After a four-month hiatus from all public engagements due to the COVID-19* pandemic, His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivered a two-day virtual public teaching on Saturday and Sunday from his official residence in Dharamsala, northern India, drawing on the Precious Garland text by Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna (c.150-c.250 CE).
In his first-ever teaching without a physical audience before him, the Tibetan spiritual leader’s two-day exposition of Chapters One and Four of Precious Garland was shared live with the world, along with more general advice for people facing difficult living conditions in these difficult times. Overall instruction was given in Tibetan, with translations available in Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“Today we are able to use this wonderful technology to communicate. Many friends have expressed interest and requested a teaching, but due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, we are unable to physically meet,” His Holiness began. “The main subject of my speech today will be the Precious Garlandwho, with the six books of the Reasoning Collection, we continue to study. The first part of the text, which I will read today, deals with the 16 factors of high status or good rebirth. Later in the text is the verse:
May sentient beings be as dear to me as my own life,
And may they be dearer to me than myself.
May their evil deeds bear fruit for me,
And all my virtues bear fruit for them.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The octogenarian Nobel Peace Prize laureate observed that the increasing levels of comfort and ease of material progress and development had only encouraged ignorance towards inner peace, so that even the most materially prosperous are prone to discontent and unhappiness. The antidote, he said, is to understand that mental and emotional well-being is the key to inner confidence and happiness.
“Many of our problems are rooted in the unruly state of our minds. We are attached to our friends and relatives and hostile to our enemies. We overlook the fact of our interdependence. world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All who are happy in the world are happy because of their desire for the happiness of others. For those who fail to trade their own happiness for the suffering of others, Buddhahood is certainly impossible – how could there even be happiness in a cyclical existence? Nagarjuna points out that negative action and emotions stem from mental fabrication:
Through the elimination of karma and affliction, there is nirvana.
Karma and affliction come from conceptual thought.
These come from mental fabrication.
Manufacturing ceases by (realizing) the void.
“Since we are the same in our desire to find happiness and overcome suffering, we need to pay more attention to cultivating peace of mind and dealing with our disturbing emotions.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
His Holiness also touched on his three personal commitments: encouraging people to be happy and helping them understand the importance of integrating human values into their lives and providing peace of mind; to promote harmony between the religious traditions of the world; and to preserve the Tibetan language and culture, and to advocate the protection of the natural environment of Tibet.
“Today, the state of the world is quite critical. Healthcare professionals are on the front line treating patients with COVID-19. I sincerely rejoice in the courage of all and lament that some have sacrificed their lives to care for others,” the Dalai Lama observed during his closing remarks on the second day of his teaching. “We shouldn’t let ourselves be discouraged or demoralized because it doesn’t help. When issues like this pandemic arise, if we humans don’t work together to solve them, who else will? (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
On January 31, a representative from the Dalai Lama’s office announced the suspension of all public audiences with His Holiness as a precautionary measure in light of the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. The news came a day after India reported its first confirmed case of the virus, in the southern state of Kerala.*
As of this writing on May 13, confirmed global coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 infections are estimated to have reached 4.7 million, with 315,283 deaths recorded to date and 1.7 million recovered. ** The World Health Organization in March estimated the death rate from the virus at 3-4%, based on incomplete and preliminary data, with the elderly and people with underlying health conditions being considered most at risk. The Indian government has reported 96,169 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,029 deaths, of which 36,824 have recovered.
* Audiences with the Dalai Lama halted due to coronavirus risk (Buddhistdoor Global)
**Global cases of coronavirus COVID-19 by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)
Live Webcasts: “Precious Garland” by Nagarjuna – English Translation (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Precious Garland By Master Nagarjuna (PDF file; English translation) (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Announcing the Live Webcast of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Teaching on the “Precious Garland” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Teaching of Nagarjuna’s “Precious Garland” Webcast Around the World (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Webcast of the Second Day of Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)