Monday, October 29, 2018

Dalai Lama in Discussions with Youth Leaders from Conflict Zones

His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Discussions with Youth Leaders from Conflict Zones

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - For the third year in a row the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has brought a group of youth leaders from conflict zones to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. USIP is a nonpartisan and independent institution tasked with promoting national security and global stability by reducing violent conflicts abroad.

Led by USIP President Nancy Lindborg, the 27 youth leaders, and three who came last year but who are now assisting as trainers, came from 12 different countries: Afghanistan, Burma, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Venezuela.

When His Holiness entered the room today he bid them all, "Good morning," and shook hands with members of the morning's first panel.

"I really enjoy this kind of meeting," he told them. "My main practice is to dedicate my body, speech and mind to the benefit of others. I can't help any of you by cleaning your houses, but at least I can smile. Usually one smile invokes another. It's quite rare for a smile to be met with a frown. And just as I dedicate my physical actions to the benefit of others, so do I direct my speech, but the main thing is that I dedicate my mind to fulfilling others' well-being—not just today, but for as long as space remains. However, when I sit in meditation I'm by myself, but when I'm with people like you I can smile and use my voice too. Thank you for giving me this opportunity."

Nancy Lindborg guided the conversation by calling on youth leaders to introduce themselves and put their questions to His Holiness. The first, posed by a delegate from Venezuela, was about whether it is possible to achieve peace when you have no freedom.

"There are different levels of peace," His Holiness told her, describing his own experience of life in a conflict zone. "When Chinese Communists first invaded Tibet their control of the country was not so tight. In 1954 I went to Beijing to attend the People's Congress. I met Chairman Mao several times. He didn't conduct himself like a political leader. He behaved like an old farmer who'd become a revolutionary. I developed some respect for him and the other party leaders I met. We discussed the history of the revolution and Marx's ideas. I was attracted then as now to his socio-economic theories, especially the notion of equal distribution.

"However, during the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin spoiled things with his war-time mentality and the perpetuation of secrecy, suspicion and suppression. These attitudes led directly to totalitarianism. Eventually Stalin made things worse. Nevertheless, I found that in the early years, Chinese revolutionary leaders were really dedicated, but once they tasted power it seems exercising it became more important than ideology. This is what produced the Cultural Revolution. Good, straightforward, honest people were dismissed, while cunning individuals like Zhou Enlai survived.

"As I returned home in 1955 I met General Zhang Guohua on the way and told him that when I set out the previous year I had been apprehensive, but I was returning full of confidence. Yet from 1956 onwards it seems the Chinese officials grew more suspicious of me. At the same time, reform was ruthlessly imposed, starting in Eastern Tibet, which caused the people to revolt. However, the former servants of Tibetan feudal landlords showed them kindness by letting them know when they were about to be subjected to class-struggle sessions enabling some of them to escape to India.

"Many people fled Eastern Tibet and congregated in Lhasa. In 1959, when the Chinese invited me to attend some dance performance, the public were very suspicious and surrounded the Norbulingka Palace to protect me. I tried to reassure them and wrote letters to the Chinese to no avail. I received a message from a former high Tibetan official asking me to identify where I was staying in the Norbulingka, but it wasn't clear whether the purpose was to protect or target me. On 17th March we decided to leave. On 20th March Chinese forces bombarded Lhasa and incidentally shelled my residence at Norbulingka. It seems the decision to escape was correct and here in India I've been able to contribute to a greater sense of peace of mind."

His Holiness went on to explain how in exile the focus had been on preserving Tibetan culture and identity by educating Tibetan children. He called this a realistic approach mentioning that resorting to anger and violence is self-destructive and leads to harsher suppression. He stressed that violence is the wrong method to bring about change. Nancy Lindborg added that USIP has evidence to that non-violence is consistently more effective in the long run.

His Holiness noted that there are now estimated to be 400 million Buddhists in China, many of whom appreciate the value of Tibetan Buddhism. He remarked that while the Chinese could bring material development and physical comfort to Tibet, Tibetans can offer China spiritual development and peace of mind. The key, he said, is to remain determined, to be realistic and to take action.

"We have recorded ancient Indian knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions in the books we translated from Sanskrit. We address problems by tackling the mind and emotions and building inner strength. After 70 years, employing all kinds of methods, the Chinese have failed to dent the Tibetan spirit."

