Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dalai Lama Says Basic Human Nature is Compassionate

Second Day of Association of Indian Universities’ Meet at Sarnath
March 20, 2018

Sarnath, UP, India - Before attending the Association of Indian Universities’ (AIU) Meet this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to a gathering of Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies’ (CIHTS) teachers. He recalled that Kapila Vatsyayan had taken the initiative to establish the Institute fifty years ago to help keep Tibetan culture alive. He observed that as people have become aware of the shortcomings of modern education, interest has grown in ancient Indian traditions. The past extensive use of logic and reasoning is now only to be found preserved in the Tibetan tradition. In addition, Tibetans find themselves almost the sole repository of the ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.

“I have suggested that study of these things should not be confined to monks and nuns, but should be made available to lay people too. However, it is difficult to accommodate them in our monastic institutions. With the establishment of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics and this institution it became easier for lay people and foreigners to engage with our traditions of study. Lay people could, for example, confine their attention to the Middle Way School, Perfection of Wisdom and Logic and Epistemology. The needn’t pay close heed to monastic discipline, which is only the concern of the ordained, or Higher Knowledge (Abhidharma) much of which, like its account of cosmology, is becoming difficult to defend. We could even offer subsidiary degrees in Middle Way, Perfection of Wisdom and Logic only.

“The great classic texts are available in Tibetan, we don’t have to rely on Sanskrit or any other language to read and study them. And it’s worth remembering that being able to recite in Sanskrit isn’t nearly as important as being able to read and understand the meaning.

“A Tibetan I met who is familiar with China told me there are many Chinese intellectuals interested in studying Tibetan to access these materials. It would be good if we could provide facilities for them. Since they have visa problems when they come here we might consider establishing a centre of learning in Bodhgaya. It would be helpful if CIHTS could give assistance to this.”

Back in the Conference Hall, Prof PB Sharma welcomed one and all. He asked the Vice-Chancellors to consider how to identify values beyond religion, values that can be accepted as universal in that they apply to the whole of humanity. He quoted His Holiness as saying that karuna or compassion, truth and honesty are values that belong to us all.

When His Holiness was invited to offer opening remarks he replied that he had nothing special to say other than that he enjoyed seeing the audiences’ smiling faces. He also made clear that he was looking forward to hearing other people’s views and suggestions.

“One thing, however, that I’d like to tell you is that I always sleep nine hours and get up at around 3am. Then I spend about three hours in meditation, mostly analysing the nature of self and investigating where is the ‘I’.

“Yesterday I didn’t mention that scientists have found evidence from experiments with infants before they are able to talk that suggests that basic human nature is compassionate. At the same time they have evidence that constant anger, hatred and fear hamper our immune system and undermine our health. Warm-heartedness, on the other hand, supports it, which I take as a real sign of hope. I’ve also seen Palestinian and Jewish children happily playing together in a Pestalozzi school in Switzerland, without hesitation or restraint.

“It’s only after they have spent time in the modern education system that children begin to develop a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, so it seems that education can stifle our basic human nature. We need to learn how to keep our natural compassion alive and how to extend and develop it so it can encompass the whole of humanity. Modern life and modern education are focussed on external goals, whereas peace of mind concerns the mind within.”

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi of the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics gave an intense summary of the Value and Necessity of Secular Ethics in Education. He repeated His Holiness’s observation that while providing external comfort and development, modern education has neglected inner development. He cited the World Happiness Report’s account of the importance of mental health in adults, in childhood, in parents and in the social ambience of primary and secondary schools. Key to the Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) Negi has pioneered is a sense of emotional intelligence, which owes much to Paul Ekman’s work towards an atlas of emotions and what has been gleaned from ancient Indian sources.

Dr Girishwar Misra, vice-chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University in Wardha, Maharashtra suggested that the ultimate aim of education is enlightenment. It needs to advance the needs of individuals and society. He offered an acronym CRISP which he explained as representing:

Respect for humanity
Social Responsibility and respect for society, and
Professional responsibility.

He suggested these skills should be part of the school and education system.

Prof Deepak Behra of Sambalpur University proposed taking a more anthropological perspective on the question of education. He spoke of leading educationists shaping young minds and, perhaps inadvertently, inculcating them with competitive and self-centred attitudes. He observed that to be successful young people seek to secure skills, but when they have done so, finding themselves unemployed leads to anger and frustration.

During a short period of interaction with the Vice-Chancellors His Holiness clarified that by emotional hygiene he means tackling negative emotions as they arise before they run out of control. Asked his views of gender disparity he cited the Buddha’s regarding men and women equally inasmuch as he gave ordination to both. He compared persisting gender disparity to caste discrimination which is a remnant of feudalism that remains after the feudal system has gone. Today, he said, we live in a democratic world of equal rights.

