A little local color… No snow, but some morning mist...
later in the day… Tavargeri
Rato Dratsang, December 17, 2016
His Holiness’s motorcade wended its way the short distance to Ratö Dratsang. As he stepped out of his car, he accepted the traditional welcome the Abbot offered and, as has become his custom, affectionately tweaked the end of his nose. The Abbot, and monks bearing a ceremonial yellow silk umbrella, escorted His Holiness to the new Throne-Pavilion of the new debate yard.
First calling for the senior reincarnate lama of the Monastery, Ratö Khyongla Rinpoche, to come forward and sit by him, His Holiness lit a lamp to inaugurate the occasion. He then formally opened and released the Monastery’s new constitution, copies of which in Tibetan were handed out among those present.
In a short speech that the Abbot read out in Tibetan and English he praised His Holiness for embodying compassion and for being the guide of all beings. He expressed gratitude to him on behalf of the monks for being their patron, recalling that Ratö Dratsang is a Tibetan Government monastery. In Tibet it was an important monastery under whose auspices, each year, scholars from the Three Great Pillars studied and debated logic at the Jang Kun Chö or Winter Debate Session.
The Abbot also noted that the handful of Ratö monks who had come into exile were too few to re-establish their monastery until His Holiness appointed Chuwar Rinpoche to be its Abbot in 1988. It steadily grew. Now there are 100 monks from Eastern and Western Tibet, as well as from Nepal, Bhutan, Taiwan, America and many parts of India.
Due to the kindness of Drepung Loseling Dratsang, he continued, Ratö monks have been able to study with the renowned Loseling scholars and to debate in the Loseling debate yard, as had been the tradition in Tibet. Consequently, so far, 14 Ratö monks in exile have qualified as Lharampa Geshes. The Abbot concluded with prayers for His Holiness’s long life and the fruition of his prayers for the welfare of all sentient beings.
“This new constitution the Abbot has requested me to unveil today is an important document,” His Holiness began in response. “So too is the inauguration of this debate yard. The Nalanda Tradition we upheld in Tibet reveals the path to enlightenment by employing reason and logic, not merely by accepting it out of faith. In other Buddhist countries, like those that follow the Pali tradition, who are conscientious in observing the Vinaya, and China which follows the Sanskrit tradition, there is no such convention of rigorous study. We Tibetans have been able to study the philosophical texts, apply what they mean and bring about transformation in our minds.
“All religious traditions offer advice on cultivating patience, tolerance, contentment and so on, but only the Buddha urged his followers to examine what he said in the light of reason rather than just accepting it out of faith. Nevertheless, the Pali tradition and schools of Chinese Buddhism regard scripture as authoritative. Chandrakirti, one of the masters of Nalanda, challenged this approach.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama praised the Ratö Abbot for being a good disciple who had relied well on his teacher and acknowledged that appointing him, an American, Abbot had been innovative. He noted, however, the precedent in old Tibet, where Mongolian scholars routinely achieved positions of responsibility in the monasteries.
“In today’s world, because material development is not enough to be genuinely happy, more and more people are beginning to look into the workings of the mind and emotions in a scientific way. What the Nalanda Tradition has to say about these things we can helpfully contribute to humanity. Consequently, I have given the Ratö Abbot an additional responsibility, in the light of his own education and experience, to examine the extent to which there is interest in studying these fields in an academic way.
“We will not keep alive the knowledge contained in our Buddhist traditions by relying merely on faith, but by careful and thorough study we can. Responsibility for taking this forward will fall on the shoulders of those of you who are still young now.”
There followed a brief but skilful demonstration of debate touching on a range of topics from logic to the Middle Way school of thought and monastic discipline.
There were expressions of thanks to His Holiness for releasing the Monastery’s new constitution and inaugurating the debate yard, and to all the Abbots, former Abbots and other guests for joining this celebratory occasion. Finally, the monastery invited all the guests to enjoy a delectable lunch.
By Jeremy Russell — www.dalailama.com
The photographs I am in were taken by the Venerable Norbu Tsering