His Holiness in Bombay

On the 31st of January, 2007, His Holiness the Dalai Lama very generously accepted our long-standing invitation to give teachings in Bombay, and addressed the Dharma Rain Centre group at the Leela Hotel in an extended teaching session in the morning.

As His Holiness entered the teaching hall, escorted by Prashant Varma and Sumit Mehta, he was given a very warm welcome by an excited and enthusiastic audience, that had gathered since early in the morning to receive him.

(Click here to listen to the full audio recording)

His Holiness was offered the traditional khata and flowers by Sreeparna “Dimpi” Sengupta; and Ven. Dorje Damdul, who was to be His Holiness’ translator for the day, was similarly honoured by Nisheeta Jagtiani.

In his brief welcome address, Aspi Mistry, the co-ordinator of the Dharma Rain Centre, recalled how His Holiness had from the very start, encouraged the group to start activities in Bombay. Stressing the non-sectarian character and approach of the Dharma Rain Centre, he spoke of the need to include all buddhists within the fold of the centre’s activities, and was critical of those sections of the community, including buddhist groups, who often excluded Indian Buddhists, those that are variously referred to as Neo-Buddhists, Dalits and Scheduled castes. He then invited His Holiness to give teachings to the group.

His Holiness began by appreciating the initiative that the group had taken in organising this event, and emphasised that this was as it should be, since the buddha dharma is part of the Indian tradition, and not a foreign transplant from Tibet or elsewhere. As he said “This is your tradition, we have taken it from you.”. He then went into the historical background of the ancient centres of learning such as Nalanda and Takshashila. The Dalai Lama spoke on the richness of the Nalanda tradition of India and the contribution of Indian scholars like Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti, in the development of such profound philosophical concepts as shunyata.

Moving on, he then went into the teaching of The Four Noble Truths, the first discourse of the Buddha. If we take the first two Noble Truths, he said, namely the Truth of suffering and the Truth of the cause of suffering, then at one level we often tend to simplify the whole matter by just speaking of ignorance, greed and hatred, and very often just of fundamental ignorance. But if one has to go to a deeper understanding, one needs to study the concept of pratitya samutpada, the twelve links of conditioned co-production. Here, ignorance is traditionally taken as the first link in the chain but one needs to examine more deeply, how ignorance at every stage is woven into the fabric of cyclic existence. He then highlighted some of these aspects with examples.

At this stage there was a brief interaction with the audience members as His Holiness invited them to contribute their thinking on “atheism”. His Holiness was emphasising that while the concept of Creator God may be denied at the philosophical level, the greatest and most profound of all Buddhist thinkers and scholars, had always the deepest respect for the views of philosphers and practitioners of other spiritual traditions, who may explain ultimate reality in terms of a Creator.

But, he went on, if we now go to the third Noble Truth, namely the cessation of suffering, then to achieve that cessation, namely release from cyclic existence, one has to have the correct view of ultimate reality and without the correct view, cessation is not possible. And the correct view is the emptiness of the self, and the emptiness of all phenomenon. There was more discussion on “interdependence” and “emptiness”, and how your understanding can be considered complete only when you come to realise how both emptiness and interdependence can apply to one and the same object, with no contradiction at all.

A question and answer session then followed, and members of the group put their questions directly to His Holiness.

Finally, in deep appreciation of His Holiness’ kindness in giving us this teaching, the Dharma Rain Centre made an offering of a gift to His Holiness. We presented him with a telescope. His Holiness, accepting the gift recalled the first telescope he had in Lhasa. He talked about how he had convinced his tutors then, that the moon shone with the light reflected from the sun. He had shown them the advancing shadows in the craters of the moon as the sun set.

It was then time for His Holiness to leave and as he left he greeted everyone on the way out, leaving the imprint of his presence on each one of us.

The above are only (paraphrased) highlights from His Holiness’ teaching session. If there are any errors in this report, the responsibility is solely mine. However, the unedited audio recording of the event is available for download. Aspi Mistry.

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