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Long-Life Empowerment and Long-Life Offering in Leh

Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India, 30 July 2015 - The early morning air was fresh and low light illuminated the distant peaks as His Holiness the Dalai Lama set off from Spituk Monastery today. He and thousands of others was headed for the Shiwatsel teaching ground on the other side of the Leh valley.  On arrival he greeted the Lamas, dignitaries and guests and took his seat on the throne to prepare for the White Tara empowerment. Down at the front of the platform monks engaged in vigorous debate.

The ground, where His Holiness has twice given the Kalachakra Empowerment, steadily filled with people. Eventually there were estimated to be 50,000, most of them seated under umbrellas to defend themselves against the blazing sun.

After customary recitations of praises to Buddha Shakyamuni, His Holiness addressed the crowd:

"Today we're not here for a picnic, but to learn how to calm our minds, how to achieve peace of mind. All 7 billion human beings alive today are the same in wanting happiness and not wanting to be miserable. We also all have the same kind of brain and at the back a section that is the seat of our emotions. In recent years, scientists have discovered that the brain is adaptable according to the way it is used, which is known as neuroplasticity. So, we have to think carefully about what we do. Human beings have a special quality of intelligence and discriminative awareness. It is this that has given rise to the progress and material development human beings have achieved. Animals don't have such ability.

"Material development and technological progress have had an impact on all our lives. We have better health, we live longer and we are more comfortable than in the past, but the question is whether we are actually happier. If material development alone really brought lasting happiness, people living in highly developed countries should be completely happy. But this is not so. Many of us still face a great deal of suffering and unease. Another aspect of our human intelligence is our ability to think about ourselves and those close to us, to remember the past and speculate about the future. The result is that we are beset by concerns and worries that disturb our peace of mind."

His Holiness went on to say that today, despite the amount of wealth in the world, there is a huge gap between rich and poor. He suggested this is because we think and act wrongly; we lack real love and compassion for others. This is a mistake. Science has shown that negative emotions like fear, anger and anxiety cause our immune systems to decline, whereas positive emotions like love, compassion and concern for others actually improve our physical well-being. He said:

"I'm not talking about anything to do with religion here, but about practical concerns that have a bearing on our day to day lives. There is a growing consensus today that our education systems are too focused on material development with little room for the inner values."

He mentioned that many ancient Indian traditions, including Buddhism, employed practices to cultivate concentration and special insight. Consequently, they have acquired a wealth of knowledge about the workings of the mind. But, he said, acknowledging or appreciating them is not enough; they will only be effective if implemented in practice. He explained how he likes to view the contents of the Buddhist scripture in three categories: science, philosophy and religion. The religious category is only of interest to Buddhists, but the science, particularly the science of the mind and philosophy have a universal appeal. Anyone can study and draw benefit from them because they are based on logic and scientific observation.

Citing the quotation about Buddha's not washing beings' unwholesome deeds away with water, nor removing their sufferings with their hands, His Holiness repeated that the Buddha's kindness is to reveal reality and the path to liberation. He noted that the foundation of the Buddha's teaching is the Four Noble Truths, the truths of suffering, its cause, its cessation and the path to that. The focus of the second turning of the wheel of Dharma was the Perfection of Wisdom teachings that essentially elaborate on the final two truths, cessation and the path. During the third turning of the wheel, the Buddha taught the nature of the mind, which is clarity and awareness. The mind of clear light, the most subtle awareness within us is employed in tantra.

"What principally disturb our peace of mind and bring us suffering are the three poisons or the disturbing emotions of desire, hatred and ignorance. We have to learn how to tackle these and to do that we need to use our intelligence to develop wisdom. What we learn from study or reading without analysis is shallow. If we think about and analyse it our understanding will become stable and firm, and if we then meditate on what we've understood we will gain the confidence of conviction. One of the most powerful ways of applying analysis, as we've seen yesterday and today, is debate. This method was developed at Nalanda, Vikramashila and Odantapuri, but mostly at Nalanda and was later rigorously preserved in Tibet."

