His Holiness the Dalai Lama today concludes a virtual three-day teaching on the Heart Sutra that was requested by the Korean Buddhist community. Speaking from his residence in Dharamsala, northern India, the Dalai Lama offered live-streamed teaching from 5–7 January, marking the first public teaching by the 85-year-old spiritual leader in 2021.
In teachings given so far, the Dalai Lama has drawn on his interest in contemporary science, noting the commonalities between Buddhism and quantum physics. The Dalai Lama has long shown intense interest in Western science, befriending famed quantum physicist David Bohm and astronomer Carl Sagan, as well as cofounding the Mind & Life Institute to host regular discussions between prominent scientists and spiritual leaders. His Holiness is also the author of The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (Harmony 2006), a book that traces the long history of the Dalai Lama’s study of contemplative and scientific examinations of reality.
In discussing spirituality, the Dalai Lama said that all religions in the world teach the practice of compassion, a key route to seeing our oneness. The problems of 2020, he stated, were a result of human actions and humanity must learn to live together as one interconnected species in order to survive. For this he urged greater education and the avoidance of divisions based on religion, nation, or other characteristics.
The Dalai Lama’s relationship with David Bohm is one of the subjects addressed in a new film, Infinite Potential: The Life & Ideas of David Bohm (2020). In the film, the Dalai Lama describes Bohm as his “science guru.” In a panel discussion in July last year, StoryAction founder Sandra de Castro interviewed filmmaker Paul Howard, Prof. Robert Thurman, Western Buddhist monk Nicky Vreeland, and the Dalai Lama’s longtime English translator Thupten Jinpa. The group discussed the influence Bohm and other scientists have had on the Dalai Lama and the interconnected ideals found in the depths of Western scientific theory and Buddhist philosophy.
The Heart Sutra, also known as the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, is a short but incredibly important discourse. Karl Brunnhölzl, a senior teacher in the Nalandabodhi community of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, has described it as, “the most frequently used and recited text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition.” (Lion’s Roar) The discourse has inspired countless deep philosophical as well as poetic commentaries through the centuries.
Webcasts of the teachings have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Nepali, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tibetan, and Vietnamese. Heart Sutra text downloads were also made available in these languages on the Dalai Lama’s website.
Live Webcasts: The Heart Sutra – English Translation (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Dalai Lama gives online teaching to Korean Buddhists (Phayul)
Panel Discussion: The Dalai Lama & Science (YouTube)
The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever (Lion’s Roar)