His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks to Chinese devotees about Bliss and Wisdom
12 July 2017
Deskit Monastery, Nubra Valley, Ladakh – His Holiness gave a short discourse to Chinese devotees at Deskit Monastery, followed by a question and answer session. His Holiness answered questions posed by Venerable Fan Yin (梵因法師), former abbot of Fengshan Monastery (鳳山寺), Taiwan.
The full video with Chinese subtitles can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad355FqDQuo
The transcript in Chinese can be found here:
You can find the English translation below. Please note that it was translated only from Chinese, not from Tibetan. Any errors are mine. Please refer to the original video for accuracy.
HHDL: Hello everyone!
All: Hello Your Holiness!
HHDL: Today many Chinese devotees have come here, including my friends from Bliss and Wisdom. So I decided to have a separate meeting with all of you.
Translator: Can the people at the back hear?
HHDL: Anyone from Hong Kong? … Coming to a higher elevation, do you get altitude sickness? …. How did you sleep? Slept well? I guess I’m getting old this year, I’m not feeling too well. Initially I thought the drier climate here should be better for my knees, but I haven’t had such a positive reaction this year; my knees aren’t feeling any better.
Just as I explained in the teaching the day before and today, we must spread compassion to every corner of the world. We must have a goal – to let the 21st century be full of compassion and wisdom.
When we’re talking about the 7 billion human beings, I immediately think of the importance of India and China. Because India and China have a total population of 2.5 billion.
Many Chinese have ancestors who were Buddhists. Some ethnic Chinese immigrated overseas, to countries such as Malaysia, which is a Muslim country. In Malaysia, there are enclaves where the Chinese are concentrated, because of commercial reasons. It’s the same for Indonesia and America. Wherever there are Chinese, we can find Buddhist temples. It’s the same for Vietnam – wherever there are Chinese, there will be Buddhist temples.
I sincerely believe, and I have always said, as long as we are willing to seriously study one of the mainstream religions, it will certainly be beneficial for spreading and increasing kindness and compassion. So, I believe that all the mainstream religions in the world have the same potential.
Although different religions may have different philosophies or viewpoints, we cannot expect everyone in the world to possess religious beliefs, let alone become Buddhist. Not much benefit can be gained from this. (are you unable to see clearly? Is it ok? I’m afraid the light may be too strong. [laughs] Today you are the sentient being I have come to help. In terms of age, I’m 82, ten years older than you, but if you look at my face, I appear to be your child)
In terms of philosophy, we all belong to the Buddhist philosophical tradition, especially the Nalanda tradition. Whether we are Tibetans or Chinese, we share the same tradition. Where Buddhist thinking is concerned, especially the curriculum of the Nalanda tradition, we rely on logical reasoning instead of scriptural authority.
I usually cite this line from the sutras, “O monks and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.” This is why we have a basis on which to hold dialogues with scientists, which is beneficial for both sides.
Where the teachings of the Buddha are concerned, if we adopt the system of the Nalanda tradition in studying Buddhism, this will suit the most capable students. In this way, the Buddhist tradition can continue into the next century.
If the tradition we preserve suits only the least capable students, and is purely based on faith – allow me to say this – just chanting “Amitabha, Amitabha”, we really have no guarantee that Buddhist teachings will continue to remain relevant in the next century.
All of us can recite the Heart Sutra. The content of the Heart Sutra must be understood by studying the sutra, not through merely reciting it. So, we must make good use of our brains to understand the truth, to make good use of our wisdom. Of course, we have inherited the Buddhist faith from our parents and ancestors, but more importantly, we must diligently study the texts such as the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the Heart Sutra, and Nagarjuna’s Middle Way, which has been translated into Chinese. We should study these major texts diligently.
If you have any questions please ask.
Venerable Fan Yin: Your Holiness, suppose a Buddhist organization has a female leader, a female guru, and for the past 20 years, this female guru has been living in the same house as a group of male bhikshus and samaneras. What opinion do you have on the matter? And how should we disciples deal with this matter?
HHDL: If this has got to do with administration, of course, if there is an administrative need for this, it is a different matter, but if the uposatha is involved, which is purely a gathering for monks only, then it is not convenient for ladies to be present. So it depends on the situation. For example, the Sakya Trizin is a lay person, but in some ceremonies, we can invite the Sakya Trizin to sit on a throne and preside on the ceremonies, but where discussions on the vinaya are concerned, he will not attend, because these are monastic matters. Basically these are my thoughts, although what exactly should be done in specific situations should be decided after dialogue and discussion.
Ven Fan Yin: They are living together all year round. In the same house. Is this practice acceptable?
HHDL: According to the 253 bhikshu precepts of the Mūlasarvāstivāda vinaya, monks cannot spend the night together with a woman. If they do this, it is a transgression of the vows.
Ven Fan Yin: How should we disciples resolve this problem?
HHDL: You should discuss this with each other. You can show them the vinaya sutras and the list of vows, and let them know that this is not allowed.
Ven Fan Yin: In the sangha there are different views. Some think it is alright, some do not think it is alright. Some people think that because our Master laid down this tradition, because Master allowed it, it is alright.
HHDL: It is still better to discuss. Of course, the explanation of the vinaya sutras is the most important guideline. However, we don’t need to quarrel or start a big fight about it. As long as the vinaya is concerned, the explanation of the vinaya sutras is most important guideline. This has nothing to do with external factors.
Q: Your Holiness, if we say that we take the vinaya as our teacher, but this conflicts with the teachings of this female guru, who has even transgressed the root vows, or gone against the conventional practice, we are forced to choose between the two – people are asking if we should rely on the guru, or on the vinaya? How should we approach this conundrum?
HHDL: Usually, we should take the vinaya as the guiding principle. Even if what the guru says is against the vinaya, we should still take the vinaya as the guiding principle.
Q: We take the vinaya as the guiding principle, but she says we are traitors. When we use reasoning to discuss with the guru, she accuses us of being traitors, or being possessed by demons.
HHDL: At this time you must recall what the Buddha said, “O monks and wise men, examine my words”. As the Shakyamuni Buddha was about to enter nirvana, he said in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra that “the vinaya represents my emanation body, so use the vinaya to replace me”.
Q: When the guru transgresses the vinaya, can we leave her, and expose her wrongdoing?
HHDL: Of course you can! Let the public know about this transgression of the vinaya, this wrongdoing.
20 years ago, we held a meeting for Buddhist teachers teaching in the Western world. How did they react at that time? Many of those teaching zen, teaching Buddhism, and Tibetan lamas were behaving inappropriately, what should we do? Can we invite the Dalai Lama to make a judgement? So I said, if they were not even going to listen to what the Buddha himself said, what effect are my words going to have on them?
Of course! If you are sure that she is behaving inappropriately, you must expose the truth to the public, it is necessary to let the world know about it. Even if they don’t care about what the Buddha himself said, at least they should have some shame. That’s how I expressed my thoughts at that time.
Especially in the Vajrayana, and in our practice of the lamrim chenmo, proper reliance on the guru is always emphasized. Although Lama Tsongkhapa wrote about guru devotion right at the beginning of the “Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment”, how did he introduce the topic? He began by describing the qualities that the guru should possess, the qualities that the disciple should possess, and how the disciple should rely on the guru. With faith and respect, of course. However, many lamrim teachings begin by saying how important the guru is, that we must view the guru as the Buddha, but fail to define what the guru is! That’s not how Lama Tsongkhapa explains it. Lama Tsongkhapa mentions right from the beginning that disciples must know what qualities the guru should possess. Therefore, we must carefully observe whether the actions of the guru are correct or wrong, instead of blindly and unconditionally following him.
Once upon a time, there was a village near Drepung Monastery. An important master of the village once said at a teaching, “If you want us to see what everything you do as correct, please don’t talk nonsense. If you want us to follow your teachings completely, please don’t talk nonsense!” (laughs) This is a very practical approach to take. Next question.
Q: Your Holiness, if a certain master first relied on the Dalai Lama, but after he passed away, some people manipulated the succession and recognized the reincarnation of the master on their own accord, without going through the Dalai Lama. They attempted to manipulate the situation. How should we disciples deal with this?
HHDL: As to the recognition of reincarnations, what we usually do in Tibet is to invite the leader of that sect or tradition to recognize the reincarnation. We may also invite the throne holders of other sects do the recognition. For the Gelugpa, we consult the Ganden Tripa Rinpoche or the Dalai Lama regarding the reincarnation. For the Sakya, the Sakya Trizin can be asked to recognize the reincarnation. This is what we do in Tibet. So we must be especially careful. Another way is to go to Lhamo La-tso (the lake of Palden Lhamo) to look for signs coming from the lake. Sometimes scenes of the village would appear, sometimes seed syllables would appear, and through various signs like these, the reincarnation can be recognized.
After the 13th Dalai Lama passed away, when they were looking for the 14th Dalai Lama, the search party went to Lhamo La-tso, did some prayers, and saw signs such as the three seed syllables “Ah! Kha! Ma!” and the village of the 14th Dalai Lama. So in Tibet, we are very very careful about recognizing reincarnations. You can’t make unsubstantiated claims. And we also show the reincarnations some instruments and objects used by his previous life, to see if he recognizes them. Next question.
Ven Fan Yin: She did not go through these procedures, she did the recognition privately; most of us were cheated about him being our master’s reincarnation. What should we do? Most people are unaware of this.
HHDL: You need to decide depending on the situation, because I am unable to issue an order saying, you have to do this, you are not allowed to do this! We will be having the Chinese teachings in October, so we can discuss this together then.
Ven Fan Yin: Actually a group of us have already left Bliss and Wisdom, including me. I served as the first abbot of the monastery. The second abbot has left too. We have discovered many problems. Can we invite Your Holiness to hold a meeting, and allow both sides to come together and discuss the issue?
HHDL: It should be fine. I can’t give orders to say, you have to do this. But we can come together and discuss it. Any other questions?
Q: Your Holiness, every year we come to your teachings in Dharamshala. After each teaching, a member of staff lets the public know about all income and expenditure for the teaching. I think Your Holiness has set a very good example. In Taiwan, there is an organization which has been studying the lamrim chenmo for a very long time. In the beginning the finances were transparent, but in the past decade or so, they have raised huge amounts of funds, and not only that, a lot of expenses were not made public, nor were receipts given. They raised funds to build a monastery, but for more than ten years this monastery has not been built. No one knows where all the funds have gone. It is all very unclear. In this situation, some people have already discovered irregularities; can we ask the local authorities to make it public?
HHDL: Of course you can! You can get in touch with the local authorities, and let the public know about this. Some people pretend to be gurus, just for the sake of money. This happens amongst Indians, this happens amongst Tibetans. This is destroying the Buddha’s teachings. So we have the responsibility to make it transparent. Many years ago, I promised that I would not accept donations after a teaching. If someone gave me any funds, I would channel them to other organizations in need, and request the organizers of the teaching to publicly declare their financial statement on the last day of the teaching.
I have read the works of Nyingma master Gongbu Jeyley Nagtso Rangje , in them he makes three promises: firstly, he would not eat meat; secondly, he would not ride on horses; thirdly, after a teaching he would accept no donations, because he felt that this was commercializing the dharma. I was very touched by his three promises. So I made the promise not to accept donations after the teachings. He says that if we are commercializing the dharma, we just become dharma businessmen. Any other questions?
Q: Your Holiness, I am one of the students at that organization. That organization displays your photograph in public. A lot of my friends and relatives are still there. I hope Your Holiness can bless them and help them to see the truth.
Ven Fan Yin: Many people have been cheated.
Translator: Because of the photograph, many people have been cheated?
Several people: Yes!
Translator: What is the relevance of the photograph?
Q: The Dalai Lama’s photograph.
Translator: in the past, or at present?
Q: at present.
Ven Fan Yin: Because they are displaying the Dalai Lama’s photograph, they have deceived so many people. Because people think that…
Translator: I get what you mean.
HHDL: Maybe this has to do with politics? Usually I talk about the “political guru”. Do you know what this term means? In ancient Tibetan society, many problems cropped up due to political gurus. Conflicts between temples happened. In Islam for instance, they have the two main traditions of Sunni and Shiite, and conflicts between them, so when I get the chance to meet Muslims, I tell them not to stoke the conflicts, and live harmoniously together. In ancient Tibet, the Gelug, Sakya, also had conflicts. In human society, there will definitely be problems, because this is human society. When we meet problems, we should not panic and say, “What do I do!” We should calm down and see how we can cope, how we can resolve the matter. In the vinaya sutra it says, may we quell disagreements with the teachings. Of course, we need to have sufficient tolerance and patience.
Q: Your Holiness, in the lamrim chenmo, it says that criticizing/maligning the guru or not following the guru’s instructions will bring about heavy negative karma. If we were deceived into recognizing someone as our guru, and after we discovered the truth, we feel that she is no longer our guru, so we decided to leave. But they use the lamrim chenmo to threaten us with karmic consequences. We feel that we have no choice but to muddle through and stay in the organization. Must we still recognize such a guru?
HHDL: Actually our most important guiding principle is to rely on the sutras, as well as the texts composed by Nagarjuna, the great treatises and texts. In Haribhadra’s commentary on the Prajnaparamita Sutra, while discussing the linage masters, it mentions Asanga and his brother Vasubhandhu. In Vasubhandhu’s explanation of the Prajnaparamita Sutra, he follows the Chittamatra school in explaining the meaning of the Ornament of Clear Realization. But Vasubhandhu’s disciple Vimuktisena refuted the Chittamatra explanation and propounded the Madhyamaka explanation. So he refuted his teacher Vasubhandhu. Does this mean that Vimuktisena maligned his guru?
