Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The World of Tibetan Buddhism (Paperback) - Introduction

An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice

INTRODUCTION

Brothers and sisters, I am very happy to be here and to meet people who are taking a keen interest in the Buddhadharma. I can see many familiar faces in the audience and am very glad to have this opportunity to spend some time with you once more.
     During the next three days, I will be speaking on Buddhist thought and practice according to the Tibetan tradition. My talks here will follow two main themes. As to the first [Parts 1 and 3], I will be giving a general introduction to the Buddhist path, a broad outline of the theories and practices of Tibetan Buddhism. I usually explain that the Buddhism of Tibet is perhaps the most complete form of Buddhism. It includes all the essential teachings of the various traditions of Buddhism that exist in different parts of the world today. Since many of you have received a number of tantric initiations and teachings, I think an overview of Tibetan Buddhism for the purpose of providing a comprehensive framework of the Buddhist path may prove helpful in deepening your understanding and practice of Dharma.
     The second theme [Part 2] concerns the altruistic attitude that characterizes a bodhisattva. In drawing from Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life), I will offer some comments on important sections of the text, concentrating mainly on the practices of love, kindness, and compassion. Intimately related to these practices are the issues of how to cultivate tolerance as well as the appropriate attitudes one should adopt towards one’s enemy.
     During these first three days, instead of being the Dalai Lama or Bhikṣu Tenzin Gyatso, I am Professor Tenzin Gyatso. On the fourth day, however, there will be a Green Tārā initiation, and on that day I will become Guru Bhikṣu Tenzin Gyatso!
     As I mentioned earlier, a number of us here already know each other. Since our last meeting, many of us have led very busy lives. Whether we are doing something good and worthwhile with our lives or not, time never waits but keeps flowing. Not only does time flow unhindered, but correspondingly our life too keeps moving onward all the time. If something has gone wrong, we cannot turn back time and try again. In that sense, there is no genuine second chance. Hence, it is crucial for a spiritual practitioner constantly to examine his or her attitudes and actions. If we examine ourselves every day with mindfulness and mental alertness, checking our thoughts, motivations, and their manifestations in external behavior, a possibility for change and self-improvement can open within us. Although I myself cannot claim with confidence to have made any remarkable progress over the years, my desire and determination to change and improve is always firm. From early morning until I go to bed and in all situations of life, I always try to check my motivation and be mindful and present in the moment. Personally, I find this to be very helpful in my own life.
     Over the three days we spend together, I shall be discussing various methods that we can employ as tools to examine ourselves, enabling us to embark upon a path of self-discovery and development. Taking your own body and mind as the laboratory, see if you can use these different techniques: that is to say, engage in some thorough-going research on your own mental functioning, and examine the possibility of making some positive changes within yourself. This is how a practicing Buddhist should perceive all the essential elements of the Buddha’s teaching. There are also people here who, although not considering themselves practicing Buddhists, have a genuine desire to learn more about Buddhism in general, and the Buddhism of Tibet in particular.
     This also includes those who, while practicing their own religion, take a keen interest in other spiritual traditions. I am certain that they can find within the Buddhist teachings various common concerns, such as meditation or contemplation on love and compassion, that can be incorporated into their own tradition and practice. Hence, such an ecumenical pursuit has great potential for benefit. Finally, there might be some people here who do not have any particularly strong feeling for spirituality but have come with honest curiosity and openness. These people can just sit and listen to my talks as one listens to a lecture. If, in the course of listening, you find something interesting, you can pay closer attention. Similarly, if there is nothing of much interest and value, you can take the session as a time for rest. However, if you do use it as rest time, please do so discreetly. Especially if you happen to doze off, do not start snoring, for you might disturb your neighbors!

 

How to cite this document:
© Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, The World of Tibetan Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 1995)

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