Talk Categories Tibetan Buddhism | Talk Locations Tokyo University

The Philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism

This speech introduces Tibetan Buddhism, which helps to eliminate the wrong views or doubts of people towards Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is a pure Buddhist tradition propagated from India by eminent great masters. Its teachings are very complete, including both the teachings of Sutrayana and Tantrayana. But, because of limited understanding, many people are prejudiced toward Tibetan Buddhism, and many fail to know its deep meaning; thus, they cannot attain incredible benefits from such profound teachings. From this speech, you will gain a general understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, its essence, how to learn it, and so on.


“Indeed, as for Tibetan Buddhism, if we study it deeply with meticulous intelligence, we can eventually achieve the essence of human wisdom. However, without a thorough understanding of its deep meaning, knowledge on a superficial level won’t lead us to its essence.”

Speech by Khenpo Sodargye

Tibetan Buddhism in Academic Field

Speech from the Host

Thank you for coming today. I am the host of this event. In the University of Tokyo, there is a grant called science research subsidy, supported by The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. I am using this grant to hold this event. This is really an auspicious opportunity to have Khenpo Sodargye Rinpoche give us a talk. I am so happy that he has come. I wish Rinpoche will teach us how the essence of Buddhism can guide our life and how we can cultivate wisdom to lead a happy life.

The History of Tibetan Buddhism

I feel really happy and honored to have this opportunity to discuss with you about Tibetan Buddhism. Some of you may have great interest in Tibetan Buddhism, while others may not. Anyway, nowadays there is an enthusiasm for studying Tibetan Buddhism or a hot trend of Tibetology, which has spread throughout the whole world. For this reason, I imagine that it’s necessary for us to have a brief discussion on the main idea of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhism, along with Theravada Buddhism and Han Buddhism, are three main branches of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is one of the three branches. Many of you may know that some 2500 years ago the Buddha Shakyamuni turned the Dharma Wheel three times and then Buddhism started to flourish in India. Around 440 CE, the world famous institution Nalanda University was established in India as one of the biggest universities in the world. Another important center of Buddhist learning in India was Vikramashila, which along with Nalanda became the cradle of eastern cultures. I believe that the people from the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia at your university have a good knowledge of this.

Nowadays, the eastern wisdom of Buddhism has great influence in the whole world. We can say that science and modern technology originated from the West have spread to and flourished in the East, while the ancient wisdom and the civilization of humankind initially originated from the East have had great influences in the West too.

There are many great masters of the Nalanda tradition, such as Santaraksita, Shantideva, Padmasambhava, etc. Many people are attracted to their thoughts, especially those of Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. Some professors mentioned that today they’d like to learn about Madhyamakalamkara, the main teaching of Santaraksita. But I’m afraid that the ideas of the Middle Way are too technical to explain clearly in such a short time. So, I will give you only a brief introduction on the fundamental concepts of Tibetan Buddhism.

Around the 8th century, the Nalanda tradition was passed on to Tibet across the Himalayas with the establishment of Samye Gompa in Lhasa. Samye Gompa was the first Buddhist monastery built in Tibet, and it can be understood as a college for the eastern culture. The tradition that had a flourishing period between the 8th and the 10th century is referred to as the old school or the Nyingmapa. Nowadays, a great number of monasteries in Tibet are of Nyingma tradition, whose main teachings and practice include those of the Sutrayana, such as Prajna, Buddhist Logic, Madhyamaka, etc., whereas, their most significant practice in terms of Tantrayana is Dzogchen.

From the 11th to the 13th century, several other schools of Tibetan Buddhism were founded. For example, the great Indian scholar Atisa came to Tibet and founded the Old Kadampa and one of his main writings is Bodhipathapradipa. Later, Lama Tsongkhapa started the New Kadampa commonly known as Gelugpa. Another tradition in Tibetan Buddhism is the Sakyapa which has great Sutrayana teachings, such as those of Madhyamaka and Buddhist Logic. One of the Five Sakya Forefathers, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen, outstandingly composed the Treasury of Logic on Valid Cognition which is a very representative work of Hetuvidya or the logic study in Tibetan Buddhism.

The Sakyapa also has the supreme Vajrayana teachings, such as Path with its Result, or Lamdre. The world-renowned Venerable Milarepa, together with his main disciples such as Gampopa, founded the Kagyupa whose main practice is Mahamudra. Also there’s the Jonangpa which has an extensive explanation of the Buddha nature taught in the third turning of the Dharma Wheel, and it mainly teaches the ultimate meanings of Kalachakra.

