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His Holiness the Dalai Lama Begins a Series of Teachings at Gyutö Tantric College

Sidhbari, HP, India, 10 May 2015 - Approximately 5000 people gathered today at the Gyutö Ramoche Temple in Sidhbari below Dharamsala to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They included a large number of monks from the two Tantric Colleges of Gyumey and Gyutö and lay-people filling the large temple hall, its surrounding verandas and even the yard below. The customary introductory prayers, including the ‘Heart of Wisdom’ the salutation from the ‘Ornament for Clear Realization’, the ‘Praise to the 17 Masters of Nalanda, were said. The incumbent Abbot of Gyutö. Jhado Rinpoche offered the mandala and three representations of the body, speech and mind of enlightenment and His Holiness began to teach.

He explained that Gyutö Monastery has made long-standing requests for teachings, many of them quite extensive, which it would be tiring for him to fulfil all at once, but he thought there was an opportunity to give some of them now. He had decided to teach Jamyang Shayba’s ‘Seven Chapters of Vajrabhairava’, which he taught once before at Gyumey Tantric College in South India. A requirement to listen to such a teaching is to have received a tantric empowerment and as there is a saying in Gyumey and Gyutö, “Wherever you go, Guhyasamaja is done,” His Holiness decided he would give a Guhyasamaja empowerment on this occasion.

He remarked that on completing his explanation of Guhyasamaja, Je Tsongkhapa asked who would preserve and uphold this teaching. Je Sherab Sengey stood up and said, “I will.” In due course he was to found Se-gyu Monastery and later Gyumey. His Holiness mentioned that Nagarjuna was the principle exponent of the explicit content of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, the explanation of emptiness. He and his disciples Aryadeva and Chandrakirti made Guhyasamaja the main focus of their tantric practice and this is the tradition Gyumey and Gyutö, the two tantric colleges of Central Tibet maintain.

His Holiness clarified that granting a tantric empowerment is not just a matter of going through the ritual. You have to be more practical than that since you also need a basic understanding of the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness, both of which are explained in the sutras. He said that one aspect of tantric practice involves visualizing ourselves as a deity and to do that we need some understanding of emptiness, a sense that things do not have a solid independent existence. It is through such an understanding that we overcome our disturbing emotions.

Regarding the general structure of Buddhism, we have to study. Je Tsongkhapa said there are many yogis who do not have much training or the acumen to analyse the meaning of the scriptures. His Holiness noted that amongst the gathering were abbots and former abbots of Gyumey and Gyutö, monks, nuns and laypeople, many Tibetans and among the foreigners a substantial number of Chinese brothers and sisters.

“We all follow the Nalanda tradition and because of that we all need to know what the Buddha’s teaching means. That’s why we need to study. The Buddha told his followers not to accept what he taught at face value nor just because he had said it, but to examine, investigate and experiment with it. This also means, ‘Don’t leave the teachings in the book, but apply them in practice’. Je Tsongkhapa also remarked that there are many learned ones who are unskilled in the essential points of practice. He also said rely on reason and logic, not faith alone. In this context, I’d like to say that when I first began to meet with scientists, the older abbots were wary. Now, I think both sides see the mutual benefit.”

Turning to the texts he wanted to read as preliminary instructions, His Holiness began with Je Tsongkhapa’s ‘Praise of Dependent Arising’, which he composed when he completed his study of Madhyamaka thought and finally understood emptiness. With an understanding of emptiness comes the understanding that cessation is possible. His Holiness said that he had received an explanation of this text from Khunu Lama Rinpoche, who in turn had received it from Gyen Rigzin Tempa, and a reading transmission from Trijang Rinpoche.

He continued with the ‘Song of Spiritual Experience’, which is the most concise of Tsongkhapa’s three presentations of the path. His Holiness again commended putting the teachings into practice as advised in verses 11 and 12:

Then, the root of creating well the auspicious conditions For all the excellences of this and future lives Is to rely properly with effort both in thought and action Upon the sublime spiritual mentor who reveals the path.

Seeing this we should never forsake him even at the cost of life And please him with the offering of implementing his words. I, a yogi, have practiced in this manner; You, who aspire for liberation, too should do likewise.

He also recalled what Milarepa said:

“I have nothing else to offer but my practice.”

His Holiness mentioned, in conclusion, that the ‘Song of Spiritual Experience’ is a summary of Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment’. He then read briskly through Tsongkhapa’s ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path’, which deals with the determination to be free, the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness. At the end, Tsongkhapa exhorts Ngawang Drakpa, to whom he sent this advice: Child, when you realize the keys Of the Three Principal Aspects of the Path, Depend on solitude and strong effort, And quickly reach the final goal.

Finally, His Holiness read the short ‘Song of Four Mindfulnesses’ composed by the Seventh Dalai Lama on the basis of a teaching that originated with Je Sherab Sengey. He said he had received it from Yongzin Ling Rinpoche. It succinctly explains mindfulness of the teacher, mindfulness of the awakening mind that aspires to enlightenment, mindfulness of your body as the body of a deity and mindfulness of the view of emptiness. When it came to the third mindfulness, His Holiness chuckled and said:

“We’ve got all these monks here who practise Guhyasamaja, but one of the Kadampa masters remarked: ‘Everyone has a deity to meditate on, and everyone has a mantra to recite, but they lack anything to think about.’”

Pointing out that the texts he had read support and supplement the practice of Guhyasamaja, His Holiness urged his listeners to learn the ‘Song of Four Mindfulnesses’ by heart and to read the other texts again and again. He will give the Guhyasamaja empowerment on Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday an explanation of Jamyang Shayba’s ‘Seven Chapters of Vajrabhairava’.