|The following article is from the Spring, 1990 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
As I always say, every one of us has a responsibility. So we must each take that responsibility and try to contribute our own individual share. Let us try to have a better world, a happier world, happier human beings. What I usually call my nirvana'the permanent cessation of all emotional negative thoughtsthat's my private business, my private nirvana. Now what we really need is nirvana for society; a happier human community and a society fully committed to lovingkindness. That is what we want. And that is what we can build. And for that everyone has a responsibility. As for my own nirvana, I can pursue that by myself; that's my business!
This is how His Holiness the Dalai Lama concluded his teachings in San Jose, California on October 9, 1989, where, for the first time in the United States, he had given teachings on Dzogchen and conferred the unique Empowerment of Padmasambhava and his Eight Manifestations, one of the Pure Vision revelations of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama. The great privilege and blessing of sponsoring these teachings in the U.S. came as a result of a long-standing invitation by Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa Fellowship. At their request, His Holiness had given Dzogchen teachings in London in 1984 and the same empowerment in Paris in 1982.
Just two days before his arrival in Santa Cruz, the news broke that His Holiness had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For the teachings sponsored by Rigpa, which were dedicated to World Peace, it could not have been more auspicious. On October 7, he gave his first public address since the Nobel announcement in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, where two thousand local people flocked to see him. Such had been the demand for tickets that the box office had distributed them all within forty minutes of opening, some people having queued from 5:30 a.m. Ehs Holiness was introduced by the County's leading politician and noted conversationalist Gary Patton, the Chairperson of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, who called His Holiness one of the great environmental leaders of the world.
His Holiness immediately introduced his theme: the importance of love and compassion at every level of human existence. Comparing human beings to bees, for which he admitted a particular curiosity on account of his predilection for honey, he concluded how much poorer were the humans, in their lack of social responsibility and in their attitude towards their fellow human beings. His Holiness lamented the loneliness and suffering to be found in modern urban society. He had come to Santa Cruz straight from a series of dialogues with scientists in Newport Beach, whose consensus of opinion had confirmed that the key cause of the mental illness so prevalent in the world today was a lack of sympathy and affection. His Holiness illustrated his point by recounting two touching anecdotes, of how he had helped a mentally disturbed person, and on the training of killer whales at Sea World. He went on to speak more about the importance of compassion for society, and for the younger generation who represent the future of humanity.
On world peace he reiterated his familiar call: True world peace can only be achieved through mental peace. Mental peace springs from the genuine realization that all human beings are brothers and sisters. Even though there are some different ideologies, political and economic systems, these are only secondary; the most important point is that we are all the same human beings, living on one small planet. For our very survival, we need other continents and other people; we depend on the co-operation of other human beings. It is quite clear that only by first developing inner peace is there a real hope or chance of keeping a lasting world peace.
Tracing the principle of cooperation from the level of particles to cells, to technology and in the community, he emphasized the role of an active compassion in society. At the same time, he identified the greatest obstacle to compassion as anger, and spoke on how to tackle it. He stressed the importance of patience and tolerance, and how a sincere attitude of altruism can bring true friendship, and break down barriers. So I call this feeling a genuine realization of the oneness of the whole of humanity'. We are all members of one human family. I think that this understanding is very important, especially now that the world is becoming smaller and smaller. In ancient times, even in a small village, people were able to exist more or less independently. There was not so much need for others' co-operation. These days, the economic structure has completely changed, so that modern economies, relying on industry, are totally different. We are heavily dependent on one another, and also as a result of mass communication, those barriers of the past are greatly reduced. Today, because of the complex interdependence of different factors, every crisis on this planet is essentially related with another, like a chain reaction. Consequently it is worthwhile taking every crisis as a global one. Here barriers such as this nation' or that nation', this continent' or that continent' are just obstacles. Therefore today, for the future of the human race, it is more important than ever before that we develop a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood.
From universal responsibility His Holiness turned to the work being done to seek a better understanding between different religions, and thanked those who took an interest in the plight of the Tibetan people. During the time allotted to questions, he spoke at greater length about the conditions in Tibet, the position of Tibet and how individuals in the West could help. He explained his reaction on receiving the Nobel Prize, and spoke very clearly and movingly on the sources of his optimism for the future. By this point in the auditorium you could have heard a pin drop; His Holiness' conviction and inner strength held the audience in an atmosphere of vibrant intensity as they hung upon his every word.
