Current News from JCI



16 MAY 2009


2016 JCI Nuns Receive Historic Geshema (phD) Degrees

Read More About the Geshe Ma Nuns of JCI  Here


2016 Geshema Lobzang Choden Teaching Philosophy Class At JCI



In the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha

I take refuge until enlightenment.

By the merits I accumulate through this teaching

May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of transmigrating beings. (3x)


I pay homage to you Gautama

Who, moved by your compassion,

Taught the holy Dharma

In order to eliminate all [erroneous] views...


The essence of the teachings of Lord Buddha is the “Perfection of Wisdom Scriptures”, the chief content of which is the reality of dependent origination. So, in order to bring the reality of dependent origination to the fore Arya Nagarjuna composed the eloquent treatise “The Fundamental Wisdom” (“Mula-madhyamaka”). At the end of this treatise, recollecting the kindness of Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, he wrote this verse of praise and salutation:


I pay homage to you Gautama

Who, moved by your compassion,

Taught the holy Dharma

In order to eliminate all [erroneous] views,


What is the meaning of this verse? It tells us that the Teacher whom he salutes or recalls is an unparalleled speaker. How is he an unparalleled speaker? In general, all the founders of the religions of the world have taught moral conduct. It's a teaching common to all the Teachers. Not only that, even expounding on the law of karma, nirvana and, of course, the means of attaining higher rebirth are shared by them. Moreover, the training of morality, training of concentration and training of wisdom are common to all.


So, what is the unique quality of the Words of the Buddha? It is the development of the correct view 'in order to eliminate... [The erroneous] views'; in brief, teaching the profound view of the reality of dependent origination. Historically there have been many different religious teachers in the world --around ten major religious traditions have come into existence. But except for the Buddha none of these teachers have taught the truth of dependent origination.


Thus, Master Nagarjuna has said that the Buddha taught the ultimate view - the correct view of the profound reality of dependent arising - in order to exterminate the erroneous views, and that also with the altruistic motivation of compassion, solely for the benefit of others. Hence, he says:


I pay homage to you Gautama

Who, moved by your compassion,

Taught the holy Dharma

In order to eliminate all [erroneous] views.


Then, what kind of view is he referring to? In the homage verse of “Mula-madhyamaka” he writes:

I pay homage to you, the fully enlightened

Best of Speakers,

Who taught dependent origination.

Utterly pacified of elaborations, the peace:

Without cessation, without birth;

Without annihilation, without permanence;

Without coming, without going;

Not different in meaning, nor identical.


By this [Nagarjuna] is saying that the Buddha independently taught the profound reality of dependent arising, which is emptiness free from the eight extremes of conceptual elaborations.


How did he teach it? Master Nagarjuna also has written in “Mula-madhyamaka”:

What is dependently arisen.

Is explained to be emptiness.

It is dependently designated,

And hence the middle way.


As there is no thing

Not dependently arisen,

Therefore, there is no thing

Which is not empty?


The reason why things lack true existence, or self, is not only because they cannot be found when we search for the labeled object. Because things are dependently originated they are dependently named. For this reason they are contingent upon others. Because they are contingent, [Nagarjuna] is saying that they do not exist independently, without relation to others.


When he says something 'arises dependently', he shows that it exists. The way it exists is in dependence on others. Hence, when he uses 'dependence' as the reasoning to prove that things are empty of true existence, isn't that way of interpretation quite intriguing? He doesn't say, 'things are empty because they cannot be found when searched for within the designated object'. But he says that the phenomena we can find, which function and have good and bad effects exist in contingence upon others.


So, taking one functioning phenomenon as the object of consideration, when you look for its nature and say that it exists by way of dependence on others, you are eliminating the two extremes, as it is said:


What is dependently arisen?

Is explained to be emptiness.

It is dependently designated,

And hence the middle way.


Thus, based on the premise of dependent origination, Nagarjuna says the Buddha taught the middle way free from the extremes of externalism and nihilism. This is something unique to Nagarjuna; the profundity of Nagarjuna lies in particularly explicating the highest thought of the Buddha.


A unique feature of the teaching of the Buddha is the teaching of dependent origination. Therefore, in his text, perhaps “A Letter to a Friend”, Nagarjuna says:

This dependent origination is a profoundly

Cherished treasure of the Word of the Victorious Ones...