Since the 1960s or 1970s, all of these great teachings had been available again to be constantly learned and practiced in numerous monasteries in Tibetan valleys. Thanks to those special historical reasons, Tibetan Buddhism has been blooming in various ways across the world in such places such as India, the US, South East Asia and Europe.

Tibetan Buddhism in Academic Field

I have been to many places. From my observation, people from all walks of life are interested in Tibetan Buddhism and they practice it in all different ways in this modern society. Traditionally, Tibetan Buddhism was regularly practiced by lay Buddhists in their daily life and also attracted some scholars and intellectuals, and more importantly, it was mainly studied by monastic people in the way of teaching, debating and writing.

These days, Tibetan Buddhism has spread all over in the way of holding dharma assemblies, building dharma centers or even yoga studios, and people are found to practice it in all different ways. In addition, people from different communities, for instance, within the circle of entrepreneurs or inside some global companies, are learning Tibetan Buddhism together within their communities. Most importantly, Tibetan Buddhism has been applied in many world-renowned universities’ research, for instance, in psychological studies. When I went to Australia, I noticed that some professors have been studying Tibetan Buddhism as part of their psychological research. In some universities like Columbia and Harvard, scholars carry out their research into the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the tantra practices, the equality between male and female in Tibetan Buddhism. At the University of Colorado, some professors do research on Tibetan environmental protection by applying the ideas of Tibetan culture and Buddhism.

This time, during my trip to Europe, I visited the UK, France and other countries. Many professors at Oxford University study Tibetan Buddhism from the aspect of mindfulness meditation. Some other professors study Tibetan Buddhist literature by focusing on the unique feature of their style. In summary, maybe you are also aware that in our time, a number of research institutes in different universities around the world explore Tibetan Buddhism in a diverse range of fields and the study is carried out from multi-dimensional aspects. They use it either as a reference for their own research or study it as their main subject.

As a Tibetan Buddhist scholar who has been studying and researching in this field for many years, based on my observation, a great number of scientists and scholars from a variety of universities do have sincere interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Indeed, as for Tibetan Buddhism, if we study it deeply with meticulous intelligence, we can eventually achieve the essence of human wisdom. However, without a thorough understanding of its deep meaning, knowledge on a superficial level won’t lead us to its essence.

In our time, a number of research institutes in different universities around the world explore Tibetan Buddhism in a diverse range of fields and the study is carried out from multi-dimensional aspects. They use it either as a reference for their own research or study it as their main subject.

Fake Followers or Genuine Followers

Objective Attitude Is Necessary

I’ve noticed that some old professors at certain universities really had some prejudice or bias towards Tibetan Buddhism. For example, I noticed some old professors here had written some articles years ago, saying that Venerable Longchenpa in Tibetan Buddhism declared the great evenness of all phenomena, and based on their arbitrary understanding, they concluded that Venerable Longchenpa denied the karmic law of cause and effect, because he said that on the ultimate level the virtuous and non-virtuous were not truly existent. They had such kinds of comments.

Certainly, we are open-minded to all kinds of comments. In a place with freedom of speech like your university, if there is anything unreasonable in Buddhism or particularly in Tibetan Buddhism, you are welcome to point this out directly. Your comments are all acceptable to us. Yet, it is an ill-considered act to dispute certain teachings based on an arbitrary understanding. The great Longchenpa published a large number of famous writings and is an extremely renowned figure in Tibet. Within his works, there are great teachings on the ineluctable karmic law of cause and effect, and if one had never read these teachings and made some quick conclusions based on only a few of his words, it would be unreasonable. Of course, these kinds of things happened to Tibetan Buddhism some years ago. At the present time, thanks to the convenience of the information age, young scholars including those I am acquainted with have a deeper understanding of Tibetan culture and of worldwide cultures, so they are more open-minded and thus have a more rigorous and objective attitude in their research.

In Tibetan Buddhism, debating has been emphasized a lot, and is very welcomed. Some of you may know that Tibetan Buddhist monks always debate with each other on the Buddhist doctrine from a very young age. If the opponent does not have acceptable reasons, then their arguments are invalid. But if their reasons make logical sense, even the Buddha’s words can be abandoned. Hence, it’s natural that some scholars in the academic field might have some doubts or questions about Tibetan Buddhism. They’d better go to Tibetan monasteries in person and have some debates with Khenpos or Geshes, which I think is quite necessary.

