Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – “This is the second day of our teachings for young Tibetans,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama began this morning. “We’ll read the remaining part of ‘Destiny Fulfilled’. Then, although I usually conduct a ceremony for cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta at the end of these sessions, I thought today we could cultivate the all-encompassing yoga mind.
“Vasubandhu explained a twofold division of the Buddha’s teachings—scripture and realization. He also stated that there are only two ways to preserve the teaching—study and practice. As followers of the Nalanda Tradition this is the approach introduced by Shantarakshita that we uphold. This is a tradition that has given rise to many great scholars and adepts — beings who studied and practised. And this is true of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
“The third section of ‘Destiny Fulfilled’ is entitled – How I practised day and night and dedicated the virtue for the teachings to flourish. Jé Rinpoché mentions two systems within the Mahayana or Universal Vehicle — the Perfection of Wisdom and Tantra. Common to these two systems are the cultivation of the awakening mind and the wisdom understanding emptiness. He also touches upon the generation and completion stages of Guhyasamaja.
“In his examination of the four classes of tantra, when it came to Highest Yoga Tantra, Jé Rinpoché paid closest attention to Guhyasamaja. He wrote about it and the essential parts of the completion stage in the ‘Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages’ and a summary text called a ‘Practical Guide to the Five Stages of Guhyasamaja Completion Stage in a Single Sitting’.
“In the ‘Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages’ he provides a unique explanation of the two truths in connection with the illusory body and clear light. In the past, it was the custom for Gyutö monks to gather at Yerpa to undertake a retreat. On one occasion, when the abbot was Minyak Tseten, we debated whether the illusory body manifests within or outside the physical body. Minyak Tseten replied, ‘When I reach the stage of the illusory body I’ll find out from experience.
“After the dissolution of the three visions—whitish appearance, reddish increase and black near-attainment, you arise in an illusory body on the basis of the subtlest energy, the wind that is the mount of the clear light mind. That subtle wind energy becomes the substantial cause of the illusory body.
“Until the three visions have been purified, it is an impure illusory body. But with the help of the clear light mind, by purifying its impurities you reach the pure illusory body. In this way you reach the trainee level of the union of clear light and illusory body. Jé Rinpoché gained experience of all these stages and examined them closely. When he died, he evidently attained the clear light and arose in the illusory body rather than the body of the intermediate state. Therefore, it’s important to read ‘Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages’
“This concludes the third section of ‘Destiny Fulfilled’. The text shows how Jé Rinpoché pursued his studies, how he applied what he learned and how he gained experience of the teaching. And just by the way, I thought I’d mention that one of the reasons I feel close to him is because Jé Rinpoché and I come from the same place.
“Buddha Shakyamuni appeared as a Supreme Emanation Body and displayed all the enlightened deeds of a Buddha before passing into Mahaparinirvana. When Jé Rinpoché passed away he bequeathed us eighteen volumes of his writings. These included the ‘Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, the ‘Middle-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, the ‘Commentary on the Graded Presentation’, the ‘Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages’, and so forth.
“Regarding emptiness Jé Rinpoché follows Nagarjuna’s tradition, so we should read his Six Collections of Reason and commentaries to them by Chandrakirti that are mentioned with admiration in ‘In Praise of the Buddha for His Teaching of Dependent Arising’.
“As I noted yesterday, towards the end of the sixth chapter of his ‘Entering into the Middle Way’, Chandrakirti speaks of cessation.
Thus illuminated by the rays of wisdom’s light,
the bodhisattva sees as clearly as a gooseberry on his open palm
that the three realms in their entirety are unborn from their very start,
and through the force of conventional truth, he journeys to cessation. 6/224
Though his mind may rest continuously in cessation,
he also generates compassion for beings bereft of protection. 6/225
“And I too hope to reach that stage.
“The purpose of spiritual practice is to help other sentient beings. We have to serve others, which is why I rely on the following prayer:
As long as space endures,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
To help dispel the misery of the world. 10/55
“Jé Rinpoché makes a prayer for the flourishing of the teaching at the end of his ‘Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’:
By skill in means inspired by strong loving-kindness,
May the vital points of the path that I precisely know
Clear away the mental darkness of beings.
May I then uphold the Conqueror’s teachings for a long time.”
His Holiness observed that we don’t have to apply reason to know that all sentient beings want to be happy and don’t want to suffer. The difference between animals and human beings is that we humans have a brain and intelligence that allows us to see what brings us suffering and what makes us happy. The ancient Indian tradition of ‘ahimsa’ has existed for at least three thousand years. It is rooted in love and compassion and brings about peace and happiness.
“The Buddha told his followers that he had shown the path to liberation, but whether they reached it was in their hands. Nagarjuna showed that the path entailed extensive conduct and profound view. The collections of the words of the Buddha, as well as the exegetical treatises by Indian masters like Nagarjuna, are available in our own language, Tibetan. We also have a wealth of commentaries by Tibetan masters.
“In the past there was some sectarian antagonism between such masters whose lineages differed because of the different meditational deities they cultivated. In addition, tantra includes fierce practices for subduing obstructive foes that were instead directed against followers of other traditions in a kind of sorcery. In fact, among sentient beings, there is no one we can seriously consider to be an enemy.”