This means dependent origination is the main key to the teaching of the Buddha. The dependent origination here refers to dependence-by-designation. This is the subtle dependency. The proof of this dependence-by-designation should be considered on the basis of causal dependence. Obviously we see the working of cause and effect and how it has impact on us; how fruition occurs in dependence on the various causes and conditions. Whatever is an effect must come about as a result of causes and conditions. Dependent origination is something accepted by all Buddhists.


We reject the Creator God of the universe and that things don't happen without causes and conditions. But we assert things are dependent on causes and conditions. Regarding the causes and conditions, a permanent cause is unacceptable; things don't arise from a single cause or condition but they must be dependent on a variety of causes and conditions. Likewise, as Buddhists reject a permanent, unitary and autonomous creator self, or appropriator, of happiness and suffering which is an entity separate from the mind-body aggregates, all Buddhists accept the reality of dependent origination. And this dependence refers partly to the causal dependency of things.


Now the unique interpretation of dependent arising is the dependence-by-designation based on the reason of causal dependence. Because of this the dependence-by-designation is explained. As for the dependence-by-designation, its one side is the dependent nature of the appearances and the other side is dependent nature of emptiness; hence, we say dependent arising in terms of the appearances and dependent arising in terms of emptiness. So, based on the understanding of dependent arising both the extremes are cleared. This is the principal characteristic of the teaching of the Buddha.


So, what is the teaching of the Buddha? As you usually hear from me, I say it constitutes the view of dependent origination and non-harming conduct.


We take refuge in the Buddha. As long as we do that, it is very important that we understand his special qualities, what makes him different, and have a reason-based faith in the teacher. Otherwise, there are many different teachers. When the followers of their teachings worship their individual founders there are those who become exhilarated: tears well up in their eyes, and the hairs on their body stand on end. So, all the religions have such single-minded faithful followers, haven't they? Similarly, teachers of all the religious faiths have taught what we should practice and what to avoid. Haven't they?


We are not talking about which teacher is higher or lower. But we are talking about recognizing one's own teacher. So, in order to identify our own teacher we must understand the qualities of the Buddha. If we could develop faith in our teacher based on this understanding, then when we say 'I take refuge in the Buddha', we will feel moved from the depths of our heart. Moreover, we will feel moved based on understanding.


To speak in ordinary language, in order to overcome blind faith we must be aware of the distinguishing features of the Buddha, understanding his teaching's unique qualities. If we could keep our faith in the Buddha by understanding his manifest teachings, then such a faith most probably cannot be blind faith. Otherwise, if you say, 'I take refuge in him', without any particular reason, it tends to be a blind faith, doesn't it?


Therefore, all of us Buddhists must strive to understand the interdependent nature of things. His teaching is something we can feel conviction about, if we study and examine it closely. We can even discuss it with scientists today. They love the term 'dependent arising', don't they? When we say things are designated dependently, existing through the coming together of multiple factors, we are describing a fact. Because of this everyone, who analyses facts, takes interest and pays attention to Buddhism. Don't they? So, this is something we should be proud of, isn't it?


So, if you could arouse faith in the teaching of the Buddha based on reasoned understanding, then you fulfill [Lama Tsongkhapa's wish]:

May I always be filled of conviction in the teacher.

By understanding the nature of the teaching.


Once you have fulfilled this, though we should 'not rely on the person but rely on the teaching', first we should logically validate the authority of the person of the Buddha. After that, when we gain total conviction and faith in the path shown by him, then, based on that conviction, we must develop a sincere wish to practice what he has taught. In this way, we generate a sincere faith in the Sangha, the practitioners of the teaching who assist us. Therefore, we should take refuge in the Three Jewels by way of understanding the distinctive characteristics of the Teacher.


Understanding the characteristics of the Teacher primarily comes down to the teaching of the profound nature of dependent origination, doesn't it? Such a nature of dependent origination has to be understood by giving thought to it; it's not easy to understand, is it? For this reason, the glorious Nalanda university scholars have established the nature of dependent origination by combining logico-pistemological [arguments] with middle way [philosophy], haven't they? Though their subject matter may be the middle way view they do not draw their conclusion about it merely by resorting to scriptural citations. But they do so through reasoning and logical arguments.