As this is the information age, you can bring your video camera and digital voice recorder to the debate. With your recordings, the whole world will make the right judgment. As a Tibetan Buddhist myself, I would never have any preconception of Tibetan Buddhism in favor of my religious belief. Yet it is my responsibility and my wish to protect the Buddha’s pure teachings, so that people can approach them in a proper way, rather than to misunderstand or distort them with any preconceived ideas.

Fake Followers or Genuine Followers

I’m not saying that all the adherents of Tibetan Buddhism are perfect. Yet the teachings of Buddhism are perfect and could be the best spiritual medicine for people in the 21st century, and they are really beneficial.

In terms of its followers, they are maybe Tibetans or maybe people of other ethnic groups. Some of them might study and practice Buddhism in accordance with the teachings, while it is also possible that some may behave improperly or even illegally in the name of Tibetan Buddhism. For example, many years ago, some people or organizations in Japan, using the name of Tibetan Buddhism, disguised themselves as Tibetan Buddhists and harmed so many people. They did many unimaginable evil deeds. Sadly, many people know little about Tibetan Buddhism. If they have some knowledge about it, they can easily figure out whether someone follows its genuine teachings or not. So, I imagine that many people don’t have a deep understanding of the essence of Tibetan Buddhism.

Whether in today’s age or in the past, a number of people would consider a tiny part of Tibetan Buddhism as its main essence, but it is quite wrong. Only endowed with the essential spirit or the authentic thoughts of Buddhism, can the existence of the rituals, monastic buildings and religious ceremonies become meaningful. In the absence of the spirit of Buddhism, the rituals, monastic buildings or any other Buddhist visible things exist in name only.

I’ve noticed that many people are fascinated by their Tibetan gurus more like some big fans, having a strong attachment to their gurus; they rarely know something about the Buddhadharma. These people, indeed are not genuine followers of Tibetan Buddhism. Some people may have donated a lot of money or made great offerings to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, or have been engaged in many charitable activities which indeed are virtuous actions. But still, they cannot necessarily be called genuine followers of Tibetan Buddhism. They can be considered as benefactors since they have made some offerings. However, if these benefactors never learn or practice the Dharma and choose not to sharpen their knowledge about the Dharma, it would be hard to say that they are adherents of Tibetan Buddhism. They are merely investors or benefactors of Buddhism.

Some take Tibetan Buddhism as a kind of fashion, they may wear several or even ten malas, Gau boxes or other Tibetan items around their necks, and then they consider themselves as adherents of Tibetan Buddhism, but that may not be the case. Anyone can wear malas around his or her neck if one likes, yet it doesn’t identify him or her as an adherent of Tibetan Buddhism. Some people may go to Tibet, taking a lot of pictures, riding horses or grazing yaks, eating tsampa and drinking butter tea, singing and dancing in Tibetan ways as well as wearing Tibetan clothes, thus, they consider themselves as followers of Tibetan Buddhism. Unfortunately, it’s not the case, because they know nothing about its essential teaching. Some scholars, by reading a few books of Tibetan Buddhism, consider themselves to be scholars of Tibetan Buddhism. Seriously speaking, becoming a Tibetan Buddhist scholar is not that easy. A few books can hardly contain all things of Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism.

Then what is a genuine adherent of Tibetan Buddhism? Actually, approaching Tibetan Buddhism is somehow similar to scientific research. I really appreciate the Japanese spirit of scientific research, which is achieved with a rigorous attitude and a focused mind. Similarly, approaching Tibetan Buddhism also requires a rigorous attitude and a focused mind, and only through long-term diligent learning, contemplating and meditating, can one understand the essential teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

There are a great number of people who apply the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in their daily lives, and this leads them to a happy life. I’ve met with many people from all walks of life, who through the practice of Bodhichitta or the practice of emptiness are able to live a life of genuine happiness. Some of them are popular stars like actors, singers and sport stars or political leaders from different nations. They may not look like adherents of Tibetan Buddhism from the outside, yet through online Buddhist resources, they personally learn and practice the Dharma and thus have achieved genuine happiness.

I have met with some university professors in Japan. Through continuous learning and practicing, their lives have become easier and more relaxed. Japan is known to have a relatively higher suicide rate and lots of people in big cities here are faced with relatively high pressures. Fortunately, by learning the teachings of Buddhism, especially Mahayana Buddhism, many of them can lead an easy life.

