I have just returned from spending a most inspiring 2 weeks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. HH (as some of us affectionately call him) is my favorite role model. He is the friendliest, happiest, most totally sane, wise, and compassionate person I have ever been with. Called the embodiment of the Buddha of compassion, he is eminently human. He is quick to let listeners know of his humanness putting us at ease and lessening any sense of separation.
He is a truly, deeply happy person. In spite of the devastation of his country and the Tibetan people, and his responsibilities which could be overwhelming and incredibly stressful, he is happy, relaxed, so kind hearted, and always ready to burst out with his endearing chuckle.
During the Kalachakra Empowerment last week in Bloomington, in the presence of an international audience of some 5000 people, HH would laugh at himself when he made a mistake during a most complex part of the ceremony, when we, the participants, were probably getting a little tight trying so hard to follow along and do the visualizations.
I came away from my time with him feeling inspired and renewed in my dedication to develop my mind and positive qualities. HH's belief in the inherent goodness of humanity, and hope for a better future is contagious. His message is universal, and is being embraced by more and more people around the world.
Standing in line waiting to go into the football field sized tent where the Kalachakra proceedings were held, I spoke with a woman who had attended the Dalai Lama's talk at Central Park in New York the previous Saturday, along with some 40,000 others. HH's talk was broadcast on huge screens throughout the park.
That so many people came to New York to hear HH, and the fact that his recently published book, "The Art of Happiness A Handbook for Living," co-authored with psychiatrist Howard Cutler, is now number 2 on the New York Times best seller list, are indicators that the people of the world are ready for the Dalai Lama's message.
His message is one of hope, and gives a road-map to creating a better life individually and collectively. "I believe human nature is inherently good and loving," he says. Why then is the world so full of suffering? It is due to negative habits deeply imbedded in our mindstreams, which control our actions and reactions, often producing unwanted, painful results. Due to the force of these habitual thoughts, emotions, and ways of viewing the universe, we create pain when we intend to be creating happiness.
What His Holiness teaches is a systematic, time proven way, to untangle this sticky, persistent trouble producing collection of mind stuff. Much of what he teaches is universal, not particularly Buddhist. The Dalai Lama urges people to stick to their own religion if they have one. All religions are rooted in love and goodness. It is the fanatic fringe of various religions that fight each other in the name of religion. People who have understood and live by the core teachings of their religions are not fighting with others.
The Dalai Lama shares a psychology and philosophy which can be applied by everybody people who are practicing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion, and also by atheists or those with no particular religious beliefs. At the Welcome Ceremony in Indianapolis, the Dalai Lama was welcomed by the Governor of Indiana and local religious leaders. They spoke movingly, commending the Dalai Lama's tireless work in promoting dialogue between people of various faiths, his message of our common humanity. Again and again HH points to our sameness: "All beings want happiness and to avoid suffering". To create peace in the world we must focus on our common humanity, not on our differences.
So what is the Dalai Lama's formula to end individual and collective suffering? It is rooted in the teachings of the historical Buddha, and while it is Buddhist philosophy and method, it is at the same time universal. He says during every public talk that he is not looking for converts to Buddhism. Then he goes on to explain the tools that exist as part of Vajrayana Buddhism, the branch of Buddhism that is practiced in Tibet, for training the mind to lessen the effects of the habits and of our distorted view of reality which cause us to suffer. There are a few interconnected themes.
The first thing the Dalai Lama usually speaks about is altruism, generosity, good heart, and loving kindness. As long as we focus just on ourselves, he tells us, we will be unhappy. But when we turn our focus to others, thinking "just like us, all other beings want happiness and want to avoid suffering," and do what we can to benefit others, then we, ourselves become fulfilled.
However if we ourselves are suffering terribly, then what we can do for others is severely limited. There is a final goal of human life, which is a perfected state of being the state of a Buddha, the state of the fully awakened one. His Holiness gives us a road map for moving from our present confused state of mind, to the state of Buddha mind. And though he says he is only a simple monk, and is amazingly humble, approachable, generous, loving and human, I and millions of others see him as a living Buddha. He says he is nothing special, and that the deep inner peace he has attained through training his mind can be attained by every human.
Being with His Holiness gives me hope that as my own Buddha nature reveals itself more and more fully, I will become lighter, happier, more generous, and will live easily in alignment with my particular life path. I will still be me, but more fully and completely the aspects of me that are pleasing to myself and others, and that bring lasting happiness which is not dependent on external circumstances.