His Holiness then turned to the text of a praise he himself composed extolling the 17 great masters of Nalanda of which he said he would give the reading transmission. Following a verse of praise to the Buddha who first taught dependent arising the work goes on to praise Nagarjuna, who further elucidated it and established the Middle Way School of thought. It goes on to praise his followers, Aryadeva, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti, Shantideva, Shantarakshita and Kamalashila. He explained that the teaching of dependent arising, that all things depend on other factors and hence do not have independent or intrinsic existence is a theory that opens our minds to reality.

His Holiness explained that there are two aspects of the Buddhist path, wisdom, the understanding of dependent arising and emptiness of intrinsic existence and method which includes conduct involving love and compassion. The Nalanda masters who belong to that lineage include Asanga and Vasubhandu. Also mentioned for their contribution to logic and epistemology are Dignaga and Dharmakirti, for clarifying the Perfection of Wisdom commentaries - Vimuktisena and Haribadra, and for their contribution to understanding Vinaya or monastic discipline - Gunaprabha and Shakyaprabha. Final mention is given to Atisha, the master who came to Tibet and taught how wisdom and method or the profound and vast are expounded in the paths of the three individuals.

Having completed his reading of 'Illuminating the Threefold Faith', His Holiness briskly read the 'Eight Verses for Training the Mind'. He remarked that there are many practices for training the mind and developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta, such as the practice of exchanging self with others. Techniques for developing the awakening mind can be found in the treatises of all 17 Nalanda masters, but especially in Shantideva's 'Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life'.

His Holiness went on to give the empowerment of White Tara focussed on longevity, in the course of which he led the gathering in a short ceremony for developing the aspirational awakening mind. As the empowerment concluded celebration of the Long-Life Offering being made to His Holiness began. Prominent local Lamas, Ganden Tri Rinpoche, Thiksey Rinpoche, Togden Rinpoche, Bakula Rinpoche and Chöngön Rinpoche made the initial mandala offering to His Holiness. The procession of offerings that is part of the ceremony involved 1100 local people, many turned out in their finest clothes. They also included leaders and representatives from the Sunni and Shia Muslim communities and the Christian community.

As the ceremony came to an end, His Holiness spoke up again. First of all he said he wanted to teach the children and students present the mantra of Manjushri, recitation of which helps improve intelligence. In remarks to the Tibetans in the audience he apologised for not being able to meet them separately because his visit was so short. He told them that although he had completely retired from political responsibility in 2011 in favour of the elected leadership, it wasn't because he'd lost interest in Tibet. He acknowledged that there are many inside Tibet and in exile who continue to place their trust and hope in him and he continues to feel a responsibility towards them. He remarked that the Tibetan spirit remains as strong as ever. He also mentioned the value of the Tibetan language and the importance of keeping it alive. He referred to it as the most accurate language for expressing Buddhist ideas. This becomes more significant in the light of Xi Jinping's remarks about the crucial role of Buddhism in Chinese culture and the growing number of Chinese Buddhists.

He said he's been told that drunkenness is a serious and growing social and health problem and remarked that getting drunk solves nothing. Another completely different issue that doctors have brought to his attention is organ donation, which he said he'd like to encourage. It's a real way of being of benefit to others, he said, and it is possible to make a will to the effect that your organs can be given to others. As an inspiring traditional example, he cited the case of Khangsar Dorje Chang who explicitly asked that his body not be cremated but be given a sky burial. He had said that there might not be much flesh on his bones, but what there was could at least be of benefit to some birds.

Finally, His Holiness commended Ladakhis for the steps they are taking to improve and participate in education. He repeated the need to follow the threefold approach of study, reflection and meditation for education to have a real effect. At the end of a private lunch with his hosts, local Lamas and members of the local administration, he remembered his offer to give an edition of the Tengyur, the translated collection of Indian masters' treatises, to the Leh Jokhang. He told his guests that he would like to donate his own copy from his quarters at Shiwatsel Phodrang in the hope that in due course the Jokhang may become a library and centre of learning.

Tomorrow, His Holiness will leave Leh early by plane for Delhi.