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Dalai Lama's Heart Sutra Lecture: Day 2
an account of His Holiness's teachings
by Dave Evans
May 2001
Day 1
Day 3

Intro Day 2
Friday I was again able to sneak out of work for a bit to hear His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama talk about the Heart Sutra. I don't have much time before I will go to the third and final day of lecture - but I'll try to write at least something.

Throne & Self Importance
When His Holiness came out on stage, he prostrated three times before his little thrown before getting up onto it. He also bowed again to us, many times, with his trademark, warm smile. He started the day talking about the throne. He told us that in the old tradition, monks would remove their orange wraps and fold them carefully and pile them up to make a little thrown for a Lama to sit on and teach from. But the veneration is not for the person of the Lama; instead it is solely for the teachings. This is important, and the teacher also prostrates to the thrown to venerate the teachings. It is also a reminder, lest he start to view himself as important.

The teacher is advised to concentrate on the sutras of impermanence of phenomenon as a reminder that he is not self-important. The risk and danger of self-importance is very real. In fact in Tibet from the fifth Dalai Lama's biography we read about the "high throne" syndrome where a Lama would hope to have his throne higher than any other Lamas. At that time they were careful to make all of the Lamas' thrones of equal height. But clever attendants might put a slate in among the pillows for their master's thrown. Although the thrones were still all the same height, the slate would keep the pillows more firm. Over time, the Lama's without a slate would start to sag and those with a slate would then appear to be on a higher thrown. <laughter from the audience>

Though in Tibet Buddhism flourished, there were negative aspects. People did not understand deeply, and some would judge a Lama based on the height of his thrown or the number of horses in his caravan. The quality of a Lama should be judged on the knowledge and the practice. When the understanding of the people is low, such unfortunate things can happen. Similarly you may have observed costumes and great hats were emphasized. Perhaps in Tibet there is some excuse for the hats because it is very cold... <at this point H.H. interrupted the translator and added "especially if the Lama is bald..."> <much laughter from the audience>

External Appearances
It is important to look at the essence of the Buddha's teachings and the masters. Judging teachers and Lamas should be based on their accordance with the Buddha's teachings, rather than emphasis on external appearances. There is a danger as Buddhism comes to the west - that the wrong Tibetan aspects will be adopted here - like large hats and elaborate costumes. Similarly in the temples, the center emphasis should be on the Buddha Sukyamuni and we should entrust our spiritual focus on him. But more often people would enter and go to the dark, back corner where the protector shrine is. They would whisper there and make offerings of money and tea and alcohol for protection. This room is where the temple would generate the most revenue by far.

An aside - H.H. said he heard from someone in the know... that there was a monk whose main task was to continually pour the offerings to the protector. He was bald but after a time he grew hair. When asked about this, he would explain that sometimes some drops from the offering would spill, and those falling on his hand he would rub onto his head. In this way he grew hair. Perhaps if you too want to grow hair you can do this. <H.H. chuckles loudly>

The Tibetan practice of combining spiritual and secular leaders has had many malpractices and abuses and problems. It is important to constantly check oneself. For example, when H.H. sits on a high throne, pride does not arise in him. But occasionally, in the corner of the mind, his thoughts stray and he might like a complement for a good lecture or he notices a small worry of receiving a negative review. This too occasionally happens. "Make sure your mental states or motivations are not defiled by the eight mundane considerations." Otherwise, when teaching with some aspect of arrogance or pride then this leaves oneself open to other flaws - abuse of power, accumulating wealth, envy of others...

Perfection of Wisdom
Of the six perfections the Perfection of Wisdom leads to Bodhicitta - the realization of emptiness with a factor of skillful means and the motivation to help all sentient beings, to have altruistic intention. Compassion is what brings altruistic intention and the motivation to achieve enlightenment is to help all sentient beings. The Perfection of Wisdom is the most important perfection. It is important to understand the causality of happiness and suffering. It is undisputed that we all pursue happiness. This causality should be our chief concern.

