Meaning of emptiness

Compassion and non-violence: Meaning of emptiness

During the second round, he taught the profound view of emptiness and the extensive conduct of a bodhisattva, both of which rely firmly on reason.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama told a woman who asked about the meaning of emptiness in ordinary life that a summary of the quantum mechanics view can be helpful. Quantum physicists state that things appear to have an objective existence from their own side, but under examination, they are found not to exist in that way. In the Buddhist account, things are empty of inherent existence. That this profound view is difficult to accept is indicated by Chandrakirti’s rebuke of Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharmakirti, masters celebrated for their accomplishments in other areas because they rejected Nagarjuna’s position.

Another question about anger prompted the same response as before. Read Shantideva’s ‘Entering into the Way of a Bodhisattva’, especially chapters six and eight. His Holiness commended reflecting on the virtues of love and compassion, the shortcomings of anger and the advantages of patience. He quoted Shantideva:

For those who fail to exchange their own happiness for the suffering of others, Buddhahood is certainly impossible – how could there even be happiness in cyclic existence? 8/131

Proceeding in this way from happiness to happiness, what thinking person would despair, after mounting the carriage, the Awakening Mind, which carries away all weariness and effort? 7/30

A young woman described feeling fearful when she tries to practise ‘giving and taking’ and generating the bodhisattva vow. His Holiness explained that we are so used to being guided by a self-cherishing attitude that trying to take on the unwholesome deeds of others or giving them our virtue feels dauntingly unfamiliar. He compared it to beginning to learn to read at school. To start with it feels difficult, but the more you become familiar with it, the easier it becomes.

His Holiness told a young man, who was concerned about engaging in analysis and coming to a different conclusion from his teacher, that so long as it didn’t involve a decline in respect for the teacher, disagreeing with him was fine. His Holiness suggested that discussing your conclusions with your friends can be very instructive.

Asked why students are encouraged to study the great Indian Buddhist classics and ‘Collected Topics’, His Holiness reminded his listeners that during the Buddha’s first round of teachings he laid out the Four Noble Truths and the Vinaya without any recourse to reason. During the second round, he taught the profound view of emptiness and the extensive conduct of a bodhisattva, both of which rely firmly on reason.

Studying Madhyamaka texts such as the ‘400 Verses’ and ‘Entering into the Middle Way’, as well as ‘Collected Topics’, makes for an incredibly powerfully system of education. It was maintained for more than a thousand years in Tibet and has been replicated and enhanced in the centres of learning in monasteries re-established in South India. In Tibet, students would study for forty years before they were considered fully qualified. Today, many students qualify in twenty years, but the curriculum remains rigorous.

Questioned about how to keep good family relations in the context of different religious traditions, His Holiness declared unequivocally that we are all the same in being human. What is most important is to cultivate a warm heart, maintain close contact and help one another.

In connection with cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta His Holiness quoted a verse from Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’:

May I always be an object of enjoyment
For all sentient beings according to their wish
And without interference, as are the earth,
Water, fire, wind, herbs, and wild forests. 483

The Abbot of Labsum Shedup Ling, Geshé Tenzin Namkhar, thanked His Holiness for the profound teachings he had given. He assured him that the students who made up the virtual audience will do their best to put what they had understood into effect. He informed His Holiness that the first volume of the series ‘Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics’ had been translated into Korean and is currently at the printers. He ended with a wish that His Holiness visits Korea.

His Holiness replied that when he gave the centre the name Labsum Shedup Ling he hoped that members would be able to support their practice through study, reflection and meditation to engage in the three higher training. The purpose is to make progress on the path to enlightenment and His Holiness told his listeners that he continued to pray that they will be able to do this. Finally, he mentioned that he is confident that those who have made a connection with him in this life will be able to renew that connection in the future.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Since taking asylum in India in 1959, His Holiness has become a global advocator of peace, compassion and happiness. He is the first Nobel Laureate to be recognised for his concern for global environmental problems.




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