In short, they determine the validity of the four noble truths by way of logical reasoning; hence, the expression 'the middle way and pramana, the two lions rubbing each other's neck.' The Great Abbot Shantarakshita, who established Buddhism in Tibet, was himself a scholar-adept advocating this tradition. So, however poor we may be, we are still students of a Master of such a great tradition. Therefore, if we wish to be good students of Shantarakshita and his disciple Kamalashila, we must learn the middle way and pramana literature: learn them yourself and accordingly teach others. If you can do that then you would be excellent students of the masters Shantarakshita and Kamalashila. They were followers of Nagarjuna, who was in turn an upholder of the teaching of the Buddha and someone who found conviction in the Buddha beyond words.


So, if we could uphold, preserve, administer and promote, the teaching of the Buddha based on understanding its essence, then we would be true followers of the kind Teacher of Buddhism, the Buddha. Therefore. We will have discussions later...

That's all. I am done with the teaching. What else should I say now? I have nothing else to say, except this.


In terms of the practice of Dharma, we talk about the three trainings. When you practice the true path, the training of wisdom, penetrative insight and so on, in order to develop this training of wisdom into the nature of penetrative insight, the training of concentration must help it; it cannot be developed without concentration. You need the single-pointed stabilized concentration, which is called the training of concentration. For this training of concentration to happen, first you must restrain the coarse physical and verbal actions by accustoming your mind with the practice of conscientiousness through the cultivation of mindfulness and introspective vigilance, which constantly examines your three doors of action (i.e. body, speech and mind). This serves as the foundation for the employment of the particular kinds of mindfulness and introspective vigilance to achieve single-pointed concentration.


So, we must begin with the training of morality. The sequence in which we proceed with the Dharma practice is: the training of morality followed by the training of concentration and then the training of wisdom. With regard to these three trainings, first you must know how nirvana or liberation is achieved by understanding the nature of dependent origination of things, and know the process of afflictive thoughts and emotions, which hinder us from attaining liberation. Having become aware of them you must be clear in your mind that the actual antidote to the afflictive thoughts and emotions is the noble true path, which is the culmination of the understanding of the interdependent nature of things aided by tranquil abiding (Tib.: zhi-gnas; Skt.: shamatha), [i.e. meditative concentration].


Thus, when you practice the three trainings based on this knowledge, they turn out to be the three higher trainings: the higher training of morality, the higher training of concentration, and the higher training of wisdom.


Although all the other faiths also teach the three trainings, the difference is this: when we relate them in connection with the understanding of no-self nature of things they become the three higher trainings! Hence, moving from home to homelessness, becoming monks and nuns, is the initial step, i.e. the practice of the training of morality, in the practice of the three trainings.


Therefore, the purpose of founding this nunnery is to practice the training of morality, the fundamental basis of the three trainings. Within the training of morality there are the disciplinary vows of the laity and those of the monastics, and the latter is the best form of morality. The Buddha himself renounced home and became homeless. The most important Buddhist masters who upheld the Dharma, such as Nagarjuna and his disciples, served the Dharma by keeping the monastic vows of celibacy. Therefore, it would be very good if, even at this degenerate time, we could contribute to the Dharma by staying celibate as monks and nuns.


However, this doesn't mean that all Dharma practitioners must become monks or nuns. The Buddha himself has taught that lay people can attain liberation: on the basis of the laity vows they could attain liberation through the combination of tranquil abiding and penetrative insight (shamatha and vipassana). Moreover, the laity can achieve the omniscient state of Buddhahood by cultivating bodhichitta, the supreme altruistic intention to become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. Therefore, you don't necessarily have to become monastics. Nevertheless, there is a special significance if you could become monastics: it would be exceedingly good, as you would be recapitulating the legacy of the Buddha himself.

As ordained people you must study the classic texts well, just as you have written in the summary report. If you could integrate into you whatever you learn, then you would be contributing to the scriptural and experiential Dharma as through the dual means of teaching and practice. So, please keep this your mind.

That's all. This is my Dharma discourse to you.






I would like to say a few words:   

As I said earlier, Buddhism is an excellent (spiritual tradition) and these days the number of people all over the world showing an interest in Buddhism is increasing.


