Saturday, July 6, 2013

Introductory Talk

from "Commentary on the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva"
by HH Dalai Lama

The purpose, or benefit, and the essence of seeking the Dharma is that all sentient beings share a feeling of 'I' and an innate longing for happiness and peace, as well as a desire to avoid unhappiness and suffering.

This kind of feeling is experienced even by small insects. In the case of human beings, we can see that whether people come from the east, west, middle or border of their country and whether their skin is black, yellow or white, all seek happiness and the avoidance of unhappiness.

In our minds we may express the thought, "May I have happiness," even though we do not understand this feeling 'I' clearly. On the basis of this experience of 'I', we have such thoughts as, "May I be happy; may I not face difficulty; may I live long and not die; may I have a good livelihood with plenty of food and clothing." So everything comes back to the 'I'. After that, we think of 'my' relatives, 'my' country.

This is the same for every human being and is also true for all creatures down to tiny insects. So all beings have the same desires, such as the desire for happiness and aversion to suffering. To have these desires is our right, it is reasonable, and they can often be accomplished. We rely on different methods in pursuit of these goals, to suit our individual capacities and to deal with the varying degrees of suffering to be eliminated and of happiness to be gained.

Thus, seeking happiness and eliminating suffering involves beings of different capabilities in different ways. Some people accomplish great things and others lesser things. Generally speaking, compared with animals we human beings have an extensive range of kinds of happiness we try to attain and sufferings we try to eradicate. From the time when humankind came into being up to now, we have spent our lives pursuing those aims, although we may not have been aware that we were involved in such a pursuit from the moment of our birth. Gradually, as we grew older, our suffering and happiness become more broad-ranging and deeper and so more difficult to arose.

The most important method of seeking happiness and eliminating suffering is to increase knowledge, and so we make progress by establishing schools. There is also the suffering of the body to try to avoid. Hospitals have been established to treat the many different diseases. Likewise, the purpose of eating and drinking, and of working--is to seek happiness and eliminate suffering. In today's world we find a whole range of customs and systems, constitutions and policies, monetary standards and views, yet all have the same aim of seeking happiness and eliminating suffering and are simply different aspects and methods.

Among these, differing views have come into existence because people began to explore this issue somewhat more deeply. Among all the views which exist, there are those which do not stop at merely exploring the ways to bring about temporary happiness and relieve short-term suffering. By thinking and investigating deeply we arrive at the view of Dharma.

When we explore the suffering and happiness of the body more deeply, we find that although they are strong experiences, comparatively speaking the happiness and suffering of the mind are more powerful. Someone may have a healthy body and ample food and drink, but if he has an unhappy mind he may become crazy and even commit suicide.

Conversely, we can observe people who remain calm and happy even when there is a scarcity of food and drink. If we have mental happiness and quietude, then it is quite easy to bear the sufferings of the body. If our minds are too tense, however, immediately upon receiving one possession we want another and there is a great deal of expectation involved. When something goes slightly wrong, we cannot bear it. A mind like this, with no strong endurance, will always be dissatisfied even if the person lives in good circumstances. So we can see that the mind is of prime importance, and that we can eliminate mental suffering & derive mental happiness through our own way of thinking. main point is this: although we are facing much trouble and controversy, still there is hope and tranquility in our minds. Having a calm mind while facing difficulties is wholly profitable. It doesn't mean that by practicing the Dharma we will immediately eliminate starvation and thirst or increase our available amount of food and drink. But by thinking of the Dharma we experience tranquility and that tranquility gives us pleasure. This is worthwhile, isn't it?

So regardless of whether there is life after death, cause and effect and the Triple Gem or not, during our lifetime and in our day-to-day life we should keep our inner mind calm and not make trouble for our friends. It is very good to maintain a sense of humor, bring benefit to others and spend our life in this manner. Also, when we wake early in the morning, we should be aware of the possibility that something bad might happen to us today. Then if something bad does happen, our minds will be well prepared and we will be able to maintain an even state of mind. Before we go to sleep at night we should reflect on the good preparations we made by thinking such thoughts in the morning. Otherwise, if we expect to be calm and happy every day and think only from the positive side, our minds become disturbed when something unpleasant happens or we meet a person with whom we do not feel comfortable, and we have a restless night at the end of the day.

We should have the courage to bear whatever difficult circumstances may arise. There is no purpose in causing so much trouble, whereas there is benefit in enduring the problem. Most people are not able to practice in this way and be good-hearted to everyone, showing love to one another and helping one another. If we are able to increase this kind of behavior in society, then really and truly there is hope for peace in this world.

We have seen great material progress in the world, but big countries continue to humiliate small countries and many deaths occur as a result. Though they may believe they will find happiness and eliminate suffering in this way, actually there is more fighting, more famine, more deception, more tension and altogether more suffering endured by oppressed people in the 20th century.

This isn't happening because of scarcity of food or lack of facilities. Schools and hospitals have been developed, housing and transportation improved, food and drink supplies increased. But truth and honesty have been lost in society and that is why there is less happiness. Those with wealth and power can do whatever they want, whereas one who is truthful and hones but has no power or wealth will have no success.

So we return to that which is called the Dharma. Dharma should not be practiced only be people living in remote countries, by barbarians whose view are narrow. It should be practiced by open and broad-minded people. But there's nothing wonderful about construction of temples and monasteries per se, nor about prostrations, circumambulation and offerings themselves. Indeed, it's doubtful as to whether that is in fact Dharma. If inside our mind there is positive energy, then that is Dharma. If there is negative energy, that is not Dharma.

Dharma should be in our heart. If our mind is tamed, calm and relaxed, we are practicing Dharma. If someone wears a robe and speaks of the three baskets of Dharma but does not have a tame mind, he is not a Dharma practitioner. Whoever has Dharma is very open-minded, relaxed, humble and calm and naturally has a good heart; whereas he who deceives and belittles people and tells lies is not engaged in Dharma practice. The kind of behavior that really is Dharma practice consists of refraining from falsehood and abiding by the truth, neither humiliating nor mocking others, being humble and adopting a lowly position, having a good heart, helping others and sacrificing self.

Whether or not our conduct is known by others, if when we are about to die we feel that we have lived our lives in a bad way, then we will be very unhappy. The wealth we have accumulated by misconduct cannot be carried with us.

However, if we are good-mannered, with a kind nature and a good heart, staying calm and relaxed, benefiting others and always regarding ourself as lower than them, we can withstand a temporary scarcity of food and drink and can usually make good friends with everyone and they will become like our relatives. Then when we face difficulties it is likely that someone will help us.

In short, being good-hearted and polite brings happiness; being rude causes many bad things to happen.
The good example set by a Dharma practitioner, who acts with a good heart and compassionate mind towards sentient beings and society in general, can be recognized and accepted by everyone, whether or not they believe in life after death. From the point of view of this lifetime only, having a good heart and benefiting others are proper attitudes for everyone, whether they are Dharma practitioners or not.

So the essence of Dharma is generating a good heart, and the complete explanation of how to generate a good heart is given in the Mahayana teachings. Shakyamuni Buddha became enlightened 2,500 years ago. He gave varied and intensive, profound Dharma teachings in this way.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the age of two the child, who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.


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