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Dharamsala: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Tuesday began three-day Buddhist teachings at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamshala at the request of Korean Buddhist followers. Each day's teachings will consist of two 2-hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The more than 4000 people attending today's teachings included 1400 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns, 1300-1500 lay Tibetans, around 250 Koreans, and over 1400 visiting tourists from over 55 western countries. These teachings are simultaneously being translated into Korean, English, Chinese, French, Japanese, and Spanish, and available on FM radio transmission.

The Tibetan spiritual leader greeted the Korean group before beginning the teachings with a discussion of the Four Noble Truths, suffering, and emptiness. "Today, we meet here again...I extend my greetings to Korean Dharma friends led by their abbot. We all are following the same teachings of the Buddha, particularly the Buddhism which developed and was practiced at the ancient Indian Nalanda University," His Holiness said. He paid respects to Korean Buddhism, which, he explained, was developed from Chinese Buddhism and actually predated the transmission of the Dharma to Tibet. He acknowledged Korean Buddhists as "senior" followers of the Buddha, while and Tibetans are "junior" followers. "However," he noted, "we are all followers of same Buddha Dharma."

The morning's teachings began with an introduction of the Four Noble Truths, emphasizing both the distinctions and connections between the first and second turning of the Dharma Wheel. In order to achieve cessation from suffering, a practitioner must have an intimate knowledge of ignorance-the ultimate root of suffering. His Holiness noted that this is achieved through a three-step process, "hearing, reception, and meditative reflection." With knowledge of ignorance, he explained, comes understanding of true reality and emptiness. His Holiness made a point of noting that the Buddhist notion of emptiness is not the same as nothingness. Buddhism values human life as a precious gift, and would never regard existence as a form of nothingness.

In the afternoon session, His Holiness touched upon the differences between Hinayana Buddhism, which was originally transmitted in the Pali language, and Mahayana Buddhism, which originated in Sanskrit, and includes Tibetan, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhists. Hinayana practitioners, who follow strictly the original words of the Buddha, reject either interpretation or expansion of the Dharma, and therefore often criticize Mahayana Buddhists as false, particularly concerning where Tantra is concerned. Mahayana recognizes Tantric practice (Vajrayana) as an integral component of Buddhism, while Hinayana dismisses it as a branch of Hinduism. His Holiness described how Mahayana Buddhists, including both Tibetan and Korean practitioners, must regularly defend their beliefs as authentic. His Holiness concluded the first day's teachings with a discussion of Nagarjuna, an early Indian Buddhist master.

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