Buddhism teaching

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Begins Teaching Shantideva’s “Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama waves to the crowd of over 45,000 from the front of the stage at the Shewatsel teaching ground as he arrives on the first day of teachings in Leh, Ladakh, UT, India on July 28, 2022 Photo by Tenzin Choéjor

Leh, Ladakh, India – July 28, 2022: This morning His Holiness was driven in an open golf cart from his residence to the pavilion at the far end of the teaching ground in Shewatsel. It is estimated that more than 45,000 people gathered to listen to his explanation of “Entering the Way of a Bodhisattva” by Shantideva.

Many people thronged both sides of the road, eager to catch a glimpse of His Holiness as he passed. As he beckoned to them, many wept with joy. Before beginning to teach, he greeted the entire congregation from the front of the stage.

His Holiness first congratulated the team of young students who were debating mind and mental factors upon his arrival. He told them that the most effective way to study Buddhism was to explore the teachings using logic and reason, an approach derived from the Nalanda tradition. It is this reasoned position that has aroused the interest of scientists.

“Goodness of heart is the key to happiness,” His Holiness told the crowd. “We experience this from the moment we are born and even when we reach the end of our lives, we will feel more comfortable and relaxed if we are surrounded by warm relatives and friends. In short, we are animals social and if we are warm to others, we will lead a happy life.There is a Tibetan saying that goes: “Warmness of heart leads to happiness and success”.

“They also say that your so-called enemy can be your best teacher. Although Tibetans have faced great hardship and misery at the hands of the Chinese communists, I advise them not to harbor feelings of hatred or revenge.

“If we accumulate negative feelings towards our adversaries, with the intention of taking revenge on them, it will not help us to lead a happy life. What is much better instead is to feel compassion for those who engage in negative actions, bearing in mind that warmth of heart and forgiveness are the root cause of happiness. Whatever the goal, as a Buddhist monk, I never advocate the use of force to achieve it.

“The people of Ladakh and Tibet have had very close relations since ancient times. If the people of the Himalayan region, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, are able to preserve their Buddhist cultural heritage, they will make a great contribution to the flourishing of Buddhism in the world.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the congregation on the first day of his teachings at Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, UT, India on July 28, 2022. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

“The courage and spirit of the Tibetan people are unshakeable and they have unshakeable faith and trust in me. Keeping alive our Buddhist cultural heritage in the Himalayan regions will naturally benefit the Tibetan people. Our struggle for freedom and dignity is based on truth and justice and will be best accomplished by relying on “ahimsa”, which means observing non-violence and doing no harm. Since a growing number of brothers and sisters in China are Buddhists, I’m sure things will get better soon.

His Holiness mentioned that in the 7e century, despite close relations with China, the 33rd The Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo chose to create a Tibetan writing mode modeled on the Indian Devanagari alphabet. Therefore, when the Indian master Shantarakshita visited Tibet in the 8ecentury, at the invitation of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen, he urged Tibetans to translate Indian Buddhist literature into Tibetan, which would enable Tibetans to learn Buddhism in their own language instead of relying on Pali or Sanskrit .

Subsequently, Grand Abbot Shantarakshita advised the Tibetan monarch to invite his student Acharya Kamalashila to Tibet. The purpose was for him to debate the merits of the discursive study of Buddhism according to the Nalanda tradition versus the view held by Chinese monks that enlightenment can be suddenly revealed through meditation alone. In the end, Trisong Detsen felt that Kamalashila’s point of view was more appropriate for Tibetans.

His Holiness pointed out that the more than 300 volumes of Kangyur and Tengyur deal with a wide range of religious, philosophical, epistemological and scientific ideas and that today Tibetan remains the most accurate language for studying them.

Recently, two volumes of the series “Science and Philosophy in Indian Buddhist Classics” have been published in Chinese translation. They contain material derived from Kangyur and Tengyur and have prompted professors at some Chinese universities to recognize that Tibetan Buddhism clearly preserves the Nalanda tradition – a recognition of its scientific and rational approach.

A view of the scene at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground on the first day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teaching in Leh, Ladakh, UT, India on July 28, 2022. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

“In the 1960s, I visited Tibetan refugees in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, among whom were a large number of scholar-monks, who worked as laborers in road construction. Although these monks don’t even have monk’s robes, due to the special circumstances, we held the “bimonthly monastic confession ceremony” on site and followed it with a discussion on Buddhist philosophy. I was very moved by the hardships they were going through.

“Eventually, with the support of the Indian government, as well as NGOs and charities, we were able to reestablish the traditional monastic centers of learning in southern India.”

His Holiness stressed the importance for the people of Ladakh to preserve their deep Buddhist cultural heritage through the study of Buddhist texts. He cited his own experience of rigorously studying Buddhist treatises leading to his Lharampa Geshe degree. He quoted a stanza spoken by Arhat Sakalha in the Vinaya Pitaka:

You have to give meaning to your life
By study and meditation.
You must never be satisfied
By simply wearing the saffron dresses.

His Holiness urged monks and lay people to study the Three Baskets – the Sutras, the Abhidharma and the Vinaya – which comprise the words of the Buddha, and to engage in the practice of the Three Higher Formations – ethics, concentration and wisdom. He reiterated the value of depending on logic and reason rather than relying on simple faith.

After giving a brief summary of Acharya Shantideva’s life, His Holiness began to read “Entering the Way of a Bodhisattva”. He developed some points in the verses as he read them and finished the first chapter today. He will resume his reading tomorrow.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking on the first day of his teachings at Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, UT, India on July 28, 2022. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

His Holiness the Dalai Lama waves to the crowd as he returns to his residence at the end of the first day of teachings at the Shewatsel Teaching Ground in Leh, Ladakh, UT, India on July 28, 2022. Photo Tenzin Choejor