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Buddhism’s Theories and Methods in Dispelling Mental Afflictions
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Buddhism’s Theories and Methods in Dispelling Mental Afflictions

- Talk at Sun Yat-sen University

Evening of 12 June 2011

Opening words by the MC:

Good evening everyone! I am simply representing the Sun Yat-sen University, School of Philosophy Management Philosophy Doctoral Research Student Association to welcome you all to the 3rd Doctoral Research Forum.

Upon entering the gates of Sun Yat-sen University, you encounter Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. First, one of our university traditions: singing the Sun Yat-sen University song. Please stand, I will lead:

Among white clouds and high mountains, where the Pearl River water long flows, stands our school, becoming the pride of the nation.

Hand crafted by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, leaving a blooming legacy to study extensively, enquire accurately, reflect carefully,

Discriminate clearly, practice earnestly, to be the backbone of a nation. A vast number of outstanding students are gathered here together.

Learning for practical purposes, we go on improving ourselves. Fostering and developing, we carry forward our views.

Revitalize the Chinese nation, let we never forget.

Wonderful, please take a seat! Now let us welcome Khenpo Sodargye with our warmest applause -

Our Management Philosophy Doctoral Research Student Association was established in the first lunar month of this year. Since its inception, it has received the close attention of the school, the faculty, and the strong support of our doctoral and research students.

In order to establish long-term academic exchange for research and doctoral students, and to become a platform for lifelong learning, at our inception, we ensured that each year we would organize from time to time large-scaled expert forums.

Under everyone’s great support and efforts, during the 1st Forum, we were very honoured to have invited the former secretary of education of the Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C., Professor Wang Ruipu. He was essentially the class teacher of General Secretary Hu Jintao. Professor Wang gave a talk on “The State and Risks of China’s Economic and Social Development”, and interpreted the 12th Five Year Plan for us.

The following 2nd Forum, we were able to invite a patriarch of the Sun Yat-sen University School of Philosophy, renowned contemporary historian, the 80-year-old Professor Yuan Weishi. Professor gave the keynote speech on “The Revolution of 1911 and 20th Century China”, taking us on a trip down the Xinhai Revolution memory lane.

This 3rd Forum, we are honoured to form ties with the great master of Tibetan Buddhism, Khenpo Sodargye. He will give us a talk on “Buddhism’s Theories and Methods in Dispelling Mental Afflictions”. It may be raining heavily outside today, but many of you have gathered here, which is a testament to Khenpo’s influence and charisma.

In recent years, Khenpo has been invited by Peking University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, and Zhejiang University. Yesterday, he just came from Central China Normal University to our Sun Yat-sen University to give a Buddhist Studies talk. All this that Khenpo has done has initiated a new chapter in the friendly exchange between Buddhism and the Science & Arts arena.

Now, please let us welcome Khenpo with our warmest applause -

The Sun Yat-sen University school song you just sang is beautiful. When I entered the university, I saw that the entire campus is also very beautiful. A renowned school indeed has its good fortune and its unique feature.

1. In unity with Sun Yat-sen University motto, expounding the importance of learning for practical purposes

I am very honoured to be here today for this interchange with the students. Sun Yat-sen University was created by Mr. Sun Yat-sen, he even wrote the school motto in his own hand: “Study extensively; Enquire accurately; Reflect carefully; Discriminate clearly; Practice earnestly”. This principle comes from the Doctrine of the Mean. These five stages of scholarship can fully correspond to the Tibetan Buddhist system of studying, contemplating, and practicing.

I remember mentioning this when I was teaching Standards for Being a Good Student and Child. “Study extensively” means no matter what you study, listen broadly and study extensively; otherwise you cannot master its essence. This is the equivalent of the “studying” in Tibetan Buddhism, which is to first rely on a virtuous and knowledgeable wise spiritual mentor, then listen extensively to the Dharma from your mentor, to avoid blind cultivation and practice.

“Enquire accurately” means after listening to the Dharma, if there are places you do not understand; enquire in detail, to eliminate any doubt and confusion. Our Tibetan Buddhism has always valued debating; using rigorous logic and reasoning to entirely dispel one’s own doubts and misunderstandings. Following this, one needs to “reflect carefully”, to repeatedly scrutinize an idea. Then “discriminate clearly”, to clearly discriminate between what is true and what is false, what to keep and what to reject. These three points are equivalent to the “contemplating” in “studying, contemplating, and practicing”.