Responding to a question about the role of women, His Holiness observed that women have been shown to be more sensitive to others' suffering. Conversely, heroes celebrated for killing their opponents are almost always men. In a Buddhist context, he said, we refer to other beings as ‘all mother sentient beings' in acknowledgment of their kindness. He reiterated advice he often gives about the need to see more women in leadership roles and more closely involved in education about compassion. He quoted former President of Ireland and human rights campaigner, Mary Robinson, as referring to him as a ‘feminist Dalai Lama'.

His Holiness confirmed the importance of using technology wherever possible to overcome a lack of knowledge. He recalled that in Tibet the primary source of news from the outside world was the Muslim traders who travelled to and from India. He observed that people in more isolated countries are more likely to think in terms of one truth, one religion. This approach is fine on a personal level, he said, but the reality of the world we live in is that there are several major religions and truth can have many aspects.

Noting that many problems we face arise from a basic lack of moral principles, His Holiness recommended training the mind, cultivating a deeper concern for the well-being of others. Such concern arises naturally when we regard other people as brothers and sisters.

“We have to remember that each and every one of us is a part of humanity. We need to be determined to achieve positive change, but also need to be able to take a long view of what needs to be done. What is important is not to become demoralized. Optimism leads to success; pessimism leads to defeat. One person can be the source of inspiration for many others. Those of us who practise Buddhism aim to achieve Buddhahood, which is almost impossible for most of us, but the very aspiration gives us inner strength.

“This kind of meeting gives me confidence that we are waking up. We can achieve change in the world. We can cause the seeds of good to grow. We need to be firm in our aims and tackle them together. Some years ago, a meeting of Nobel Peace Laureates agreed on the urgent need to eliminate nuclear weapons, but if such a goal is to be achieved we need set a timetable and stick to it, attracting others to the cause.”

A youth leader from South Sudan who came to Dharamsala last year and who has returned this year as a trainer gave a brief appraisal of the two meetings she had attended with His Holiness.

“I was here last year and I’m so happy to have been able to come back again. I feel you live by what you say. You are a world leader we can relate to. Your peace of mind is an inspiration. I see all of us going back like Dalai Lamas to bring peace to our own places. I’m happy to know that you are a feminist Dalai Lama. Thank you for sparing some of your time for us here.”

Answering a final question about peace-building His Holiness declared,

“Ideas may travel from the top down, but the movements that will put them into effect have to work from the bottom up. I am very encouraged to see how young people like you are trying to bring about positive change. We have good grounds to be confident because our efforts are based on truth and reason—therefore we will succeed. 

“We are working for the good of humanity. I don’t think of myself just as a Tibetan or a Buddhist, but as a human being. We have to think of the whole of humanity. Being human is the common ground in our efforts to create a better world. Remember, we all survive in dependence on others.”

Nancy Lindborg expressed thanks to everyone who had contributed to making the meetings fruitful including the staff of His Holiness’s Office, of USIP and Radio Free Asia. She offered His Holiness a USIP peace cap, which he put on with a smile. His parting advice was that this kind of meeting comes about as a result of the co-operation of individuals.

“Everyone wants to live a happy life, but many don’t know how it’s to be done. In time, and with effort, we can change that.”

original link & photos:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Who is the Holy Spirit and What does He Do?

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Many Christians can relate easily to Jesus because He is human, as well as God—and also being called the ‘Son’ is easily grasped on an emotional level. But the Holy Spirit, not to mention the Holy ‘Ghost’ (due to cold, paranormal connotations for some), seems to be less understood.

But once we are saved (through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit), what happens between our salvation and the time of our death? That is a long time…and the Holy Spirit is indispensable for the living of the Christian life. It is imperative that we understand what He does during our stay on earth. And certainly one of the greatest gifts of the New Covenant is the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers—I say ‘full’ because, in order to be saved in the OT, they had to have some measure of the Holy Spirit.

In our discussion of the Trinity, we talked about the full deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. What I want to focus on in this segment is what He does. I am going to put His work under four headings: empowerment, purifying, reveals, and unifies.

1. Empowerment: The great Cappadocian Father, Basil (330-379) stated that the Holy Spirit was ‘Christ’s inseparable companion.’ When Mary wondered aloud as to how she might get pregnant the Lord said: 35And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borne will be called holy—the Son of God. (Luke 2:35) His virginal conception is accomplished through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus throughout His entire ministry and life.

