May 24, 2010

Thoughts on day 3 of the Dalai Lama's NYC teachings

This is a follow up to my blog on Friday.

Day 3...

Let me think.......

........It was great!

His Holiness continued with the Shantideva text but did not get to chapter 9 on Wisdom, although if I recall correctly he did mention something along the lines of that much of the topic was covered in the Nagarjuna text.

The discussion on forbearance stuck with me.  Specifically, he spoke about refraining from taking action against those we may perceive as enemies, and that beyond just having compassion for them, that we can even be grateful to them for giving us an opportunity to work with ourselves.  When the teaching was over and I stepped out into the street and saw the whole event's lone protester, a man waving the Chinese flag while aggressively spewing hate and propaganda, I thought to myself, "Thank you, sir, for giving me this opportunity."

I felt a few people squirm when Shantideva's instruction on working with lust through "visualizing the impurities of the female form" was mentioned. The fact that Shantideva's audience was virtually all monks was given as a contextual explanation and it was stated that "women can do the same but with men" but this struck me as potentially offensive towards gay and lesbian communities.  Nevertheless, it was very obviously an innocent oversight and not intentional insensitivity.

I found the discussion on the meditation chapter of Shantideva's text to be very helpful.  Something I had never heard before was when His Holiness mentioned Tsongkhapa's instruction to always end meditation on a positive note (or we might start fearing the cushion!).  What I interpreted from this is that it is good to internally express a little bit of joy and appreciation at the end of a sit. My particular background traces back more to the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages so I am not very familiar with Tsongkhapa, and although this pointer is quite simple it was new to me and is something I have been incorporating into my practice these last few days.

There was a lot of love and appreciation at the end.  Richard Gere at one point enthusiastically announced that His Holiness plans on coming to teach in America "several more times".   He also mentioned that Radio City Music Hall took $200,000 off their fee in order to help with the costs.  Classy move, Radio City!

At the very end there was what felt like the Buddhist equivalent of a rock 'n' roll style encore!  The event seemed to be over and people were standing, but then Richard Gere ran back to the mic and said "His Holiness has agreed to teach for five more minutes!"  Everybody chanted together and it was quite moving.

Image via the Huffington Post (

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Jim's picture

That was the short answer, the long answer is I believe so because:
1) He told us only to take it if we were ready
2) he said we should picture Buddha, Jesus or the thought of Allah, as appropriate to our religion while taking the vow.
3) We read not only the vow but the renunciation of past wrong doings
4) we read the main vow 3 times and made the 7 limb offering.

Jim's picture

I believe that he said that we could take the vow if we were ready. That's one of the reasons why we repeated part of the vow 3 times.

karen's picture

Hi Jim & Andy,

I was also at Radio City Music Hall that day and I thought I heard HHDL say that we would NOT be taking the bodhisattva vow though we would be reading the passage. Did I misunderstand/mishear?

Thanks so much.

Namkhah's picture

Bill: ( Esterhaus I believe, isn't it?) In Tibetan we enumerate ten unvirtuous or evil actions, called mi-dge-ba bcu. You've covered about half of them: to abuse others, to speak foolishly, to covet other’s property; to habour ill will and to possess wrong views. Whether or not you've also lied, I will leave to readers to decide. This must be NKT's new 'LITE' Dharma training in action.

Gyalpo's picture

Bill: NKT has accumulated a great deal of money and diverts much of it to political activities: is this what you consider to be right conduct? How did NKT buy two hotels and several chateaus and castles in Europe from diverted donations? Why has WSS the Taliban-like secret society refused to publish a financial statement? Rather than accusing others of misdeed why not answer some of the many questions about the NKT cult? Bill, you have a lot to learn about the actual Kadampa teachings, why not be quiet and try to sincerely practice them instead of posting miscreant missives.

Dalai Lama Promotes ‘Mutual Understanding’ With Islam, Other's picture

[...] link below. The Dalai Lama recently completed a 10-day teaching tour of the United States (with guest appearance by Buddhist celebrity Richard Gere), and has shared some of idealism regarding the "common ground" between Christianity, [...]

Andy's picture

I have to agree with Jim, I think that the way the teaching ended was quite remarkable. I have been to several of HHDL's teaching which often end with an initiation or empowerment. This teaching ended rather abruptly and was rather no-nonsense. His last minute decision to have all 5-6000 people recite the two chapters of Shantideva including the Bodhisattva vows was amazing to behold. I know that many people might not have really understood what they were doing, and His Holiness made it clear that for non-initiates this was meant more as a statement of aspiration, but still... a full Radio City Music Hall reading these vows in unison was tremendously powerful. I feel so grateful to have been there! I do hope that we have the chance to see him again soon! There is always Atlanta in the Fall!

Rebecca's picture

To James Shaheen: thanks for the link to the Huffington Post article. It puts the DL's comments in perspective. By way of clarification, I don't view the DL as the "pope" of Buddhism and I am aware of the immense diversity of Buddhist tradition and practice. I was surprised, however, that the DL wasn't a bit clearer on the issues I raised. I admire him, but I understand he has limitations in these matters.

Jim's picture

Yes, I was planning to take the vow sometime in the near future, so it was very special to take it now with the Dalai Lama present instead of waiting.

Priscilla Warner's picture

Thanks for elaborating on this. I was one of thousands of people taking the vow and will never forget it! I am very grateful for the experience.

Jim's picture

The most important part of the whole 3 days was missed. The Chanting at the end of the 3rd day was a large part of the audience taking the Bodhisattva's vow! After the Dalai Lama saw that there was still time left he invited the audience that was ready to take the vow to picture the Buddha, if they were Buddhist, or Jesus, if they were Christian or to think of Allah, if they were Muslim in their minds and then recite chapter 2 of "The Guide to the Bodhisattva's way of life", which is the renunciation of past wrongs and then Chapter 3 which is the actual vow. So a new group of fledgling Bodhisattva's were initiated that day

Jim's picture

I think that the writer missed the important point the Dalai Lama was trying to make. The Dalai Lama specifically said that Shanitdeva gave his talk (and therefore the text) to monks and must be taken in that context. His Holiness said that the text and what Shantideva said is not meant to be taken as anti-female. So he said if you are a female take the same view on the body except for applying it to the male body.

Bill's picture

I don't see why the Dalai Lama giving commentary to Shantideva's teachings on the impurity of the human form would be offensive to the gay community in particular.

It's completely inappropriate for people to treat the Dalai Lama as a 'rock star' and completely inappropriate for him to act like one. Dharma teachings should be given with dignity and not followed by 'encores' This is not a very good manifestation of Buddhism bowing to the worst aspects of Western culture. Is it a concert or a teaching? Is it about the teaching or the Teacher?

I think it's wonderful of Radio City Hall to assist with the costs, this is an act of giving we can rejoice in, but I don't suppose the tickets were any cheaper! Where does the money go? The Dalai Lama has accumulated a lot of money from the 'Free Tibet' campaign with many artists donating money and appearing at concerts, so where has all this money gone? Serious questions should be asked about this.

All of this is quite concerning and doesn't bode well for the future of Tibetan Buddhism.

James Shaheen's picture

Well, here's one look at that:

Rebecca's picture

Well, I must admit I'm glad I didn't spend $360 to hear these lectures--not that I have that option. The DL didn't say anything about "visualizing the impurities of the female form", such as the poster did? And what is the DL's position with respect to the LGBT community?