The Second Dalai Lama: His Life and Teachings

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He is also personally committed to a rival protective deity named Nechung gnas chung and to the accompaying ritual system underlying the institution of the Dalai Lamas. The latter institution rests on an elaborate and eclectic ritual system that has close ties with various schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

2nd Dalai Lama

It has particularly close ties with the Nyingma school, the one most closely associated with the early empire and its mythological figures and gods. This link with the Nyingma School is particularly visible in the roles given to Padmasambhava, one of the foundational figures of Tibetan Buddhism, and Nechung, an early Tibetan god who is said to be in charge of protecting the Dalai Lama and his government. The propitiation of Shukden undermines this eclectic system and its close links with the Nyingma School.

This threat is captured by the opposition between Shukden and Nechung. Nechung is therefore seen to be prodding the Dalai Lama to act against Shukden by urging people to abandon the propitiation of this deity and even acting directly to ban the practice. The Dalai Lama himself has described on numerous occasions the strength of his relation to Nechung and the role of this deity in his decisions concerning Shukden.

Should he continue publicly the practice of Shukden, he asked, should he do it only secretly, or should he stop altogether? Each of these alternatives was written on a piece of paper, each of which was put in a separate small ball of dough. All three balls were then put in a cup on the altar of the Great Goddess. After propitiating the deity for a long time in the company of several ritual specialists, the Dalai Lama took the cup and rolled the balls around in it until one of them came out. The answer it contained decided the issue: the Dalai Lama would abandon Shukden completely.

This decision has had enormous consequences. It has changed his personal practice and the ritual system of the Dalai Lama institution, and has also prompted him to become increasingly vocal in his opposition to Shukden. But for most Asian Buddhists, ritual is an essential element of the tradition and adherents make no excuse for its importance. The Dalai Lama is no exception. He has been open about his reliance on this form of divination and his general commitment to the rituals of protectors.

For him, it is obvious that being a Buddhist implies that one believes in protective deities, follows their rituals, and relies on them for important decisions in life. Is he the traditionalist who believes in protective deities or the modernist who engages in dialogue with scientists? The answer is that the Dalai Lama is both. In his personal practice, he is a traditionalist.

Every day he does a brief ritual for his main protective deity, the Great Goddess, without whose protection he would not undertake any important task. Even travel must be placed under her auspices, and in all his journeys the Dalai Lama carries with him a painted scroll of this deity. In addition, the Dalai Lama has monks from his monastery Namgyal Dratsang rnam rgyal gwra tshang come to his residence to perform the appropriate daily and monthly rituals for all the relevant protective deities. The Dalai Lama considers all these rituals foundational to the Dalai Lama institution and essential to his personal practice.

At the same time, in his public work he is a modernist who extols the practice of meditation, urges his Western audiences to go to the essence of the tradition instead of being caught in the cultural trappings of Tibetan Buddhism , and engages in ongoing dialogues with scientists that include discussion of empirical findings. On the international scene he is, in addition, an inspired speaker who argues for the rationality of compassionate actions and the irrationality of armed conflicts. The coexistence of such disparate belief systems in a single person may seem surprising, but recognition of this complexity is important for understanding who the Dalai Lama truly is.

The Dalai Lama in Global Perspective

Clearly, depictions of the Dalai Lama as a Buddhist modernist fail to capture a large part of his actual practice and thinking. In contrast to figures like Dharmapala and Buddhadasa, the Dalai Lama is not, for the most part, a reformist of his own tradition, which he tends to uphold firmly but without rigidity.

It is primarily in his dealings with the West that the Dalai Lama acts as a Buddhist modernist, using that idiom to express to this audience some of the Buddhist ideas that he strongly believes. He has also acted as a modernist in some of his advocacy within the Tibetan community, for example promoting democratic ideas and practices as being in accordance with Buddhist ideals.

For him, wisdom and compassion truly are the essence of the tradition. It is also true, however, that for him the protectors, divinations, and traditional rituals are also important. He sees no contradiction between the traditional and the modern, for the two orientations operate at different levels and are relevant to different contexts. The orientation that deals with the ultimate goals of Buddhism is traditionally considered a higher level of practice reserved for elite practitioners, but it also resonates with modern expectations about religion.

The other orientation is equally important, but is reserved for traditional contexts and relates to more immediate concerns.

2nd Dalai Lama

There is no inherent contradiction in this. But the lack of a logical contradiction does not mean a lack of tension, and the scope of what the Dalai Lama thinks he can share with his Western audiences has shifted over the years. Again, this can be illustrated by reference to the Shukden affair, where in the early years of the quarrel the Dalai Lama restricted his remarks to Tibetan audiences.

In the late s, when I first learned about this quarrel, the Tibetan monks I spoke with were surprised by my ignorance of it. Yet at the time very few Westerners were even aware that the split existed.

Long Life prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Only gradually, as devotion to Shukden was slowly spreading among Westerners, did the Dalai Lama begin speaking of it to Western audiences, and even then he did not immediately express the full extent of his opposition. Only after the Dalai Lama had banned Shukden followers from his teachings, and only after the murder of three monks in apparent response to this ban, did he begin expressing his views on Shukden more fully to Western audiences.

