Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche talk transcript at Beijing University on Buddhist Views
I’d like to thank him for introducing me. I’m also a little nervous that he might have raised everyone’s expectation about me. I’m sorry I’m a little bit skittish because I’m nervous.
It is a very big honor for me to have this opportunity to speak in this one of the greatest learning centers of the world. I have heard about this university’s fame and glory so many times. But I’ve never even imagined that I would actually come here and speak on the campus.
As you all know, learning is a passion for many of us. Especially learning the ultimate truth since to be a big passion even since without memories. Even today we human beings have not stop learning and seeking the truth. For me, personally, the Buddhism is just another angle of learning or tools to find the truth. Although its history is originated in India, it became popular in many different parts of the world. Especially today.
Even though I don’t know so much, but I hear about Master Hsuan Tsang’s diligence and determination to really study the truth. According to Buddhism, all his sacrifice and endurance are just amazing. Almost inconceivable. If you ask me how much relevance of that to today as far as Buddhism is concerned. I especially think it did does a lot. Not necessarily as a religion, but as a means to, as a tool to find or actualize the truth. And you may wonder maybe because of Buddhism is something that originates from India. So it really doesn’t have much relevance to China or elsewhere. I think things are not like that. I’ll leave this to Prof. Sharf. He will talk about this in the afternoon.
I’d like to talk a little bit about Buddhism view. As the view is what drives us. Before we talk about the Buddhism view. Again, I think we ask this question: why Buddhism? I think that question can be simply and easily answered of that. Why everything? Why science? Why technology? Why economy? I think why Buddhism because fundamentally we all want to have fun. We want to be happy and we want to really have fun, the fun that lasts long, and cheap if possible, and portable fun. I think this is the same case for everything like science, technology. If you look at what we do, we are always looking for fun. Of course, the definition of what is fun differs. Different beings. Different cultures. Different nationalities. Different generations. And then because of that, the methods or the tools to acquire the truth also then began to have different varieties.
According to the Indian prince Siddhartha, the reason why we are not able to have the fun as much as we want depends basically only on one reason. We are always looking at something fake, unreliable, uncertain. And then we think that’s the truth. An absolute truth. And that is ultimately what he called ignorance. This is actually nothing religious. We are talking completely science.
If you want to have genuine Italian leather shoes, and if someone tells you what you’re wearing is a fake one. Then you will have suffering. And you don’t have the courage to be happy with the fake. Not many of us will do. So for this Indian Prince Siddhartha, finding the truth is really happen to be the biggest quest for him.
Once he was in the palace, he saw death, old-age and sickness. When he heard that death, old-age and sickness are inevitable and going to happen to everyone. Then naturally he wants to solve that problem. Of course if there is a problem, our immediate reaction is to solve that problem. So he slipped out of palace and left his family. Because his family was against him having this idea of finding the truth. So finally he found, this is what Buddhist would say, finally he found the truth. That does not mean that Buddha finally find a way so that we don’t have to die. Finally he found a moisturizer cream so that our skin would never wrinkle. He found a truth, and then he realized that you have to accept that truth. If you accept that truth, you don’t suffer. The truth that he found, what he has realized was later taught to his students. In order to make them easier accessible, we categorize them into many different categories. So there are a lot of categories of truth. They are a lot of methods to getting close to the truth. Then the unfortunate thing happened. These methods I think then began to become so-called Buddhism–the religion. That is very unfortunately. Because we then began to get so attracted to the methods rather than the truth.
For instance, you ask this question: but why all these tools, in the first place, why all these methods? Why all these different kind of tools? This is a challenging question. I’ll give you two examples here.
First, this glass is filled with pristine, very very clear water. And then you are looking for the water, get this water that is completely to rim. You will not see the water, because the water is too clear, you will not see it. So in order to make you see the water, what do we do? We diluted the water a little bit. So this yellowish color has you to see there is water. So in Buddhism, you try all these methods, which is nothing more than that dilution. In other words, what I’m saying is, all these sorts of Buddhism methods, if I can be very frank, they are all fake. They are not the real truth, but if you ask me: do they help? Very much! Without them, you don’t see it. But the problem is we get too attracted to the color not the water.