As we shall see, from womb to tomb, the Holy Spirit was indeed Jesus’ constant companion. During the ‘hidden years’ we may assume that the Holy Spirit was with Jesus always. From the same psalm in which we have the terrible cry of dereliction, which Jesus screamed from the cross are these words, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Ps 22) We see a continuity of intimacy with God (through the Holy Spirit) throughout His life.
When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove, and then Mark tells us that the Spirit ‘drove’ Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. But the Spirit did not leave Him alone during this trial. And when He had defeated Satan, Luke says that He came out from this ordeal in the power of the Spirit and began His public ministry. (4:14)
Indeed, at Jesus’ first sermon He quoted from Isaiah 61: 1The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;a
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” 

So, a defining trait of the coming Messiah, as foretold by Isaiah, would be that He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. We are told in the gospels that He drove demons out by the Spirit of God, revealing that the Kingdom had arrived. Finally, when Jesus rose from the dead we are told that the Spirit played a significant part in this as well.(Rom.1:4) And in His discourse in John 14-17, the coming of the Holy Spirit in His fullness was to be viewed as a gift. Jesus was the original Paraclete but He would send another, and He told His disciple (and us) that it was to our advantage that He leave, in order for the Holy Spirit to come in fullness—which occurred at Pentecost. I once had a case in which there was a mighty rushing of wind which shook the house but it was an unholy mimicry of Pentecost in my view.

If Jesus’ life was empowered by the Holy Spirit, then how much more does our life need to be empowered by Him! As Jesus said in John 15, without Him we can do nothing—nothing to please God that is.

“but be filled with the Spirit”, (Eph.5:18) This present participle indicates that though we receive the Holy Spirit definitely at conversion, there is an absolute need to continually keep being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ to be empowered to bear fruit.

We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person (who can be grieved or pleased). That He empowers us does not mean that He is a celestial battery from which we gather energy—He is intensely Personal because he is the third Person of the Trinity. We commune with Him existentially (moment by moment).

Christ has baptized us by the Spirit into the Body of Christ in which we celebrate the diversity of Spirit given gifts because we need each other.(1 Cor. 12:13) And we too have access to the power of God in our lives and ministries. Through the Spirit and the work of Christ we have power over the demonic and Satan himself. God Himself dwells within believers! Do you consciously rely upon the Holy Spirit?

2. Second, the Holy Spirit purifies us. He makes us increasingly holy. Surely it is very significant that His name is the HOLY Spirit! He Himself is utterly morally pure, as well as being transcendent or set apart.

But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.(John 16:8-11)

In John 3:3-6 (Eph. 1-2) the Spirit awakens dead sinners to see their need of a Savior. He regenerates them and gives us the ability and desire to believe and repent. Without the work of the Holy Spirit applying the work of Christ, there would be no believers. But after initially purifying us through faith, He continues His role of sanctifier by changing us from one degree of glory to the next. (2 Cor. 3:18) Becoming more Jesus-like is the Spirit’s goal in our lives.

Over a period of time we should see change in our character. The fruit of the Spirit should become increasingly evident in our lives—an observable love which testifies to the Holy Spirit within. Problems with anger and bitterness should gradually be broken.

It is important that we pray before we make decisions, even for ministry opportunities or we may get there and a sense a deadness. Suppose you are in a situation in which you have made a commitment but something else important comes  up and you are confused as to what to do. Instead of stressing out, say something like: ‘Father, I know that you have some resolution to this problem. Please reveal it to me.’ And wait to see what happens. It is easy to get stressed out and this one single bit of advice could change your life. Discerning the Spirit is a habit that takes trial and error for us to learn over time. I have made quick decisions which I wished later I had prayed more about. Is there anything in your life that needs purifying? We will all be ‘under construction’ until the Holy Spirit brings us home—He is the seal and guarantee of our glorification.

3. Thirdly, the work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal. “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”(2 Pet.1:21) Peter is saying that the OT prophets were guided by the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s mind and purposes to us. Many Christians are canonically challenged: meaning that they do not read the OT much. But every major doctrine in the NT finds its origin and foundation in OT, and probably within first 3 chapters of Genesis—and then expounded in more detail as OT progressed. I think we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not read these books which is said to have been written by men ‘carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Regarding the revealing of God in NT Jesus says: 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-14)

This is sometimes misapplied by Christians because clearly the primary meaning of this text is Jesus preparing His apostles for their foundational role in the church as being agents of revelation. Meaning that the primary focus of this text is the prediction of the coming NT—God’s written revelation.
So, to be empowered by the Holy Spirit we need to be men and women of the Word because the Holy Spirit speaks to us primarily to us through His Word.