The way in which Buddhism is set forth, is both marvellous and amazing which is why there is more and more interest in it.


However, our ancestral religion is Buddhism. In particular with respect to the Nalanda (Mahayana) tradition, one of the countries practicing this tradition is China. China has faced a lot of difficulties though nowadays there are slight improvements.  There is a stronger interest in Buddhism and slightly better opportunities to study and practice it.

Further, Tibetans are the principal followers of Master Shantarakshita and his heart disciples. Likewise, the Mongolians follow his teachings as they spread to Mongolia via Tibet. However, Buddhism has degenerated immensely in Mongolia while in Tibet it is degenerating right now.


In any case, the entire teachings of the Buddha--comprised of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Tantra - that were introduced in Tibet by Master Shantarakshita, a crowning jewel of the scholars of the glorious Nalanda [Monastic University], and his heart disciples, are greatly deteriorating in our country.  The same happened in Mongolia. Now with the Mongolians having regained their freedom they are trying to revive the Buddhist teachings. However, they will have to apply great effort.


At the same time, the Himalayan regions have remained free. They practice the same spiritual tradition as we Tibetans, for Buddhism spread to the Himalayan regions via Tibet. In the Himalayan regions the spiritual tradition, rooted in the actual teachings of the Buddha (Kangyur) and the commentaries on those teachings by Indian masters (Tengyur), is the same. The Himalayan regions including Bhutan and Northern region of Nepal share the same Buddhist tradition.


Thus, in the past, the inhabitants of the Himalayan regions who had an interest in Buddhism travelled to Tibet, to the Central Province, to Amdo…well, I don't know whether they went to Amdo!  However, they went to Kham and the Central Province to study Buddhism there.

Then since 1959 it has not been possible to travel and study in Tibet anymore which is why all the Tibetan traditions, the Sakya. Gelug, Kagyu, Nyingma, and Bon tradition, were set up in the Tibetan exile community in India. Also, the Jonang tradition was gradually re-established.

Each tradition has set up its principal monastery and many Buddhists from the Himalayan regions as well as from Inner and Outer Mongolia have come to study there. Likewise, many hundreds ethnic Mongolians have come from Russia to study in those monasteries. Currently about 5000 to 6000 Buddhists from the Himalayan regions are studying there.


In the past, there were nunneries in Tibet and when coming into exile to India we considered it essential to have nunneries. Therefore, we established numerous different nunneries in exile.


Having become refugees, one of the contributions we made towards the revival and the promotion of Buddhism was the introduction of the study of Buddhist philosophy, the study of the five major philosophical texts, in the nunneries. It started at… what is the name of the nunnery in Dharamsala?  Tharpa Choeling?


Ah yes, Ganden Choeling!


Starting with the Ganden Choeling Nunnery, we introduced the study of Buddhist philosophy in the nunneries.


Likewise, we introduced the study of Buddhist philosophy in various tantric monasteries, which in the past in Tibet didn't have the tradition of philosophical studies.

In brief, e.g. my private monastery Phendey Lekshey Ling (Namgyal) Monastery introduced the study of Buddhist Philosophy. The Tantric colleges, Gyutoe and Gyumey, introduced - even for students of the Generation Stage of Tantra - the study of Buddhist Philosophy.

Through introducing the study of Buddhist philosophy in various institutions I feel we have rendered service to the Buddha Dharma.


As for those of you from the Himalayan regions, you have your own country and your ancestral religion is Buddhism - you didn’t have to convert to a new religion.


Likewise, all your monasteries and nunneries still exist even though they may have become old. Hence, if you endeavour to preserve, sustain and promote the scriptural and realisation Buddha Dharma through teaching and practice, you possess the basic infrastructure.

As for us Tibetan refugees, we didn't possess this basic infrastructure and had to build everything from scratch. Seen from a pessimistic perspective our future outcome is therefore doubtful.


Regarding those of you from the Himalayan regions, your ancestral religion and practice is Buddhism so that if you strive towards advancement you will be able to firmly establish the Buddha Dharma in your particular regions.


The monks from the Himalayan regions live in our different monasteries. Regarding the nuns, even though there are already a number of nunneries, people from the Himalayan regions who visited Dharamsala considered it beneficial, significant, and necessary to have a nunnery in the Dharamsala area for the nuns of the Himalayan region, which is why this nunnery was founded.


At present you have around 100 nuns in this nunnery whose objective is not merely to provide a short-term livelihood. Its objective is rather for the female enunciates to preserve, sustain and promote through teaching and practice the scriptural and realisation Buddhist teachings for many generations to come and on equal footing with their male counterparts. This is the principal aim of this nunnery and so far the nuns have worked hard.


Even though the land of the nunnery is situated in a low-lying area so that it may get a little hot, its location is very good. Further, the temple and the images inside it are well built.

According to your summarized report your studies are proceeding well and it is now important to not lose your determination. You should reflect on the great meaning your work has for yourself and others increase your mental strength and work diligently.

Moreover, we have been discussing the need for the Geshema degree for a long time. The Department of Religion and Culture Affair of Central Tibetan administration is making arrangements for it, isn’t it? (His Holiness asked the Religious Minister)


'Yes, it is.' (Ven Tsering Phuntsok, Minister of Religious Dept. replied)

We will introduce the Geshema degree and are making arrangements for it.

Regarding the full ordination of nuns, it is essential to have fully ordained nuns. At the beginning of the Lam Rim text, when the 'central land' in the expression 'taking rebirth in a central land' is identified, a distinction is drawn between a 'central land with respect to the location' and a 'central land with respect to the Dharma'. Tibet is not considered ‘central with respect to the location’ but ‘central with respect to the Dharma’ because it is a land where the four members of the Sangha (novice monk / nun and fully ordained monk / nun) gather. However, Tibet is actually not ‘central with respect to the Dharma’ because, of the two - fully ordained monks and nuns - there is no tradition of fully ordained nuns.


It is considered good to be complete, i.e. a land is considered central with respect to the Dharma only when the four types of Sangha are complete. Therefore, it is important to reintroduce the full ordination of nuns. However, this can only be done in accordance with the Vinaya. I cannot introduce this ordination on my own accord deploying my authority as the Dalai Lama. The full ordination must be reintroduced by the Upholders of the Vinaya in accordance with the system of the Vinaya.


However, regarding the various Vinaya lineages, the lineage of fully ordained nuns is extant in the Chinese Vinaya tradition and a number of Tibetan nuns have taken full ordination in that tradition. However, the issue of full ordination in the Tibetan tradition is still unclear and unresolved and we need to continuously consider it and diligently work towards finding a solution, for the completion of the four types of Sangha is a service to the Buddha Dharma. The issue of full ordination of nuns is yet to be resolved.


The issue of introducing the Geshema degree, on the other hand, is not a problem because we can easily make a decision on it.


So far you have been studying hard and you should continue to do so. If then in the future you obtain sufficient knowledge you should return to your native place where there are many nunneries. It will be extremely beneficial if you take on the responsibility of working to improve those nunneries.


In recent years, many of the monks who have graduated from any of the three monastic colleges in South India have rendered good service to the Buddha Dharma in their native places such as Ladakh, Lahaul, etc. Likewise, it is important for the nuns in the future to also work on improving the quality of the nunneries in their native places.


What kind of nunneries do we need? We don't merely need quantity (of nuns) but quality is essential. If the quality doesn't decline and if there are no other objections, increasing the quantity of nuns becomes an embellishment. It is a different matter if the increase of nuns leads to future problems; otherwise, unless there are other objections, it is fine to increase the number of nuns. At the same time it is crucial to not neglect the quality.  To make an effort at merely trying to increase the quantity of nuns while neglecting their quality becomes the cause of the deterioration of the Dharma, not of its promotion. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind the importance of working to improve the quality.


Those from the Himalayan regions whose ancestral religion is Buddhism should work on preserving, sustaining and promoting the scriptural and realisation Buddhist teachings by way of teaching and practice.  We, the exile Tibetans will gladly provide you with all the necessary assistance. So far we have assisted you and we will continue to do so.

I would also like to thank the exile Tibetan Geshes and students from the nunnery who have worked hard. As mentioned earlier by way of considering our vast goals and their necessity and good reasons we should think of fulfilling those goals.

That's all. Thank you very much.


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