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Second Day of Teachings for Mongolian Buddhists and Vajrabhairava Preliminary Initiation

New Delhi, India, 3 December 2013 - The necessary preparations were already complete when His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived in the Kempinski Hotel Ballroom early this morning. He took a seat beside the teaching throne facing the small mandala house, ritual cakes and other offerings arrayed at the back of the stage. He then performed the requisite self-initiation for the Vajrabhairava empowerment he was due to give later in the day. As the hall gradually filled with people, the quiet was occasionally punctuated by the ringing of His Holiness’s bell, sometimes accompanied by the drumming of his damaru.

Resuming the textual teaching where he had left off yesterday, he turned to the second of the two texts by Je Tsongkhapa, the ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’. He explained that right in the first verse were references to the Three Aspects, the determination to be free, the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom of the correct view, along with a pledge to compose the text. He outlined three approaches to each of the aspects of the path - considering why we need to fulfil them, how we should do so and the measure of having done so. He said that when we talk about the determination to be free, it is based on a sense of dissatisfaction with the attractions of this life.

If we ask how to cultivate a determination to be free, we have also to ask why we cling to this life, why we grasp at the pleasures of this life and the answer is that we tend to see the impure as pure. We are subject to the eight worldly concerns and driven by the four wrong attitudes: seeing what is impermanent as permanent; what is suffering as pleasant; what is impure as pure and what is selfless as being self-existent.

Nagarjuna says the Buddha’s teachings show that suffering comes about through causes and conditions, but when it meets a counter force it stops. For example, when the conditions for life cease, death ensues. Whatever is born through causes and conditions is set to disintegrate. At a subtle level, there is momentary change, which scientists can see on a microscopic level. The very cause that brings something about, also brings about its disintegration, therefore things are impermanent and disintegrate moment by moment.

Next, His Holiness spoke about karma, which is intentional action that will ripen in feelings of pain or pleasure. He said:

“Some lazy people resort to complaining, blaming what happens to them on their ‘karma’. If the karma you have created is weak, you can counter it by stronger positive action. We create karma by grasping at the true existence of the self.”

The next principle in the text is generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta, without which wisdom will not bring us to enlightenment. Cultivating a warm heart attracts friends, whereas self-centredness yields no joy.

“Behind me is a painting of the 17 Nalanda masters. They were the top scholars of Nalanda, who used their human intelligence to the maximum. They investigated the nature of things and they too concurred that the awakening mind of bodhichitta is the most effective way to benefit yourself and others. They stressed the extensive Bodhisattva deeds and profound wisdom. Shantideva describes the awakening mind of bodhichitta as a treasure fulfilling the wishes of sentient beings; the elixir that cures all their ills and overcomes their fatigue.”

When it comes to the wisdom of the third principal aspect of the path, Je Tsongkhapa refers to things being merely designated. Things arising through dependent origination means they are free from the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. They have no objective existence, they are merely designated. They do not exist in the solid, concrete way they appear to do. His Holiness vouchsafed:

“One of the people who inspired me to take an interest in emptiness was a Mongolian scholar called Geshe Ngodrup Tsoknyi, who was one of my debate partners. We had agreed to go over Je Rinpoche’s (Tsongkhapa’s) ‘Essence of Eloquence’ once I’d completed my Geshe exams; but circustances changed.”

When we talk about dependent origination, we can say that contact, contingency and dependence are synonymous. As a cause ceases, its effect arises. There is contact between the ceasing of the cause and the arising of the effect. There is contingency between and whole and its parts. As already stated, things exist in dependence on other factors, they are merely designated, and they have not the slightest objective existence.

The text says, ‘when you understand the arising of cause and effect from the viewpoint of emptiness, you are not captivated by either extreme view’.

His Holiness talked about arguments in the past as well as the present about whether the Mahayana, the Sanskrit tradition, and particularly the Vajrayana were really taught by the Buddha. Nagarjuna challenged this, as did other Nalanda masters. This is something we need to understand.

He explained that the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, of which the third is about cessation. The Mahayana elaborates on this in terms of emptiness. What is known as the first turning of the wheel of the Dharma dealt with the Four Noble Truths; the second dealt with the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the third presented what is definitive and what interpretable in the teachings, as well as the notion of Buddha nature. The Pali tradition concerns the first turning of the wheel, whereas the Sanskrit tradition or Mahayana and Vajrayana concern the second and third turnings.

Another disputed topic His Holiness alluded to was the final status of the Buddha. The traditional account tells of his birth as a prince, his renunciation, austerities and attainment of enlightenment under the bodhi tree. He is said to have practised for three countless aeons after having first given rise to the awakening mind. He attained enlightenment at the age of 35 and then taught and served the Dharma for 46 years after that. Teachers like Nagarjuna challenged the implication that in the end such immense effort came to nothing. The notion of the four bodies of a Buddha, the form body, truth body, complete enjoyment body and emanation body are a way of explaining this.

After lunch, His Holiness began the preparatory procedures for the preliminary empowerment of Vajrabhairava. He said:

“Just as we know the gateway to the Mahayana is generating the awakening mind, the gateway to the Vajrayana is empowerment. “

Speaking about the qualities of Vajrabhairava, he said he embodies both wrathful and peaceful aspects and that if you focus on the practice of the one, you also reap the fruit of the other. It is also a tantra that incorporates aspects from both Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara.

For a complete empowerment, the disciple should hold individual liberation vows as well as Bodhisattva vows. While taking the Bodhisattva vows will be part of the main empowerment tomorrow, His Holiness gave the vows of a lay practitioner today. He pointed out that such vows are given and taken on the basis of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Regarding the Vajrabhairava empowerment, His Holiness said this was the first Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment he received at the age of 7 or 8. The last Vajrabhairava empowerment he received from Ling Rinpoche at Bodhgaya in the year before he passed away.

As part of the preliminary empowerment, the students were given a blessed protection cord, and a long and short piece of kusha grass to put under their mattresses to clarify their dreams, which they were advised to observe.

His Holiness undertook to give the actual empowerment tomorrow.