When it comes to personal guidance by the Holy Spirit there are two opposite errors to avoid. The first is to be too subjective: ‘The Holy Spirit told me to do this, and He told me to do that.” There is a strong over-reliance on feelings to the neglect of the brain God gave us, and His Word (along with counsel of other people) I have seen the craziest things said and done all in the name of what people felt God had told them to do. It is interesting in the council of Acts 15 that there was a lot of discussion first, before coming to a conclusion: and they said that it ‘seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” The Holy Spirit usually does not bypass the brain in guiding us in specific situations.

The other error is to be too rational—relying too much on the brain to the neglect of the feelings/emotions and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Often after spending time in the Word and praying for a matter, and then waiting on God, a solution will come that ‘feels right’ and from the Lord. It is difficult to express this in words, but if we pray and wait upon the Lord, and not flip out when problems arise, then He will guide us. But this often comes in the form of advice from godly friends. Again, if you find yourself in a mess of a situation, then pray: ”Lord,  I believe that You have a good solution to this.” And wait to see what happens—perhaps some new factor will arise or God will make it clear though His providence.

4. The Holy Spirit works to bring unity to believers. In the High Priestly prayer in John 17 Jesus actually says that the loving unity of believers is the final apologetic: an observable, costly love from Christians (especially to other believers) will testify to the truth of our faith. The world often separates over differences, but the diversity in the Body is God ordained and we need each other. God gives different passions and gifts to us as individuals, all within the unity of the Body.

Some evangelical leaders are compromising on the gospel by allying with Roman Catholics (whose view of salvation is seriously wrong) or rejecting penal substitution. The point is that in seeking unity, it must not be done at the expense of truth and the holiness and purity of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, we have to set aside non-essential differences in order to give glory to God through the unity of believers. Some folks will call anyone ‘heretic’ who does not believe in every jot and tittle of their belief system. We have to rely on common sense and the leading of the Holy Spirit to know when to say ‘when’. Certain issues are non-negotiable and God the Holy Spirit does not want us to waffle on those in an attempt to have a shallow unity. Grace and truth, holiness and love—we need both to be bold and effective witnesses and to please the Holy Spirit.

Of all the Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the most intimate with believers because He actually indwells us (and through Him, the Trinity). It should be our passion to walk moment by moment, keeping in step with the Spirit.

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dalai Lama Meets with Students in India

Conversation with Students from Woodstock School

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - The happy chatter that filled the meeting room next to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s office fell silent when he walked into the room and scanned the faces of the students waiting for him. He smiled broadly, wished them “Good morning”, and sat down. There were 51 students belonging to classes 11 and 12 from Woodstock School, who are visiting Dharamsala during their extra-curricular ‘activity week’. His Holiness first made friends with Woodstock School at the beginning of his life in exile when he lived in Mussoorie, the hill-station where the school is based.

After asking how many Tibetans and Bhutanese there were in the group, His Holiness wanted to know where the rest of the students came from. The majority were Indian, but among a total of seven nationalities there were also students from Palestine, Syria and Afghanistan.

His Holiness reported that he had just been talking to a group from Indonesia about how sad he feels to witness friction between Shia and Sunni Muslims. To him it is unthinkable that people who worship the same Allah and follow the same Quran should fall out as they seem to do.

“However, I’ve never heard of such quarrels between Sunni and Shia adherents here in India,” he told them. “Indeed India is unique in that all the world’s major religions, those indigenous to the country, as well as those that came from abroad, all live here happily together. India’s long-standing tradition of inter-religious harmony is exemplary and now the time has come to share this practice with the rest of the world.”

The first of several questions from the students concerned His Holiness’s pastimes.

“When I was a boy I used to enjoy taking things apart,” he replied with a laugh, “I examined my toys and watches to see how they worked. I dismantled and reassembled a movie projector that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama to make it work. Since I was young I’ve also enjoyed growing plants. I grew beautiful tulips in the Norbulingka garden in Lhasa. These days, however, as I get older, I have less interest in these things.”

