This speech was intended for the Tibetan speakers and I wasn’t sure if it would be relevant to English speakers and only yesterday one of the sangha members suggested that it would be good to share a summary of today’s reflections for the non-Tibetan speakers.
So first of all I began by giving my warmest greetings to all on the Tibetan new year of the male earth dog.
One special trait of Tibetan culture I feel is important for Tibetans to recognize, is the special connection between Tibetan tradition and Tibetan Buddhism. For example, how people in Tibet would circumambulate, offer smoke pujas, or make offerings to their shrines. So you can’t know Tibetan culture without knowing at least a bit of Tibetan Buddhism. And just as H.H. the Great 14th Dalai Lama says, if we keep Tibetan culture alive, we are also keeping Tibetan Buddhism alive.
I feel to keep both Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism alive, the most important way is for the elder generation to introduce and teach to the younger generation. It is their responsibility to do this and when teaching them, it’s important to explain the meanings of these things and to be open minded to their questions rather than forcing it upon them. When it’s explained properly they will naturally be interested in it because Buddhism itself is perfect, however, it simply depends on the one who teaches it otherwise, there is always a place for Buddhism for anybody who wishes to learn and practice it.
For example, I have seen a few times where parents would force their children to respect wrathful deity statues and prostrate to them, as if they are our Gods and they need to be feared. When we open the shrines to the wrathful deities, it seems like we’re now revealing the real hidden Buddhas. We have to remember that these wrathful deities, no matter how fearsome they may appear, are not to be feared at all, but that they are always helping and protecting us out of love and compassion. Also remember that even with all these wrathful and different sorts of deities, it all comes back to the Buddha. If we just look at his calming peaceful form, we are reminded of our own pure Buddha nature.
And so when teaching others, the best way I feel is through teaching by example, which is exactly how Buddha always taught. ‘’To do as I do, not as I say.’’
Not being a monk or nun doesn’t make you any less of a practitioner. I’ve met quite a few laypeople who would say that with all their work and family they’re just meant to continue wandering in samsara and the best they can do is simply offer to the sangha otherwise becoming enlightened is just like a fairy tale. Now, what one does with their life is of course their own choice but what I’m trying to say is that you always have a choice. We all have the same seed of Buddha nature, no matter who we are. Just as the Buddha once said, “The doors of the deathless are open to anyone who will lend an ear” and “In this world, there are three things that shine openly, not in secret. Those three things are the sun, the moon and the Dharma.”
We can practice the Dharma with even small endeavors like simply giving a little bit to the poor or every now and then reading a Dharma book. One can join in the morning Ngöndro practice here at the Sakya Monastery. Or one can even go on YouTube watch a video of His Holiness or whoever one’s guru is. Because each of these actions is a step towards changing oneself and helping everyone.
So if we can review the previous year and look at what positive and negative things were done. After recognizing these, we promise to continue meritorious acts, to stop bad habits and try new and more ways to help one self and others. If we can do this, I feel it will bring much benefit and we can live without regret.