Finally, it is not enough to merely understand an idea; one also needs to implement it practically, rather than just remain with empty words. This is called “practice earnestly”, which is equivalent to “practicing”.

Thus, Tibetan Buddhism’s studying, contemplating, and practicing are exactly the same as Sun Yat-sen University’s motto. It is just that one comes from a worldly perspective and one from a supra-worldly perspective. Regarding any truth, you must first know it, then contemplate it, finally implement it practically.

My talk today on “Buddhism’s Theories and Methods in Dispelling Mental Afflictions” actually is about this. The “theories” on dispelling mental afflictions are within the extent of studying, contemplating, whereas the “methods” are in the domain of “practicing”. Through today’s exchange, I hope that in future you can unite these three aspects of studying, contemplating, and practicing; to truly apply the knowledge you have learned.

Many university students now have attended school since they were six or seven. After studying for over twenty years, much of what they learned cannot be applied to life. This is quite a shame. I believe that knowledge learned must be used. It cannot just stay stagnant in books, in words, or just in exchange for a piece of certificate. One should combine its meaning to experience, experiment in real life. This is very important!

2. The deep historical roots between Christianity and Buddhism

Mr. Sun Yat-sen held Buddhism in high esteem throughout his life, and also had bonds with many eminent monks and great masters. I am not sure if you intellectuals can understand this, but as a Buddhist, I not only care about society in general, I also care at the same time about how historical figures viewed Buddhism. For example, in 1912 when Mr. Sun Yat-sen served as the provisional President, Master Taixu organized an “Association for the Advancement of Buddhism” in Nanjing. When the two later met, Mr. Sun Yat-sen was full of praise for Master Taixu’s revolutionizing of Buddhism.

In addition, there was one conversation between Mr. Sun Yat-sen and Master Xu Yun. I once read Feng Feng’s Empty Cloud, a book that gave an account of Master Xu Yun’s life. The book said, Mr. Sun Yat-sen felt that in spirit, Christianity and Buddhism are very close. Master Xu Yun told him that Buddhism and Christianity originate from the same root. After Jesus turned 18, he once headed to India to study Buddhism, and studied under a disciple of Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha. After staying in India for over ten years, he then returned to Israel via Persia and Turkey to spread his teachings of salvation. This episode was recorded by Peter, Jesus’ first disciple, in Aquarian Apostle Chronicle; but unfortunately the chronicle was banned by the Vatican over a thousand years ago, so it has not been publically disseminated.

Mr. Sun Yat-sen was extremely interested upon hearing this, and asked where he could find this book. Master Xu Yun answered: “According to those from the outside, there are still a few copies remaining in the Vatican Library and the British Library.” Mr. Sun Yat-sen said: “If I go to London next time, I have to search for it and read it. If this book reappears, I believe it would greatly contribute to the unity and collaboration of these two religions, and also be of contribution to world peace!”

Apart from this, in a conversation with Chiang Kai-shek, Master Xu Yun also said: Christianity’s paradise is in fact Buddhism’s ultimate bliss realm.

This claim may not be accepted by some Christians, but from a historical perspective, it indeed is worthy or exploration. A great monk like Master Xu Yun cannot possibly speak casual words without solid facts.

Also, Professor Ji Xianlin of Peking University also wrote in one article: Buddhism’s future Maitreya Buddha is the same as Christianity’s future Messiah. He believes, Maitreya and Messiah have both been called future saviours, the pronunciation of their names are very alike, the Messiah is seen as a symbol of compassion, Maitreya also means compassion and loving kindness… he also listed many evidence from other areas. If the future saviours of the two religions are one and the same, then to consider that there have always been causes and conditions between Buddhism and Christianity should not be too contradictory.

In addition, after more than ten years of research and investigation in India, Turkey, Iran and other countries, German scholar Holger Kersten published the book Jesus Lived in India in 1983, which was later made into a film. The book also told that Jesus went to India and studied Buddhism when he was 12, returning to his home in Israel ten years later.

As early as 1894, Russian historian Nicolas Notovich indicated in his research that he personally encountered two scrolls of Tibetan sutras in a monastery at the foot of the Himalayas. These recorded that at the age of 14, to escape from marriage, Jesus travelled with merchants to India and studied there for six years. Then for numerous reasons, from one place to another he reached Nepal and continued to study the Buddhadharma for six more years.