Another student wanted to know who decides what’s moral. His Holiness told her that all the world’s major religions teach about love, compassion, tolerance and self-discipline. Some traditions, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, believe in a creator God and regard us all as children of that God. Other Indian traditions like Jainism and Buddhism see beings themselves participating in creation, so responsibility for change rests on our shoulders.

“We should not let ourselves be dominated only by sensory awareness,” His Holiness advised, “we should also pay attention to mental consciousness, develop a single-pointed mind and use it to analyse the nature of self and the nature of reality.

“What we experience is the result of our own actions. If it brings joy, we regard what we’ve done as positive; if it leads to misery we think of our action as negative. Just as we can’t say that one particular medicine is the best on all occasions, we cannot say that one religious tradition is best. We need our different traditions because of people’s different dispositions and therefore we need to treat all religious traditions with respect.

“Many problems we face we bring on ourselves because we are prey to destructive emotions. We tend to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ with little sense of the oneness of humanity. And yet, climate change, for example, because it affects us all, means we have to take a more global view. We can’t neglect it. We are interdependent. Consider how Tibet and its rivers are the source of much of Asia’s water. But snowfall has been drastically reduced as a result of global warming.”

His Holiness told a student who asked how to overcome apathy and be more inspired that there’s a need to improve our education systems. We’re used to instructions about observing physical hygiene to preserve our health, but we need to add to it a sense of emotional hygiene. This means learning to tackle destructive emotions like anger, fear and hatred. By training our minds, rather than turning to drugs or alcohol, we can change our emotions.”

Ancient Indian psychology has much to say about this and although he says modern India is quite materialistic, His Holiness considers India to be the only country that could pioneer a combination of modern education with ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions

Asked if he’d ever had doubts about the Buddha’s teachings, His Holiness replied that the Buddha advised his followers not to take what he taught at face value but to question and investigate it. Consequently, Buddhism in general and the Nalanda Tradition in particular take a realistic approach grounded in reason and logic. He explained that it’s on such a basis that he has been able to engage in dialogue with scientists for almost forty years.

“Nalanda University is now in ruins, but the traditions of study that flourished there Shantarakshita established in Tibet in 8th century. He was a great scholar and logician, as well as a pure monk, and we have kept alive what he taught us.”

Before the meeting came to an end, His Holiness drew a distinction between the generations of the 20th and 21st centuries. “I belong to the 20th century, a time that has gone. You, however, all belong to the 21st century and you need to think about how to avoid repeating the errors of the past. Where the 20th century was filled with violent conflict, there is now a need to disarm.

“At a meeting of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome several years ago, we discussed the importance of eliminating nuclear weapons. I suggested that just talking about it isn’t enough. We need to set a timetable and stick to it. I believe it can be done because in general people are fed up with violence.

“In addition to eliminating nuclear weapons, we need a broader sense of demilitarization. Key to this is making the determination to resolve conflict and other problems through dialogue. Following such steps, you who belong to the 21st century have the opportunity to build a better, more peaceful world. Thank you.”

The students posed eagerly for photographs with His Holiness, following which he walked back to his residence for lunch.     

original link & photos:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Dalai Lama Teaches the Middle Way

Teaching of Chandrakirti’s ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ Resumes

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - The majestic Dhauladhar Mountains stood resolute against the clear blue, post-monsoon sky as His Holiness the Dalai Lama walked from his residence to the Tsuglagkhang, the main Tibetan temple, this morning. The temple yard was thronged with people eager to see him, smiles on their faces and hands folded in welcome. Inside the temple His Holiness waved to the crowd, greeted the Lamas seated around the throne and took his seat.

Among the 6500 people in attendance, 1000 were Taiwanese, most of them belonging to 18 cultural organizations participating in the International Association of Tibetan Buddhist Dharma, Taiwan. In addition, there were 500 Indians, 1800 people from 66 countries abroad and 3200 Tibetans.

Monks from Thailand made an auspicious beginning to the proceedings as they recited the Mangala Sutta in Pali. Taiwanese disciples then chanted the Heart Sutra in Chinese. His Holiness completed the preliminary formalities by reciting the verses of salutation to the Buddha from ‘Ornament for Clear Realization’ and Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way’. He welcomed everyone in the audience:

“Those of you from Taiwan have been coming for many years now and today there are people from many other places too—I greet you all. I’m going to begin with an introduction to the teachings of the Buddha. Many of you may be familiar with it, but there may also be some who haven’t heard it before.

“The following verse sums up the Buddha’s advice:

“Commit no unwholesome deed,
Perform only perfect virtue,
Completely tame your mind,
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

“All religions teach us not to do harm, but to have a kind heart. There are theistic traditions that believe in a creator god and non-theistic traditions that teach about karma. All of them encourage us to help others not harm them.

“How do you tame your mind? The Buddhas do not wash unwholesome deeds away with water, nor do they remove beings’ sufferings with their hands and they do not transplant their own realization into others. It is by teaching the truth of suchness that they liberate beings.

“A rich tradition of philosophy and psychology already existed in India at the time of the Buddha. A general belief in past and future lives was supported by the reports of individuals who had memories of their previous lives. Since the body doesn’t travel from one life to another, the question was what does? Many schools of thought posited a self separate from the mind/body combination that they called atman. Taming the mind relied on training in ethics and concentration on the basis of which wisdom could be cultivated.

“Many Indian spiritual practitioners aspired to transcend the desire realm and the attachment it involves, which they considered fraught with problems. Through meditative absorption they sought to reach the subtler and more peaceful form and formless realms.

“Born into a royal family, the Buddha renounced his comfortable way of life when he realized the suffering involved in birth, sickness, aging and death. He entered instead into the homeless life of an ascetic. As a result of his cultivating ethics and concentration he recognised that far from there being a single, autonomous, permanent self, the self is merely a designation. He further acknowledged that belief in a single, autonomous, permanent self reinforces clinging to it. There is a notion of a self that functions like a master over the other aspects of the mind/body combination, which operate like its servants. Therefore, the self is seen as separate from the mind/body combination.

“In his enlightenment the Buddha realized a sense of selflessness diametrically opposed to the idea of a single, autonomous, permanent self. Therefore, he is reported to have reflected, ‘Profound and peaceful, free from complexity, uncompounded luminosity—I have found a nectar-like Dharma. Yet if I were to teach it, no-one would understand what I said, so I shall remain silent here in the forest.’

His Holiness explained that when, in due course, the Buddha encountered his five former companions in the Deer Park outside Varanasi, they recognised a change in his demeanour and asked him to teach what he had realized. Consequently he taught them the Four Noble Truths—the truth of suffering, the truth of its origin, the truth of its cessation and the truth of the path to that. In terms of what they needed to do, he explained that suffering must be known; its origin must be overcome; its cessation must be achieved and the path to it must be cultivated.

However, in terms of a result, he clarified that although suffering must be known, there is nothing to be known. Though its origin must be overcome, there is nothing to overcome. While cessation must be achieved, there is nothing to be achieved and despite the need to cultivate the path, there is nothing to be cultivated.

His Holiness observed that the Buddha identified 16 characteristics of the Four Noble Truths, four pertaining to each truth. The four characteristics of the truth of suffering are that it is impermanent, in the nature of suffering, empty and selfless. His Holiness made clear that on one level we can understand impermanence to mean that life ends in death. At a subtler level this means that things arise, abide, decay and end in destruction. Subtler still is the understanding that the disintegration of a phenomenon is brought about by its very cause. Thus, change to our psycho-physical aggregates, our mind/body combination, derives from their cause which is karma and mental afflictions.

“What is important to recognise” His Holiness went on, “is that suffering is rooted in ignorance. We will not overcome it until we counter the ignorance that is a distorted view of reality. We remain subject to that ignorance so long as we think of the ‘I’ as an independent self. Yet when we search for such a self as an entity independent of the mind/body combination, we find nothing. We cannot find such a self among the five psycho-physical aggregates that make up the mind/body combination, nor can it be identified with consciousness.

“Just as cart is designated on the basis of its parts, so a person is designated on the basis of the psycho-physical aggregates. Nagarjuna explains that cessation comes about through the elimination of karma and mental afflictions. Karma and afflictions arise from conceptual thoughts, which come from mental exaggeration or fabrication.

Fabrication ceases through (understanding) emptiness. We can gain experience of emptiness if we make a steady effort. If we read Nagarjuna and his followers’ works we can see how they thoroughly explain that there is no independent self.

“The defilements of the mind associated with a distorted view of reality are not of the mind’s intrinsic nature because the nature of the mind is clarity and awareness. Cessation is that state of mind in which the defilements have been overcome. Therefore, liberation is attained by thoroughly purifying the mind.”

In responding to questions from the audience His Holiness discussed which is realized first, the selflessness of persons or the selflessness of phenomena. He quoted Nagarjuna’s ‘Precious Garland’ that says that as long as there is grasping for the psycho-physical aggregates, there is grasping for a self of persons. However, in his medium and great presentations of the ‘Stages of the Path’, Je Tsongkhapa presents the selflessness of persons first and the selflessness of phenomena later. His Holiness remarked that since the Buddha was thorough in his teachings, we need to be thorough in our studies.

“I first heard about emptiness 70 years ago, but I’ve been thinking about it for 60 years,” His Holiness recalled. “It’s good to be curious. As a child when I saw different insects I wanted to know where they came from. I also wanted to know why there are so many different kinds of flowers. For the last 50 years, I’ve also given deep thought to the awakening mind of bodhichitta. Today, I heard a report that elderly people are increasingly experiencing loneliness, which reminded me that if you cultivate compassion and bodhichitta you’ll never feel lonely.”

His Holiness concluded that in addition to the need to completely tame the mind it is also necessary to sustain the body and it had reached time for lunch. He will continue his teachings tomorrow morning.

Original link & photos:

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dalai Lama on Human Values & Education

‘Human Values and Education’ at Zurich University of Applied Sciences

Zurich, Switzerland - There was a chill in the air as His Holiness the Dalai Lama left his hotel to drive to Winterthur this morning. When he arrived at the Conference Centre he was received by Jean-Marc Piveteau, President of ZHAW University (Zurich University of Applied Sciences). Once His Holiness had sat down on the stage in the auditorium, Piveteau introduced the occasion. “We’re talking about tolerance, justice and freedom because it’s important to be aware of human values. A university is about more than just earning a degree, it’s about ideas and values and a commitment to responsibility. For us, Your Holiness, you represent many of these values and we’d like to hear from you.’

“Dear brothers and sisters,” His Holiness responded, “when I see a human face, I think, ‘O, another human brother or sister’. We focus too much on secondary differences between us—differences of community, religion, religious denomination, whether people are rich or poor—which gives rise to a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. In today’s world, besides natural disasters, many of the problems we face are of our own creation. As a result, people are not very happy.

“In the past, the human population was small, and people depended on each other in small communities. Now the population has increased and we make distinctions between this community and that, this country and another. In the 20th century there were two world wars; why? Nowadays, in the Middle East religion has become a cause for people to kill each other. They think in terms of ‘my religion’ and ‘their religion’. Since we create these conflicts, it’s our responsibility to resolve them.

“There are signs of hope; the latter part of the 20th century was different from the earlier years. I’m a great admirer of the spirit of the European Union and the way de Gaulle and Adenauer, after being enemies for long, decided it was better to live together and pursue a common interest. The British seem to be leaving for narrow-minded, selfish reasons.

“There are differences between us, but at a deeper level we are the same in being human. We’re all born the same way and we die the same way. Some scientists say, as a result of their findings with young, pre-verbal infants that basic human nature is compassionate. At the same time, while constant anger, fear and hatred undermine our immune systems, peace of mind is good for our health.

“As human beings we are social animals. We survive in dependence on our community. In Barcelona, I met a Catholic monk who had been living as a hermit in the mountain mediating on love. He lived on bread and tea and was truly happy, but even he depended on the support of the local community.

“We need friends and friendship is based on trust. To earn trust, money and power aren’t enough; you have to show some concern for others. You can’t buy trust in the supermarket. In ancient times, you Swiss and we Tibetans may have been satisfied behind our mountains, but today human beings belong to one human community. Therefore, we have to integrate and since we are interdependent we have to show some global responsibility.

“If they believe we were all made by God, or if they simply believe in karma, that positive action give rise to happiness and harmful behaviour leads to sorrow, how can people kill each other? We need to think about peace of mind. About 200 years ago the church looked after inner values along with education. Today, inner values need to be incorporated into education, not on the basis of this religion or that, but from a secular point of view.

“And just as we teach physical hygiene to stay physically fit, we need to cultivate emotional hygiene, learning to tackle our destructive emotions, to achieve peace of mind. Wherever I am, I share these ideas with whoever wants to listen—was it clear?”