In the “Sutra Unraveling the Intended Meaning”, it says that if we follow the literal meaning of the Prajnaparamita Sutra when it says “all phenomena are empty”, there is nothing to grasp. On the basis of three aspects of phenomena there are three types of emptiness. So we cannot use the Prajnaparamita Sutra’s literal meaning to establish the emptiness of inherent existence.
For Nagarjuna, all the sutras were taught personally by the Buddha himself, the same teacher, whether it is the Prajnaparamita Sutra or the Sutra Unraveling the Intended Meaning. However, Nagarjuna used logic and reasoning to distinguish between definitive and interpretable sutras. In the “Introduction to the Middle Way”, which has now been translated into Chinese, the Buddha’s sutras can be divided into definitive and interpretable sutras. Hence we can see that the correct approach to learning Buddhism is not to listen blindly to what the guru says. If what the guru says goes against what the major texts are saying, you can tell your guru, “I’m sorry”. Going by your explanation, then even Nagarjuna wouldn’t be relying correctly on his guru, he wouldn’t be a Buddhist!
I think this is a special characteristic of Buddhism. We must enjoy this right of critical analysis that the Buddha gives us. Especially in the Nalanda tradition, even if what the Buddha says is against the absolute truth, then we must classify such sutras as interpretable. This is why I don’t think Mount Meru exists. So when the lineage masters tell us that offering a mandala brings us great merit, so we should place importance on doing so, I will say, “Yes! That’s it.”
Ven Fan Yin: A young novice monk transgressed one of the root vows together with the female guru. Initially he wanted to come here and confess to the Dalai Lama personally, but he was threatened, coerced and bribed, to the point of facing death threats, so he dared not come. How can we help this young friend?
HHDL: Milarepa once said, if you think you committed a sin, can you confess and repent? Yes! How? Through wisdom. If he was coerced into breaking his vows, this is very terrible, very serious. If this is the case, it’s better to let the truth be known to all.
Q: My question is, Your Holiness has been giving teachings worldwide, and Tibetan Buddhism is spreading across the world. Bliss and Wisdom is basically the largest Tibetan Buddhist organization in Taiwan, and is expanding very quickly, opening offices and classes worldwide. Our leader, I believe, although I am not certain, has not come to see Your Holiness, nor has she come to request teachings from Your Holiness. I hope that Your Holiness can request our leader to come and meet you personally. Our Master Jih-Chang saw Your Holiness as his guru, and she is supposed to be the successor of Master Jih-Chang. If she does not even have the courage to see Your Holiness, and cannot succeed the lineage, may we invite Your Holiness to declare that this organization’s lineage is problematic?
HHDL: We have to consider the possibility that because they want to spread the teachings in Mainland China, it may really be inconvenient for her to see me. I hope you have considered this point. This can be due to general political reasons. In Tibet many people have faith in me, but do not dare to come and see me. This year when I gave the Kalachakra initiation in Bodh Gaya, many people wanted to come and receive the initiation, but they were afraid their friends and relatives could come to harm, so they were hesitant to come. I advised them that, “If coming to the Kalachakra initiation could bring harm to your family, then it is better to go back! I hope you will pray sincerely during the Kalachakra initiation, I will also pray sincerely for you.”
Q: Just now Your Holiness mentioned that you hope to spread kindness, what is the greatest contribution that we can make to this movement? Is it love, understanding, or advocating on behalf of each other?
HHDL: What I mean by spreading kindness is to let people know that kindness can not only bring about spiritual health, but also physical health; this body of knowledge should be weaved into our education system. This is the way in which I hope to spread kindness. From kindergarten to university, to let young people receive this message. This is what we hope to do. Now we already have some plans in the pipeline. Some Indian scholars, Indian organizations, and foreign experts are planning to do this. We started this 15 years ago. A textbook on this is in progress, and may be published this year. We are also working with Emory University to write a textbook, and plan a curriculum. These projects are based on secular, universal ethics, and do not require religious belief. With this curriculum, we hope to let people know that kindness is good for our health; negative emotions like anger and arrogance are bad for our health. So with a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy emotions, we can understand that for the sake of our happiness, we should transform our mind. We rely purely on scientific evidence, experience and experimentation, instead of religion. It could take 20 to 30 years to really see the effects of these projects.
