His Holiness speaks on Four Noble Truths and Ethics in a Shared World in Darwin

A Teaching of the Four Noble Truths and a Public Talk on Ethics in a Shared World in Darwin Conclude His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Visit

Darwin, Australia, 23 June 2013 – Before leaving his hotel for the Darwin Convention Centre, where 3000 people waited expectantly to hear him teach, His Holiness gave an interview to Karla Grant of ITV Television.

She began by asking his impression of the Aboriginal people and he replied that the Aboriginal people should work hard with self-confidence, education and training to build their own modernised society, while keeping their language and culture alive. He said it was also important that they have their own name. She wanted to know his response to Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Aboriginal people when he was Prime Minister. He told her that he had written him a letter expressing his approval and admiration, About Uluru, which he had seen from the plane the day before, he said he knew it was regarded by many as the spiritual heart of the country, that it was beautiful and he hoped to visit it another time.

Asking if he ever questioned his being Dalai Lama, His Holiness response was firm.

“I am the Dalai Lama, so there doesn’t seem to be much point in doubting or questioning it. Better to use it as beneficially as possible.”

Invited to say whether he’d been sad to leave his country, His Holiness recalled:

“When I reached the Che-La after fleeing Norbulingka, I turned back to gaze at Lhasa and looking in the direction of the Potala said, ‘Goodbye.” Later, I realised that I could have died, which wouldn’t have been of any help; instead we escaped and survived.”

Ms Grant invited His Holiness to compare the 200 year old European colonisation of Australia with China’s more than 60 year occupation of Tibet. He said the positions were similar but not the same. For one thing, China and Tibet have known each other for a very long time. In the past, the Chinese emperor took spiritual teachings from Tibetan Buddhist Lamas. He quoted several Chinese friends as saying that the new leadership seems to be comparatively more open. He hopes that they will pay attention to Deng Xiaoping’s inspired maxim: ‘Seek truth from facts.’ He has previously spoken against censorship in China, this time remarking that, “Censorship is the opposite of seeking truth from facts, in fact it is self-defeating.”

“Today I’m going to talk about the Four Noble Truths,” His Holiness declared on arrival on stage at the Darwin Convention Centre. “There is a mantra related to this that we find in Pali, Sanskrit and the tantric tradition:

Ye dharma hetuprabhava  hetum tesham tathagata  hyavadat tesham cha yo nirodha  evam vadi mahashramana 

Of those things that arise from causes, The Tathagata has taught those causes, And also what their cessation is: This is the doctrine of the Great Sage

“The first two lines refer to all apparent phenomena that are subject to change. Their evident change implies their momentary change, because without momentary change the obvious change would not take place. Things are always changing; we call this a subtle level of impermanence, which is the first characteristic of the truth of suffering. Our body that is the basis of pain and trouble comes about as a result of causes. The ultimate cause according to the twelve links of dependent arising taught by the Buddha is ignorance. Its nature is suffering because its predominant cause is ignorance. His Holiness explained that ignorance is of two kinds: simple not knowing and distorted ignorance. We tend to think there is an independent owner of this body and mind, that there is an owner separate from the body and mind it owns.


“When I say, ‘I’m going back to India,’ unless I remind myself of reality, it seems that the ‘I’ is separate from the body and mind. It is the owner of the body and mind who is going back to India. Now, when someone accuses you of something, you think ‘I didn’t do that’, you don’t think ‘the body and mind didn’t do it,’ but if you look for this ‘I’, you can’t find it.”

His Holiness pointed out that in a similar way, the present exists as the basis of the past and future, but we can’t find it. The present is also momentarily changing. It is through undertaking analytical meditation like this, he said, that we see there is a huge gap between appearance and reality.

“When I look at all of you, I see several thousand human beings, and each one appears to be independent, but then I remember that ultimately nothing has such independence. This is how we begin to see that reality is not as it appears.”

The basic nature of mind is pure, so on a subtle level, on a deeper understanding of the mind, it is possible to eliminate ignorance and our disturbing emotions. If the mind itself was ignorant, we couldn’t train in wisdom to be able to do this. The Buddha taught that it’s possible to overcome suffering and its causes. Those causes come about due to ignorance and in this case ignorance is about misconception, holding onto something that is not real.In his second rendering of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha taught about their function. He said: know suffering; eliminate the cause; attain cessation and cultivate the path. In his third rendering he said, once you have overcome suffering itself, there is no more to know; once you have overcome the cause, there is nothing more to overcome; once you’ve attained cessation, there is nothing more to attain and once you’ve trodden the path, there is no more path to travel. With these presentations of the Four Noble Truths he showed the way to practise and what kind of result you attain.