Some historical accounts also say that Jesus founded Christianity because he felt that Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings are considerably profound, if taught directly to the world, people would find it difficult to accept straight away. So he took universal love, which is particularly plain to understand and in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, as the anchor point of his dissemination of teachings, and required universal adherence from the world.

It so happens that in the four Gospels written by four of Christ’s disciples and considered legitimate by the Vatican, the accounts of Jesus’ life between the ages of 12 and 30 are all, with one accord, entirely blank. It has been speculated that the reason why this episode of his life has been entirely deleted is because the Vatican is unwilling to admit that Jesus has connections with Buddhism. Otherwise, it would damage the authority and status of Christianity.

In reality, the Christian Bible was not created by Jesus himself, but took the four Gospels as the basis, with more than 40 authors from different eras, and 1,600 odd years in time to be compiled. Thus, certain aspects of it deserve to be reflected upon by everyone.

Of course, my saying these today is not trying to prove something, simply that we just mentioned Mr. Sun Yat-sen and Master Xu Yun, so I thought of the conversation between them. In truth, all good religions ultimately aim to benefit humanity, benefit all living beings; apart from doing good and altruistic deeds, they absolutely cannot bring unrest to the whole society. At present Christianity is flourishing in Western countries. All the way from presidents to ordinary people, more than 90% of the people are devoted to Christ. The restraining effect on their behaviours and other aspects of life is incredible. Imagine if there is not Christianity’s guide towards virtue, most people would be solely intent on profit and only fixate on immediate gains, humanity’s moral would definitely slide further and the entire world would also be in turmoil. Thus humanity should develop in the direction of truth, virtue, and beauty. If we abandon the moral restraints of religion, the fine traditions of the ancients, then eventually what would this world become? You can imagine it.

Material development today is really happening too fast. Those who had one car ten years ago now have two; many in the past who lived in low-rise flats have now all moved into high-rise apartments. Yet inside, people have not experienced true experience of tranquillity and happiness as a result of the rapid material development. Why is this? It is exactly because moral views have not had a corresponding elevation.

You need to know that development does not only point to the material. When material life reaches a certain level, for some, wealth becomes a pile of numbers rather than a source of happiness. With burgeoning wealth, they even feel that their happiness is becoming lesser and lesser. Thus, external material wealth is not able to compensate for spiritual emptiness. If there were problems in a person’s value system, a lifetime of busy and meaningless tasks still would not result in happiness.

Then, when we have the money, how do we obtain true happiness? We should use it to help others, to do good deeds and sow virtue. Quite a number of people now have wealth, power, and ability, yet never do any charity or care about those around them. In this way, having the money is no different to not having it; its true value cannot be shown.

Certainly, for some people, they may not have that much money. But even if this is the case, you should at least have a good heart. Yesterday when Bill Gates was giving a speech at Peking University, one student asked: “University students are full of passion, but have limited capital. Are we able to do something for charities?” He answered there and then that charity does not simply mean donations, but there must be the ethos of charity. As long as one has this in heart, more or less there would be the ability.

These questions require everyone’s careful reflection. Actually in one class I cannot cover much content. I am merely casting a brick to attract jade and giving you some suggestions.

3. How to treat craving and anger in Buddhism

Returning to the main topic, if we encounter troubles and worries in life and fierce craving and anger arise, how do we then treat these? There are myriad methods in Buddhism. For ills of our body, we can seek treatment in hospitals. But with these ills of the mind, we need to rely on Buddhism’s miraculous cures of the heart.

I myself have studied Buddhism for many years, and from the depth of my heart, I feel that the Buddhist methods of treating heart ills must be known by the world. There are so many people now who suffer bitterly from physical and mental exhaustion. Seeing these sights, we as Buddhists cannot exclusively enjoy the nectar of Buddhadharma, but should share it as much as possible with those who have the affinity.

Then, how does Buddhism teach us to treat our mental afflictions?

