the recitations that involve paying homage to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – then reflecting on the meaning of some of the sutras, particularly upon the fundamental teachings of the transient nature of life and existence – then this will be followed by a recitation of the Heart Sutra.
So, when we do the recitation, which will be in Tibetan, those who can reflect on the meaning of the sutras, and also, of course, the Prajna-paramita (Heart) Sutra, should not only join in the recitation, but also reflect on the meaning of the words, those who cannot do the recitations by heart, you can reflect on the qualities and the great kindness of the Buddha, the Buddha’s body, speech and mind. And when the congregation engages in the recitation of the Heart Sutra, you can join in by reflecting upon the meaning of emptiness, the teachings of emptiness, as far as your understanding.
[His Holiness then leads the chanting]
We will now recite verses of praise to Nagarjuna, composed by Konchog Tenpey Dronmey – it’s on page 93 of your book. We will do the recitation in English, so you can join in. Let’s do the recitation now.
Light of Centrism – In Praise of the Glorious Protector Nagarjuna
The Dharma that the Victor [Buddha] taught
is for the sake of shining light upon
beings enveloped in the darkness (of ignorance):
hence, victory to the lamp, Nagarjuna!
Beings are exhausted by the proliferation
of perceptions through perceiving. You lead
them to the bliss of peace, the imperceptible;
as such, you are the Great Guide.
The perfection of wisdom and the higher training in wisdom
are the supreme aspects of the wisdom sutras.
Hence, you composed the supreme wisdom treatises –
among all teaching-holders, you are the guru.
Your intellect became fully expanded, eliminating
dark confusion about all sciences and all that can be known;
hence you are called “Nagarjuna, the second Buddha.”
Even the Essentialists bow down to you.
Translated by John Dunne and Sara McClintock.
[According to the commemorative book, The Light of Centrism was composed by the monk Konchog Te Npey Dronmey (1762-1824) at the request of Halha Rabjampa Sangey.]
His Holiness The Dalai Lama: Normally when I give teachings on any of the texts of what is know as the Six Analytic Corpus of Nagarjuna, there is another set of prayers which I recite, but we are not going to do that today.
[He is referring to the “Twenty Verse Praise from The Precious Garland”, which will be included in another section of the lecture.]
Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Thus have I heard. On time the Exalted One was living near Savatthi, in Jeta’s Grove, the monastery of Anathapindika. Then, in the middle of the night, a certain deity astounding beauty, lighting up the entire Jeta’s Grove, approached the Exalted One. Drawing near, she paid homage to the Exalted One and stood to one side. Standing thus, the deity addressed the Exalted One in verse:
“Many deities and men have pondered on blessings, desiring their well-being. Tell me the blessings supreme.”
“To not associate with the foolish, to be with the wise, to honor the worthy ones, this is a blessing supreme.
To reside in a suitable location, to have good past deeds done, to set oneself in the right direction, this is a blessing supreme.
To be well spoken, highly trained, well educated, skilled in handicraft, and highly disciplined, this is a blessing supreme.
To be well caring of mother, of father, to look after wife and children, to engage in a harmless occupation, this is a blessing supreme.
Outstanding behavior, blameless action, open hands to all relative and selfless giving, this is a blessing supreme.
To cease and abstain from evil, to avoid intoxicants, to be diligent in virtuous practices, this is a blessing supreme.
To be reverent and humble, content and grateful, to hear the Dhamma at the right time, this is a blessing supreme.
To be patient and obedient, to visit with spiritual people, to discuss the Dhamma at the right time, this is a blessing supreme.
To live austerely and purely, to see the noble truths, and to realize nibbana, this is a blessing supreme.
A mind unshaken when touched by the worldly states, sorrowless, stainless, and secure, this is a blessing supreme.
Those who have fulfilled all these are everywhere invincible; they find well-being everywhere, theirs is a blessing supreme. http://theendlessfurther.com/tag/the-precious-garland/page/3/
Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Among the audience here, those who practice Buddhism, when you listen to the lecture you should listen with the motivation of having reaffirmed your Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Also to reinforce your compassion towards all sentient beings and your aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.
Generally speaking, on this world there are so many major religious traditions and I feel that is more suited for individuals of different societies and cultures to follow their own traditional religion. For example, in the United States, since the European settlers came here and formed the dominate membership of the American community, the traditional religion of the United States is the Judeo-Christian tradition. I feel that for the majority of the American people, it is better, and also, in fact, more suited to the temperament and inclinations to follow the teachings of your own traditional religion. However, out of many people there might be a few individuals who, due to some factors, it is possible that, although you have been brought up in a community and culture where there is a traditional religion, for some reason you have never been able to develop any sense of an affinity or any faith in the traditional forms of practice. Then such an individual might at some times find a greater attraction or closer inclination to other forms of religious teachings, like Buddhism. In any case, it is surely your choice and it is also up to you to adopt certain forms of teaching, such as Buddhism. However, it is very important that one you adopt such teachings that you never succumb to the tendency of being overly critical of one’s own traditional religion.
Such individuals, even after having had, as a result of one’s own personal investigation, come to the conclusion that Buddhist teachings are more suited to one’s temperament and inclination – then it is very important to insure that you never lose respect and reverence to other religious traditions. That is something to bear in mind.
The teachings that are given now are a commentary on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland. The teachings have been requested by Geshe Gyeltsen [a Tibetan teacher centered in Long Beach, CA who passed away in 2009]. I myself have received transmission on these teachings from [name unclear] Rinpoche, who in turn received it from [name unclear] Rinpoche, and beyond that I cannot trace the lineage. It is something that perhaps you could find out. (laughter)
The point is that in the Tibetan tradition there is a general perception that when one receives a commentary or a particular text – if you receive a commentary from someone who is part of an unbroken lineage of transmission, tracing back to the original author of the text – there is an added dimension of spirituality. And it is also said that for some individuals, when you approach a Buddhist philosophical text – this is something that you may find difficult to understand at the initial stage – but as a result from receiving a commentary on a teaching which has an unbroken lineage of transmission, it is said to really enhance the understanding of the text so that you approach the text in a different light.
There has been a slight change in the program today, for although the morning session was to last up to 12 noon, there is quite a lot of members of the Sangha who observe the monastic precept of not eating after mid-day. So we will be ending the morning session at 11:30 and to make up for the half an hour lost, we are going to resume the afternoon session at 1:30, rather than 2 o’clock.
So, given that this morning’s session is going to be rather short, we are not going to have a question and answer session. But in the afternoon, either at the beginning or the end, we will seek to have an half an hour for question and answer. http://theendlessfurther.com/tag/the-precious-garland/page/3/