The room was filled with warm applause.

Moderator of the panel discussion, Swiss TV anchor Susanne Wille introduced the members of the panel: Dr. Christiane Hohenstein, Professor of Inter-Culturalism and Linguistics; Dr. Andreas Gerber-Grote, Professor of Public Health and Head of Research; Leanardo Huber, President of the Students' Association; and Dr. Rudolf Högger, Tibet-Institute Rikon.

She started the discussions by asking His Holiness if it was true that he was a lazy student. He replied that it was only natural. In Tibet education begins with memorization and at the age of seven he began to learn classical texts by heart and didn’t enjoy it very much. It wasn’t until he was older that he began to take an interest in what he was learning. When he was 16, he told her, he lost his freedom and when he was 24 he lost his country, but by that time he had discovered that what he’d learned before helped him keep his inner strength.

The panel discussion touched on self-discipline, listening to the other person’s point of view and sustainability. Dr Högger showed a picture of Tibetan monks in their monastery being taught to dissect fish. They took them apart, organ by organ, eventually lifting out the brain and spinal cord. At that point one of the students asked the teacher “Is this where consciousness begins?” She replied that Western science asserts that without such a basis there can be no consciousness. It was a moment when modern science and Buddhist science acknowledged their different approaches.

Dr Hohenstein remarked that she wasn’t sure that universal human values exist yet, but that we should be prepared to change our stance or perspective. She observed that, given the continuing gender gap, equality is some way off. His Holiness explained that it is his understanding that early human beings gathered and shared what they needed. Only after they took up agriculture and began to stake claims to property was there a need for leadership. Since the criterion to be a leader was physical strength a male dominance emerged. Education has helped address that inequality to some extent, but there remains a need to work to improve equality by overturning entrenched customs and habits of mind.

With regard to the question of universal human values in relation to investment banking, Leanardo Huber suggested that corporate responsibility would be a start, but, he added these are things that need to be talked about. His Holiness remarked that a materialistic way of life has materialistic goals, but we also have to ask what consciousness is. He recounted discussing this with Russian scientists who would not accept the notion of mental consciousness, dismissing it as a religious idea. He mentioned the value of ancient Indian psychology and its methods for training the mind through meditation. Today, the discovery of neuroplasticity has shown that meditative practice can change the brain.

“People are used only to considering sensory sources of pleasure and joy; little attention is paid to the mind. In Tibet, following the traditions of India’s Nalanda University we make extensive use of analytical meditation; always asking why? why? why? If we come across an explanation that contradicts reason, we reject it.”

Answering a few questions from the audience, His Holiness suggested that children can be trained with love and affection to learn to manage their emotions. He expressed doubt that artificial intelligence will ever fully replicate the sophistication of the human mind that designed it in the first place.

Asked how to find peace of mind, he replied that first you need to value it. You need to understand how emotions like anger and hatred are unhelpful because they disturb it, whereas cultivating their opposite, compassion, strengthens peace of mind. He pointed out that destructive emotions are rooted in a distorted view of reality. He quoted Aaron Beck, an American psychiatrist with long experience working with people troubled by anger, who told him that when people are angry, the object of their anger seems to be completely negative, but this is 90% mental projection.

He added that it useful to know that emotions do not belong to the nature of the mind. The mind is clear like water, but also like water it can become clouded by emotions. The natural clarity of the mind was something he stressed.

Moderator Susanne Wille asked the panel for one idea they were going to take away from the discussion. Dr Högger mentioned self-responsibility and the need for personal change. For Dr Hohenstein it was the idea of emotional hygiene and not focussing on secondary differences. Dr Gerber-Grote voiced an appreciation for empathy and Leanardo Huber said he was intrigued by the idea of analytical meditation.

Jean-Marc Piveteau expressed thanks to His Holiness and the other members of the panel on behalf of ZHAW University. Dr Karma Dolma Lobsang, on behalf of Tibet-Institute Rikon, also expressed gratitude, noting that this was the fourth and last event of the celebrations of the Tibet-Institute’s 50th anniversary. She wished His Holiness a long life, safe travels and told him that these days with him would not be forgotten. Once more, warm applause filled the hall.

His Holiness and the panellists were invited to lunch by the University. Afterwards His Holiness left for Berne, from where he will fly to India tomorrow.

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