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Tibet-Dalai-Lama-Jataka-Tale-2015Dharamshala: - His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave a short teaching from the Jataka Tales (Life Stories of the Buddha) at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamshala on March 5.

Addressing a large audience on the lower concourse of the Temple, His Holiness began the teaching at 8.30am by analysing how perceptions of Buddhism have changed in the past few hundred years.

"Only a small number of people used to know what Buddhism was about. Despite Buddhism spreading the length and breadth of Tibet, the significant rates of illiteracy meant that the majority of the population believed that the teachings of Buddha could be assimilated on faith alone," he said.

"In the 21st century, when mass education is considered vital, and the West grows increasingly interested in Buddhism, it is much better understood. As Buddha's teachings declare: 'just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.'"

His Holiness made it clear that while all religions are united in their attempts to teach people to be kind and compassionate, only the Buddha has asked for his teachings to be examined in order to discover whether they actually make sense.

"We need reason, investigation and logic to develop faith and to free ourselves from Samsara and to become enlightened, for the benefit of all sentient beings."

The rest of the teaching – which was briefly interrupted by rain – was spent deconstructing the essence of Buddhist philosophy, the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

"We should know suffering," His Holiness said. "Not just painful experiences, but pervasive existential suffering."

He explained that suffering arises from ignorance, which arises from the misconception that there is an independent self.

"Buddhism is the only religion that rejects an independent self. Its core principle is the idea of dependent origination: we are interconnected with all sentient beings. Therefore, the ethical practice of this principle is non-violence. We should see our negative feelings – our disturbed minds – as our enemies and all sentient beings as our friends. The belief in this principle in turn will lead to the development of a peaceful mind," His Holiness asserted.

Despite the importance of this idea, His Holiness concluded the teaching with a caveat regarding the pursuit of the religion it upholds: "Don't just live in service to Buddhism; be practical about how you incorporate it into your life."

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