All of you here today should use your logical thinking to study the Buddhist logic and the Middle Way, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, which will bring you great benefits. I do believe so. Because the sharp wisdom in these philosophies will guide you to observe both the inner and outer worlds in a clearer and deeper way and then you will be completely convinced by its reasoning.

Buddhism, a Faith with Wisdom

Formal Learning of Tibetan Buddhism is Important

I encourage you to learn about Tibetan Buddhism from different aspects and in a formal way. Moreover, if you are interested, you’d better spend some time learning and practicing it. This will indeed bring great changes to your attitude toward life.

Nowadays, there are so many misunderstandings about Tibetan Buddhism. Actually, they are caused by some individuals. Some misunderstanding can be easily clarified, but clarification can only be achieved with formal learning. For example, some people regard Tibetan Buddhism as a religion that was created by individual Tibetan lamas, but that is quite a weird opinion. Also, some falsely take Han Buddhism as a religion created by individual monks.

Those who know even a little about history will acknowledge the propagation of Buddhism from India to the Han and Tibetan areas, as well as the historical progress of Buddhism in Japan, and they will understand these histories as such. Besides, some people classify Tibetan Buddhism as Vajrayana and Han Buddhism as Sutrayana, however, this classification is quite a big mistake. From the time that Tibetan Buddhism came into existence 1,300 years ago, it had incorporated both the Vajrayana and Sutrayana teachings.  It indeed contains the basic teachings such as the teachings of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and other countries, as well as the teachings of Han Buddhism. This is not my personal opinion: you can do some research on the related references and then you’ll have a clear idea. I spent five years translating The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History written by Dudjom Rinpoche. It has over 300,000 words and includes many histories of Tibetan Buddhism. It was published by Tibetan Ancient Books Publishing House.

I really hope that you scholars as well as ordinary Buddhists can understand Tibetan Buddhism in a formal way. Otherwise, it will be just like what is described in a Buddhist story that one’s habit will be too stubborn to be changed after a certain time. In the story, there was a businessman whose house was burnt. He found a skeleton in the ashes and thought it to be his son’s. Heartbroken, he then put the remains into his pocket and carried them with him every day. Indeed, his son had fortunately survived. Later, when his son came back, due to the businessman’s tremendous grief based on the previous thought that his son died, he would not accept his son being alive, saying that his son had been together with him in his pocket. On the surface, the businessman seems rather stupid, but we may also make similar mistakes. When our thought pattern is fixed by wrong views, it would be too hard to make any change.

Buddhism, a Faith with Wisdom

Therefore, no matter where we are from, we do need to have an unbiased attitude and a logical way of thinking. Thus, whatever we do will be accompanied by wisdom; and guided by wisdom, our behavior will be reasonable. With the accompaniment of wisdom, our faith and compassion will then be meaningful. Without wisdom, the faith in a religion can only be called a blind faith. I always think that the faith in Buddhism is different than the faith in other traditions. Because in many other traditions, it could be just a mere faith, not necessarily supported by many rational theoretical explanations. Whereas in Buddhism, if you think it reasonable through your wisdom, you can choose to believe in it. Otherwise, you can totally abandon it, reject it or even disprove it. Therefore, wisdom is a unique feature of the faith in Buddhism.

In a sutra, the Sakyamuni Buddha said to his followers “You should not respect or believe me as I am the Buddha. Conversely, just like refining gold, one needs to do it again and again, you should think over my words and accept them only when you feel that they are reasonable. Do not accept my words just because I am the teacher or the Buddha. When you are going to accept something, you must use your wisdom to make the decision.” So, I feel that all of you here today should use your logical thinking to study the Buddhist logic and the Middle Way, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, which will bring you great benefits. I do believe so. Because the sharp wisdom in these philosophies will guide you to observe both the inner and outer worlds in a clearer and deeper way and then you will be completely convinced by its reasoning. Therefore, I feel that it’s necessary for you to learn about them. Without learning, just repeating others’ statements won’t bring you any benefit.

