Riga, Latvia, 6 May 2014 - Before setting out for the teaching venue this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met the Press at his hotel. In a short introduction it was pointed out that this is his fourth visit to Latvia, distinguished by his giving Buddhist teachings attended by people from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia.
“I am very happy to be here,” His Holiness said. “Last year when I was here, besides requests from local people, an ordinary Russian told me it was difficult for people like him to come to India to listen to Buddhist teachings. I wondered if it might be easier for Russians to come to one of the Baltic States. I asked and was told it would be fine, so decided to come.”
He then explained his three primary commitments, trying to extend public awareness of the importance of human values in finding happiness, the promotion of inter-religious harmony and the defence and preservation of Tibetan language, religion, culture and environment. Then he answered journalists’ questions.
Asked his response to the Norwegian government’s announcement that no member would meet him, he said it was not unusual. However, the purpose of his visit was to promote his three commitments, to meet old friends and interact with the public. He added that wherever he goes, he has no wish to cause any trouble.
Regarding the violence that is occurring in several parts of the world, he said that many instances were the result of past negligence. He cautioned that use of weapons may appear decisive, but brings fear which does not favour a solution to problems. Where the 20th century was an era of violence, he stressed the importance of making the 21st century a century of dialogue and peaceful solutions to conflict. At a time when we need to exert special efforts to promote human values, to which women tend to be more sensitive, we need more women to take up leadership roles.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with members of
the press during his visit to Riga, Latvia on May 6, 2014. Photo/Tenzin
Asked about the ongoing disagreement between Russia and Ukraine, he said it was a political issue about which he did not feel fully informed. Whatever aim is adopted to defuse the crisis, the use of force will not help fulfil it. He pointed out that differences of language and culture are no grounds for conflict. He cited the example of the French and Flemish speakers of Belgium and the peoples of India who live amicably together in freedom and democracy under the rule of law.
Greeting the audience waiting for him at the Kipsala International Exhibition Centre, he asked for the ‘Heart Sutra’ to be recited in Russian. He quoted the Buddha’s saying:
“On my part I will show you the path, but you have to travel it,” adding the following verse:
“Buddhas do not wash unwholesome deeds away with water,
Nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands,
Neither do they transplant their own realization into others.
Teaching the truth of suchness they liberate (beings).”
He spoke of suffering coming about because of unwholesome actions, doing harm to others. Therefore, we should avoid unwholesome action. He remarked that the Buddha described as changeable suffering what we usually think of as happiness. Although it arises from wholesome action, being changeable it is unsatisfactory. The cause of suffering is ignorance that is diametrically opposed to reality. Because ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, we need to understand what reality is. Ignorance is the first of the twelve links of dependent origination. It is ignorance of reality, of how things exist. We need to understand the gap between appearance and reality. Things appear to exist by themselves. They appear to exist independently, but they actually exist only by designation.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting the audience at the start of the second day of his two day teaching in Riga, Latvia on May 6, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL|
His Holiness pointed out different levels of ignorance: for example, ignorance about what he has in his bag is of a different order to ignorance about the status of phenomena. Because we see things as being objectively good, we develop attachment to them. When they appear to be negative, we develop anger and hatred. Ignorance underpins the distorted concepts that give rise to disturbing emotions. Under the sway of these, as the American psychiatrist Aaron Beck points out, our sense of attachment or anger is 90% our own mental projection. Madhyamakas say that while things appear to have objective existence, they are mere designations. They have no objective existence even in conventional terms.
His Holiness posed the example of the three times, past, present and future. The past has gone, the future is yet to come, but the present is hard to pin down. Like this, all phenomena are empty of intrinsic existence.
Extolling the Nalanda approach to study and investigation, His Holiness commended the four reliances as guidelines:
Rely on the teaching, not on the person;
Rely on the meaning, not on the words;
Rely on the definitive meaning, not on the provisional;
Rely on wisdom, not on your ordinary mind.
“I tell people that to be 21st century Buddhists we should follow the Buddha’s advice to use our intelligence to the full and transform our disturbing emotions. A great Tibetan Buddhist master in 13th century advised that even if you know you’re going to die tomorrow, it’s still worth studying today, because it can have an impact on the next life. In terms of study, Tibetan is the most precise language through which to study the Nalanda tradition. Scholars value Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts because of the precision of their rendering. And there are increasing numbers of English translations from the Tibetan.
|Some of the over 3500 people attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama's second day of his two day teachings in Riga, Latvia on May 6, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL|
“To overcome destructive emotions and obstacles to knowledge we need wisdom understanding emptiness supported by the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the six perfections.”
Concluding his explanation of the ‘Heart Sutra’, His Holiness related the mantra at the end to progress on the spiritual path, suggesting that ‘tayata gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha’ means ‘Like this: gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, laying the foundation of complete enlightenment’. He clarified that the first set of syllables, gate gate / gone, gone indicate the paths of accumulation and preparation and the first experience of emptiness; paragate / gone beyond indicates the path of seeing, the first insight into emptiness and achievement of the first bodhisattva ground; parasamgate / gone completely beyond indicates the path of mediation, and the achievement of the subsequent bodhisattva grounds, while bodhi svaha indicates laying the foundation of complete enlightenment.