His Holiness told his virtual audience that his own main practices are to cultivate the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness. He said, “If you follow me, these will be important to you too.” He explained that to undertake the all-encompassing yoga first involves cultivating conventional bodhichitta and secondly, ultimate bodhichitta. He cited verses from Shantideva that highlight the qualities of serving others.
For one who fails to exchange his own happiness for the suffering of others, Buddhahood is certainly impossible—how could there even be happiness in cyclic existence? 8/131
All those who suffer in the world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others. 8/129
Why say more? Observe this distinction: between the fool who longs for his own advantage and the sage who acts for the advantage of others. 8/130
Generating bodhichitta involves wishing that others be free from suffering and aspiring to attain enlightenment to be able to bring that about. It entails doing your best to make others happy and seeking to become a Buddha for their sake.
Turning to the profound view and the way things exist His Holiness reiterated that we have a sense of an ‘I’, but when we look for it, we can’t find it. He repeated a verse from Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ that he has reworked to be able to reflect on this.
I am neither one with the aggregates, nor different from the aggregates,
The aggregates are not (dependent) on me, nor am I (dependent) on the aggregates.
I don’t possess the aggregates.
Who am I? 22/1
There is an ‘I’ here, but you can’t find it when you seek it. Neither you nor the aggregates exist inherently.
His Holiness encouraged his listeners to reflect on the awakening mind and visualize this mind transformed into a radiant moon disc at their hearts. Next, he invited them to reflect on ultimate bodhichitta, emptiness, the absence of inherent existence, and imagine that transforming into a white five spoked vajra standing on the moon disc. Finally, he urged them to visualize a similar moon and vajra at the heart of the Lama from which a replica comes forth and dissolves into the moon and vajra at their own hearts.
In answering questions from young Tibetan students His Holiness suggested that when someone else does something wrong, it’s appropriate to view them with compassion. He also recalled Shantideva’s advice that those who cause us to suffer can be our best teachers.
With regard to karma, he observed that the pain and pleasure we experience now depend on our actions as human beings. Sometimes people shrug complacently and declare, “There’s nothing to be done. It’s just my karma.” “We Tibetans lost our country, but we didn’t say, ‘O, it was just our karma’ and give up. We’ve done our best to keep our identity and our culture alive.”
“When you are trying to deal with your own anger,” His Holiness advised, “it’s helpful to reflect on the faults of anger and hatred and the advantages of compassion and the awakening mind. Because of my own practice of love and compassion I feel at peace within. I think you can see this in my smile. If you let yourself be overcome by anger, you’ll not be able to help others or yourself.”
His Holiness told a young woman who asked about how to understand emptiness of inherent existence and dependent arising that the example of a reflection of a face in a mirror is a coarse expression of emptiness. He suggested she examine how things we relate to in the ordinary world appear to be inherently existent. He commented that within the different Buddhist philosophical schools emptiness is understood at different levels of subtlety.
The Consequentialist or Prasangika School assert that nothing whatever has any inherent existence. Things are merely designated by our own conceptual minds. He added that dependent arising is understood on different levels of subtlety too.
In his ‘Illuminating the Intent’ Tsongkhapa discusses three verses from chapter six of ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ (verses 34, 35 & 36) that mention the four logical absurdities that ensue if it is asserted that things and beings exist inherently. They are that a noble being’s mind, totally absorbed in emptiness, would be a destroyer of entities; that conventional truth would withstand the analysis of a reasoning mind; that the absolute production of things could not be denied, and that the Buddha’s statement ‘phenomena lack self-existence’ would not hold true.
His Holiness remarked that appearances dispel the extreme of existence, while emptiness counters the extreme of nihilism. He counselled that once you acknowledge dependent arising, you’ll be able to realize emptiness. However, to gain insight into the ultimate nature of things, you need to gather great stores of merit and wisdom.
Asked to compare great compassion with the awakening mind, His Holiness explained that to have great compassion is not only to wish that beings be free from suffering but to be determined to help them achieve that goal. It’s when you realize you lack the ability to do this that you generate the awakening mind, the determination to attain Buddhahood to be of real help to other beings.
He noted two approaches for generating the awakening mind — the method of seven causes and one result and the method of equalizing and exchanging self and others. The latter approach is more effective and is presented in detail in Shantideva’s ‘Entering into the Way of the Bodhisattva’. Cultivating bodhichitta is the best way to fulfil the interests of others and yourself. The ‘Offering to the Spiritual Master’ (Lama Chöpa) says:
Since self-centredness is the doorway to all torment,
While caring for my mothers is the foundation for all that is good,
Inspire me to make the core of my practice
The yoga of exchanging myself for others.
Proceeding in this way from happiness to happiness, what thinking person would despair, after mounting the carriage, the awakening mind, which carries away all weariness and effort? 7/30
Responding to a question about depression His Holiness observed that when the mind is narrowly focussed on a single person’s needs it may be liable to become depressed. A good way to throw off such despondency is to open your heart to others and concern yourself with their welfare instead.
A member of the committee who organized these two days of teachings thanked His Holiness for these teachings and for all the teachings he has given over many decades. He prayed that His Holiness will live long and in the best of health.
“As I’ve already mentioned today,” His Holiness responded, “the best thing you can do is to study and practise. Engage in extensive learning and integrate what you’ve learned with your mind. Buddhism is not just about having faith; it’s about developing understanding. I’ve already suggested that you read Shantideva’s ‘Entering into the Way of a Bodhisattva’ and Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way, but you can also help each other by discussing what you’ve read.