You would ask, in that case why Siddhartha taught us all these different schools of Buddhism. If you at a gunpoint, if someone tells you, you must say the sky is red, or the sky is green. You have no choice, but agree and say yes, the sky is green. But inside you know it’s not green. That’s how exactly Buddha taught all these teachings. He had no choice. He was not at a gunpoint. Anybody. But he had no choice. Because, the Buddhists would say, he has powerful compassion.
Let’s say, you’re dreaming right now. A nightmare. That you are sleeping with a tiger. And you’re frantic. To get out of that, there are several things you could do. You can chase away this tiger. That’s not bad. This is something that most of us might do it right away. But there is a much better way: a bucket of cold water. But if you really think it carefully, both ways are wrong. Why? Because the bucket of cold water has not chased away any tiger. There was no tiger. You were dreaming. So Buddhism methods are usually like that. You should still thank that bucket of cold water because it is good for you. Your appreciation of that bucket of cold water is good. Because next time when you dream again. You know what to do.
Now let’s talk about the view. The view as we said previously, the view is what drives us. Everything. Basically, the view is an idea. Maybe right now, in our world, there is an idea that SUV and BMW cars are good. A slim body is good. That’s the view. Now motivation comes in. Right? Of course motivation can be very conditional. Until all these magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan are introduced, I don’t think many people have the motivation of becoming slim. So because of these conditions, now you have the motivation to become slim. Because you think the idea of becoming slim is the ultimate truth. So what do you do? You think about becoming slim. You read about it. Go to the workshops. That’s basically the meditation. And then cutting down rice. Running. Herbal stuff to slim you down. That’s the action. So the view is very important. So let me share with you four fundamental views of Siddhartha.
First, he discovered that no matter where or when, everything compounded as long as something is compounded is all impermanent.
Because even the very action of putting two things together–compounding, that is already impermanent. The shape has changed. The color has changed. The size has changed. But I’ll tell you that, as simple as it sound, it is not that easy to get used to it. I’ll give you a very popular example coming from Theravada Buddhism.
They said that every time you look at your hand. This is what Buddha said. Every time you look at you hand, there are three fundamental mistakes you make. The first one is you think it in terms of whole, not as a part. You don’t think can I shake your veins, bones, and blood or skin. You think it in terms of a hand. So because we think everything as a whole. In reality, there is no hand. There are a lot of particles of a lot of different things.
The second, we think yesterday’s hand is today’s hand. I mean, today’s hand is yesterday’s hand. It’s the same hand that you are shaking with. But this is again not the truth. If today’s hand is exactly the same hand as yesterday. Then really moisturizer companies will have no business. Hand cream. Even as we see it’s deteriorating day by day, minute by minute. We think it is the same hand.
The third mistake is we think it is independent. It is not depend on any other things. More will be discussed later. So see now Buddha discovered that this fundamental mistaken view then leads you to suffering. How? You think that this will last. You think it is permanent. So what do you do? You get attached. You just never think that one day this is going to be inside of coffin. So what do you do? You go around the world, trying to protect this. Even Buddhists will go to their master asking for bless, so it can live healthy and live forever. And if I joke with you. To live long is a very important issue in the Chinese society. We already see an old man with a peach– “xiantao”. Like the genuine Italian shoes or fake Italian shoes. Because you have diverted yourself from the truth that no matter what do you do, this impermanence has led you to all kinds of unnecessary sufferings. Remember what we’ve discussed right at the beginning? Therefore we are not having fun. Because we are so busy taking care of this. Okay. Now let’s shift this a little bit. The Buddha’s first truth/view that everything is impermanent, it is not necessarily a bad news as many people would think. Actually, impermanence is a very good news. If your hand is becoming dry, you should buy moisturizer. Why? Because of impermanence it will work. If you are not millionaire now, thanks to impermanence, you can become millionaire.
So it’s very important to understand the Buddha’s view of impermanence. Not as a religious threat. Like hey, you know, you’d better behave, otherwise, you will die and go to hell and all that. Base on this view, you can develop an attitude. An attitude based on accepting the truth. Okay. In order to understand this truth, there are many different methods. Meditation-related. Action-related. If you go to countries, like Myanmar, or Thailand, you see monks who have shaved their head. The act of shaving head is a method to remind you the impermanence. It’s a discipline to help you remember impermanence. Not that Buddha has some allergy towards long hair. That he imposed this rule that as a Buddhist you have to shave your hair. So all these rituals are actually to take you to this truth.