He emphasized that we need to work to develop compassion, but that it can be done on the basis of scientific findings. He also clarified that the nature of action depends on the motivation. For an action to be positive or constructive, the motivation for it needs to be positive, driven by a concern for others, too. He suggested we have to make an effort to reinvigorate our basic human nature.

Answering a final question about ‘Buddham saranam gacchami’, His Holiness explained that from one angle the word Buddha implies the elimination of all negative qualities. Since it is the nature of the mind to know, so long as the mind is shrouded in ignorance, our ability to know is limited. Once it is freed of ignorance, destructive emotions have no sway and there is no constraint on the mind’s ability to know—another aspect of Buddha.

Prof PB Sharma thanked the audience for their forbearance as the meeting ran out of time and thanked His Holiness once more for coming and gracing the occasion.

His Holiness ate a quick lunch, drove to Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport and boarded a flight for Delhi. Tomorrow, early in the morning, he will return to Dharamsala.

Original link & photos: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2018/second-day-of-association-of-indian-universities-meet-at-sarnath

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dalai Lama Discusses Peace of Mind

"92nd Annual Meet of Association of Indian Universities at Sarnath - Inaugural Session"

March 19, 2018

Sarnath, UP, India - It was still dark in Delhi this morning when His Holiness the Dalai Lama left for the airport to board a flight to Varanasi. By the time of take-off, however, the sun had risen. Vice-Chancellor of the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS), Geshe Ngawang Samten received him on arrival at Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, from where he drove to the Institute in Sarnath. Smiling students holding white scarves, flowers and sticks of incense lined the way from the gate to His Holiness’s residence. Tashi Shölpa dancers sang and danced to welcome him. As he stepped out of his car a couple presented a new-born baby for him to bless. Young men and women in Tibetan costume offered the traditional ‘chemar changpu’.

Just before ten o’clock, Association of Indian Universities (AIU) President Prof PB Sharma and Secretary General Furqan Qamar, with Geshe Ngawang Samten, escorted His Holiness to the Conference Hall nearby. Once everybody was seated the institute song was performed by a mixed group of students. This was followed by a rendering of the auspicious Mangalacharan in Sanskrit by a group of female students, including some nuns. Their recitation was followed by a group of monks chanting the same piece in Tibetan, with which His Holiness joined in.

In his welcome address, Geshe Ngawang Samten, on behalf of every member of the CIHTS University, expressed deep gratitude to His Holiness for accepting their invitation. He welcomed everyone who had come to attend the meeting and pointed out that this is the first time that an AIU gathering has taken place in Varanasi, reputedly the oldest city in India. He also reminded everyone that Sarnath is where the Buddha gave his first teaching after his enlightenment and voiced the hope that transformative insights will emerge from the discussions that will take place over the next three days.

Prof Furqan Qamar, Secretary General of AIU, in his introductory remarks, thanked CIHTS and its Vice-Chancellor for hosting the meeting and declared it was a privilege for everyone attending to be in His Holiness’s presence. He noted that this year’s theme, ‘Higher Education in an Era of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Disruptive Technology, with a Focus on Human Values in an Era of Disruption’might weigh heavily on participants, but suggested there could not be a better setting, nor a better person to guide the conversation.

In his remarks, Prof Francisco Marmolejo, the World Bank's Lead Tertiary Education Specialist, noted that this is a unique moment for India, when it is going to find itself with the largest most youthful population in the world. He said it is in India’s and the world’s interest for India to succeed, because if she does not the world will fail. In this higher education is essential, as is human dignity. Not only is there a need for more education, but also for better education.

In his extensive Presidential address, Prof PB Sharma took up similar themes. He stated that there is a need for a focus on quality, relevance and excellence, noting that loss of values has given rise to greed and disruption. He quoted Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a former President of AIU and President of India, who said, “The end product of education should be a free creative man, who can battle against historical circumstances and the adversities of nature.” Prof Sharma called on his fellow Vice-Chancellors to resolve to foster values and education in the temples of learning of an awakened India. “We must therefore,” he urged, “effectively blend the wisdom of our antiquity with the modernity of human civilization to support the resurgence of India to its global eminence.”

His Holiness was called upon to release the AIU Annual Report, as well as a collection of occasional papers. Then, as the Chief Guest, he was requested to give the inaugural address. Although yesterday, due to weariness he had sought permission to speak from his chair, today he stood at the podium.

“Respected brothers and sisters, this is how I prefer to begin because I really feel that if we kept the 7 billion human beings alive today in our hearts as brothers and sisters, many of the problems we face would disappear. Instead we think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, which just leads to trouble. The world is becoming smaller and more interdependent. The global economy has no boundaries. Climate change affects the entire world. Our lives depend on water, and yet it is becoming increasingly scarce. In this new reality we must find new ways to think and act. Violence and war, outdated behaviour, must cease.