Also, I feel that though all major religions talk about compassion and love, Buddhism particularly explains the reason behind these concepts. Why should I show my compassion toward other beings? Because they all want happiness and hate suffering as I do. Consequently, there are good reasons for us to love all beings. Similarly, why do we love animals? Because their life is as precious as ours. Therefore, Buddhism repeatedly advocates love and compassion, and we should understand the profound wisdom behind it. Moreover, this compassion can be extended to our enemies. Why do we love our enemies? Because under the control of our afflictions, we are forced to do all kinds of evil things. Similarly, being controlled by afflictions, our enemies have made the mistake of harming us involuntarily. Based on this reasoning, it is rational for us to accept the idea of loving our enemies. Thus, the way of cultivating love and compassion with wisdom and the way of developing faith accompanied by wisdom are what distinguish Buddhism from other religions. That is something you should think about.

Without Essence, Formalities Are Meaningless

I feel that Japan is different from other countries in the way that almost every Japanese person has a belief since childhood, and your views on Buddhism are much more insightful than the views of people without religious background. So, you have your unique advantages. Even though, I don’t know much about your life style, many aspects of your life remind me of the profundity of the Zen tradition, regardless of your paintings, music or your behaviors in daily life. Such profundity is expressed in a very natural way. In this case, people will be more likely to accept some traditions. In fact, without these traditions, being exposed to fierce social competition, we would suffer a lot.

I was told that many Japanese have religious beliefs, and may take a new born baby to receive Christian Baptism and carry out Buddhist rituals for the dead. So religious elements can be seen in many aspects. But as for the theoretical study of religious philosophy, it is really a great pity that a long-term and systematic education is lacking. I once asked some Japanese, whether they believed in Buddhism or not. They said yes. Then I asked why and what texts they had learnt. They said that they hadn’t learnt any and were just influenced by the family since childhood. Actually, this kind of belief is far from enough. The situation in Thailand was similar many years ago and now Buddhism there has become more like a formality and has lost its essence.

I believe that whether ordained or lay practitioners, as long as you are a Buddhist, you must understand the basic teachings in Buddhism. Without knowing the basic teachings, adhering to the external formality will remain meaningless. In the Vimalakirti Sutra, it is said that we should enjoy the delights of the Dharma instead of worldly pleasures, which means that we should seek true happiness based on compassion and wisdom rather than the superficial worldly delights of material enjoyment. Therefore, whether for Buddhist or other thoughts, the key is to get hold of its essence instead of its formality.

I know that many cultures in Japan originated from China. Now in China, however, many traditional cultures like the etiquette of showing respect to parents and others are not so well preserved as in Japan, where the courtesy among people is very decent. Similarly, Buddhism is not very well preserved in some parts of China, while in Japan, it has been well kept throughout the past hundreds of years. I rejoice at this. I’ve just finished my trip in Europe and Africa. The people in some of those countries seem to have high self-esteem and won’t show great respect to others. So, when I just came to Japan and was exposed to your etiquette of respecting others, comparing with the high self-esteem culture in some Western European countries, I was a little bit lost. In principle, I prefer people to be taught to be well-behaved from childhood. Previously, when the earthquake took place in Japan, we could see from the TV report that your people were still so polite and orderly, despite facing such serious difficulties.

Anyway, this may not be a formal speech as it was just some of my personal thoughts. If it was reasonable, please accept it. If not, criticism and correction are welcomed. Thank you!

Question and Answer Session

Right or Wrong: A Mere Academic Study of Buddhism

Seeking Common Good in Political Area

Question #1: 

I’m from Amdo, Tibet. 15 years ago, I came here. Till now, I have been studying in Japan and mainly focused on politics. First, I would like to send my warm greetings to Khenpo. Khenpola, Tashi Delek! For my question, firstly I want to briefly introduce the related background. The subject I’m learning here is politics, which advocates the ideas of freedom, democracy, equality and integrity. However, when we go back to reality, facing the new problems that are constantly popping up, it’s very difficult to figure out the appropriate solutions. But I think the ideas of Buddhism, such as dependent origination, loving-kindness and compassion for all beings, are helpful to solve these issues.

In almost 10 years of researching on politics, I have tried to apply the wisdom of dependent origination and compassion to the research. Some scholars agree with this research method. But some don’t support this approach, they think the idea of dependent origination is impractical and being compassionate is merely an ideology of Buddhism. So in terms of applying the wisdom of dependent origination and compassion into the area of politics for seeking the common good, does Khenpo have any thoughts and suggestions for us?

Khenpo Sodargye:

Thanks for your question. I notice that many Tibetans came here today. Firstly, to all of you, I would like to say, Tashi Delek! Secondly, being able to meet and communicate with all of you, I feel truly happy and joyful.