Treating craving

According to the Theravada viewpoint, when fierce craving arises, it is best to practice skeleton meditation. In Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and other countries, most practitioners adopt this method. When I went to Thailand in 1999, I especially went to a forest monastery to see this. Placed there were a human anatomy model and the skeleton of a corpse. Next to these, the elders were explaining to the visitors: How is our human body formed? Is it worth craving? …

Initially, those who do not understand may find it a little ridiculous: “This is a dead person, we are living people, how can there not be distinctions?” But if you quiet the mind and think it through, you will slowly understand that any one whom you are strongly attached to is actually just a sack of stinking skin and bones. If you analyse one by one their skin, flesh, bones, organs, you find not a shred worthy of craving and attachment. Eventually you will realize that the body of your beloved is not even as pure as a sheet of white paper. Your own incomparable craving of it is entirely a sort of confused attachment.

Nowadays many people never tire of professing: “I love you, you love me”, are willing to die and be born again for love, and everyone also find this perfectly justified. Yet they have never thought about: is this body worthy of love? That, which I love, in the end is which portion of this person?

I once met a government official in Thailand who has gone through temporary ordination and practiced skeleton meditation – the situation in Thailand is different to ours, men of around 20 there must go through temporary ordination, even Prime Ministers are of no exception. Such undertakings ensure the sowing of virtuous roots for liberation, and can also have restraints on the actions of the people. When he initially saw the impurities of the human body, perhaps due to his different living environment, he really scoffed at it. Yet slowly, through attending to the interpretations of the elders, he started to accept, and within a very short period of time had very strong confidence. He said in astonishment: “I was so ignorant before. I should not be attached to this body, whether other’s or mine. It is in the end only a clump of flesh and blood, what is there to grasp? Why are people so confused?

Presently, quite a few among you also grasp and are attached to others or your own body. Actually this is all because the education you received as a child was different and you did not have the opportunity to touch these truths. If you have the chance, “man’s nature at birth is good”, everyone can recover his or her own virtuous roots.

Above, from the Theravada perspective of visualizing impurities, I have briefly touched on the method of treating craving. Of course, in Mahayana Buddhism, there are also many teachings on this.

Treating anger

As for anger, there is a specific chapter in The Way of the Bodhisattva on how to treat it. For instance, when you are in the midst of anger, you can observe what are the colour, shape, and nature of this anger? Has it come from the body of the foe, from empty space, or from a part of your own body? Where does it actually exist? As soon as you dissect it this way, you will realize that anger is like empty space, and it will dissolve in that moment. Just as it is said in the Purification of Karmic Obscurations Sutra: “All afflictions are the Buddhadharma…all afflictions are of the nature of empty space.”

This is the method of treating anger adopted by highly skilled practitioners. With it, afflictions can be transformed into bodhi. In the Platform Sutra, it is also said: “Affliction is itself bodhi.” Of course, the phenomena of craving and anger are not bodhi; only recognizing their true nature is bodhi. If you do not recognize it, then no matter how much afflictions you produce, they are still afflictions and will never be transformed into bodhi. This is a particularly profound idea in Buddhism; as soon as you understand a little of it, you will find it very useful when facing troubles and worries.

In this world, no matter who you are, it is not possible to have no afflictions or sufferings. When you encounter them, there is no way of resolving the problem with money or by changing the environment. That is because it comes from within, no matter where you hide, you can never hide from the mind. Thus, if you wish to treat these afflictions, you need to employ the methods of Buddhism to regulate and subdue your own mind.

4. Understanding Buddhism’s union of wisdom and compassion

Mr. Sun Yat-sen once said: “Buddhism is the benevolence that saves the world, Buddhism is the mother of philosophy, the study of Buddhism can complement science, people must not be without religious ideas…Politics treats the body, religion treats the mind, bring out the best by associating the two, and both can be implemented without conflict.” These lines are very important, and can be understood in conjunction with today’s topic of “union of wisdom and compassion”.

You need to know that wisdom and compassion are the two main features of Buddhism, and are also the basic principle of being a human. If one has only wisdom but no compassion, then that wisdom can become wrong wisdom. Like certain highly qualified intellectuals who use their proficiency in skills to conveniently commit wrong deeds. Stealing from banks, embezzling, producing counterfeit goods, creating food that harm the public… they are able to do anything. On the other hand, if one only has compassion and no wisdom, it also will not do. Nowadays quite a few people are very eager when doing charitable deeds, yet without wisdom, they often end up with too many problems to tackle and get themselves sorely battered. Whereas in Buddhism, not only are you taught ways of the world, there are also profound teachings on the existence of past and future lives, the truth of cause and effect, the rarity of the human form, the emptiness of all dharma, and others. Once you understand these, you will establish the right view of life and your actions will not be very blind, very indecisive.