“When men fought in the past with swords, spears or obsolete guns it wasn’t so serious, they couldn’t do too much damage, but today there are several thousand nuclear weapons primed for use.

“I have visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two places where nuclear weapons were used against human beings and I will never forget seeing a watch, its hands stopped at the instant of the attack, half melted by the intensity of the heat.

“Several years ago at a meeting of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome we heard about the practical consequence of a nuclear exchange, which were far-reaching and utterly horrifying in the damage it would do the world and its people. I suggested then a resolution to reduce and eliminate the stock piles of such weapons, setting a clear time-table for its accomplishment. But nothing happened.

“We should reflect on the contradiction that if one man kills another he goes to jail, but when a man is responsible for the deaths of hundreds in war he is feted as a hero. Violence results from anger and fear. These are what we must reduce.

“As a young monk in Tibet I studied reluctantly until I began to recognise how valuable was the knowledge Shantarakshita had brought to our country in the 8th century. What was precious about the Nalanda Tradition we have since kept alive was the wonderful opportunity it provided to build inner strength and achieve peace of mind, which doesn’t depend on external factors.

“As I’ve already mentioned, the 20th century saw great developments in many areas, but it was also flawed by violence. Today, elements of the old way of thinking that gave rise to it remain—the inclination to solve problems by use of force. This is simply out of date. If it had resulted in general benefit it might have been acceptable, but it has never been the case. This is why this century should be an era of dialogue, a time when we think of others as part of ‘us’ and seek equitable solutions to conflicts between us.

“Education has a role in this. Ancient Indian knowledge of the workings of our mind and emotions has a practical contribution to make. Just as we teach children to follow codes of physical hygiene to protect their health, so we need to institute a corresponding sense of emotional hygiene.

His Holiness explained that in ancient India the common practices of shamatha and vipashyana, tranquillity and insight, gave rise to a profound understanding of the mind. And although this is recorded in religious texts, there is no reason at all why today it cannot be studied from an academic angle. This appreciation of mind and emotions involves a thorough-going use of logic and reason—a scientific approach.

His Holiness cited the relevance today of India’s age-old traditions of ahimsa and secularism. India is the one country where all the world’s major religions live together side by side.

“That the Buddha was a product of ancient India is something we can all be proud of,” he continued. “Today, we should combine modern education with the ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions. We need to rely on common sense and scientific findings. For more than 30 years I have engaged in discussions with scientists that have been mutually beneficial. Raja Ramana told me that although the findings of quantum physics seem new today, he had found what he recognised as corresponding insights in the writings of Nagarjuna from many centuries ago.

“Similarly, when we compare ancient Indian and modern psychology, the modern tradition still seems to be at a very preliminary stage of development. Peace of mind is not only the proper basis of world peace, it also enables us to make full use of our own intelligence.
“I trust that you will have serious and fruitful discussions here—and I thank you.”

CIHTS Registrar Dr RK Upadhyay offered words of thanks. Everyone stood for the National Anthem. Next, Vice-Chancellors gathered at the foot of the stage on the Kalachakra Ground where a group photograph was taken with His Holiness, after which they enjoyed a sumptuous lunch together on the Library Lawn. His Holiness will attend a further session of the meeting tomorrow morning.

original link & photos: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2018/92nd-annual-meet-of-association-of-indian-universities-at-sarnath-inaugural-session

Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Patrick & the Racism/Segregation--Pagan/Spiritism Parallel

