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Dalai Lama's Heart Sutra Lecture: Day 3
an account of His Holiness's teachings
by Dave Evans
May 2001
Day 1
Day 2


Intro Day 3
with His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

<I missed the morning session, had to work, so these notes are from the final afternoon on Saturday.>

Avoiding Suffering
The very sanskrit and tibetan words for "affliction" imply suffering and downfall of the individual. Suffering here is the state of mind of suffering, as opposed to physical pain.

Our aspiration is to be happy and to avoid suffering. If we notice there are two kinds of experience, one at physical sensations (pleasure and pain) and one at a mental level. The mental conscious level is more acute and more powerful. Much of this suffering is really caused at the level of our mind, emotions, thoughts. Many are caused by the mental afflictions - jealosy, competitiveness, anger, etc. When they arise they cause a real disturbance in our mind and in our heart.

In the scriptures we see six primary afflictions and then more secondary afflictions. If we observe day to day, we notice the role they play. "Today I was peaceful" or "Today I felt restless" The latter feeling is from the many mental afflictions.

External Blame & Projection
Normally we will blame suffering on external conditions. "I came upon this awful person" one might think, and "it made me very angry." We blame the external. The true practitioner should remain resolute and undistrubed like a tree.

If we reflect further on this quality of a person whose very sight causes us such adversity, we ask "is it real or a projection of the mind?" If it is real, others should have the same aversion. But that's not the case. When this same person, the awful one, meets a close friend of theirs this might cause great delight in the friend. So this quality of being an awful person must clearly be our own projection.

An old, simple example. Aging and death is part of our existance. Yet there is an extreme reluctance to accept that fact. It is almost an insult to point out someone's old age. But some cultures the attitude is quite different - in monastic tibetan society for example, age is almost a basis for respect. Especially for those with a long white beard, they can stroke it and show their age. Some view it negatively, others positively.

One time in Tibet, a Lama was teaching. And he said "amongst the monks those having a bald head and a long beard is seen as a sign of great wisdom." At that time having a thin neck was considered not so good, a thick neck was more mature. Similarly, having a goiter on your neck, one of moderate but good size, was considered a sign of prestige. When the lama explained this about the beard, and the baldness, and the goiter, there was one monk in the group that had a bald head, and a long beard, and a good sized goiter on his neck. He felt very proud at hearing this and he raised up his head slightly and had a new air of importance. But then the lama said, "But if all THREE qualities are present, it is something truly unfortunate." <at this point His Holiness really cracks up laughing>

One's own attitude makes tremendous impact on how one sees a situation. If one observes dynamics of mental and emotional afflictions you'll notice two basic types:

  1. sense of attraction to phenomenon
  2. sense of repulsion to phenomenon
But there are valuable states of mind with attraction or repulsion. Even in the fully enlightened Buddha we find these states of mind.

Self Destructive Acts
Self destructive acts however from minor to major are rooted in mental states of affliction. And over world history, we find the root of minor to major conflicts like war in mental afflictions.

Destructive acts in the future that we didn't realize were the result of our action, these are a product of our ignorance, of not knowing.

Even in animals, all interactions are rooted in mental affliction. Injury upon each other, rooted in desire - mating competitions, territory. It is attachment and anger that give rise to the conflict.

Therefore, there are many different mental afflictions in us - anger, attachment. At the heart is the delusion or ignorance - in an erroneous view of self. At the basis is a clinging to a self-hood which is thought to have independent existance, to be objectively real.

We tend to project objective Good and Bad as if they were absolute qualities of objects. Then we react strongly to them emotionally as a result of this erroneous view.

At the root is grasping at self existance.

So long as we remain in this view, there is no room for joy. This is enslavement by the delusion and ignorance. The whole three realms of Samsara are the slavery of delusion.

And so these afflictions are described as "poisons of the mind." Just like physical poison, they can cause illness and at the extreme even shorten ones life.

Not only do they cause us suffering, they also obstruct us from happiness. They are our true "enemy," they obstruct our fulfillment of happiness.

Internal Enemy
In the case of an external enemy, we can run and hide. But from an internal enemy, there is no refuge or powerful ally we can draw upon. Another difference, there is no external enemy who will stay your enemy for all time - or they may transform into your friend. Also external enemies may harm you but they usually have other roles in life too - like tending their own crops or relating to their own friends.

But internal enemies will never become friends, their only task is to cause us harm. They will perpetually find ways to harm us - it is their only role.

So when you consider this deeply, you will see the true meaning of Dharma. Nirvana is a state beyond suffering and mental afflictions. The Dharma is the only true refuge. The factor which provides us relief is the true path - the wisdom of emptiness - and it is the true Dharma. The jewel of the Dharma.

To put this into practice, adopt a morality to avoid negative actions. That is the first step. The second step is to directly develop antidotes to these mental afflictions. The final step is to eliminate the afflictions completely and also the residues so no propensities remain.

Also one must cultivate empathy.

One method to cultivate empathy is to visualize all things as embodiment of your mother, or embodiment of kindness, or someone very close to you. Extend that to all sentient beings. At some other point, these other beings have been as close to you as your mother... if you trace your origins and theirs back to the beginning of time.

In nature there is a tendency for offspring to be nurtured (not all, but most) - until they are capable of taking care of themselves - the parent nurtures them out of kindness and dependence is so complete. A parent is the sole refuge, a strong bond.

When you have this same perspective for all sentient beings, no matter how they relate to you, you'll be able to treat them with kindness and see their inherent kindness to you.

Steps to Reduce Suffering
In terms of procedure:

1st step - cultivate leveling or equanimity
Normally we have a fluctuation in our feelings toward others - some we have closeness - but most we'll go from closeness to anger easily. Closeness grounded in attachment. It can obstruct true compassion. Start with a leveling out of emotions before cultivating true compassion to avoid compassion obstructed by attachments [dave's edit: selfish love]

2nd step - Develop the feeling of unbearableness at the sight of other's suffering.

3rd step - Powerful compassion - wish to see others free from suffering and hold a commitment that you will help make that hapen. This gives rise to the altruistic attitude.. this leads to bodhicitta.

We all have the right to seek happiness. We all have the potential to achieve happiness. We are equal in this.

Sometimes we feel that our own suffering is disconnected to the suffering for others. Since we are part of a community, this is not the case. We are all part of the wider community and even part of the general whole. We are not truly independent to the interests of others.

Further, if by perpetually harboring our self-centered thought to bring about our happiness - then by now we should have been successful! <laughter> For all of us here, almost from the first day of our lives we have been pursuing the self-centered pursuit to achieve some gain.

Many of our sufferings are our own creation, and many can be removed or at least reduced, by changing our attitude or our perceptions.

Some sufferings are not overcomable - aging, death - they cannot be overcome. This is the conventional view. But the Buddhist view, these are raising up from an undisciplined mind. By cultivating antidotes for mental afflictions, and generating insight into the wisdom of emptiness... one can reduce these in some sense. They can possibly be ended.

At the root "are self-grasping" (at self interests and existence) and "self cherishing". These two join forces and solidify like a diamond. From these we experience all forms of suffering. We must proclaim "Today I recognize that these are the roots of my suffering."

Threefold Path
The three fold path is:
  1. compassion
  2. bodhicitta arising from compassion
  3. wisdom realizing emptiness
The great objects of veneration, Sukyamuni, and the great objects of veneration, the old Indian masters, - what makes them great? They followed the three fold path and abandoned self-cherishing. Instead they cherished others.

If at some point if we reversed our way of being, and cherished others and not ourselves - then we would have been by now enlightened. If we generated bodhicitta before Sukyamuni, by today we would have been more senior even than he. But that is not the case.

Path of the Boddhisatva
A common theme of other religions, is an emphasis on altruistic pursuits. When you reflect deeply on the short comings of self-centered-ness and the positive aspects of altruistic perspective, one overcomes self- centeredness.

The source of all blames is in one point (self-centeredness.) all our attitudes should be directed to kindness toward other sentient beings. In gratitude, the kindness of other sentient beings is boundless.

From this view, it is possible to develop compassion to all sentient beings. Perhaps you can combine chapters six and eight of the "Path of the Bodhisattva" - the chapters on kindness and also on meditation and focus - to develop kindness especially towards one's enemies.

You may start with an intellectual understanding of bodhicitta. Then as you contemplate more, you develop conviction and start to experience it. Then as you pursue further, when you think about bodhicitta you can realize it. By force perhaps assimilating bodhicitta.

Then it comes spontaneously.

Once you start to experience it, H.H. recommends encorporating it into rituals like the Medicine Buddha empowerment scheduled for Sunday morning. Then take the bodhisattva vows and pursue the six perfections. Especially the last two perfections:

  • Meditation: the penetrative insight into emptiness
  • Wisdom: the perfection of wisdom

That's it... I didn't take notes for the public lecture that evening, though I did order a copy of the movie on "Tibet's Stolen Child" that was presented on the Panchen Lama.>

Read Day 1
Read Day 2