Bodhgaya, Bihar, India – A pall of chilly mist lay over Bodhgaya this morning as His Holiness the Dalai Lama took the short drive from Gaden Phelgyeling, the Tibetan Monastery, to the Kalachakra Ground. The street was lined by smiling well-wishers including drummers from Ladakh. His Holiness waved to them as he passed.
Just inside the gate to the teaching ground His Holiness paused before a new stone statue of the Buddha commissioned by the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMG). Members of the committee we there to welcome him. Supported by monks from Namgyal Monastery His Holiness chanted verses to consecrate the image, their recitations punctuated by tossing handfuls of flower petals into the air by way of blessing.
His Holiness was able to disembark from the golf cart right at the edge of the stage in front of the throne, from where he waved to the 50,000 strong crowd, that included approximately 15,000 from more than 50 countries, to the right, the left and straight ahead. Turning around he saluted the statue of the Buddha behind the throne. He greeted Sakya Gongma Rinpoché, Sakya Trizin and other members of the Sakya family. On the opposite side he greeted Ganden Tri Rinpoché and Jangtsé Chöjé Rinpoché, as well as the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament and the Sikyong Penpa Tsering.
Once His Holiness had taken his seat a group of Theravadin monks gathered before him to chant the ‘Mangala Sutta’ in Pali. This was followed by a lilting recitation of the ‘Heart Sutra’ and a mandala offering in Tibetan. Meanwhile tea and bread were served.
“Whatever kind of discourse is being given,” His Holiness began, addressing the crowd, “it’s important that we first check our motivation. This applies to both the teacher and the taught. We should avoid the eight worldly concerns. The teacher should neither be selfish nor only in search of peace. Disciples should not be absorbed by the pleasures of this life. All should seek to benefit others.
“We’ll recite the verse for taking refuge and cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are the objects of refuge and the reason we turn to them is to attain unsurpassable enlightenment in order to be able to lead all sentient beings to liberation.
“Having met with the teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni, it’s good to recognise that whatever he taught was rooted in his own experience. He had overcome all mental afflictions and the obstructions to knowledge that are their residue. As is written in the ‘Sublime Continuum’ (Uttaratantra), all sentient beings have the potential to attain Buddhahood, but their minds are shrouded in defilements.
“Since the defilements are not of the same nature as the mind, they can be eliminated and the intrinsic, luminous, clear light nature of the mind can be made manifest. This means that we can achieve the omniscient state that the Buddha has reached.
“Defilements leave residual stains that function as obstructions to knowledge, but they too can be overcome. Because the nature of the mind is clear light, it is stainless by nature. It is by purifying our minds that we can achieve the same state as the Buddha. And it is possible to purify our minds because the various defilements are adventitious and temporary, while the intrinsic nature of the mind is clear and knowing. It is clear light.
“From my own experience, having reflected long on the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness—method and wisdom—I infer that mental defilements are only temporary. They do not obscure our minds forever. Although I have not developed single-pointed concentration, I think that of the five-fold path I can achieve the path of preparation.
“The antidotes to our mental defilements and obstructions to knowledge are two—bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness. It we develop these we can achieve Buddhahood as Shakyamuni has done. We can cultivate the courage and determination to do so because the basic nature of the Buddha’s mind and our minds is the same. The mind we have now will ultimately become the mind of a Buddha.”
His Holiness remarked that Vasubandhu declared the Buddha’s teaching to have two aspects, one consisting of scriptures and the other comprising realization. He added that we will not gain realization or overcome defilements and obscurations just on the basis of words. Having learned what the teaching means, we must apply it within. Then, whatever we may be doing, we’ll be able to see how the mind’s defilements can be reduced and eliminated. His Holiness reiterated that it is the clear light nature of the mind that makes it possible for us to overcome defilements and manifest the omniscient state of a Buddha.
Through the practice of bodhichitta we can fulfil our own goals as well as the goals of others. Therefore, we pledge to generate the awakening mind. Having cultivated this aspiration to enlightenment, we determine to work for the benefit of all sentient beings.
His Holiness announced, “Today, the teaching is focussed on ‘In Praise of the Dharmdhatu’ by Nagarjuna. The text begins with homage to the dharmadhatu that is the Buddha nature that abides in every sentient being. But because they aren’t aware of it, they spin through the cycle of existence. However, when what gives rise to the cycle of existence is purified, it becomes nirvana and likewise, dharmakaya, the Truth Body of a Buddha. The empty nature of the Buddha’s mind and our minds is just the same. We can have confidence that because dharmadhatu is stainless, it is possible to attain the Dharmakaya.
“We regard things as having independent existence, which is to cling to ignorance. We must recall instead that the nature of the mind is empty, and things are merely designated. As long as the clear light nature of the mind is shrouded in defilements, we remain sentient beings. When they are removed, we become enlightened.”
His Holiness mentioned that of the five obscurations mentioned in verse 19 he has amended the name of the first from desire to regret. He repeated that when we can understand that defilements are temporary and that there are antidotes to them, we will appreciate that it is possible to attain enlightenment. Although the three poisons, desire, anger and ignorance are powerful, they can be overcome. We must be confident we can achieve this goal.
“We’ve gathered here in this sacred location where enlightenment took place,” His Holiness observed, “and we’ve gone through this text ‘In Praise of Dharmadhatu’. On my part, I do my best to cultivate the awakening mind of bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness every day, not with a view to this life alone, but, as the famous verse says, ‘as long as space remains’. I urge you my Dharma friends to do the same as best you can.”
A thanksgiving mandala was offered followed by a recitation of the Words of Truth, composed by His Holiness. The session concluded with the following prayer:
May the operation of evil thoughts and negative deeds among human and non-human beings
Who harbour malice through their perverted prayers
Against the teaching of the Victorious One
Be totally vanquished by the power of truth of the Three Jewels.