Challenging inept practitioners of Tantra, Dalai Lama exposes the fault of going against bodhicitta when exorcizing evil. Reminds tantric practitioners to include all beings without exception in their practice and of the importance of foundational practices of wisdom and bodhicitta in Tantra.

This is a transcript of a video clip I made from His Holiness’ Avalokiteshvara Empowerment teachings in Dharamsala on May 16, 2018.

When it came to torma offering to avert evil spirits, the Dalai Lama reflected in the following way:


We have the buddha nature within our mind. So, as practitioners of bodhicitta — the altruistic spirit of enlightenment — we actually determine that all sentient beings want happiness and no suffering, like ourselves. In our daily prayers, we say “may all sentient beings have happiness and causes of happiness, may they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering, etc.” So if you really mean it, then there is nobody among sentient beings who you can discriminate as being evil.

The Buddha actually taught that all sentient beings are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting to suffer, so we have to work for their happiness. In the specific teachings of Tantra, there are practices that are meant for particular practitioners. So we do have the concept of enemies, evil beings, and ghosts, but in reality, I can see that we cannot call some beings enemies, evil beings, and malevolent spirits.

I feel quite perplexed when we say that some sentient beings are our enemies or evil beings etc. As practitioners of bodhicitta, at the beginning of the day we say “may all sentient beings have happiness and be free from suffering”, but in the evening, when we do some tantric rituals, we do also say the lines that are found in the rituals, “may these evil being be overcome”. So there’s a contradiction, I find.

Of course, in accordance with the needs and dispositions of various beings, we may have to do certain practices which are for longevity, subjugation etc., but in reality, we should actually see all sentient being as being the same in wanting happiness and not wanting to suffer, like ourselves. It’s a practice we have a very sound foundation for in the teaching of the Buddha, but when it comes to Tantra, if we miss the fundamental teachings, the Tantra could be used incorrectly. There’s an analogy of practising Tantra: if you’re not careful and adept at it, it would be like a small child put on a wild horse; there’s a danger for the child falling off the wild horse.

I do the tantric practice, but the crux of my practice is the two-fold bodhicitta and the wisdom of emptiness. The view of emptiness helps me overcome the inappropriate ruminations, and that in turn helps to reduce the negative emotions.

So by using reasoning, Shantideva in the Bodhicharyavatara, for example, presents the practice of exchanging oneself for others. Self-cherishing attitude is something we are so used to since time without beginning, but if you keep being selfish all the time, you won’t be able to fulfil your own goal, let alone the goals of others. Instead of the self-cherinshing attitude, if you hold other to be more important than yourself, you’ll be able to accomplish your own goal, as well as the goal of others; so the two aims will be fulfilled through this.

Sitting on this throne, if I just tell you, “Oh, you should do such and such practice and you’ll reach such and such goal”, without really practising them myself, it will not be of much benefit. But I do myself practise the things that I teach others  – I’m not boasting about my practice, just stating a fact. Some people may think that the insight into emptiness is something that happened in the past, when there were people who had gained the insight. I always regard myself as the lowest amongst all, as is said in the Eight Verses on Mind-Training. If you really do practice and see the transformation in yourself, you’ll be able to have a taste of it.

More on the blog >

How to use a mala A unique view on the common meditation accessory. Sourced from tantric text and sources not generally available.

⇒ You are not your mind’s boss The mind is out of control when it’s rigid. How do we make the mind malleable? Dzongsar Khyentse’s brief introduction to Shamatha and Vipassana. A quote from Prajnaparamita teachings in Nepal.

⇒ Havel and Dalai Lama Exploring the special friendship between the leader of the Tibetan people oppressed by the communist China and the president of post-communist Czechoslovakia

⇒ Kalachakra A look at an ancient Buddhist ritual

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