The Dalai Lama’s Commentary on The Precious Garland of Nagarjuna Part II

Here is the second part of my transcript of the Dalai Lama’s commentary on the Precious Garland of Nagarjuna. My motivation to present these teachings is solely to share them with others. I got quite a lot of out this commentary and I want others to be able to benefit from them as well.

As some of you may know, the Dalai Lama has a slew of books that have been published under his name. Quite a few of these are merely polished transcripts of teachings he’s given, such as this one. However, as far as I know this particular commentary has not been published. If it were, then out of respect for the Dalai Lama, I would not post the transcript publicly.

Since that’s not the case, and considering that the Dalai Lama is a historic figure, I believe posting the transcript is in the public interest. I might also mention that I have no advertising here and do not make any profit from this blogs operation. So, I am presenting this transcript as a public service due to its historical importance.

In this section, the Dalai Lama offers some standard remarks that he has made at nearly all his teachings that I have attended. These remarks speak to a certain prejudice that I have encountered often with Asian Buddhists, particularly teachers. There are some who feel that Westerners will never be able to truly “get” Buddhism. In several recent posts, I have suggested how we in the West could improve our understanding of the flavor of Buddhist philosophy. Nonetheless, these Asian are correct, in one sense. We will never grasp Buddhism in the same way they do. We will get it in our own way. Just as the Chinese understood dharma a bit differently than Indian Buddhists, and in the way the Japanese understood it differently from the Chinese.

That’s just one reason why I could not disagree more with some of the Dalai Lama’s comments here. As you will read, he is saying that it is more suited to the temperament and inclinations of Western people to follow the teachings of our own traditional religion. I want to have a John McEnroe moment here and ask, “Are you serious?” I consider my “traditional” religion to be a fairy tale. In fact, I think it’s possible to construct a reasonable argument that it is irresponsible to encourage people to continue such belief. In any case, His Holiness does leave a door open for those of us in the West with different temperaments, but it seems like a rather small opening.

Finally, let me also mention that this is not a “polished” transcript. This was copied verbatim and that accounts for some of the jumbled, run-on sentences. Hopefully, that does not greatly interfere with reading.

Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Commentary on The Precious Garland of Nagarjuna

June 5-8, 1997

Part II

Among the audience here, those who practice Buddhism, when you listen to the lecture you should listen with the motivation of having reaffirmed your Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Also to reinforce your compassion towards all sentient beings and your aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.

Generally speaking, on this world there are so many major religious traditions and I feel that is more suited for individuals of different societies and cultures to follow their own traditional religion. For example, in the United States, since the European settlers came here and formed the dominate membership of the American community, the traditional religion of the United States is the Judeo-Christian tradition. I feel that for the majority of the American people, it is better, and also, in fact, more suited to the temperament and inclinations to follow the teachings of your own traditional religion. However, out of many people there might be a few individuals who, due to some factors, it is possible that, although you have been brought up in a community and culture where there is a traditional religion, for some reason you have never been able to develop any sense of an affinity or any faith in the traditional forms of practice. Then such an individual might at some times find a greater attraction or closer inclination to other forms of religious teachings, like Buddhism. In any case, it is surely your choice and it is also up to you to adopt certain forms of teaching, such as Buddhism. However, it is very important that one you adopt such teachings that you never succumb to the tendency of being overly critical of one’s own traditional religion.

Such individuals, even after having had, as a result of one’s own personal investigation, come to the conclusion that Buddhist teachings are more suited to one’s temperament and inclination – then it is very important to insure that you never lose respect and reverence to other religious traditions. That is something to bear in mind.

The teachings that are given now are a commentary on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland. The teachings have been requested by Geshe Gyeltsen [a Tibetan teacher centered in Long Beach, CA who passed away in 2009]. I myself have received transmission on these teachings from [name unclear] Rinpoche, who in turn received it from [name unclear] Rinpoche, and beyond that I cannot trace the lineage. It is something that perhaps you could find out. (laughter)

The point is that in the Tibetan tradition there is a general perception that when one receives a commentary or a particular text – if you receive a commentary from someone who is part of an unbroken lineage of transmission, tracing back to the original author of the text – there is an added dimension of spirituality. And it is also said that for some individuals, when you approach a Buddhist philosophical text – this is something that you may find difficult to understand at the initial stage – but as a result from receiving a commentary on a teaching which has an unbroken lineage of transmission, it is said to really enhance the understanding of the text so that you approach the text in a different light.

There has been a slight change in the program today, for although the morning session was to last up to 12 noon, there is quite a lot of members of the Sangha who observe the monastic precept of not eating after mid-day. So we will be ending the morning session at 11:30 and to make up for the half an hour lost, we are going to resume the afternoon session at 1:30, rather than 2 o’clock.

So, given that this morning’s session is going to be rather short, we are not going to have a question and answer session. But in the afternoon, either at the beginning or the end, we will seek to have an half an hour for question and answer.

Tomorrow, I will post another except in which the teachings on The Precious Garland begin in earnest.


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