His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Friday made his first live public appearance since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving a teaching from the Jataka tales for the occasion of Chotrul Duchen. An enthusiastic crowd of monastic and lay Buddhists, as well as members of the Central Tibetan Administration, gathered to greet His Holiness at the Tsuglagkhang temple complex in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s official residence.
Acknowledging his advancing years, the 86-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader was in good spirits, noting that although he had planned to visit New Delhi for medical checkup, he had decided to postpone the trip as he remained in good health and was even well enough to play at boxing with his personal physician.
“I had thought to go to Delhi around now to have a medical check-up. However, I don’t feel unwell, in fact I feel fit for anything, so I decided not to go,” the Dalai Lama noted. “Usually, during the winter, I go to Bodh Gaya, but again, this year I decided to relax and take things easy here in Dharamsala. I also threw a mo that indicated that this would be the better thing to do.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
“The Lama from Kumbum is in good health,” His Holiness added laughing. “So please, everyone be at ease.” (YouTube)
“I am getting older, but I think I’ll live for at least 10 more years, to lead and advise the people. There is a slight problem in my knee, so when I see the need, I might use a walking stick or a wheelchair possibly in the future.” (Phayul)
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate received his first vaccine dose against COVID-19 in March 2021, one of the last occasions he was seen out and about in public.* As the contagion spread around the globe, His Holiness moved his public activities online, reaching out to the world through live-streamed teachings and ceremonies.
On 14 March, the Dalai Lama held a private in-person audience at his residence with a group of male and female monastic candidates for their novice ordination ceremony.
“Now the question is, how do the buddhas benefit sentient beings?” the Dalai Lama explained to the gathered audience. “They don’t wash unwholesome deeds away with water, and they don’t remove the sufferings of beings with their hands, nor do they transplant their own realization into others. It is by teaching the truth of suchness, revealing reality as they have experienced it and the means to pacify restless minds that they liberate beings.
“The Buddha first taught the Four Noble Truths, then later, at Vulture Peak; he presented the essence of his doctrine, the Perfection of Wisdom teachings that are summed up in the Heart Sutra that we regularly recite.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
“I do my best to reflect on the teaching of emptiness, which I find helpful when it comes to tackling negative emotions. I also take to heart what Shantideva wrote:
For those who fail to exchange their own happiness for the suffering of others, buddhahood is certainly impossible—how could there even be happiness in cyclic existence?
Proceeding in this way from happiness to happiness, what thinking person would despair, after mounting the carriage, the awakening mind, which carries away all weariness and effort?
“We have gathered here on this special occasion to remind ourselves that this treasure, the teaching of the Buddha, can only be preserved through study and practice, and in so doing we can benefit other people in many parts of the world.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
His Holiness proceeded to give a teaching drawn from the Jatakamala for the occasion of Chotrul Duchen, or Butter Lamp Festival, reading from the “Tale of Vishvantara.”
The Dalai Lama’s teaching was followed by the Ceremony for Generating Bodhicitta, which concluded with a mandala offering, and a recitation of the “Prayer for the Flourishing of the Teaching.”
One of four Tibetan festivals that commemorate events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha and is held soon after Losar on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, Chotrul Duche was established in 1409 by revered tantric master Je Tsongkhapa at the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. Throughout the festival, teaching sessions are dedicated to reading from the fourth-century Sanskrit poet Aryashura’s Garland of Birth Stories (Jatakamala), a retelling of 34 of the most famous of the Buddha’s former lives. The festival concludes with a public ceremony for generating bodhicitta for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Celebrating the Day of Miracles (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Teachings in Dharamsala (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
I am in good health, Dalai Lama reassures in his first public appearance since pandemic (Phayul)
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