“I believe that at every level of society — familial, tribal, national and international — the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities,” writes The Dalai Lama on religious harmony and the developing of a compassionate world.
Born Tenzin Gyatso in 1935, the young boy with 15 siblings was recognized as the reincarnation (tulku) of the 13th Dalai Lama at the age of 2; by 1950 he was enthroned as Tibet’s head of state at the young age of 15.
Under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung, the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet in order to consolidate Chinese power in the region in 1950. After horrific tragedies, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet to the border of India near Kalimpong, where the resistance movement and Tibetan people have lived in exile ever since. Winning the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989, the world has long admired the political leadership of the Dalai Lama who under unspeakable horrors, has remained vigilantly opposed to vengeance of any kind — instead he has become a beacon in non-violent resolution and the hope for a peaceful, harmonious world.
“The Dalai Lama has developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all mankind as well as nature,” states a citation by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
While the Dalai Lama’s influence has transcended religious barriers — having developed respectful relationships with Pope John Paul of the Catholic faith as well as presidents, heads of state, and other peace visionaries such as Nelson Mandela — he remains the religious and spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhism. The confluence of Buddhism and yoga which started to arrive in Tibet from India briefly around the late eighth century and then more steadily from the 13th century onwards developed into the Vajrayana sect.
Indian Buddhism around that time had incorporated both Hindu yogic and tantric practices along with the classical teachings of the historical Buddha who lived around 500 BC. It acknowledged that there were two paths to enlightenment (complete transcendence of identification with the personal ego): One path taught in the sutras according to the historical teachings, the heart of sutra practice was based on morality, concentration, and wisdom (not identifying with the personal ego). The other path, which has become the cornerstone of Tibetan variations, was tantric. Tantric blended the sutra teachings with techniques adapted from Hindu systems of yoga and tantra (using the ego as a vehicle towards transcendence).
Tantric systems transform and use the basic human passions of desire and aversion for the purpose of spiritual development. Rather than denying or suppressing such primal urges, tantra purifies them into wholesome and helpful forces.
Tibetan Buddhism is considered an esoteric extension of Hinayana and Mahayana schools (the two main branches of Buddhism), and is an accelerated or “fast” path to enlightenment — not “instant” by any means, but rather, enlightenment may be achieved in one lifetime rather than multiple incarnations.
The Sutra and Vajrayana teachings place great emphasis on building a proper moral basis upon which to build the insights of “emptiness.” In contrast, both Zen and Dzogchen place most of their focus upon directly working to develop the wisdom of emptiness.
There are four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, that have evolved throughout the centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama belongs to Gelug, “The Way of Virtue,” that combines the teachings of the three previous stages of development. It was founded by Gyalwa Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) Tsongkhapa’s disciple, Gyalwa Gedun Drupa was the first of the 14 successive rebirths of the Dalai Lama. The present Dalai Lama is known to his followers as Vajradhara Vagindra Sumati Shasana Dhara Samudra Shri Bhadra.
The Dalai Lama has spoken all over the world, held meetings with dignitaries such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and senior Eastern Orthodox Church, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Sikh officials as well as authoring 16 books and numerous articles. “I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion,” he writes.
Next week he will visit Hawai‘i on the island of Maui, speaking about “The Human Approach to World Peace,” and incorporating the work “Eight Verses for Training the Mind,” an eleventh century teaching by Geshe Langri Thangpa which is especially relevant today. It promotes the deeper human values of compassion and kindness, qualities which are embraced by all religious traditions and a topic that the Dalai Lama strongly advocates during his many travels around the world.
The Dalai Lama visits Hawai‘i April 24 and 25
Where: Maui Memorial Stadium
Details: The first day’s presentation on April 24 is free. The following day’s presentation on April 25 is ticketed. Special opening ceremonies will take place on April 24 to formally welcome the Dalai Lama. Hawaiian Masters representing each of the main Islands will be honoring His Holiness with sacred chants and ho‘okupu of lei from their respective islands. Kumu hula Kehaulani Kekua of Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai has been invited to represent Kaua‘i.
For more information: visit www.mauidharmacenter.org /HH_dalai_lama_.htm or www.mauiarts.org
Vajrayana Dharma Center on Kaua‘i
On Kaua‘i: The Vajrayana Dharma Center is located on Kaua‘i in the mountains above Kapa‘a.
Founded by the venerable Kalu Rinpoche, (Kagyu Shangpa lineage), the center welcomes everybody, and
students from all Buddhist branches alike. Dharma talks are given each Wednesday from
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
An upcoming two-day meditation retreat is scheduled for April 28 and 29.
For more information: visit www.kauaidharma.org or call 823-0949.
• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.