Body, Mind, Self
Who is this individual that experiences happiness and unhappiness? If you hurt your hand, you think "I've been hurt". You identify with the body. However, in some ways you do not. If given the opportunity to exchange your old, tired body with a fresh, new one there is feeling from deep in our heart that we might like that exchange. There is a willingness.

Similarly if we could exchange our mind with a full Buddha mind, there is also a willingness. So there is an identity other than our body or our mind, that believes it might benefit from such an exchange. Some schools chose to separate this self or soul principle. Buddhists reject the unitary principle. It is undefinable. To Buddhists, self is only in terms of the mind and the body and can only be understood that way. Some chose to understand self solely from a metaphysical or philosophical view. But to Buddhists the self is heavily dependent on the physical and mental aggregates. Also the naive idea of the self as master over the body and mind is false, because it is not autonomous or separate from them.

All Buddhists schools embrace the concept of no-self or "anatman". The first seal of Buddhism is "All composite phenomenon are impermanent". Even moment by moment things come and go. We all observe it. However, to have a beginning there must be a process of change going on moment to moment. Without that change it is hard to imagine - so the main Buddhists schools agree that all things come into being with a seed for their cessation. The cause that begins it in a way also begets the end of it. We generally think positively about the beginnings - growth, development - and endings have a negative implication. "Momentariness" is the essential part of impermanence. Constantly going through change, cessation, and destruction.

Contaminate Phenomenon
The second seal of Buddhism is "All contaminate phenomenon are suffering". Suffering here is not here the basic experience of pain but a deeper understanding of condition. Some sutra explain that all three worlds are the mind. Most Buddhist schools believe this passage to mean that the whole world and the people in it are a product of the mind. If we trace our own origins of the body, of the material, we can trace the composite pieces to the beginning of the universe. Even further still to before space particles before that. Even rocks that appear very solid today can be traced back to the emptiness at the very beginning.

This is where karma comes in, from actions that have intention. Karmic acts are rooted in mental afflictions. Which are rooted in erroneous understanding and an undisciplined mind. When you understand in this way, all actions from the frame of mind of mental afflictions are contaminated. These contaminated things are the root of suffering. Suffering not as in perceived pain but as in our condition and our existence. Between these first two seals, there is an inference. The first is a basis for the second. Things in cause and effect are being affected by an "other" power - the unconditioned mind or one of ignorance. Ignorance is the king of mental obstructions. At the root of the contaminated mind is an erroneous mental state and ignorance. With ignorance there is no room for joy or real happiness.

The more you uncover the truth and reality the less the falseness of that ignorance will apply. It will be more clear that the grasping at self-existence of things is erroneous belief. The liberation is then possible.

Attachment & Self
What is the significance of this non-self? The stronger your grasping to a self and the stronger will be what is important to the self or its interests. Hostility, Anger, etc then arises. For example, when in a shopping complex and one notices an object that is particularly appealing there may be a craving for it. The object appears to be wonderful. However, once bought and the object is "yours" there is a projection or grasping of it. Attachment for it will increase. Your own attitude toward it has changed, though the object is still the same. There is a self relationship in the dynamic that is involved with the object. The self is a necessary component. Once you have shown the groundlessness of the self, then you undermine the processes that are based on the self.

The first two schools of Buddhism only concentrate meditation on the "no self" of person, but no "no self" of phenomenon. The two latter schools do. The significance is this, if you concentrate only on the person (the self) you will effectively reduce cravings but the improvement is confined to the being that undergoes the learning. The latter schools extend to also the objects and phenomenon - the physical and mental aggregates. Your review and perception of objects may lead you to feel an object is "attractive" or even that it is "unattractive". This will then generate a strong emotional reaction in people. From the object, there is nothing truly "attractive" about it.

The label we apply is subjective and the relationship is relative and contingent. To our naive perception, we see things discrete and separate but in reality subject and object are non-dual. Duality is a projection of our mind. It leads us to strong emotional reactions. Realizing this alone is enough to reduce it's effects.

<Those were the notes I took on Friday... though there were more talks. I ordered a video copy of the lectures which were promised to arrive before September 1st.>

Read Day 1
Read Day 3