Many people now see Buddhism as a superstition and believe that studying the Dharma is only about going to temples to offer incense and pray in front of the Buddha statues. Yet they are not aware that Buddhist thought is so vast and profound that even the body of Western philosophy pales in comparison. There was one stage when I bought every available book on Western ancient and modern philosophy, and read them day and night. In the end, I discovered that all of their ideas have been taught in Buddhism, and consequently I held even greater confidence in the Buddha. Therefore, Buddhism’s wisdom truly deserves the title of “Mother of Philosophy”.

As for the great compassion of Buddhism, it is the “benevolence that saves the world”. If one is thoroughly versed in Buddhism, then he or she will be equipped not only with worldly and supra-worldly wisdom, but also the compassion and loving kindness that extends to all lives. I heard that the Guangdong Animal Release Association here is the first government approved animal release organization. Its aim is to promote the “3 Lives”, which are preserving harmony of the living ecology, promoting the value of life, and advancing the happiness of lives. This is very good. Only, if you wish to fundamentally implement this spirit, I believe you cannot be separated from the ideas of Buddhism, especially the understanding that the lives of humans and animals are equal.

Nowadays when the equality of human life is mentioned, I believe everyone would acknowledge that it is no longer like the old days of feudal society when the rich and powerful could carelessly trample on the lives of ordinary people. But on this basis, we need to go one step further and realize that animal life is also worthy of honour. Their lives are exactly the same as ours. Do not think that they are born to be food for humans, and could be carelessly killed, eaten.

In this world, life is more precious than anything. When you are ill, in order to go on living, you cling onto any chance and willingly give up all fortune, power, just to live one more day. You treasure your life so much; it is just so for other animals. This is why Buddhism advocates the equality of all living beings, and on this point, no other religion can compare with it.

The famous Tibetan scholar Gendun Chopel also said once: “Buddhism’s characteristic is not to initiate wars everywhere, using military might to conquer the whole world. But with the bhikkhu’s act of not even killing an ant, it moves the whole world.” This spirit of universal love, in the history of humanity, would be deeply admired by anyone.

In 2009, when awards were given among all the world’s religions, Buddhism was chosen as “Best Religion in the World”. You can also find out about this on the Internet. According to statistics, there are over 2,000 religions in the world today. Why is it that only Buddhism received this award? It is exactly because it has the compassion to care and love for all beings, as well as the wisdom and insight into the truth of all phenomena. The Buddha already taught these ideas in meticulous detail over 2,500 years ago; and it is precisely these that are the essence of Buddhism.

5. Right awareness of the functions of Buddhism

Yet regrettably, many people do not really know the teachings of Buddhism. Particularly in the Han region, there are frequently people who tout the name of Buddhism to tell fortunes, fool the masses, and commit all sorts of unruly acts, misleading innumerable people into believing that this is Buddhism.

In reality, the spirit of Buddhism has remained intact in the Chinese Tripitaka; if you have the interest, you can go read it. There are some who after only reading the Diamond Sutra, Shurangama Sutra, and Amitabha Sutra, believe that they now thoroughly understand Buddhism. Actually if you wish to head deep into the ocean of Buddhadharma, to search for the treasure of truth, you must know the teachings of Buddha’s first, second, and third turning of the Dharma Wheel, including some study of Tantra. Apart from these, there are so many eminent monks and great masters in India, Tibetan and Han region; you should also respectfully read their biographies and commentaries. Putting aside others, just reading Han region’s Biographies of eminent monks compiled during the Tang period, Biographies of eminent monks compiled during the Song period, and New continued biographies of eminent monks would lead you to feel that the practitioners’ state of overcoming afflictions and obtaining happiness really cannot be described in words.

This wasn’t just in the ancient past; actually it is also in the present. For some people, after studying Buddhism, they can have the courage to laugh in the face of intense sufferings like aging, illness, and death. Yesterday I met an intellectual in Wuhan who has been diagnosed with final stage liver cancer with metastasis in the lungs. The doctors say he only has two months to live. He came to see me at the airport, and brought his wife and daughter. I have met many such families in the past that would break down into tears as soon as we meet. Yet this family remained calm and composed, and talked cheerfully and humorously throughout. I was very astonished.