Answering questions once more, His Holiness expressed scepticism about astrology, recalling the 5th Dalai Lama’s remark in his autobiography that he was born on an auspicious day, but that many dogs were also born on the same day. On the other hand, His Holiness reported that his horoscope had predicted that in his 25th year, he would either die or leave the country, which was borne out by events. To a suggestion that karma indicated predetermination, he said no because until it comes into fruition, karma can still be changed. He pointed out that although he is booked to fly to Oslo tomorrow, until he is aboard the plane and taking off, an emergency or other circumstance could cause him to change his plans. He said that because karma is our own creation we can also change it.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama with members of the
Latvian Parliament during his visit to Riga, Latvia on May 6, 2014.
After lunch yesterday, His Holiness met a group of five Russian Members of Parliament. Today, he met seven Latvian Parliamentarians and two candidates for the European Parliament.
Returning to the stage he described the ‘37 Practices of Bodhisattvas’ as a text about how to meditate on a daily basis. He said that Thogmey Zangpo, the 13/14th century author was widely acknowledged in his lifetime as a bodhisattva. His practice of the awakening mind of bodhichitta was so effective that wherever he lived basked in an atmosphere of peace.
Because the topic is bodhichitta, the homage at the start of the text is to Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of all the Buddhas’ compassion. His Holiness read through the verses making comments here and there. He pointed out that the Buddha was not enlightened without cause, but through the creation of the necessary causes and conditions. Nagarjuna distinguished two goals, high status and definite goodness, or liberation, and commended the Three Higher Trainings in ethics, concentration and wisdom in their attainment.
His Holiness led the audience through the practice of the nine round breathing, which he said helps calm our inner energy and so calms the mind and makes it more amenable for meditation.
Mention of taking refuge in the Three Jewels, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha prompted His Holiness to remark that in the Himalayan region are many spirits, ‘gyalpos’ to whom some people make offerings. However, if you go so far as to take refuge in them you lose your Buddhist refuge. He said he had relied on Shugden, which is such a spirit.
|Estonian, Latvian, Russian and English interpreters working during the final day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings in Riga, Latvia on May 6, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL|
“My tutor Trijang Rinpoche and his teacher Phabongka Rinpoche, who also relied on Shugden, did not see him as a refuge, so they did not place him in the refuge tree. However, it is recorded in Phabongka’s biography that the 13th Dalai Lama took him to task over the way he relied on it, saying it was tantamount to defying his refuge in the Three Jewels.
“I did the practice until investigation and analysis indicated that it would be better to stop. Since then I have advised others to give it up too. If people choose to continue I have asked them not to take pledges and empowerments from me. The 5th Dalai Lama saw Shugden as arising from distorted prayers and as doing harm to beings and the Dharma.
“Nowadays, people who worship Shugden are angry with me. They are planning to demonstrate against me in Norway and elsewhere as they did earlier this year in the USA. I feel sorry for these people because they do not properly understand the nature of Shugden.
“The Buddhist refuge is in the Three Jewels.”
Reaching the verse that mentions the practice of exchanging self and others, His Holiness quoted Shantideva’s saying the without exchanging self and others there is no happiness. Subsequent verses deal with the six perfections and the final verse expresses a dedication of merit.
Amongst the final set of questions from the audience was one about what a mother can do for the lost child after experiencing a miscarriage. His Holiness first of all said that disposal of a dead body is not the important thing. He said that while karma belongs to the individual, there are special relations between parents and children, teachers and students and so on. Therefore, in such a case as this, a mother could do something virtuous and dedicate the merit to the child’s benefit. He said that when his mother passed away he recited mantras on her behalf and dedicated the merit to her.
|A member of the audience asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during the final day of teachings in Riga, Latvia on May 6, 2014. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL|
Another questioner asked what a Buddhist should do if his country is invaded by an aggressor. His Holiness told him that he would have to judge what would provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. It would depend on the circumstances. He mentioned the Jataka tale that recounts how the bodhisattva, in a life prior to becoming the Buddha, was the captain of a ship. He decided to take the life of a man who was intent on killing the 499 other people on board. In so doing he saved their lives, but also prevented that man creating very grave negative karma.
Asked how to practise in non-sectarian way His Holiness pointed out that all Tibetan Buddhist traditions have their roots in the Nalanda tradition. He said that Gelugpas have a good approach to study, but that in his own experience the Dzogchen of the Nyingmas can be very helpful in understanding aspects of Guhyasamaja, while Guhyasamaja can also be useful in understanding Dzogchen. He joked that this was the point rather than adopting different coloured and different shaped hats.
Finally, a woman from Buryatia asked if His Holiness would be coming to Mongolia this year. He told her that the proposed Kalachakra Empowerment had been postponed, but that there was still a plan to come for a meeting of scientists. He mentioned that people had expressed appreciation of the kind of discussions they had had over the last two days and had asked him to do the same next year. Latvian MPs had also shown their appreciation, so he has agreed in principle.
Telo Rinpoche offered thanks to everyone who had made the event possible, supporters, organizers, volunteers and most of all His Holiness. He requested a reading of a detailed statement of accounts. To bring the event to a conclusion, Russian singer Boris Grebenshchikov played a gentle song. And with that His Holiness left the hall on a great wave of affection.
Tomorrow he flies to Oslo, Norway to attend a meeting of the Nobel Roundtable.