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Second Day of Teachings in Leura

Leura, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia, 6 June 2015 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama cut a solitary figure on the stage of the teaching hall again this morning as he began preparatory rituals for continuing the Vajrabhairava empowerment he began yesterday. Eventually people quietly began to fill the hall. Nuns and monks who occupied the front rows came first and laypeople followed until nearly 600 had taken their seats.

When he was ready, His Holiness took his place on the throne and announced the recitation of the ‘Heart of Wisdom’.

“The ‘Heart Sutra’ is one of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras that were taught during the second turning of the wheel of Dharma. It’s among teachings that were given to disciples whose pure karma allowed them to be aware of other levels of beings. It recounts a dialogue that took place between Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara, a celestial bodhisattva.

“There are several editions of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, which include renderings in 100,000 lines, in 25,000 lines, in 8,000 lines, in 150 lines, which is known as the ‘Diamond Cutter Sutra’ and this, the ‘Heart of Wisdom’ in 25 lines. The shortest expression of the Perfection of Wisdom is the syllable ‘A’, which indicates that things do not exist in the way they appear. They appear to be independently existent, but the syllable ‘A’ represents a negation of such objective existence. And it is a non-affirming negation that means nothing else is implied, which is also not to say that it’s nothing.

“It seems there may be translations of Perfection of Wisdom Sutras into Chinese that we don’t have in Tibetan. In fact, as far as the collection of translated words of the Buddha is concerned, there are more texts in the Chinese collection. But when it comes to the collection of translated treatises by subsequent Indian scholars, the number in the Tibetan collection is greater. Meanwhile there are also some scriptures only available in Pali. It will be good if we can create better access to scriptures missing from this or that collection.”

His Holiness explained that the explicit content of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras is the wisdom understanding emptiness, while the implicit content is how to make progress on the path. The Buddha prophesied that Nagarjuna would comment on the explicit content. Maitreya presented the implicit content in his ‘Ornament for Clear Realisation’, to which there are numerous commentaries in Sanskrit and Tibetan.

Nagarjuna’s works explain how we overcome our distorted views by cultivating a correct view, which involves the realisation of suchness and dependent arising. His Holiness remarked that the essential view of Buddhism is dependent arising, while the conduct is non-violence. While it is commonly accepted that an effect is dependent on its cause, a subtler interpretation of dependent arising is that cause is also dependent on its effect.

Recalling that Je Tsongkhapa was one of three emanations of Manjushri in Tibet, the others being Sakya Pandita and Longchen Rabjampa, His Holiness referred to his account of his spiritual education, ‘Destiny Fulfilled’, in which he says:

I trained to familiarize myself with a path comprising The common path and the exclusive path with its two stages, The two Mahayana systems.

He meant that he trained in the Perfection Vehicle and the Vajra Vehicle, which, employing the subtle mind of clear light, has the potential to lead to Buddhahood and the attainment of the four bodies of a Buddha.

The Sakyas refer to this in their teachings on the Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana. The Nyingmas refer to it in Dzogchen, the Great Completion, and the Kagyus refer to it in Mahamudra. There are differences in the way they meditate on it, but all involve the basic mind of clear light.

His Holiness drew attention to the four reliances that guide Buddhist investigation: not relying on the person, but on his words; not relying on the words, but on their meaning; not relying on the conventional meaning, but on the ultimate meaning; and not relying only sensory evidence, but on the mind.

And with a reminder that the disciples had been asked to observe their dreams, His Holiness resumed the process of the empowerment. As a further preliminary he conducted a short ceremony to give the vows of a lay follower, and generate the awakening mind of bodhichitta. He pointed out that the foundation for Buddhists to take vows is taking refuge in the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the teacher; the Dharma, the true path and the Sangha who are our companions on the path. He praised altruism as the best of attitudes, which counters a self-cherishing disposition and ensures our physical and mental well-being.

Returning to the hall after lunch, His Holiness divulged that the vajra vehicle is to be practised in secret. He said:

“The Perfection of Wisdom teachings were not given openly in public and the tantras were taught to even more select disciples. The secrecy is related to disciples’ different mental aptitudes. For example, there are two ways to cultivate bodhichitta, the method of seven causes and one result and the method of equalizing and exchanging self and others. Of the two, the second is called secret, not because there is anything to hide, but because it is not suitable for everyone.”

He gave Bodhisattva and tantric vows before embarking on the actual empowerment. At the end he announced that tomorrow he will begin to explain the Five Stages of Guhyasamaja and the Six Yogas of Vajrabhairava.