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Perry Smith

Excerpts from

Buddha Heart, Buddha Mind

by Dalai Lama

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Buddha Heart, Buddha Mind by Dalai Lama Questions and Answers I

How does one know that the real and apparent modes truly coincide? Someone perceiving the coincidence of the real and appearance can also entertain illusions.

Intellectual analysis leads to a conclusion pursued in thought by meditation. If this conclusion is not mistaken, and corresponds to reality, then the more we meditate, the deeper the experience of our sensory apparatus will go. There you have a general explanation. I think, then, that we must count not on ordinary consciousness but on wisdom to guide our reflection.1

Indeed, when we have reflected well on such a thing, and have come to a conclusion not subject to modification by any other reflection, we gradually increase our experience. We might then experience a certain disquietude, a sense of contradiction. But that will depend on the degree of perfection attained by the analysis. If the analysis has truly been followed to its term, regardless of the angle from which we envisage its conclusion, and regardless of the object to which we apply this conclusion, we no longer can experience the least annoyance. Perhaps this is how we ought to think.

Generally speaking, existence and nonexistence have a value on the level of conventional truth, and what is conventionally true, we hear, cannot be refuted by a different conventional truth. Then is there at present another thought that could contradict the thought emerging from an individual conclusion? For if there were another thought that could provisionally contradict it, there would inevitably be a third to contradict the second. This is how we should look at things.

Belief in the self, for example, contradicts the thought that being-in-itself does not exist. The existence of being-in-itself, then, is absolutely inadmissible. One can still tell oneself that things really exist, on the pretext that we are bound to them by benefits and burdens-which they indeed present and for other, analogous, reasons. Belief in the real existence of things, then, contradicts the thought that has concluded their unreality; but this is only provisional. After all, meditation on the thought that sees that things do not really exist can develop ad infinitum, while the prejudice according to which they really exist, examined from all viewpoints with the help of many reasonings, does not find many opinions to support it. If the conclusion we have reached is contradicted by a different truth, this truth will probably be refuted in turn. Conventional truth concerns what occurs in each mind-that which a particular consciousness perceives.

As for knowing whether a perception is correct, or authentic, that depends on yet another perception, which must not invalidate it. But will a particular conventional object presently accepted be refuted by another conventional truth? Will it be refuted by the reasoning that analyzes the ultimate state of the object? It will be necessary to decide on its existence by proceeding to these two types of analysis.

I and those like me, think according to our abilities and add to the analysis of which we are capable the conclusions of experienced, reliable scholars. Thus is how we must proceed: by comparing and associating their experience with our own. These people, as accomplished as they are scholarly, are not simply those we find reliable in a general way. In order to guide our analysis rightly, they must be reliable, scholarly, and accomplished in the precise domain of thus analysis. For if they were expert in another domain, one would have the right to ask whether it is correct to refer to them in the case at hand.

Indeed, if we examine an object in light of the ideas of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, it is only to the writings of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva scholars that we must compare our thought. For, however reliable the texts of Asanga and Vasubandhu are, for example, the matter at hand does not, properly speaking, relate to their domain.

When you speak of "apparent mode," of the relative truth of all phenomena, and of their "real mode," their absolute truth, what do you understand by "all phenomena"?

The numerous metamorphoses that contribute to the appearance of things. We can think that what arises not from multiplicity, but only from the aspect of a single foundation, belongs to the absolute level. As we have said, we must distinguish what reason finds at the conclusion of the analysis of the ultimate and what it finds at the conclusion of the analysis of the conventional.

Take these flowers. What we can say of their forms and colors, their primary and secondary causes, and so on-all of this relates to relative truth. If we methodically seek the ultimate flower of these flowers endowed with forms and colors, we can find nothing. Accordingly, nothing exists that is not relative. Would these flowers actually be something else? No. But then how do they exist? They do not have objective existence, but they exist from the coming together of certain conditions.

We do not perceive these flowers as "existing from the coming together of certain conditions."A flower is a flower "in itself." That the flower does not exist independently of absolutely everything else-that is its real mode. Finding the thought that theorizes without analyzing permits one to classify flowers in white, yellow, and so on. This relates to the apparent mode of relative truth. What do we find when we analyze a flower to know its real mode? We discover a flower without real existence; we discover the impossibility of finding any flower at all. And that regards its absolute truth.