Personally speaking, I’ve been to many countries and wherever I went, I felt that whatever we do, we need to keep a compassionate mind. My recent visit to Africa gave me this impression again. As we know, there are so many countries which, in order to get the diamonds in Africa, have started many wars in the past over 30 years. Hence sometimes, it’s cultural invasion, and sometimes, it’s material plunder. The people who have no compassion will do all those ill-mannered things, which will bring distress to both themselves and others.

Of course, each country or nation has its own culture and stand-point. From my point of view, if we can learn the main principle of Tibetan Culture, which maintains the essence of the Buddhist teaching, and embodies compassion and the wisdom of dependent origination in all aspects, then all of humanity will gain great benefits. Either for the culture of a nation or for Buddhism itself or for any other social issues, compassion and wisdom can be quite relevant. Especially, in our days, there are many different situations taking place on this planet, such as plundering or invasions to different extents. This is why I feel strongly about the great importance of having compassion.

Right or Wrong: A Mere Academic Study of Buddhism

Question #2:

Khenpo Sodargye, you said earlier that faith and compassion in Buddhism are born from wisdom. Then in order to cultivate wisdom, one needs to learn things like logic and proofs in Buddhism systematically. However, for many Buddhist scholars who focus on reasoning and logic, maybe particularly in Japan, it seems that faith and compassion won’t match up with their research. Although they understand the theory very well, they haven’t given rise to faith and compassion in their hearts. It seems many people are like this. You said earlier if one has wisdom, compassion will naturally arise. I wonder how you would understand this kind of situation.

Khenpo Sodargye:

Actually, there are some academic researchers, not only in Japan, but also in China and the US, who have just studied Buddhism in an academic way for many years. But they do not regard Buddhism as their belief and neither are they Mahayana Buddhists. Being a Mahayana Buddhist, one should have both compassion and wisdom as they are essential.

But those Buddhist scholars who are interested in Buddhism, may not necessarily have compassion. That’s totally their own choice. Because they are only interested in studying Buddhism, and never intend to receive the Mahayana precepts or form the wish of benefiting all beings. Just like some American scholars, in order to research a bird, they have been in Africa for over 30 years, chasing after the bird with cameras. Everyone makes his or her own choices.

Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and Han Buddhism

Question #3:

You just pointed out that certain behavioral aspects are far from getting the essence of Tibetan Buddhism. Then, what is the true essence of Tibetan Buddhism? And what are the biggest differences between Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and Han Buddhism?

Khenpo Sodargye:

I’ve just mentioned several “certain” aspects. What I mean is that with certain behaviors, under certain conditions, given certain influences or within certain scopes, the so-called Tibetan Buddhism is just a superficial one. Nowadays many Tibetan Buddhist followers do not know about its true essence. For instance, those who like to do the Fire Puja, which is quite popular in China, gather around a big fire and think that it is such a fantastic ritual. Also, there are some Buddhists who are busy with doing Torma all day along, as well as those who are fond of blowing the conch shell or playing the hand drum and so on and so forth. They are fascinated with all kinds of things.

As a matter of fact, when we ask them what Bodhichitta is, what renunciation is and what wisdom is, both the teachers and the students have no idea about them. So, many of their behaviors lose the essence of Buddhism, as Buddhism itself has rigorous disciplines, systematic philosophies and guidance on altruistic actions. They know nothing about them. In that case, they may mislead others to think that Tibetan Buddhism is nothing more than this ritualistic and noisy stuff. In fact, it is just part of Tibetan Buddhism which has significance only under the guidance of the essential teachings. Otherwise, it would be like a university where there are dance groups or singing groups and so on, but no academic education at all. Such a university cannot be called a university. That’s why I stress the importance of the teachings on Buddhist philosophy.

Theravada Buddhism prevails mainly in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. Its teachings emphasize renunciation and seeking self-liberation from samsara. Han Buddhism refers to Buddhism practiced in the Han Chinese area and is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism; it stresses the practice of Zen and Pure Land. Tibetan Buddhism also came from India by passing through the Himalayas and has been thriving in the Tibetan area. Buddhism merged with three different cultures accordingly, forming the different branches of Buddhism. Just as Japanese Buddhism was formed under a certain historical background with its unique feature of Japanese culture.

