Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Basics of Buddhism by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a 3-day teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India. The topic of the lesson was Bodhicaryāvatāra or The Way of the Bodhisattvaava, a text written of Venerable Shantideva.

But His Holiness did not start his talk with Bodhicaryāvatāra. He spent the first day and the half of the second day going over the basics of Buddhism. Most of the attendees had a copy of the text Bodhicaryāvatāra in their hands, and they were flipping through the pages to spot the location His Holiness was teaching from.

I had witnessed something similar during His Holiness's talk at the American University in 2010. According to the published agenda, His Holiness was supposed to speak about a topic in Buddhist philosophy. Instead, His Holiness spent the scheduled time going over the basics and he never came around to the topic that was published.

I have observed the same pattern in most of the books His Holiness has written: He spends the first several pages going over the basics of Buddhism.

Here are those topics.

  1. The Four Noble Truths
  2. The Four Seals of Buddhism
  3. The Five Aggregates
  4. Two types of Buddhist Meditation: Shamatha and Vipashyana
Regarding the Four Noble Truths, in his book Transforming the Mind: Eight Verses on Generating Compassion and Transforming Your Life, His Holiness writes "Actually, contemplating on the Four Noble Truths is the foundation of the Buddha Dharma."

I appreciate His Holiness's emphasis on teaching the basics. Buddhism contains a vast body of text, some of them deals with topics that are complex bordering on esoteric. It is easy for practitioners to lose sight of the fundamental goal of Buddhism: Working on Human Suffering.  

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