Tuesday, January 05, 2010

HHDL: Day 1

It has been a memorable day, His Holiness was magnificent in his teachings, I really don’t think I can communicate how fortunate I am to be here, in the middle of this.

One of the things that is so special about His Holiness’ teachings in India is that he is not teaching to Americans or Australians or Europeans, he is teaching to Tibetans – his people. The Kalachakra Field was jammed with people, I’d say there are about 25,000 people there, truth is it is impossible to say, and I’d estimate 90% of them are Tibetans, with the remaining being a mix of Westerners and Indians. Of the Tibetans, three quarters are lamas, monks and nuns.

Unlike in the West, where he is publicly speaking primarily to non-Buddhists except for some special teachings, here he is speaking to Buddhists, i.e., Tibetan Tibetan Buddhists. And for these people he is spiritual leader, political leader, God-figure, and Dad. They love him, and he they.

So, after some prayers and recitation of the Heart Sutra, he spent this morning speaking not about the texts he’s going to teach, but about what he’s been up to, a report to his people. He spoke about conferences he’s attended in Spain and Poland, and a recent trip to Mongolia. He told them about advances in science and medicine, and how scientists and researchers are learning more and more about the mind. He mentioned Obama and China, and (with pride) about the pure “Nalanda” tradition the Gelugs follow, and how scholars around the world are in increasing agreement with its philosophies and practices.

He repeatedly “scolded” his people, telling them very early on that these teachings will be a waste of their time and his if they don’t use them to help turn their mind to dharma, and how they must study in order to become “21st Century Buddhists.”

During the morning teaching, monks came through the crowd, serving tea and Tibetan bread to everyone, in the afternoon it was again tea.

His Holiness’ afternoon teaching, on Nagarjuna, was brilliant, covering topics such as the nature of mind, the three major questions regarding self, a comparison of Buddhism and Jainism with the world’s monotheistic religions, a discussion of the Mahayana path, monastics and the monks of Mongolia, Buddha’s turning of the wheel of Dharma, a deep explanation of dependent origination, etc.

Do you see how wide-ranging incredible this is?

His voice is strong, with tone sometimes forceful, others gentle. He sits on a high seat, surrounded by glorious thangkas, monastics gathered on either side. He is animated, and thoughtful.

His two-hour teachings are in Tibetan, there is clear, almost simultaneous translation being FM broadcast, with frequencies for English, French, Russian, Spanish and Chinese students; a true world event. (There are very few Americans here, most of the Westerners here are Australian.)

Here’s some quotes I jotted down, perhaps you’ll find some meaning in them:

“Buddhism provides the most profound and relevant explanations of the workings of mind.”

“You can’t buy love and compassion with money, these must be cultivated within yourself.”

“The mind that asserts that there is a self that is independent of the aggregates . . . Buddha said this is evil, a devilish mind.”

“If you don’t want to be a monk, don’t wear the robes.”

“Altruism is a medicine that can overcome 100 diseases.”

(Speaking to the Tibetan people who came to this teaching from Tibet): So, have you heard something new? There are so many restrictions placed on you by the Chinese. When you get back, tell people about dependent origination. And if they ask you a question you don’t know the answer to, tell them, ‘I don’t know, but there is something . . .’”

“In the Himalayan region people are faithful without much understanding – we must be 21st Century Buddhists; we must cultivate faith based on reason and understanding.”

“Understanding dependent origination is having the path to liberation.”

“There is no self that is separate from the aggregates; there is no self-sufficient autonomous self.”

“All objects of knowledge exist in name only, not from their own side.”

“If words and their meaning were not different, the word ‘fire’ would burn the mouth.”

”Things arise due to causes and conditions and thus are unborn.”

“Be critical and check over and over again.”

“An existent thing does not arise.”

“There is no thing that is not dependent, therefore there is no thing that is not empty.”

“There is no present moment, therefore we cannot posit ‘past’ or ‘future’ in relation to this.”


Tomorrow it’s two more teachings. We’ll go deeper into Buddhist scholarship with Atisha’s practice-oriented Lam-rim writings. Very fantastic and, at times, surreally wonderful.

It’s the Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya. He is at the exact center of this huge and exquisite mandala that's been created on the plains of Northern India, a mandala of pure Dharma preciousness that we've been invited to enter, open our minds to, and benefit from.

Stopping my finger now, thanks for reading.