About the main teaching of Tibetan Buddhism, it includes both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. Sutrayana emphasizes the teachings of renunciation, Bodhichitta and non-dualistic wisdom. The teachings of Tantrayana are much more profound, including preliminaries, main practice, and concluding phase. For instance, at Larung Gar, it takes 15 years just to finish the compulsory courses. But for some people, let alone 15 years, even 15 days of systematic study is far beyond their capacity as they merely focus on the outer form, which is not the authentic Buddhism.

What Concepts to be Adopted in Doing Business

Question #4:

Firstly, thank you for the lectures. Seemingly people from various fields have come here to listen. Though I’m just an ordinary person, I have a question. Khenpo Sodargye said earlier that in order to have love and compassion, we need to ask why. I’ve been thinking of becoming a business owner or manager for a long time, and I’ve been asking myself different questions in terms of truth. Other than this, from the view of Tibetan Buddhism, are there some necessary routines that we can follow?

Khenpo Sodargye:

It seems that Tibetan Buddhism encompasses a variety of complicated subjects, such as politics, economics and finance. In fact, I believe that an altruistic and compassionate mind emphasized in Tibetan Buddhism is applicable to all aspects of society and can be applied to our daily life. Without any negative thoughts towards others and only trying one’s best in his or her career indeed conforms quite well with Buddhist teachings. Such statements have been mentioned in the Sigalovada Sutta, which is a Sutta described in the Digha Nikaya, saying that for ordinary people, it’s absolutely fine and necessary to do business, farm work and the like to support one’s life. Therefore, as long as we respect others and have an altruistic mind, we should make a living by our own means. Tibetan Buddhism may not have any specific business concepts, yet, in general, Buddhism does approve of the idea of doing business and working without harming others’ interests and it is quite reasonable.

How to Cultivate Wisdom in Daily life

Is It Better to Study Buddhist Texts in Its Original Language

Question #5:

Dear Khenpo Rinpoche, I’ve been studying Pure Land Practice in Tibetan Buddhism for two years, and then I’m going to study the Way of the Bodhisattva, both in Chinese that have been translated from Tibetan by you, so I wonder for our further study, if language will become a barrier or not, since we don’t understand Tibetan. I know Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes oral transmission greatly, yet we’re studying these texts in Chinese. I do appreciate Rinpoche’s translation efforts but just wonder whether studying these translations would be as good as studying them in Tibetan?

Khenpo Sodargye:

If you can receive the oral transmission, learning its translated version won’t make any difference. For instance, the Buddha gave all his teachings in Sanskrit, and they had been propagated to different countries in the local languages, yet their power of lineage and blessings remained the same. Similarly, teaching Tibetan scriptures directly in Chinese or studying their translated Chinese version will not decrease the study outcome. Learning a different language is certainly a good thing. Every time I go to a different country, I always have the urge to study its local language, but life is too short and there is no time to do many things.

How to Cultivate Wisdom in Daily life

Question #6:

I would like to ask how to sharpen our wisdom within daily life? Would you kindly give us some advice?

Khenpo Sodargye:

There are two ways that can be used to cultivate wisdom in our daily lives. The first is to study, which is always a good way to cultivate wisdom. Another way is to be aware of anything we encounter in our lives, and to be open and accept them. For example, when tasting something delicious, try to eat without any conceptual judgment or emotion. Regardless of encountering good people or bad people, wherever we go, whatever comes up, whether happy or unhappy, always have the awareness and accept everything with a calm mind. I think this is perhaps the best way.

Nanking Massacre and Ethnic Hatred

Question #7:

I’m a Chinese who has been living in Japan for 18 years and have gone through some difficulties and setbacks. I used to be a president of a big company. Regarding some political disputes, there are some questions that always hover in my mind. There is an argument in Japanese society, asserting that the Nanking Massacre is fabricated. Many rich and powerful Japanese people asked me whether the Nanking Massacre actually happened. I replied to them in one word, whether the death toll of the massacre was 300,000, 30,000 or 3,000, for humankind, this atrocity is unacceptable and unforgivable. Yet they’ve never seemed to admit the fact. So as I continue to live in Japan, I would like to ask Rinpoche, what attitude should I have and how should I face this situation with a compassionate mind? Thank you.