As I said before, unfortunately, we get so caught by the rituals, but not the impermanence. Okay, go back to our first question: Why Buddhism? We can have a really good, long-lasting, portable, and cheap fun. And how do you do that? By understanding all compounding things are impermanent. By accepting that. Even if somebody is wishing you long life, ten thousand years. Or on the other side, even if you are going through the most depressing time.
I don’t know if you have this expression in Chinese: “Time heals”. That’s a simple truth. By the way, I should tell you. When Prince Siddhartha was contemplating on how to really seek and search the truth. He was very practical. All his teachings are very practical. I’m sure he has the wit and intellect to do a research on what the neighboring deer eat or elephants eat when he was meditating. He can do a fantastic research on those. But a breakthrough discovery of dietary system of a deer might help a few deer. That’s all about it. He really wants to get to the bottom of all the problems. So he realized problem No.1 is: Not understanding that all the compounded are impermanent. All of them, not a single thing exempt.
Now the second view. Where does all these pain come from? Not only the gross pains such as headache and stomachache. Basically, the human pains are not getting what we want. And having to live with this uncertainty all the time. Most of us are very uncertain like right after this, will we see our friends and loved ones? We are not sure. What is it? What is the fundamental cause of this pain? He never come out with answer like oh, yes there is an evil force from outside of galaxy. It invaded us. He didn’t say that. No external existing evil being created pains to us. Then he discovered it is clinging to the self. Every mindstream or emotion that is directly or indirectly involved with clinging to the self leads to pain. All our emotions such as love, hatred, jealousy, all of them basically stem from clinging to the self. That’s a big discovery. Because we as human being, we like blaming someone. According this second view, there is none to blame. If you have to blame, you have to blame this habit of clinging to the self. But this is a very big subject in Buddhism study. We hear a lot of Buddhism teaching about selflessness. But I want to tell you something here. It’s not that Buddha found that the self is evil, therefore clinging to the self is wrong. It is not that at all. So again here, I would say, the second view is nothing religious.
But again, unfortunately, these tools to contemplate on the selflessness have unfortunately become very religious. As I was saying, he didn’t discover that evil self. He never said therefore clinging to the self lead you to pains. Actually, he found there is no self. Therefore clinging to the self is wrong. That’s why we suffer. This is important. As you know because many of we Buddhist always say, oh, I’m so egoist. I’m selfish. We all judge it very ethically or very religiously.
He said that actually everything is conditioned. He thinks that, basically, the so-called ignorance is self-clinging and is you are looking at something that is actually several components putting together then you think it’s something. Like this table, table leg, plank, all these put together, then it becomes a table. Things put together, then it becomes something.
Probably, you already know this trick. But I’ll show you a trick. I can only do it in English. If I show you this. How would you read this? You read twelve, thirteen and fourteen. Now, the same thing I fold it differently. Then thirteen will become B. Why? Because we have A and C. Our mind shifts through. When 13 is in the middle of 12 and 14. It is 13. But when 13 is in the middle of A and C. Then it becomes B. Why? You can always argue this with Siddhartha. This is something good. You can debate with him. Never you should take that on the face of that. But According to him, everything is basically like this 13 or B. Everything is basically you put together and then it is functioning as something, which can be changed if another component is put together.
If I put a bed sheet here, and a blanket and a pillow here, it becomes a bed. If I chop it into pieces and put it in the kitchen. Firewood I get. So now, he thought the so-called self is exactly 13 and B. Basically, you are looking at several components put together. Form, feeling, color and all these. This is a very big subject in Buddhism study.
I’m sure many of you know Heart Sutra. Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. No eyes. No ears. No nose. Basically, according to the Buddha, several components put together, you come up with this idea of self, which totally does not exist at all. This is what you are clinging at. This is ridiculous actually. But again, as simple as it sound, it is very difficult to combat with this self-clinging. Why? Because it’s an old habit. Even to quit smoking is difficult. That’s relatively a new habit. Because you didn’t hold a cigarette when you were born. But clinging to the self is a very old habit. So what do we do?
