In this section, the Dalai Lama continues with his explanation of the first line of The Precious Garland: “Completely free from all faults/and adorned with all good virtues,/the sole friend of all beings/to that Omniscient One I bow.”
The Dalai Lama – Commentary on The Precious Garland of Nagarjuna
June 5-8, 1997
In the context of our discussion here, when I talk about undisciplined states of mind, I’m talking about a state of mind that is dominated by afflictions of the mind, such as delusions and so on. So the question arises whether it is possible to eliminate these afflictions from one’s psyche.
When this undisciplined or untamed state of mind – when we examine it at a deeper level one could say its root lies in a state of mind that in the final analysis is distorted. Whereas, a disciplined or tamed state of mind does not arise out of states of confusion or distorted mind. So the question is to see in what way an undisciplined state of mind has its roots in a way of perceiving the world that is distorted – what sense that understanding, beliefs or perceptions of the world are distorted, and if it is distorted, then is there a way to overcome that distortion? Is there an opposing force or antidote that will enable us to dispel that distortion and cultivate the right way of perceiving the world? Through this way, we can learn that not only is this distorted mind ungrounded but it does have an opposing force and antidote.
This is the correct form of knowledge, it is insight, and this insight can counteract the fundamental distortion and confusion. Not only is this insight founded in a continuum of consciousness, which we spoke about earlier and which is beginningless, unlike physical characteristics – this insight reflects the capability of the mind which is much more deeply rooted and enduring. Also, unlike physical characteristics, its scope, or its potential for development is limitless. The physical power, like athletic power, is somewhat limited, in that you reach a limit that you cannot go beyond. Mental ability has the potential for limitless development. So when you reflect on these considerations, then you gain a degree of understanding that these distorted states of mind can be removed, can be eliminated.
Depending on the basis of these properties or qualities, depending on how coarse or gross they are, one could say that there is a difference in the degree of subtlety in these qualities. For example, if the property is contingent upon a physical object that is tangible, like the earth, then the scope for its development or perfection is surely limited. If the property or characteristic is based on more subtle forms of phenomena, like air, then it has a greater degree of flexibility. Compared to air, the qualities based on space, again, have a greater degree of flexibility. So one could say that characteristics based on consciousness have even greater flexibility and scope for development.
It is along these lines that the explanation of cessation and the path that leads to cessation can be understood. It is on the basis of a profound understanding of the nature of the Four Noble Truths that one can finally arrive at a deeper understanding of the nature of dharma.
All the Buddhists traditions agree that the Four Noble Truths was among the first dharmas or doctrines that the Buddha taught. And according to this dharma, the cessation of suffering that one attains and, also, once you are able to recognize the possibility of such attainment, then one will also be able to recognize the path that leads to such cessation.
So if you are able to understand the nature of dharma, then you will be able to conceive the individual or being in whom such realization has taken place. These individuals or beings are sangha, the true sangha, and once you are able to conceive the existence of sangha, once you can conceive of sangha, then one will be able to recognize the possible attainment of Buddhahood, because these fully realized and enlightened beings, these Ariya [Pali: Ariya-Pubbala: “noble ones”] Sangha who have perfected these levels of realizations to the highest point – through these perfections, one is able to develop a good understanding of the Three Objects of Refuge: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Therefore, in the text it reads, “he is completely free from all faults”, referring to the qualities of the Buddha, which is an elimination of all faults. In the next line, it reads, “adorned with all good virtues,” refers to the perfections inherent in our consciousness. In that sense, the capacity to perceive, to know something is inherent within our minds and it is only the delusions that obstruct that full expression of the natural capacity of the mind.
So when the obstacles are removed, then the full flowering of that natural capacity of the mind to know is expressed as the wisdom of the Buddha, which directly recognizes the ultimate nature of reality and the relative world of multiplicity and diversity.
Since the perfections of these two wisdoms takes place only on the basis of the complementary factor of accumulation of merit based on universal compassion toward all sentient beings, the third line, therefore, refers to the Buddha’s quality of having perfected compassion. So it reads, “The sole friend of all beings.”
So the explanations I’ve given so far, on the basic tenets of Buddhism and the basic framework of the Buddhist path, are based on the explanations given by great masters like Nagarjuna and other true masters of India. And the explanations given, in their words, should not be viewed only in academic terms, as some sort of scholarly exposition, but they also reflect insights which come from the personal experiences of these great masters.
For example, in my own case, although I don’t claim to have any profound experience or realizations of these facts that the great masters are talking about, I can assure you, that from my own personal experience, as a result of continued persistence, that what is taught in these scriptures is truly powerful.
These teachings can make a difference and they can have an impact on your mind, in the sense that they can bring about an inner-change, a transformation.
One thing I realize as I’m here, so far as the potential for developing within us the wisdom penetrating into the true nature of reality is concerned, we are all absolutely equal. Everybody has these potentials. The question is whether one recognizes that fact and whether one utilizes or develops these potentials. That is entirely in the hands of the individual, but if one recognizes this fundamental fact of equality, the possession of the potential, and utilizes that knowledge, then each of us has a real chance of bringing about real spiritual change within us.
I would like to remind all of you who consider yourself practicing Buddhists to reflect upon the point raised in the sutra that we should relate to the teachings in the scriptures like the mirror. We should see our own thoughts, feeling, actions, and so on reflected in the mirror and constantly judge to what extent of thoughts, feelings, behavior, and motivation are close to that reality reflected in the mirror, or to what extent they are deviating from the scriptures, and it is through that constant comparison and checking that you should adopt the practice.
It is very important for practicing Buddhists to unsure the right kind of attitude and motivation, particularly when participating in a teaching or a lecture like this. For example, if my motivation as a teacher is colored by considerations or thinking that if I give this series of lectures I’ll be famous or that you’ll be impressed by my teaching skills or people will have high regards for me – or worse, if I am motivated by considerations of monetary gain – then of course, on the surface it may seem a spiritual work but in substance it becomes another act for accumulating non-virtuous merit. Similarly, on the part of the students, if your motivations are influenced by considerations like “If I attend these teachings I will increase my knowledge of Buddhism, I will become an expert, I will be able to impress other people, I will be able to write and be famous – such considerations are flawed. In such a case, what you are doing here may seem like a dharma activity but, in reality, it is a non-dharma activity.
Therefore it is very important for us practicing Buddhist to always reflect upon such profound thoughts, such altruistic thoughts like the ones we find in the beginning of the first verse of the Eight Verses on Training the Mind which state, “Whenever I am with others, may I always see myself as lower than others, from the depth of my heart may I always take others as dear and precious.”
It is quite rare, for us as individuals, to engage in the practice of dharma. So when we do find ourselves engaging in a dharma activity, it is all the more important to make sure that it really becomes a dharma activity. Now, behind me are a lot of Thangkas of Buddha Shakyamuni. If they are displayed as an object of veneration, admiration, and faith, then that is wonderful. But if they are displayed here a part of a decoration, then I thing that is wrong, so the point is that we should constantly check our motivation in whatever we do.
To be continued . . .