It turned out that they have been studying Buddhism for a long time. This patient feel that for his life to be so short, there must have been karmic causes in the past. Also, death is only switching of a shell. In the long and vast cyclic existence, this kind of birth and death cycle is limitless and boundless; there is no need to particularly suffer for it.

His wife also holds the same view. She said: “While we are very close, and our family is not like before, now we lead quite a comfortable existence. But if unfortunately he leaves this world, there isn’t really anything for us to grieve. Buddhadharma has given us strength, given us consolation. If we have not studied Buddhism, this family of ours would definitely have collapsed.” His daughter also apparently is very well versed in the Middle Way teachings.

In the process of our conversation, they continued to be light-hearted and jovial, full of strength. On the contrary it was I who could not bear to see one so young die, felt that it is such a pity. But because he has the guidance of Buddhadharma, in the face of death and partings, he indeed can be calm and accepting.

Sogyal Rinpoche also told this story in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: In 1976, when the second Dudjom Rinpoche was in New York, an American woman who was extremely sick came to see him. As soon as she saw Rinpoche, she broke down into tears: “My doctor has given me only a few months to live. Can you help me? I am dying.” In a gentle yet compassionate way, Rinpoche began to chuckle. Then he said quietly: “You see, we are all dying. It’s only a matter of time. Some of us just die sooner than others.” These words eased her anxiety. Afterwards she took refuge and adopted Buddhist practices to adjust the mindset. In the end, not only did she come to accept death; by following the practice with complete dedication, she was miraculously healed.

In truth, each of us must face death; it is life’s greatest lesson. For many people, even if they do not want to die and dare not talk about it, eventually they still must face death. If you can study Buddhadharma and have a prior understanding and preparation of life and death, of cyclic existence, then sometimes courage can become strength and allow you to stand up to any suffering.

Last year a medical student from Qinghai University came to our Buddhist Institute. She was also terminally ill and the doctors said she did not have long to live. Before she left this world, her greatest wish was to become a nun. Later on she fulfilled her wish and became a nun at the Buddhist Institute. In the end, her illness was unexpectedly cured – I am not telling a myth, but what had actually and truthfully happened. It is such a shame that many people do not know these benefits Buddhism has to the inner world. If you can go deep into Buddhism, you will discover that there is much wisdom and power beyond your expectation. As long as there is confidence, anyone can attain these.

6. How to turn adversity into practice

In Buddhism, the ways of facing suffering are markedly different to the world in general. In general people fear suffering, they go to temples to burn incense and pray to the buddhas and bodhisattvas that they would not fall ill, that their life must always be safe, secure, happy, and smooth sailing. These aspirations are extremely narrow. Although there is nothing wrong with hoping for peace and happiness, but at the same time that you are praying for your own protection, have you considered those around you? Considered other living beings?

Mahayana Buddhism, from beginning to end, has always emphasized benefiting all beings. No matter what we encounter, we cannot forget to put the interest of all beings first, never thinking to remove only ourselves from suffering and seek happiness alone. Some think that Buddhism equates to escaping reality, being a passive recluse, or daily chanting “Namo Amitabha”. The truth is that it is not this simple. If you systematically study it, and try to understand it, you will realize that within Buddhism is the greatest spirit in the world, and its methods of transforming suffering into practice are beyond belief.

What is meant by transforming into practice? For instance, being ill is essentially a very painful event, but within Buddhism it can be transformed to become merit. Perhaps some find this hard to understand: “What are the benefits of being ill? How is that possible!” In fact, you may previously be particularly arrogant and contemptuous of all things. But through the torment of disease, you come to know deeply the sufferings of life, and from then on change your former attitude, start to notice these, care about these, and set a new direction for life. At that point, this illness has acquired a new value.

Like the great Tibetan master Milarepa; it was exactly because of the persecution by his uncle and aunt that he later attained such high accomplishments. As they robbed him of all his fortune, to seek revenge, he went to study the dark arts and returned to kill many people. After committing this crime, he deeply regretted it from the depth of his heart, and believed himself to be the most evil being in the world. In penitence, he endured myriad harsh practices, eventually attaining the highest states of realization and becoming in history, an extraordinarily accomplished practitioner.

