The five day discourse on ‘Overcoming afflictive emotions and attachment to fleeting pleasures’ was led by Geshe Lhakdor la at the India Habitat Centre from 20th to 24th Nov 2019. On each of the five days, the audience had the opportunity to raise a few pressing questions to Geshe la and seek beautiful and clear answers.
On Day 1, Geshe la introduced the audience, which was a mix of seasoned students as well as a few new-comers, to the nature of the mind and the various afflictive emotions and fleeting pleasures that affect the mind. He spoke to them about the difference between just “happiness” and “long-lasting happiness”, explaining that the latter can be developed by changing our mental outlook and learning how to see the true reality of things. He reminded the audience that our minds should not be like the bird’s feather which drifts away with the slightest blow of wind. Our mind should have the stability to resist the push and pull of these many external factors which cause a myriad of emotions. As the day’s session progressed, the focus shifted to Chapter 6 (Abandoning Destructive Emotions) from the Four Hundred Verses of Yogic Deeds by Aryadeva, which would be studied in detail in the following days.
On Day 2, the class studied the first 16 verses of the Chapter 6. Geshe la guided all the students through the deep meaning behind each of the words and concepts being discussed in the verses. The three poisons – attachment, anger and ignorance, were discussed. The audience was made aware of the different ways in which these emotions arise and their inter-relationship with one another too. Ignorance is the root cause of the other two emotions of anger and attachment, and these latter two do not co-exist with one another. The nature of both these two emotions is very different and, thus, the way to cure both of them is also different. However, studying and understanding the emptiness of independent existence is the root cure to all of it. The second day ended with the important reminder that bad words which are said to us are not intrinsically harmful and their effect depends on our attitude towards them.
The discourse on Day 3 was based on the second half of the Chapter 6, which talks about responding to negativity. The audience was engaged in thought about the usefulness of facing negativity. Geshe la gave the example of the situation when someone is shouting at us. In this case, we should use this as an opportunity to practice patience, as the virtue of patience can only the practiced in such conditions. Anger is of no use, as it will lead us to commit ill deeds. There is no one in this world who was able to remove every single negative opinion about themselves during their lifetime. However, if they had changed their attitude, the external factors would start appearing differently. “You cannot cover the whole earth with leather to protect yourself from the thorns, but you can cover your own feet.”
On Day 4, Geshe la began the day with a brief discussion on the condition of our society today, where for sensory pleasure, everything is for sale! Ignorance and self-centred attitude are again the root causes of all negative forces and to avoid those, we must remember that we are running towards the Lord of Death from the very moment that we are born. Thus, we began Chapter 7 on Abandoning Craving for Sense Pleasures. Geshe la reminded us that we must not waste our time thinking that we will begin the dhamma practice “later” and continue being ordinary. The best moment to start, if not started yet, is right now. The moments of confluence between a learner, worthy learning material and a teacher are very rare. Every such moment when all three come together should be appreciated and seen as an opportunity which cannot be missed.
The final day, Day 5, was focussed on the second half of Chapter 7. Our existence is full of ups and downs, and we can never really see either the beginning or the end of this chain of causes and effects. “Work done with effort, effortlessly disintegrates once it is done.” It is not correct to compare either our happiness or sadness in relation to the past or future events. The past is gone and the future is yet to come. In fact, even the present is quickly moving and is gone by the time we think about it. Regarding material wealth, Geshe la posed this very important question to the audience – if you believe that these things really belong to you, why do you have to spend time and energy protecting them against the possibility of theft. The really precious wealth which should be developed is knowledge and positive inner qualities, which only keep increasing by sharing and do not have to be guarded out of fear. We are free to appreciate the small term pleasures, but must be very careful about getting blinded by the short-term happiness and continue to strive for long-term happiness. Ending with a beautiful example that resonated with everyone, Geshe la reminded us that we should go and enjoy the summer’s rainbow, but not get attached and obsessed with the illusion that it is.
To mark the end of the five day session, Loten Namling la performed two Tibetan songs – one on the traditional string instrument ‘damyang’ and the second on an innovative new strong instrument which he has designed based on inspiration from the damyang.
Thirty five students registered for this talk on behalf of Flowering Dharma as a new collaboration between the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of HH Dalai Lama and Flowering Dharma which will also be carried out for future programs in Delhi organised by the Foundation.