His new openness was greeted with puzzlement. I was sitting in such an audience near New York a few years ago when the Dalai Lama started to explain his views and policies regarding this deity. I remember the reaction of malaise among the members of the audience, who were puzzled and made uneasy by this confrontation with an aspect of Tibetan Buddhism that they did not understand. But this separation has not been rigidly maintained. At this point the extent to which the Dalai Lama is not a Buddhist modernist becomes clear, and the audience often reacts with great discomfort.

Thus, it is more than just a display for Western audiences. Though he understands his primary task to be one of winning not just converts to Buddhism but sympathizers to the Tibetan cause, and though he has shaped his presentation accordingly, he has also been influenced by his contacts with modern institutions. He was initially educated in a traditional Buddhist way, mostly following the curriculum of the great Geluk monastic universities. The Dalai Lama would later remark that this education was unbalanced and inappropriate for a person who was to assume a leadership role.

As he did so, he encountered several important sources of influence. One of them came from his dealings with the Chinese. Particularly important in this regard was his trip to China in His encounter with Chairman Mao on that occasion made a lasting impression, as did his visits to Chinese factories. More important, however, may have been his encounters in India, which he visited extensively in before settling more permanently in see page Through their own Hindu or Jain modernism, these people modeled how to be religious while also participating fully in the modern world.

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Their modernism influenced the Dalai Lama greatly as he developed the outlook and style that have marked his relations with the West. The Dalai Lama has also consistently supported the spread of modern education among both lay and monastic Tibetan communities, often against the vigorous opposition of more conservative elements. On the religious level, he has voiced, often sarcastically, his distrust of the institution of reincarnated lamas. They are so cute and yet they rot when they age. Living in Dharamsala in the s and s, I was able to observe some of these changes firsthand.

It is just what is in the book, not what you actually need to do. The turning point appears to have been the winter of , when the Dalai Lama was undergoing an important retreat. The Dalai Lama has never fully explained what happened at that retreat, yet from that date onward he began expressing publicly his opposition to Shukden and evidenced a more traditional approach to Buddhist practice. Also, he almost completely dropped his unwillingness to recognize reincarnated lamas, and his formerly biting remarks were replaced by more conventional admonitions.

This return to a more traditionalist attitude, which perhaps could have been expected, did not entail a repudiation of Buddhist modernism. Indeed, modernism remained his favored way of interacting with the West, which he started to visit seriously only at the end of the s, when he was already well over forty.

Life expectancy was 36 years. Criminals had limbs amputated and cauterized in boiling butter.

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But he also emphasizes that traditional Tibetan life was more in communion with nature than the present. Asked who is responsible for fixing the crisis, he points not to Beijing but to Washington. The Dalai Lama is a refreshingly unabashed figure in person. He appears equally at home with both the physical and the spiritual, tradition and modernity. He meditated within reach of an iPad tuned to an image of a babbling brook and mountains and a few minutes later turned to Tibetan scriptures written on wide, single sheets, unbound.

He retires at 6 p. So my No. The Dalai Lama said his second commitment is to religious harmony.

The Second Dalai Lama: His Life and Teachings | Shambhala

Conflicts in the Middle East tend to involve sectarian strife within Islam. Saudi Arabia, plus their money, is Sunni. Buddhism has its own extremists. The themes of Buddhism, as a nontheistic religion with no single creator deity, are more accessible to followers of other faiths and even ardent atheists, emphasizing harmony and mental cleanliness. He keeps a sharp eye on global affairs and is happy to weigh in.

In his ninth decade and moving with the help of assistants, the Dalai Lama continues to explore human consciousness and question long-held shibboleths. During a series of lectures in February to mark the Tibetan new year, he pontificates on everything from artificial intelligence — it can never compete with the human mind, he says — to blind deference to religious dogma. This includes the institution of the Dalai Lama itself.

Even as a young boy, his scientific mind led him to question the idea that he was the 14th incarnation of a deity king. No problem.


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This is not my concern. Indeed they are. In a blow to the Tibetan exile community, China has set about bringing the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism into the party fold. On this point, at least, the incumbent is very clear. The party craves legitimizing its power above all else and believes yoking it to the institution of the Dalai Lama will provide that. One day a Dalai Lama will return to China — in this body or the next, with his blessing or without.

A photo caption in the original version of this story misidentified a group of people waiting to see the Dalai Lama. They are devotees, not Buddhist monks. Write to Charlie Campbell at charlie. The Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in February. March 7, The Dalai Lama delivers a lecture from his throne on Feb. Around devotees line up early at Tsuglagkhang temple to offer the Dalai Lama traditional khata scarves and to receive his blessing. At 83, the Buddhist leader reflects on a life spent away from his native Tibet. Return to Book Page.

The Second Dalai Lama's writings and biography are brought vividly to life in this extraordinary book by the renowned translator Glenn Mullin through a selection of the Second Dalai Lama's ecstatic outpourings of enlightened teaching. He gives us a glimpse into the visionary life of this outspoken and unconventional Dalai Lama. Mullin provides a readable and comprehensive The Second Dalai Lama's writings and biography are brought vividly to life in this extraordinary book by the renowned translator Glenn Mullin through a selection of the Second Dalai Lama's ecstatic outpourings of enlightened teaching.

Mullin provides a readable and comprehensive introduction to the life and times of the Second Dalai Lama, and the selections of works contained herein greatly enrich our understanding of his exalted realizations. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 1. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Second Dalai Lama , please sign up.

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