In America there are two cities, one of them is a city of kindness, and the other one is a city of compassion. And because these two cities are enthusiastically trying to spread kindness and compassion, the local students are more willing to help others and generate kindness and compassion. So when I meet devotees from Mainland China, or my friends, I tell them my views – in Chinese history, the Cultural Revolution came about due to suspicion, hatred, and conflict; today, we need a cultural revolution of compassion. Fundamentally, Marxism is about taking care of the interests of the working class. In Europe, during the Industrial Revolution, workers were badly abused. So Marxism emphasized equal distribution of wealth, communist ownership of property. Marxism is grounded in compassion. The Communist Party should take the lead in organizing a revolution of kindness and compassion.
Next question, last three questions.
Q: Some scientists invented computers and mobile phones motivated by the desire to help mankind. However, subsequently their technological innovations brought about tremendous problems. What should we do then?
HHDL: Machines themselves are not inherently good or bad, they’re neutral. More important is how people are using it. When you are putting software in a computer, what’s your motivation? I think the invention of machines is itself a good thing.
Q: Your Holiness, I have a matter for you to decide. Around the year 2000, in a public teaching in Ladakh, you said that root of Tibetan Buddhism is in Ladakh. Some geshes from the Lower Tantric College wanted to build a school for young lamas because of what you said. Losang Dorje, Drakpa Lama conducted pujas and divinations in return for offerings, and planned to use the offerings for building a school. He came to Taiwan but couldn’t remain there for long, so the project had no funds to proceed. He asked for my help, and I collected enough funds to complete three buildings. I met Your Holiness at the monastery, which was named after Rizong Rinpoche. You came to the school 3-4 years and 7-8 years ago respectively and we met twice. Then the Bliss and Wisdom organization, because Your Holiness came to the school, accused Dorje and me of corruption. We opened the books for inspection, it showed that Dorje and I had collected 39 million rupees, and there were no irregularities. It seems that the Dalai Lama foundation still has some reservations about Dorje. I’m here to clear his name. For the sake of the dharma, we put in so much effort to build the school, but it has now been taken over by the Bliss and Wisdom organization.
HHDL: If the truth has already been made known, and people are still maligning you, even if you have to take legal action against them, you have to do it.
Q: All the young lamas and teachers have already left the school. Right now only a few children and the principal are left. We originally raised funds to build this school for the sake of educating the young lamas. I hope to donate the school to Your Holiness. Now they are building a hotel. Now Bliss and Wisdom has been claiming the school as their “Overseas Buddhist Institute”. In actual fact they did not pay a single cent for its construction. The successor lady claimed that Bakula Rinpoche is her guru, which is why they wanted this Buddhist institute.
HHDL: Rizong Rinpoche has inspected the finances clearly?
Q: Very clearly. Rinpoche signed the inspection document, which is under my possession in Taiwan. Rinpoche publicly cleared our name, in Taiwan.
Translator: Next question. Last question.
Q: I work in the healthcare sector. Some Buddhists feel that as they are approaching death, they should not use painkillers, because the karma will carry forward to their next life. So they would rather suffer than receive treatment. They believe they are repaying the karmic debt. So I would like to ask for your opinion on this. My second question is, some believe that after death, it is better not to touch the body and do chanting for six hours. In a modern hospital, it is almost impossible to do that. Now when science/modern practices and our beliefs clash, I would like to know your opinion on that.
HHDL: Although illness is certainly due to karma, in the vinaya sutra the Buddha says, if you are sick, you need to get treatment, and mentioned the different types of medication to take. In the Kalachakra texts it is mentioned that if we are sick, we need to take medicine to treat it. We talk about causes and conditions – the cause can be your past karma, but the conditions can be changed by using medication to treat the illness.
As a person dies, according to the Vajrayana texts, the coarse consciousness slowly dissolves into the most subtle, we call this the intrinsic radiance. Through meditation it is possible to maintain this intrinsic radiance in the body, preventing it from leaving, so the deceased person is medically dead, but his body will not show any signs of decay. There are certainly cases like this. It has been medically proven that the person’s heart has stopped beating, and because blood cannot circulate to the brain, he is medically certified as dead. However, the body shows no sign of decay. My tutor Ling Rinpoche remained in this state for 13 days. One of the previous Ganden Tripas Lobsang Nyima maintained in that state for almost 3 weeks, 18 or 19 days. After checking if there was any blood or mucus running out from the nose, they could confirm that his red and white sources were no longer in their original positions, so his soul or consciousness should have left the body. Once there are signs of the red and white sources leaking out of the nose, the body starts to emit an odor, this happens instantly. These are unique cases. Typically, it is not necessary to wait for six hours before touching the body.
HHDL: Thank you. Let’s have a group photo.