Beneath clear February skies, and after a greeting of sonorous Monlam prayers by monks from Namgyal monastery, His Holiness spoke at the Tsugla Khang (main temple) on the Jataka Tales - a series of auspicious stories recounting the previous lives of the Buddha, in both animal and human forms.
The spiritual leader drew upon the stories to lead the audience towards better Buddhist practice, stating the importance of removing negative thoughts and the use of careful judgement when making decisions. He also made the connection between Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism, implying that the Dharma is at the very heart of Tibetan culture.
The Jataka tales were compiled from literature dating back to the 4th century BCE and detail the Buddha's various incarnations, ranging from his life as a King to that of an elephant. "To understand the Dharma is more important than the ritual and offering aspect of it," His Holiness said, urging the audience to practice carefully rather than simply fulfilling ritual duties and prayers without due thought.
He emphasised the importance of concentration and the correct mindset, warning against stubborn and narrow-minded methods of thought, and advocating the questioning of one's motives. If individuals don’t investigate their own actions, His Holiness said, this can result in great problems and conflicts. He cited the Syria conflict and man-made disasters – even among large, powerful nations - as the result of the authorities not looking at the reality of different situations.
On a lighter note, His Holiness joked about the distraction caused by monkeys climbing around the temple complex. He also ensured that the whole audience, which spilled out on to the steps and outer edges of the temple courtyard, was offered tea by the resident monks.
The teaching was broadcast live on dalailama.com, where it can be viewed again, and coincided with the Monlam prayer festival, which marks the end of the Tibetan Losar (New Year) observations.
His Holiness’ next teachings, on Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, will be held in Switzerland on April 13 and 14.