Upper Bhattu, Himachal Pradesh, India, 11 March 2015 – Well-wishers, Tibetan and foreign were gathered outside the gate to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence to see him off this morning. Other small groups were waiting see him as he drove down the bumpy Dharamsala roads. Outside Gyutö Tantric College more than 100 monks waited to greet him as he passed, white silk scarves and incense in their hands. At Gopalpur, the entire population of the TCV School, hundreds of children and staff lined the road for 200 metres or more, smiles on their faces and their hands folded together in respect.
More than 30 nuns greeted him near Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery, while at the end of the road to the Khampagar community at Tashi Jong, there were 2-300 monks, nuns and lay-people, young and old patiently waiting to see His Holiness pass. As the road wound up through the forest and he neared his destination at Palpung Sherabling, there were more people, welcome arches, clouds of incense and scattered flowers.
Tai Situ Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche received His Holiness when he reached Sherabling. They escorted him into the covered courtyard, filled with more people, past the roaring snow lions that guard the steps and up to the assembly hall of the monastery. At the entrance he ceremoniously cut the ribbon and pushed the doors open. Inside the guests included past and serving Kalons, members of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (ATPD), and officers of the Central Tibetan Administration, Lamas, monks and nuns of several nearby institutions besides those who belong to Sherabling.
Once His Holiness had taken his seat on the high throne before a colossal statue of Maitreya Buddha, prayers and praises were recited. Situ Rinpoche personally constructed a mandala of grains as the offering of the mandala of the universe was recited and offered it with the representations of the body, speech and mind of the enlightened ones.
In his words of welcome, Situ Rinpoche praised the Dalai Lamas’ bodhisattva deeds, starting with Gendun Drup and including the 5th Dalai Lama, who took responsibility for the welfare of the Tibetan people. He recalled a connection between his predecessor and the 13th Dalai Lama. He acknowledged that during recent difficult times, His Holiness the present Dalai Lama has upheld a non-sectarian approach as interest in Buddhism has spread across the world. Since 1959, tens of thousands of Tibetans have settled in India due to His Holiness’s vision and kindness with the kind support of the people and government of India. Later, he said, His Holiness’s and the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa’s views converged in the recognition of Orgyen Trinley Dorje as 17th Gyalwa Karmapa.
“In 1991, when we built this temple with its statue of Maitreya, we invited you to come and that wish is realised today,” Tai Situ Rinpoche concluded. “We offer you our deep thanks, request you to live long and ask you to keep us in your heart.”
Auspicious readings by Khenpo Jamyang Lodoe followed. Khenpo Gyaltsen Phuntsok gave an introduction to Palpung Monastery, in which he mentioned that both the 1st Karmapa and the 5th Dalai Lama made predictions about Situ Rinpoche and the founding of Palpung. After Palpung Monastery had been destroyed in Tibet, Sherabling was established. There is now a monastery, nunnery, college and retreat centre here and more than 180 related centres and branches around the world.
Lopon Karma Dakpa gave a presentation of the Sutra tradition. Ven Choeying Kunkyap spoke about the Tibetan medical tradition with its origins at the time of King Nyatri Tsenpo, the work in the 11th century CE of the Yuthoks and the previous Situ Rinpoche’s efforts to bring different Tibetan medical systems together. Ven Ngawang spoke about the Astrology tradition that is upheld here and Lama Sherab Dreme described the grammar traditions that came from the study of Sanskrit and the work of the 8th Situ, Situ Panchen who composed a grammar treatise that is regarded as a classic today. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Dergey printing press.
In his address, the Minister for Religion and Culture in the Central Tibetan Administration, Pema Chinjor, recalled His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the first meeting of the Tibetan Youth Congress of the treasure Tibetans had to offer the world in their Buddhist traditions. He said that as a young man it did not mean much to him, but later he has come to understand how right His Holiness was. He emphasised the importance of ensuring that teachers are well qualified and that each Tibetan Buddhist tradition preserves its own unique features.
Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the ATPD said His Holiness’s presence at Sherabling was cause for celebration. He expressed the hope that progress in learning and spiritual practice should not decline, noting that quality is as important as numbers amongst monks and nuns.
In his address, His Holiness mentioned that the successive Situ Rinpoches have been of service to the Dharma and sentient beings. His establishment of this monastery, with its opportunities for study and practice are evidence of this. He said:
“When we think about Nalanda, what comes to mind is a centre of learning and study, not just a place where rituals were performed. Similarly, Tai Situ Rinpoche has taken practical steps to support the study of the 5 sciences here.
“Tibetan Buddhism may not be suitable for everyone as a spiritual tradition, but within Tibetan culture is knowledge, such as Tibetan medicine, with its medications made from natural substances, that has the potential to benefit many people.
“Buddhism is not just about blind faith. It’s about transforming the mind through training. And what is transformed and what does the transforming is the mind. The emotions that disturb our minds cannot be overcome by money; we have to understand how the mind works and how to achieve peace of mind. This is why increasing numbers of people today are interested in psychology, the science of mind and the Buddhist understanding of mind as revealed in the Nalanda tradition.”
He spoke of efforts that have been made to extract material from the Kangyur and Tengyur, the collections of the Buddha’s teachings and commentaries to them, that relates to philosophy, science and religious practice. He said that the philosophical and scientific material can be studied on an academic basis by anyone who is interested. He also mentioned the resonance between the Middle Way – Madhyamaka – School view, expressed by Chandrakirti, that while nothing exists independently, things do exist conventionally and the Quantum Physics’ view that nothing can be found objectively. Likewise the suggestion that observer and observed are of one substance relates to the Mind Only – Chittamatrin – view that rejects external existence. His Holiness said that it is on the basis of such comparisons that he is encouraging Dharma centres to become more like academic centres of learning.
On his way to the residence where he was offered lunch, His Holiness visited the Library on the floor above the assembly hall and above it the mandala hall, where he recited verses of consecration and scattered rice and flowers.
During the afternoon there were presentations of debate by groups of monks and nuns and discussions of language and grammar and the Perfection of Wisdom, which His Holiness listened to with interest. The session ended with words of thanks.
Tomorrow, His Holiness will offer a Long-Life Blessing and the transmission of Atisha’s ‘Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment’.