During his visit, there were many moments of that endearing humor and spontaneity which are a familiar part of His Holiness' character. In a brief stopover at Vajrapani Institute, one of the crown shouted out, California style, We love you! His Holiness stopped in his tracks, and grinned at them. Thank you very much, he said, and then with a glint of mischievous playfulness in his eye, blew them a big kiss. After his public talk in Santa Cruz His Holiness was on the point of climbing into his car when he spotted a group of local people, who had been catching the live radio broadcast of his talk, sitting on the grass outside the auditorium. One of them called out Free Tibet, at which he immediately headed off towards them, throwing security personnel, police and photographers into disarray. He greeted them all, shaking there hands and beaming at them. There were hardly any who did not have tears in their eyes.
Originally scheduled to be held in Santa Cruz, the Dzogchen teachings and the empowerment of Padmasambhava had to be relocated when two thousand people had already registered within the first few weeks. The only available venue large enough was the newly constructed Student Union Recreation and Events Center at San Jose State University, in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. The environment was totally transformed as, guided by Sogyal Rinpoche's remarkable flair for aesthetics and attention to detail, two rows of exquisite thangkas were hung above the stage, including the complete set of visionary thangkas commissioned by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, as well as the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava. The centerpiece, directly above His Holiness' throne, was a huge thangka of Guru Rinpoche in the form of Sampa Lhundrupma, Fulfillment of All Aspirations. To His Holiness' right was the beautiful palace of the mandala house' constructed by Rigpa staff and Ven. Tenzin Dakpa, His Holiness' ritual master from the Namgyal Monastery. Tibetan carpets covered the stage, and Rigpa banners hung right and left along the sides of the hall, which was packed to its 5,500 seat capacity. It was a breathtaking setting.
As Sogyal Rinpoche welcomed His Holiness, congratulating him on the Nobel Prize in a tribute to his courage, vision, wisdom and determination, the audience immediately rose as one in a standing ovation. This is a triumph, Rinpoche said, for the Tibetan people and all their hopes, a signal that the world acknowledges the justice of their struggle and supports their aspirations for freedom, borne through so much suffering. It is a message of victory for all those throughout the world who cherish peace and human values, and a signal of hope to encourage all those other people who are struggling for their rights and their happiness. It is a tribute to your unwavering stand on non-violence, and to your message of compassion and love, which has moved so many millions around the globe. And it is the long-awaited confirmation of your place as the most important spokesman for world peace in this troubled world of ours. For no one else has championed the cause of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, of reconciliation and forgiveness as you have done. At long last the world has truly recognized what so many have known for so long.
His Holiness replied: I consider this prize to be some kind of recognition of my sincere motivation. So essentially the credit goes not to that monk Tenzin Gyatso, but rather to the sincere motivation of altruism. Every human being has the same potential for compassion; the only question is whether we truly take any care of that potential and develop it and implement it in our daily lives. So I hope that more and more people will realize the value of compassion and follow the path of altruism. As for myself, since I became a Buddhist monk that has been my real destinyfor usually I think of myself as just one simple Buddhist monk, no more and no less.
Over the next two days, His Holiness gave the Dzogchen teachings, concluding on October 9 with the Empowerment of Padmasambhava and his Eight Manifestations. This was the Tukdrup Yang Nying empowerment from the Fifth Dalai Lama's Gyachen Nyer Nga revelation, which is a cycle classified as belonging to the Ancient Tradition of Nyingma, and to the category Zabmo Daknang, Profound Pure Visions. From all over the United States and other countries as well, followers of all Buddhist traditions, both Tibetan and others, had been drawn together by the opportunity of receiving these teachings from an authority such as His Holiness. Many observed that this was the largest gathering they had ever seen in the West of lamas and practitioners of the Buddhadharma. Both H.E. Dzogchen Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche had been in Santa Cruz during the preparations for His Holiness' visit, and Khen Rinpoche gave a number of teachings, one of them on the evening of October 8, where he addressed the gathering along with Sogyal Rinpoche. Many lamas, geshes, and ordained sangha filled the stage during the teachings, headed by His Eminence Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche.