Thus, so long as you know how to utilize suffering, you can produce great benefits. In future, you don’t need to always pray for safety, for happiness. Rather, you should seek the way of transforming sufferings, adversities, and unfavourable conditions into practice. Once you command this, no matter how great a hardship you meet with, you can transform it to become a success.

I once read the biography of Madam Curie, when she was 19, because she could not marry her beloved, she was in such pain that she nearly killed herself. Later she decided to turn her personal misfortune into the drive for seeking knowledge, left Poland, and went to the University of Paris to pursue advanced studies. During that period she lived a very poor and hard life, on particularly cold winter nights, she was often too frozen to sleep. In the coldest times, she even had to put a chair on her blanket to be able to sleep. It was just this period of unbearably hard days for an ordinary person that moulded her for a future brilliant career – in 1903 she won the Nobel Prize in Physics, then in 1911 also the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

A woman, twice winning the Nobel Prize, is extremely rare in history. Her great accomplishments should be attributed to the broken romance of the past and the hardship of her student years. Without these, there could not possibly later be a Madam Curie.

Many university students now have grown up under the love and care of parents and were also nurtured by teachers in schools; resulting in them being like hothouse flowers. As soon as they enter society, they cannot bare any adversity, and try to commit suicide at the drop of a hat. In truth, life cannot possibly be without any suffering. We do not need to escape it, but should face it right on, and know the way of transforming it into practice. Only then can we elevate our mind and mould wholesome moral qualities.

In our Tibetan region, because of the influence of Buddhism, suicides are extremely rare – I used to often say, in the Tibetan region, there are almost no suicides due to relationships. But later I found out that today, this phenomenon is also occurring among Tibetan youths. What is the reason? It is exactly because this generation lacks belief and has abandoned the Buddhist tradition. Thus, any school now really needs the education of philosophy, religion, and studies of our ancient civilization. These are like treasures of a nation. If you have no inner place of belonging, and only seek happiness from external conditions, then the human greed knows no bounds. With one million, you seek ten million; with ten million, you seek one billion; with one billion, you seek ten billion, a hundred billion…using external conditions to fill one’s own greed, which can never be filled. Therefore, we should be content and simplify desires, and learn to flow with the conditions.

For myself, no matter what I do, I would not insist on any outcome. Once you have this mindset, no matter what happens you would not experience a strong blow. Yet there are many in the world now that are extremely attached to romance, to wealth. They always want to possess everything and find it too painful to live when they cannot obtain what they desire. This really is not necessary. The Flower Adornment Sutra said: “Observing all things, to be without inherent existence.” All phenomena are of the nature of emptiness, what we can each obtain also requires the coming together of causes and conditions. If the causes and conditions were not mature, then all your strivings would still be futile. You must all understand this principle.

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna also once gave an analogy in the Great Treatise on the Perfection of Wisdom: When children see the moon in water, they believe it to be real, and try everything to retrieve it; when grownups see this behaviour, they find it very laughable. Similarly, in the eyes of realized practitioners or those with life experience, some of the insistences of the young also fundamentally have no true meaning.

Thus, in our life, we cannot just consider how we live, but should care about the interests of all beings, such as the important questions of global environmental protection, energy conservation, ethos of charity, and animal welfare. Particularly in the present, the phenomenon of waste is very severe. Although this may seem trivial, it involves the depletion of resources and individual merit. Putting aside others, if you recklessly squander your own merits, in future you may descend to become a beggar and not receive any wealth for infinite life times after. Hence, as a person, there are many questions worthy of attention. We should stand a little higher; see a little further, rather than always only think about making money for oneself and finding happiness for oneself.

Among you intellectuals here, some understand a degree of Buddhism and some may not know it. If you can study some of the commentaries like The Way of the Bodhisattva, and use Mahayana Buddhism’s ideas to face life, face work, you will definitely receive great benefits. Many people after studying Buddhism were able to calmly face the suffering they meet in life no matter how enormous it was. Compared to the past, their mind and attitude underwent drastic changes. Thus, I hope that each one of you can truly carry out “study extensively” to “practice earnestly”. Only through the union of study and practice can you completely eradicate all afflictions and let this life and future lives be more fulfilled, joyful, happy!

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