Khenpo Sodargye:

Regarding the history of the Nanking Massacre, I have read and studied a lot of background materials. I would say it was a failure of certain individuals. I believe whether we are Japanese or Chinese, in today’s day and era, we should bridge the gap between people. Back in those days, the overall human condition was horrible. Namibia was under similar circumstances, and it became a German colony. As a punishment to the Namibian people’s revolt, German government officials ordered the eradication of the natives. Although, Germany officially admits the Nazi atrocities, such as the famous Warschauer Kniefall, it was not until 2004 that Germany formally apologized to Namibia.

Hence, for some political issues or histories, we can keep them in memory or use them as a reference for today’s life, but not necessarily get stuck within them. Modern people should tune their minds in accordance with the way of modern life. Sometimes political statements and decisions may not be so related to our daily life. Last year and the year before, I asked some acquaintances, including someone present here today, such questions as what do you think about the Chinese movies based on the Sino-Japanese Wars. Out of my curiosity, I asked many questions.

Actually, regarding these questions, Buddhism has unique perspectives in accordance with its teachings, ordinary people have their personal opinions, politicians have their specific interpretations and certain different conceptions also existed back in those days, whereas at the present moment, we should maintain an open and all-encompassing mind, instead of allowing ourselves to be haunted by those past mistakes. At present, we should learn from each other and cooperate with each other with an open mind which I think is the most important attitude. Otherwise, you just dwell on the past.

How to Avoid Going Astray & Love Those We Dislike

Question #8:

Hello, Rinpoche. I have two questions. First, as Rinpoche mentioned just before, without genuine wisdom or a good understanding, even we’re willing to read or study the Buddhist texts, we might misunderstand them. For instance, a long time ago, introduced by my friend, I read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying written by Sogyal Rinpoche, simply out of my interest. I read it like reading a novel, so basically I only had a superficial understanding of this book. Or even worse, I misunderstood the original meaning of the writer.

So my first question is in everyday life, as a new beginner, how do I maintain the right view on the path of the Buddhadharma, so that I will not go astray? Thanks to the Internet, we are exposed to a ton of resources. But it’s very hard to figure out what to adopt and what to discard. So how can we make sure that we choose the right view from the very beginning?

The second question is about compassion and big love. We can get along well with our good friends and stay happy with them. But there are always some people around us and annoying us. As you suggested, we should show them love and take care of them, because a similar situation might fall upon us and push us to act in a similar way. Nonetheless, I’m still young with an impulsive nature, it’s really hard to force myself to love those whom I consider as bad persons, but rather, a disgusted feeling will immediately arise in my mind. So do you have any advice for us about how to deal with such negative reactions? Thank you!

Khenpo Sodargye:

For your first question, here is my answer. To study the Buddhist philosophy in a proper way, I think we should follow a qualified and experienced teacher endowed with wisdom, and receive his teaching either in front of him or by the means of modern technology such as the Internet, and study for the long term. The Buddhist philosophy is profound and abstruse, so merely one or two months is not enough and one may need at least 8 or 10 years to study it. We cannot study the Buddhist texts like reading a novel.

Just now I recommended a book to the interpreter. He is quite intelligent, so I suggested that he study the Ornament of Madhyamaka, which is composed by Shantarashita. I could barely understand anything the first time I learned it from my teacher. I read it twice by myself and taught it once in Tibetan. Later, I translated it into Chinese and taught it again in Chinese. Now I have been able to understand its deeper meaning. Therefore, for an especially good treatise, we have to study it continually and repeatedly with great eagerness and patience. A remarkably wonderful book deserves our efforts of reading once a year for our whole life. Eventually, we’re able to blend its wisdom with our mind and put it into practice. By then, one may become a person endowed with wisdom. This is about your first question.

For your second question, due to our habitual patterns, we don’t like others to point out our shortcomings and tend not to get along with people whom we dislike, which is pretty common for most of us. However, for an authentic practitioner, if his practice is good enough, he is able to get along with those bad persons to improve his practice. There was a great Tibetan master, Lord Atisha, who used to take a bad tempered disciple as his attendant to practice his tolerance in this way. So we should make use of these unfavorable situations in our practice. There is a metaphor of a medicine made of poison. Ordinary people are afraid of poison and stay away from it. Yet a wise doctor has the ability to use it as a kind of medicine. So he won’t be scared by its toxicity but can rather turn it into a potent medicine. Similarly, those without a stable state of practice are afraid of adversities, while matured practitioners regard adversities as assistance to their practice. According to your capacity and level of practice, you can choose a proper way to perfect your practice.

Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan