Today, on the occasion of the Second World
Conference for the Propagation of Buddhism, in the capital
of Thailand, Bangkok, I consider it my great good fortune
to be present at this gathering, as a representative of Tibetan
Regarding the first among the five sets of
proposals to a be presented at this Conference, I consider
this to be a topic of the greatest importance, like the root
within the five proposals, As followers of the same Teacher,
we are-meant to encompass each other with the light of the
jewel of pure outlook, putting aside any falling into sectarianism,
or contention between schools of tenets and yanas such as
the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana which came into being
through the unfolding of the enlightened activity of the Buddha
in many different countries. For this reason I would like
to offer a few thoughts or reflections on this matter.
In order for us to come to a proper egalitarian
relationship of interconnectedness, among the different Buddhist
denominations which is not merely pay lip-service, it is very
important to be able to know mid have a full grasp of each
other's view, meditation, and conduct as they are, rather
than holding in esteem our own tradition and completely rejecting,
without clear examination, the other traditions, whether good
The essence of the teaching of the Sugatas,
the Four Seals of the transmitted precepts, that all composite
are impermanent, all contaminations are suffering, all Dharmas
are empty and devoid of self, and Nirvana is peace. And then,
the suffering of samsara is like the pain of an illness; the
origination like the cause that makes it develop; the truth
of the path like the treatment, the antidote that overpowers
the illness; and the truth of cessation like the well-being
of being freed from the illness. Having acknowledged suffering,
the cause is to be given up, the truth of cessation is the
attainment to be actualized and the truth of the path is to
be followed. There are also the 37 Aspects on the Path of
Enlightenment and the 3 Higher Trainings. We are unified in
these and it is important that we all show respect for and
appreciation of each other's traditions.
Therefore I believe that it is of essential
that those who previously did not understand clearly the view,
meditation and action of the Buddhist tradition of Tibet,
should definitely come to know and comprehend it.
Nowadays it seems that some people have the
wrong idea that Tibetan Buddhism is an invention of Tibetan
lamas. Lacking understanding of the situation, they think
that the teachings are not the pure teachings of the Buddha.
It is most important to clarify this misconception.
In a Sutra, the Buddha predicted that at some
point in the future the teachings would flourish in the North
and in the South. In the North, in Tibet, this happened since
the time of the Tibetan's Dharma King Songtsen Gampo in the
7th. Century. Later in the 8th. Century, the Tibet's 2nd.
greatest Dharma King Trisong Deutsen, an emanation of the
Bodhisattva Manjushri, invited the Buddhist Master, Padmasambhava
of India, to his country. Subsequently, many Tibetan translators
undertook the arduous journey to India at great personal risk,
travelling for months and undergoing great hardships such
as treacherous paths, the scorching beat and attacks by robbers.
Upon arrival in India they sat as humble students
at the feet of great and famous scholars and accomplished
practitioners, at the monastic universities of Nalanda and
Vikramashila and others. They studied Sanskrit for many years
and translated into Tibetan the Sutras, Vinaya, Abhidharma,
as well as the tantras and commentaries. Likewise many Indian
scholars were invited to Tibet by the religious kings to oversee
translations, thus ensuring their accuracy. Thus, by means
of teaching, learning and meditating, over a period of thirteen
hundred years a great development of Buddhism occurred in
The hundred volumes of teachings known as the
Tripitaka make up the doctrine of the kind teacher Buddha
Shakyamuni and in the Tibetan translation are known as the
Kangyur. The two hundred and thirteen main commentaries by
Indian scholars and siddhas on the Tripitaka in Tibetan are
called the Tengyur.
The Tibetan Buddhist tradition is based exclusively
on the Kangyur and the Tengyur. The translations made between
the 8th and 10th centuries CE are said to belong to the "early
translation" school. Those made from that time onwards
by the translators Rinchen Zangpo, Marpa, Gö and others
constitute the "new translation" school. All of
these many translations were made from Sanskrit and not from
To emphasise their authenticity the original
titles of the texts and commentaries of the Tripitaka have
been left in Sanskrit. When present day scholars compare the.
same text in the original Sanskrit with its Tibetan translation,
they are amazed by the accuracy and the absence of error.
Between the 7th and 17th centuries CE, the
number of important Indian translators and scholars who traveled
to Tibet is estimated to be one hundred and twenty-eight,
and the main Tibetan translators visiting India about seventy
six. Their interpretations of the Kangyur and Tengyur were
not influenced by cultural bias neither was their approach
at all superficial.
The Tibetan masters devoted their entire lives
to learning, contemplation and meditation. In addition, based
on the Kangyur and the Tengyur, they wrote many hundreds of
texts in order to further clarify and maintain the precious
teachings of the Buddha. They transmitted the Buddhadharma
to thousands of monks and nuns. But they never tried to alter
the doctrine of the Buddha or to invent a new Dharma.
In India during the early years of the dissemination
of the Buddha's teachings, four separate Buddhist philosophy
schools developed. They were: Vaibhasika, Sautantrika, Cittamatra
The Vaibhasika subsequently divided into 18
traditions, which were four main schools: Mulasarvastivadin,
Mahasamghika, Sthaviravada and Sammitiya, as well as further
fourteen sub-schools, branched from these four main ones.
One of them, the Sthaviravada known in Pali as Theravada,
is followed today by monastics in India, Burma, Thailand,
Sri Lanka, etc.
In the 8th. Century CE the supreme abbot Shantarakshita,
a lineage holder of the Mulasarvastivada school, was invited
to teach in Tibet. After some time twelve fully ordained Indian
monks from the monastic university of Vikramashila were also
invited to Tibet to act as the ordaining assembly for a select
group of seven Tibetan men, chosen to be the first monastics
ever ordained in Tibet, Subsequently they ordained a further
three hundred. Thus the Tibetan Vinaya derives solely from
the Indian Mulasarvastivada school. Only these four schools,
three of the Sthaviravada and Mulasarvastivada have continued
until today, whereas the rest 14 traditions eventually wanded
The precepts for the Sthaviravada Vinaya fully-ordained
monks are 227. They are divided into several different classes:
30 abandoning downfalls
92 solitary downfalls
4 individual confessions
7 practices that pacify conflicts.
On the other hand, the precepts for the Mulasarvastivada
Vinaya fully-ordained monks are 253. They are also divided
into several different categories:
30 abandoning downfalls
90 solitary downfalls
4 individual confessions
So there are small differences between the
two schools. For example, among the 112 faults in the Mulasarvastivada
system, there are 7 concerning the wearing of the lower garment.
In the Sthaviravada system, this subject appears as only one
fault. But as these examples show, although there are minor
differences among the schools, regarding the root precepts
they are identical.
Likewise, there are differences in the background
stories giVenerable When the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya texts expound
on the downfall of "Carrying wool", they recount
the travelling of six monks to Nepal in some detail. The Sthaviravada
mention only their travelling to a country in the North.
Further differences are that the Mulasarvastivada
considers being an albino as an obstacle to receiving vows,
while the Sthaviravada does not mention this; and when the
Mulasarvastivada school maintains that at the time of ordination
only head and moustache need to be shaved, while one of the
other school includes also the eyebrows. Also in the Sthaviravada
schools, when a novice monk breaks any one of the 10 novice
precepts, his vow is broken but it is not a defeat, which
means that he can take back that precept and return to his
previous novice status. But in the Mulasarvastivada school,
once a novice monk breaks any one of the four defeats which
are included in the ten novice precepts, he is defeated and
not allowed to take that precept back and return to the status
of a novice. So there are some differences such as these.
Concerning the Pitaka of the holy teachings
of the Vinaya, translated into the Tibetan language drawn
from the Tripitaka, the teachings of the Buddha, there are
three parts: the Root Sutra, the Sutra of the Expositions
and the Sutra of Similar Class. Within the first, the Root
Sutra, are found the texts of the Bhikshu Pratimoksha and
the Bhikshuni Pratimoksha. The Bhikshu Pratimoksha presents
in brief the 253 rules of a Bhikshu. The Pratimoksha Sutra
for females shown in brief the 364 rules for Bhikshunis.
Secondly, in the Sutra of the Expositions there
are four parts; these are: the Basic Scripture (agama), the
Explanatory Scripture, the Minor Instructions and the Transmission
of the Sublime Teaching.
Among the categories of the Basic Scripture
are 17 fundamental pronouncements. These are called fundamental
because they support the three trainings: ethics, concentration
and wisdom. The basis for completely cultivating the trainings
is threefold: the ceremony of restoration of vows (Posadha),
the summer retreat (Varsha) and the ceremony of releasing
from its vows. The basis for the conditions for remaining
at ease are twofold: the basis of clothing and of medicine.
As to the basis of clothing there are three aspects: they
are coarse blankets, garments and hide or leather. As to the
basic medicines, there are four aspects: they are appropriate
times, a suitable span of time, weekly permission and fitting
to be kept for the whole of one's life.
The basis for the actions in Vinaya is 121
procedure. In short there are three: the ceremony of requesting,
which is informing the Sangha; the request and the ceremony
of the two, which means to inform but ask if there is any
objection. And then, there is the requesting and the ceremony
of the four which is the completion of the entire procedure.
Regarding the basis of reparation in order
to purify moral downfalls, there are three divisions: the
cause of abandoning the vows, restoring the downfalls, and
There is also abandoning the two extremes concerned
with dwelling places. Altogether these are the 17 fundamental
Concerning the Sutra of the Explanatory Scripture,
there are male and female classifications. As to the male
classification, there are the 253 precepts of a Bhikshu and
many teachings on training. It also shows extensively the
7 Dharma which pacify contention. As to the female classification,
there are the eight classes of defeat, the 20 remainders,
the 33 abandoning downfalls, the 180 downfalls, the 11 individual
confessions, the 112 faults and many Dharmas on discipline.
It also shows extensively the 7 Dharmas for pacifying contention.
The Minor Instructions are a commentary which
gives the general meanings of the two Pratimokshas by extensively
putting in order the minor points which reside in the discipline.
The Sublime Teaching Sutra is the last and
most cherished commentary since it resolves and teaches the
meanings of the first three Vinaya texts which are profound
and difficult to understand.
The Sutra of Similar Class includes:
The Sutra which Annihilates the Breaking of Ethical Conduct
The Sutra of Nejok, the Discourse which is Essential for Monks
The Sutra of the Bhikshu's Staff
The Sutra which Teaches all the Manner of Holding the Staff
The Sutra of the Gandi (Wooden Gong)
The Sutra on the Occasions for Use of the Gong
The Sutra for Possessing Perfect Moral Discipline, and so
Previous to 1959 CE, thousands of monasteries
and nunneries existed in Tibet. Ordained Sangha in various
numbers dwelled in them. In the larger monasteries there were
thousands of monks, hundreds in the average ones and some
ten or so in the smaller ones. Among these were monastic centers
of nuns and monasteries of upasaka vow-holders. However most
were monasteries containing Shramanera and Bhikshu. This majority
abided in the authentic observance of the three basic precepts
of the Vinaya: the Summer Retreat, the ceremony for releasing
its rules and the Posadha ceremony for restoring the vows.
In the second millennium the Buddhist Sangha of Tibet upheld
one of the Pratimoksha traditions, but at the time of the
Cultural Revolution in Tibet, they went into decline. Nevertheless
at present, the Tibetan Sangha who abide in India and Nepal,
are upholding and preserving the Pratimoksha doctrine as before.
In that way, without transgressing the intent
of these four classes of scriptures on the monastic discipline,
the Tibetan Sangha uphold the Vinaya and, as well as never
having failed in the observance of the Vinaya, also take on
the Bodhisattva vows and the vows of Vajrayana and therefore
perform the practice of the three Dharmas - Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva
Those with an intellect that narrowly clings
to partiality like the "gaze of a one eyed man",
might maintain that the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Tantric
vows contradict each other. This is due to seeing these as
classifications and not perceiving their true intention, in
which there is never a contradiction. It is explained at the
level of Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva or Tantra that the cause
of being bound to the three realms of samsara is the actions
of the three doors which are under the influence of the negative
emotions or kleshas, such as desire, aversion, and so forth.
According to the Pratimoksha of the shravakas, by