A main area of the Dalai Lama's teachings is about how to train the mind in order create happiness, not suffering. Each of us sees the world from our own viewpoint, according to all the things we have experienced and been taught in the past. However, the world is not as it appears. For example, science confirms that things which are solid are actually made up of atoms and electrons, which can be broken down into smaller and smaller components, until no matter can be found to exist just pure energy.
Thoughts and emotions are far less substantial. We each have our individual version of reality, and even that changes from moment to moment, day to day, year to year. Out of our inaccurate world view we develop our own particular collection of mental and emotional habits, and out of those habitual ways of thinking and feeling flow our actions. For every action there is a reaction, and that reaction will seed another result. This is the universal law of cause and effect, which is infallible. We cannot escape it.
When we create positive thoughts, words, and actions, we are planting seeds for positive results, and we create the causes and conditions for happiness. When we engage in negative thoughts, words, and actions, actions which harm ourselves or others, we are creating suffering and the seeds of future suffering. Here is where unknown factors come in.
If we were only dealing with this lifetime, we would be pretty aware of what we had created in the past. Now if you don't believe in past lifetimes, I ask you to keep an open mind here, because this is an important part in understanding these teachings. What the Dalai Lama teaches is a way of training the mind to so that we can stop planting the seeds of suffering by acting according to our negative habits attachment, aversion, jealousy, anger, etc.
We engage in endless activity in order to try to fulfill endless desires. When one desire is satisfied, up pops another. We stress out trying to prevent what we don't want yet, being human, it is inevitable that changes, sickness, old age and death will occur. We exhaust ourselves trying to fulfill our desires and prevent unwanted occurrences, when the deep happiness and peace we seek is within ourselves.
People can commit murders, steal, cheat, rape, and hurt others in order to gain for themselves because they believe in a limited existence this lifetime only. They believe if they get away with it in this lifetime, they are getting away with it for as long as they exist, which is until they die. If people believed that "what goes around comes around," if not in this life then in the next lifetime, they would realize that every negative action committed is the seed for one's own suffering, in the near or farther future.
Because people believe in a limited existence they think they can intentionally harm others. And due to negative habitual thoughts and emotions, such as anger and hatred which are out of control in a mind that hasn't learned discipline, ethics and the law of cause and effect, people unintentionally cause suffering for themselves and others.
In a public talk given on August 18, His Holiness spoke to a capacity crowd at the University of Indiana Auditorium. He referred to an incident which occurred in Bloomington on July 4 a hate murder which shocked Bloomington. "These unhappy incidents happen due to our negligence," he said. "There is something lacking from the leaders of nations to sustain human morals. It is useful and important to find a remedy for violence and crime. If we analyze, we can find methods to check violence."
His Holiness went on to tell about how he lost his freedom at age 16, and his country at age 24, due to the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese. He has been a refugee for the last 40 years. "My life has not been easy." He explained. "During those years I learned that one's own mental state is crucial. If one remains calm one creates a peaceful atmosphere. If one loses one's temper and calmness, the situation becomes more complicated and more trouble is created."
Being with the Dalai Lama, who lives in that state of happiness, and deep inner contentment, there is a tuning fork effect. It becomes easier to begin to resonate to his frequency, which is of deep inner peace, and true happiness. His presence, his voice, his laugh, is reassuring. He reassures us, "You have the same capabilities that I do. I don't have any special inner equipment. You can change your habits. It doesn't happen overnight, but, over time, you can change."
Universal responsibility is a constant theme of the Dalai Lama. We are all responsible for creating the best personal and collective world we can. Each of affects the whole, and the collective affects each individual. It is helpful to contemplate our interconnectedness. Just think about how many people were involved in producing our food and bringing it to us, or our clothes, our homes, cars, everything that makes our life what it is.
Even while sitting on his "throne" giving the highest empowerment even while he is visualizing himself as the Kalachakra deity, he laughs, and is oh so lovable. Here is the role model. Here we can see what the perfected human in the form of Tenzin Gyatso looks like, acts like, and feels like. How wonderful.
He has his own delightful personality, as we have all seen. The Dalai Lama never claims to be a Buddha, or to be enlightened, or to have any special powers of omniscience. He only claims to have deep faith and conviction in the teachings of the Buddha, and to be truly, deeply, unshakably happy. Not that he doesn't have emotions. He says he can get upset or saddened, but he comes back to center very quickly.
Much love to you, Karuna
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric...
-Edna St. Vincent Millay-
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