How can we have relationships with others if we have no self?

As I have explained, we must begin by assuring ourselves of the self. No one has ever said that there is no self. You see, it is like the flowers we have just considered: When we say that the self, the substance, and the flower do not exist really, or by themselves, we simply wish to say that things are produced in interdependence.

The four philosophical systems of Buddhism-Vaibhashika, Santrantika, Chittarnatrin, and Madhyamika-were they created by Indian intellectuals, or were they taught by the Buddha?

In our days, at the university the name Buddha evokes a historic personage who did not officially teach the Greater Vehicle. The Greater Vehicle did not appear in his "complete works." And, because the Greater Vehicle scarcely appeared in the collections of the Triple Basket the Svatantrika Bhavaviveka boldly wonders, in his Brazier of Logic,3 whether the discourses of the Greater Vehicle attributed to the Buddha have not been compiled by Maitreya, Marjughosha, and other bodhisattvas.

For the university, and especially for the Hearers of his entourage, the Buddha set the wheel of teachings turning. The Hearers, then, are the principal depositories of his doctrine. Then the laity who had faith in the Teacher felt a certain discontent, the university continues. Gradually, and solely so that the laity could consolidate their spiritual practice, the Basket of the Bodhisattvas appeared. In this Basket it is clearly written that ordination is an excellent thing, but the professors still dispute whether the bodhisattvas are monks or not. So some of them go so far as to claim that the absolute body of the Buddha is an invention of the laity.

I believe that these things deserve reflection. What I have just said follows the "university opinion," according to which the Dharma was woven of the thread of historical evolution. The Buddha, in this opinion, would have begun by teaching in an extremely condensed manner. Later, the Indian intellectuals made additions, and these teachings continued to be amplified. But what is the purpose of those who make this claim? They are convinced that the Buddha is merely an ordinary person. And the noble declarations of this ordinary person were elaborated by his disciples until the Greater Vehicle progressed to the present point. So much for a historical analysis according to the university.

When you are a Buddhist, you wonder whether it is possible, from a very general viewpoint, to reach buddhahood. Are there such things as samsara and nirvana? Should one seek them? If samsara and nirvana exist, is it possible to eliminate the negative emotions? What does the individual who has eliminated his or her negative emotions have that we do not have? The essential thing is to know whether liberation' is possible. Here, I think, we have the real questions.

If we perceive the Buddha as an ordinary being, then we are actually much better instructed than he. If we represent the Buddha as a simple historical personage, we are forced to admit that Nagarjuna was better instructed than he. But we ourselves are better instructed than Nagarjuna. Most of us have computers. And so, with our superior knowledge and our intelligence, we ought not enter the school of the Buddha. These two ways of thinking turn out to be radically different.

I mean that, if we consider Buddhism from the sole standpoint of evolution, the Buddha is but a human being, albeit a very warm one, who taught something very simple. Later, Nagarjuna arrived, and on the basis of teachings of the Buddha, invented certain new ideas. Next came Asanga, then Chandrakirti, who did likewise. If this is how things really happened, then, as I have just said, we are much better equipped nowadays, enormously better, at least with regard to the university. We live in a far richer era. These, then, are the viewpoints that differ. The ultimate view is: Is there a shunya,5 is there a nirvana, is there the possibility of eliminating all the emotions that afflict us, and all the ignorance? Here are the essential questions.

If it is possible to eliminate the emotions that afflict us, then people have done this. But naturally we cannot compare ourselves with them. Certain phenomena seem to us difficult to understand because we still lack spiritual experience. But there are other factors to consider. Those who speak to us of their liberation should have no reason to lie, and they inspire our trust. Nor should there be a contradiction among the various declarations by all those who deserve our trust concerning these hidden phenomena. In order to judge these facts, in certain domains we have recourse for the moment to the declarations of a third party. It is very complicated. I shall conclude this subject tomorrow, because it merits further explanation.

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The Four Noble Truths : Fundamentals of the Buddhist Teachings His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama