Theckchen Chöling, Dharamsala, 15 May 2015 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with a group of 112 Vietnamese from the Vietnam CEO Club at his residence today. The group consists of about 60% women and 40 % men. Most were in Dharamsala for the first time.
To begin with the visitors offered His Holiness two large volumes containing Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ one in English and the other in Vietnamese. They were the work of 600 contributors. In his acknowledgement, His Holiness said:
“I received an explanation of this book ‘Bodhicharyavatara’ from Khunu Lama Rinpoche in 1967, at which time he asked me to teach it as many times as I could. And I’ve tried to do that. I have found it very helpful for transforming the mind. I read it and study it whenever I can.
“What this book teaches is really helpful for reducing the self-cherishing attitude and feeling attachment for things we see as inherently existent. We all have negative emotions and, since we want to be happy, it helps to reduce them. Whether we formally follow a religious tradition or not we need to pay more attention to inner values.”
He went on to say that when we talk about happiness, we usually associate it with sensory pleasures, beautiful sights and soothing sounds. We pay insufficient attention to our mind that is the source of happiness within us. He mentioned that the first item on the BBC news this morning was about migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa in rickety boats, many of them dying on the way. This is an example of a man made problem. Many of these arise because of the division we feel between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and our tendency to work only for ‘our side’. ‘The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ teaches us how to counter this tendency.
The first of several questions from the audience asked how we can see our minds in order to change them. His Holiness explained:
“To begin with you can focus your eyes and mind on an object. When you close your eyes, an image of the object remains. This is a generic image and you can learn to hold your attention on it to sustain it. Later, you can change your focus to the mind itself.
“Chapter 6 of the ‘Guide’ talks about patience. We tend to rely on and trust our negative emotions, but if we read this chapter it becomes clear how harmful they are and how we need to control them. Chapter 8 explains the disadvantages of attachment and a self-cherishing attitude as well as the advantages of cherishing others instead.
“Whether or not we formally follow a spiritual path, it’s important that to investigate the causes of unhappiness, which are the negative emotions, and ways to counter them. We also need to pay attention to the causes of happiness, such as love and compassion, and ways to develop them.”
His Holiness asked the group about rates of suicide in Vietnam and was told they were quite low. He further enquired whether most cases took place in cities or in rural villages. Hearing that most take place in cities he suggested that people feel isolated and lonely more easily in cities, whereas in villages there seems to be more social support and a sense of community. He remarked that love and affection have a role in this. As social animals, friendship is very important for human beings and friendship is based on trust, which grows when we show concern and respect for others. He added that there is a need everywhere to educate people about the value of warm-heartedness.
He asked about corruption and the gap between rich and poor in Vietnam and the answer to both questions was, “Large”. He remarked that clearly material development is necessary, but equally important is inner development. We all have problems, he said, but we have to find ways to deal with them.
The question of suicide came up again and he recalled hearing about a monk from Tashi Kyil in Amdo who was arrested and subject to ‘class struggle’ in 1958 or 59. When the monk was being transferred to another place and the party stopped to rest, he engaged in the practice of transference of consciousness and in effect took his own life. His Holiness said that we have to consider cases of suicide according to their circumstances.
A question was asked about the 5th and 6th verses of the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’, which deal taking defeat upon yourself while giving the victory to others and coping with those who harm you despite the good you have done them. His Holiness stressed the importance of not getting angry with people who do you harm, but also of not being complacent about their wrong doing. You can and should intervene.
When a member of the audience requested a very simple explanation of emptiness, His Holiness replied that things do not exist as they appear.
Someone else asked how to deal with the negative emotions that arise in the course of doing business. His Holiness advised him to try to conduct his business less for his own profit, and not in order to cheat, exploit or deceive others, but in order to contribute to society at large.
“Learn about negative emotions and how to counter them. Be practical about it. It’s not only businessmen who are subject to negative emotions, even hermits is the hills can be subject to jealousy and competitiveness. But if you become familiar with recognising them you can learn to deal with them.”