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Second Day of ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ in Osaka

Osaka, Japan, 11 May 2016 - Arriving in the hall of the Osaka International Conference Center this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked to the front of the stage and saluted the applauding audience to the right, left and middle with folded hands.

“Good morning everybody,” he began, “we know that the Buddha appeared in the world, although there is disagreement about when. The question is whether he attained enlightenment in that very life, or was enlightened long before. The Pali tradition says he was an ordinary person who became the Buddha in the course of one meditative sitting. Maitreya’s ‘Sublime Continuum’ lists 12 deeds of the Buddha’s life, some performed as a bodhisattva and some as a Buddha. It is hard to conceive of his accumulating merit and insight over three countless aeons, but it is also difficult to believe that he attained enlightenment in one life. The former account from the Sanskrit tradition seems more reasonable.

“The common narrative is that the Buddha attained enlightenment and turned the wheel of Dharma when he taught the Four Noble Truths. The second turning of the wheel, dealing with the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, is not historically recorded, so some people dispute whether the Buddha taught them at all. However, Nagarjuna, Maitreya and Bhavaviveka wrote exhaustively defending the authenticity of this Sanskrit tradition. Its focus was phenomena’s lack of inherent existence.”

His Holiness observed that the ‘Heart Sutra’, involving a conversation between Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara, is a well-known example of the Sanskrit tradition. He added that the ‘Sutra Unravelling the Thought’, which was given at Vaishali, refers to the third turning of the wheel of Dharma. He remarked that the traditional praise known as the Six Ornaments and Two Supremes seems to belong to the third turning of the wheel because several masters of the Middle View - Chandrakirti, Bhavaviveka and Buddhapalita - are not included in it. Consequently, His Holiness composed a fuller praise to the ‘17 Masters of Nalanda’. The ‘Sutra Unravelling the Thought’ also speaks of disciples’ different capacities.

The Four Noble Truths, the truth of suffering, origin, cessation and path, are accepted by all schools of Buddhism and comprise the foundation of the teaching. Most important is understanding the third truth, cessation, which was explicitly explained in the 2nd Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. Meanwhile the 3rd Turning of the Wheel explained the nature of the mind, which forms the basis for the practice of tantra. The Buddha gave different teachings because he understood that disciples had different dispositions.

When he had first attained enlightenment the Buddha thought that if he were to teach what he had realized, no one else would understand. After he spending 49 days in retreat in the vicinity of the bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, the gods requested him to turn the wheel of Dharma. He sought out the companions with whom he had formerly undertaken austerities and who had parted from him when he broke his fast. As he approached them in Sarnath near Varanasi they determined not to salute him but found themselves unable to resist the urge to do so. He ordained them and his first instruction was how to wear the robes of a monk. After this he taught the Four Noble Truths.

He advised - know suffering, overcome its origin, achieve cessation and cultivate the path. Within that context, the four characteristics or attributes of suffering are impermanence, suffering, emptiness and selflessness. The four characteristics of the origin of suffering are causes, origin, strong production and condition. The four characteristics that refer to cessation are cessation, pacification, being superb and definite emergence, while the four characteristics that refer to the path are path, awareness, achievement and deliverance. Studying these attributes contributes to wisdom, which is in contrast to the observation that the source of this body we have now is ignorance.

The Buddha described three aspects of suffering. Everyone is familiar with the suffering of suffering. The suffering of change refers to the way pleasure changes into suffering. Non-Buddhist yogis seek to avoid this by entering the 4th absorption, a meditative state characterized by neutral feelings. The source of the third aspect, pervasive suffering, is karma and disturbing emotions, which in turn are rooted in ignorance.

His Holiness made clear that the basic structure of the Buddha’s teaching can be found in the instructions about the Four Noble Truths and the 37 Factors of Enlightenment, which are common to both Pali and Sanskrit traditions. The 37 Factors include the 4 foundations of mindfulness, the 4 supreme efforts, the 4 means to accomplishment, the 5 strengths, the 5 faculties and the Noble Eightfold Path.

Resuming his reading of chapter three of the ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life,’ His Holiness pointed out that only as human beings are we able to generate the awakening mind. Even then, as the text makes clear, it is rare - ‘Just as a blind man might find a jewel amidst a heap of rubbish, so this spirit of awakening has somehow arisen in me.’ It is invaluable - ‘It is the elixir of life produced to vanquish death in the world. It is an inexhaustible treasure eliminating poverty in the world.’

Nagarjuna expressed the aspiration of the awakening mind in this way:

May I always be an object of enjoyment For all sentient beings according to their wish And without interference, as are the earth, Water, fire, wind, herbs, and wild forests.

As he reached the end of the chapter His Holiness remarked that we all need such a good heart, a warm heart, which can be a source of peace in the world.

Reading chapter four - Conscientiousness - His Holiness drew attention to our real enemy, not someone physically threatening, but the disturbing emotions within our minds. They have been our foe for beginningless time and although we might make a physical enemy our friend, befriending the disturbing emotions would do no good.

After lunch His Holiness commented that the sessions today and yesterday had been conducted as if in classroom with no chanting at the beginning. However, he said, the day after tomorrow the ‘Heart Sutra’ will be chanted when will gives the permission of Manjushri and the prayer that begins: Obeisance to my Guru and Protector, Manjushri, Who holds at his heart a scriptural text symbolic of his seeing all things as they are

It is a prayer that is good to memorize. His Holiness mentioned that his own ordination master and tutor Ling Rinpoche used to recite this prayer and the Manjushri mantra regularly.

Turning back to the text he said:

“Someone who has taken the Bodhisattva vow has to carefully protect it, much as someone who is ill is careful of what they eat or how they behave. Mindfulness is important because of this need to be vigilant. Jain monks are exemplary in their vigilance to avoid harming other beings.”

Completing the fifth chapter, His Holiness went on to read the sixth, which concerns patience. The opening verse makes clear that anger destroys all the good conduct, such as generosity and paying respects to the Buddhas, which has been acquired over thousands of aeons. Therefore, patience has an important protective role. Reaching the end of the chapter at the end of the session, the penultimate verse summed up the spirit of the text:

Let alone attaining Buddhahood in the future, do you not see that in this life, fortune, fame, and happiness ensue from pleasing sentient beings?

The teaching will continue tomorrow.