Regarding the way to cultivate the path, it can be summarised under the three trainings, which involve conduct or morality, concentration and wisdom. The practice of morality is observed through mindfulness, while meditation or concentration involves developing a single-pointed mind. In the practice of wisdom we need to think carefully about the nature of the independent self. When you look into the mind you cannot find anything like a self to hold onto, which is why the object of Buddhist wisdom is selflessness.
Among questions from the audience, people wanted to know what one thing they could do for the greater good and His Holiness said generate warm-heartedness, altruism. They wanted his advice about the leadership of elders and he recalled a scheme in Sweden which brought retired people into schools where they could advise and mentor children to mutual benefit. And they were interested to know about the next Dalai Lama. He replied that as early as 1969 he had made clear, first of all, that whether or not there would be another Dalai Lama would be up to the people concerned. He also mentioned a statement he had prepared a couple of years ago about this, which can be obtained from his office. 

After lunch, the Darwin Convention Centre was again filled with more than 3000 people who had come to hear His Holiness speak on Ethics in Our Shared World.

“I belong to the twentieth century,” he began, “a century that has now gone forever. The new generation who belong to the twenty-first century are our hope for the future. I believe we now have a genuine opportunity to create a better world, but it will depend on those who are young today.”

He said that we all want to live a happy life and we have right to do so. We all want to do it our own way, some through their work and some through spiritual practice. His Holiness asserted that he is subject to destructive emotions like anger and jealousy the same as everyone else, but, he said, we all have the potential for good too. However, our existing education system is oriented towards material development, a materialist way of life, to the neglect of our inner values. Consequently, we lack a clear awareness of those inner values that are the basis of a happy life.

“This is why I emphasise the importance of cultivating warm-heartedness, concern for others, based on natural affection. Children receive affection primarily from their mothers, but as they grow up, from about 10 years old, they gradually forget what they owe to their parents’ affection and begin to think they can look after themselves.

“The reality is it’s in our interest to take care of others. Self-centredness is opposed to basic human nature. In our own interest as human beings we need to pay attention to our inner values. Sometimes people think compassion is only of help to others, while we get no benefit. This is a mistake. When you concern yourself with others, you naturally develop a sense of self-confidence. To help others takes courage and inner strength.”

He said that when we are young, these values are fresh and alive in us, but as we grow up they become dormant in us. If we continue to neglect our basic inner values, the twenty-first century could be full of violence like the twentieth century before it. He suggested we try a new way of thinking, and a new pattern of education. We need a secular approach to inner values, relying on our common experience, common sense and scientific findings that we can apply through our secular education system. 

Members of the audience came forward to ask questions. One woman asked how His Holiness copes with the sad images that come out of Tibet. He responded that even when you see terrible things, worry and anxiety don’t help. We have to see instead if there is anything we can do. Another woman asked the difference between compassion and weakness. He replied that compassion clearly indicates strength, while it is anger that is a sign of weakness. In addition, forgiveness is about not giving in to anger or thoughts of revenge.

Lastly, there was a question about how to deal with a loved one’s dying. His Holiness mentioned how upset he’d felt when his Tutor, the rock on whom he could lean, died. Then he thought that what he ought to do with his Tutor gone was to fulfil his wishes, so his grief gave way to determination. He also commended the advice of the 8th century Indian Buddhist master, Shantideva, who advised analysing a problem well, saying that if you conclude it can be solved, there is no need to worry; if you conclude that it can’t be solved, there’s no use to worry.

Robert Keldoulis, chairman of the committee that organised His Holiness’s visit to Australia came forward to make a report. More than 50,000 people heard His Holiness speak during his ten days in Australia in the course of 20 events. Of these, 25,000 heard him speak about compassion, kindness and secular ethics. Almost 10,000 people attended Buddhist teachings in Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin. He met with 2500 Tibetans, Mongolians and Chinese in different parts of the country, Online streaming reached a further 100,000 people. Funds raised from ticket sales and other contributions met all costs. On behalf of the committee, he thanked His Holiness for coming to Australia again, requesting him to live a long life in good health and to come again.

His Holiness’s final advice was that some people attend talks and teachings like today’s to receive a blessing. But, he said, a blessing doesn’t come from outside. It comes from within. When the Buddha said, ‘You are your own master,’ he meant that whatever blessings we receive will be the result of our own efforts and our own positive actions.

From the Darwin Convention Centre, His Holiness drove directly to the airport to board a flight to Singapore as the first leg of his journey back to India.