With his customary authority, piercing wisdom and humor, His Holiness taught on Dzogchen, explaining at first the general approach to the Buddhadharma, and the teachings of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Secret Vajrayana. He began by underlining how in a traditional setting, teachings such as Dzogchen were taught according to the experience of the student, with a set period of time specified for each stage of the practice. He emphasized how considerable time should be spent on experiencing them in meditation, stressing how real change in a practitioner can only take place as a result of constant effort and determination, and that, as Buddhists, such change should be seen in terms of a long-term evolution, over aeons and billions of lives.
His Holiness pointed out the uniqueness of Dzogchen as a vehicle which takes wisdom as the path, in contrast to other vehicles which take the mind as the path. At several points he observed how helpful it could be to have a more comprehensive understanding of the Buddhadharma, and of the different approaches within Tibetan Buddhism.
It is of the utmost importance that, when one engages in the practice, first of all one should have a good grounding in the different vehicles of the Buddhadharma. If this is well established, it serves as a very valuable preliminary, to enable one to better realize the true meaning of Dzogchen teachings themselves.
According to the approach of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, handed down by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the entire spectrum of Buddhist philosophy and practice can be explained through the famous quotation of Buddha: Mind is devoid of mind, for the nature of mind is Clear Light: The first element of this quotation, the mind,' encompasses the entire meaning of the Hinayana teachings, that is the teaching based upon the Four Noble Truths. The second part of this line, is devoid of mind,' encompasses the meaning of all the Wisdom Sutras, the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma. And the meaning of the last part of the quotation, the nature of mind is clear light,' embraces the entire subject matter of the third turn refers specifically not to the Sutras which are taken as the philosophical authority of the Cittamatra teachings, that is the Yogacara School, but rather to sutras like the Tathagatagarbha Sutra which is the root sutra of treatises like Maitreya's Uttaratantra Sublime Continuum of Consciousness,' in which the meaning of the primordial Clear Light is expounded.
Although the ultimate meaning of the Fundamental Innate Mind of Clear Light' is expounded in Highest Yoga Tantra in general, the actual practice of experiencing this primordial nature of the mind in a very experiential and intuitive manner is to be found only in Dzogchen practice.
The fact that both what is called the Fundamental Innate Mind of Clear Light' in the New Translation School and Highest Yoga Tantra, and what is spoken of as the pristine awareness of Rigpa in the Dzogchen teachings ultimately come down to the same meaning is to be found in the writings of Longchem Rabjampa and in Jigme Lingpa's commentary to his own Yonten Dzo, the Treasury of Knowledge.' One can also find this in the writings of the Fifth Dalai Lama, and particularly in the later writings of Dondrup Jigme Tenpe Nyima, the Third Dodrupchen Rinpoche, who was not ony a very great scholar but also a great meditator and adept. He had a vast knowledge of both Sutra and Tantra, and of both the New Translation School of Tantra and the Old Translation School, and his understanding of Madhyamika philosophy and Sautantrika epistemology and logic were very profound. One can fmd in his writings very explicit references to this point: how the ultimate meaning of what is spoken of in the New Translation Schools as the Fundamental Innate Mind of Clear Light and in Dzogchen terminology as Rigpa are one and the same thing. Also one can find explicit mention of this fact in the writings of Khenpo Ngakchung where he specifically mentions it when distinguishing between the Ground and the Appearances from the Ground, referring to the Ground as Rigpa.
So although I cannot claim to have authentic, advanced realization of Rigpa or the Fundamental Innate Mind of Clear Light, yet when I read and compare the different writings of various masters from different traditions, and particularly when this point is analyzed in relation to the writings of the different schools of Buddhist philosophy, including both the Sutra system and all four class es of Tantra, Old and New Translation School, I sympathize with this opinion. I find this particular insight very beneficial and helpful myself in understanding the unity of all the different traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. It also enables me to develop a genuine respect towards all the diverse approaches within the Buddhist tradition of Tibet.
Before leaving Santa Cruz on October 10, His Holiness met the Rigpa Sangha who had arranged his visit. Once again he spoke of an active compassion and an engaged Buddhism, emphasizing how it was the responsibility of followers of the Buddhadharma to be of service to others. Through sincere practice, we as individual practitioners can create, I think, a positive atmosphere, which will contribute to society. . . . Then it is important to find a variety of ways to be of service to society as a wholesince that is our responsibility.