DHARAMSHALA: His Holiness the Dalai Lama today gave a short teaching on the Jataka Tales as part of the annual Chotrul Monlam prayer festival at Tsuglakhang, Mcleod Ganj.
The teaching was attended by over a thousand devotees comprising of local Tibetans, devotees from Lahaul Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh as well as several recently-arrived Tibetans from Tibet.
During the teachings, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke about destructive emotions such as fear, anger and suspicion, and how to tackle these emotions through love and compassion.
His Holiness said that humans, swayed by such destructive emotions, create problems and resort to unthinkable violence on each other by discriminating on account of the minor differences that afflict us.
“However, these differences are secondary,” His Holiness reminded. “At the level of our basic humanness, there is no source of conflict. Basic human nature is compassion. This is logical because we were born from our mother and were nurtured by her affection and care,” His Holiness explained.
Speaking about tensions derived from differences, His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasised the unity of the Tibetan people, particularly among the three traditional provinces of Tibet as well as between the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
“In the past in Tibet, there were instances when monasteries fought each other based on sectarian divisions. However, now we are in the 21st century. Such sectarian violence and attitude is outdated and backward,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama said.
“The same goes for blind loyalty based on regionalism and provinces. The bond of unity that has shaped the Tibetan people for centuries is of crucial importance. We should maintain it as a sacred pledge,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama also expressed concern at violence borne out of differences across the world such as the Shia vs Sunni clashes in the Middle East and the Buddhist vs Muslims in Myanmar.
“Religion can be thought of as a medicine to cure our sickness. However, when that same medicine becomes toxic and harmful, there is something wrong with the way we are taking the medication,” His Holiness reasoned.
His Holiness explained that all religious traditions espouse love and compassion and are beneficial to their followers in their own way.
“There is no such thing as the best religion,” His Holiness said. Just as different patients need different pills, religion is also the same. It is best suited to one’s own time, place, culture and way of thinking, His Holiness added.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama also gave another short teaching on ‘In praise of Dependent Origination’ (Tib: Tendrel Toepa) written by Lama Tsongkhapa, a fourteenth century Tibetan Buddhist scholar and founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
As part of the teaching, His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained the four noble truths taught by the Buddha in his first turning of the wheel of dharma.
“Suffering is a key feature in the cycle of existence,” His Holiness noted, during the teaching. “The main cause of suffering in our lives is our tendency to cling to the idea that things have an independent existence when it is not. All things are interdependent. And this is where the doctrine of emptiness comes into play,” His Holiness said.
“These days, even modern physicists studying quantum physics agree on the notion of ‘emptiness of intrinsic existence’. There is nothing that has any objective existence” His Holiness said, and advised the devotees to cultivate faith based on critical analysis and reason to properly understand what the Buddha taught.
Chotrul Monlam of the Great Prayer Festival is a five-day event hosted every year in the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. During this festival, teachings on the Jataka tales are conducted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to devotees in Dharamshala.
The Jataka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form. The tales include an extensive cast of characters who interact and get into various kinds of trouble – whereupon the Buddha character intervenes to resolve all the problems and bring about peace and harmony.