Basically there are several components put together, and we think it is the self. Then we built a lot of hideout so that the self will be comfortable, insured and powerful. This is where like money, power, influence and friendship. It is very big. If there is no self there is no economy. If what Buddha said works and if a lot of people actually practice combating the self, the market will crash. Because there is no insecurity, if there is no insecurity, there is no business. You must know that, right? I don’t know much about business. But it looks like this is the quintessence of business. And they have people teaching us what we don’t have and what we should have. To make this non-existing self more comfortable and more insured and on the process of trying to make this non-existing self comfortable, on the larger scale, we destroyed our own world. Environment. Everything. Every one of us. On the smaller scale, even between the friends and the family, we say we love them. It is all related to we love them because we love ourselves. Because we want to put them on the shelf, so that anytime you want, you can use them. This is basically the second view. There is nothing really religious about this. Nothing ethical. But in Buddhism, ethics is taught a lot. There is a full subject such as Vinaya. But all of them they are designed to understand the truth. As I said before, the gunpoint, you would say the sky is red. The whole path, the complicated path has been taught by Buddha himself.
Diamond Sutra is something that is very popular in Chinese culture. Maybe some of you remember…there Buddha said: Those who see me in form is a wrong view. And Buddha said, Buddha’s marks are not true. Of course it is very difficult to understand this. We’d like to have a savior. A savior. Someone to blame to. Someone to pray to when all the options run out. For the Buddhist, yes, we talk about Buddha. We are talking about golden Buddha. Because we like gold. There’s no one mentioned charcoal like Buddha. But even if you look at the marks of the Buddha you really understand why this is just yet another skillful means. The truth that we have been talking about, itself is the Buddha. There is no other Buddha than the truth. The truth has no color, no shape, it’s not bronze-made.
But somehow we just make people to get attracted to this truth, isn’t it? That is important. If you love someone, you want to really make this someone to be happy. You want really to give this person the cause of happiness. You will do anything to lead him to the truth, lead him to the cause of happiness. I’m trying to talk about Buddha’s compassion. So the compassion is like this, you want to make them understand the truth. Yet the truth has no color, no shape. Nothing. Even on the general level, the truth is bitter.
Let’s say, like the other day, I was in India 3 days ago. I attended a elaborate wedding. You can’t really go to the couple and say, you will die some day. And also you two are human beings, therefore many times you will fight and disagree with each other. Especially this couple I’ve never seen them before. So in order to deliver the truth, you have to make the truth attractive. This is when the Buddhists begin to paint the Buddha with gold. It became much more elaborate later. there are actually some people who like blue color, then we have blue Buddha. There are some people who like coral.
So there is Amitabha Buddha with coral color. If you look carefully at these methods, if it is really an authentic method, it should all have an element of bringing you to the truth. For example, even the Buddha’s qualities like the golden color that we Buddhists are so proud of. Or the ears long enough to touch the shoulder. I mean think, would you really seriously date with someone like that? Would you proudly show your boyfriend who with completely golden color to your normal friends? Or ears hanging to shoulder. So all these Buddhists’ symbols, if they are authentic, they are designed to attract you. Then lead you to the truth.
Because as long as you are bound by color, shape, you are bound by compounded phenomena.
So it is very difficult for me to present these two views. It’s quite vast. It’s very difficult for me to put it in a very short time. There are two more truth out of four Seals of Dharma, which we will discuss tomorrow. So maybe about 10 minutes for your questions.
Today we are going to talk about the two remaining truths.
These two are very difficult. Actually, out of the four truths, the first two truths that we discussed yesterday that all compounded things are impermanent and all emotions coming from ego are pain. These two are actually the relative truths. These two remained are what we call the ultimate truths. The ultimate truth as what Prof. Sharf said yesterday, the moment I speak, I’ve failed. Even in the Buddhism Sutra, we have a saying like, in order to express the ultimate truth, even the mouth of the Buddha is not good enough.
But you see, the thing it is, even today the ultimate truth can not be expressed is already an expression. Remembering yesterday we talked about, in order to allure us to the right view, we have to make the truth attractive.
These two truths, very difficult to make them attractive for the human mind. Especially the third one. Everything is emptiness. Not attractive at all. The last one, the nirvana. For centuries, the Buddhists have tried to make it very attractive, and actually it had sort of worked. Western Land, the lotus is blooming, you come out from the lotus bud and all that. Nirvana, a very happy place forever; your computer does not need to be updated. All that kind of things.
Continue To Part 2