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the timesto know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command. (1 Chronicles 12:32, emphasis added)
 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
Like the men of Issachar, we need to understand OUR times so that we might know what we ought to do; but we have blind spots. Let me explain.
Segregation is to Racism as Spirit Communication is to Paganism. Huh?
We are approaching St Patrick’s Day, and I think it is appropriate that we address this issue in that light. While a slave, he learned Irish, and was effective in helping to bring Christ to a nation in bondage to paganism and occult practices.
Every generation of Christian’s (contrary to Issachar) seems to have a glaring blind spot/s; so glaring that one wonders how an entire generation/s overlooked it. My parents generation is known as the “Greatest Generation’, and for good reason—living though the Depression and fighting in WW II, ECT.  However, my parent’s generation of Christians, and many generations before them, was either racist themselves or didn’t speak out against it (many exceptions, including my parents). It was a terrible black eye on the church. It was this type of ‘plasticity’ or hypocrisy that fueled the hippie generations rebellion. The 50’s caused the 60’s; there is a flow to human and cultural history.
Indeed, not a few pastors/theologians tried to support racism, or segregation, from the bible. The same had been done with slavery before that. It is hard to step out of one’s historical situation, unless you are saturated with a biblical worldview. But given scriptures clarity, there was no excuse for their attitudes or actions regarding race.
Racism led to the practice of segregation.  It is important to see what is cause and what is effect; sinful racism of the heart led to sinful practices of segregation, which were exceedingly degrading to black people’s dignity.
We would never do that!  Or have we….?
I fondly remember my dad being probably the only business owner in Moore County in NC who did NOT have segregated bathrooms/water fountains in the 50’s, and who hired a black man as an equal.
Shortly after I was converted when I was 17, I was turned on to Francis Schaeffer, and he pointed out this racist blind spot and subsequent black-eye for the church. Forty-five years later, I vividly remember the prayer I prayed then, and continued to pray through the years: “Lord, please show me how MY generation is blind; how am I blind.” Ten years ago, I believe the Lord answered my prayer.
I saw the effect first, before I saw the cause.  The popularity of ghost hunting/spirit communication (effect) led me to see the larger issue of the dominance of the pagan worldview (cause). Just as racism led to segregationist policies, so the ascendency of the pagan worldview has led to communication with the spirit realm and this amongst many Christians. Yes, we are blind.
Ideas/beliefs and worldviews inevitably express themselves in actions. As Dr. Peter Jones points out in “The Other Worldview”, and other books, secularism/materialism, etc, has been replaced by the pagan/neo-Gnostic/occult/New Age as the main worldview enemy of the Truth. But most Christian leaders are still battling against tired, worn out, dying foes, or at least neglecting the primary enemy.
Paganism is to spirit communication (EVP’s, mediums/psychics, energy healers, etc.), as racism was to segregation. Just as racism was the cause behind segregationist practices, so the occult worldview is fueling this mushrooming craze for spirit communication, in all its various forms. That parallel is meant to be shocking, because the reality is shocking. I am NOT saying that Christians, or anyone, who engages in spirit communication is racist—that totally misses the point of the analogy.
But most Christians today (there are many exceptions) are blind to this undeniable fact, or are being silent about it, because they don’t want their pursuit of personal peace and affluence to be disrupted. How selfish we are. How awfully selfish, and our children/grandchildren will scream as they face difficult days ahead:”Why…why didn’t they do something, while they still could?” Indeed, why not? 
It is one of the blind spots of the church today: both the worldview of paganism, and the practice of spirit communication (via EVP's, mediums, psychics, meditation, Reiki, yoga, etc) The blindness is mostly due to a culpable ignorance of Christians in general, and pastors in particular-a vincible ignorance; an ignorance that should have been resisted and overcome. Walk down the aisle of any bookstore or toy store, watch the news, see TV programming, and movies, and you will be surrounded by paganism and spiritism, in countless variety.
Having been a pastor myself for fifteen years, I have a profound respect for clergy. However, it is the responsibility of all Christians, but especially preachers, to be in-tune with OUR generation (like men of Issachar) and to apply the timeless truth of God’s Word to changing culture. However, when was the last time your pastor preached on: understanding a pagan worldview, or the bible’s view of ghosts, mediums/psychics, energy healing, and the like? (Many in their congregations are either curious or confused.) Just as there was a dearth of biblical preaching on racism and segregation in the past, there is a similar lack of preaching on the pagan worldview and spirit communication today. We are always the last ones to see our own blind-spots.
I am using the racist/segregation analogy for its shock value intentionally; to shock Christians, and especially Christian leaders, awake to the fact that we are being just as blind to paganism/spirit communication as our ancestors were to racism/segregation. Just as there was no excuse for their silence regarding beliefs and practices about race, so we, too, have no excuse for staying silent.
I am still in the process of sending out the ‘Open Letter to Christian Paranormal Investigators,’ and as we state in the preface, it is sent with the same spirit and intent of MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” What prompted me to write that letter was the answered prayer of 45 years ago, which has haunted me all these years: “Lord, where are WE blind? Where am I blind?”
In my hometown of Greensboro, NC is where the international sit-in movement got its genesis; four courageous, black Christian men sat at the Woolworth's counter and waited for food. The actions of four college students grew into an international civil rights sit-in movement. They were real change agents. We still have a way to go regarding race, but substantial change has occurred. And it’s my prayer that God would use our humble ‘open letter’ to start a similar awareness and action with regards to paganism and the practice of speaking to the spirit realm, before it’s too late.
Certainly, there are other issues like abortion, but when will Christians see that we, too, have a glaring blind-spot? None of us are above being deceived or blind; like fish accustomed to the water, we have become so accustomed to our generational mindset, that we don’t have the eyes to see the evil and error that has crept in and become ensconced in our culture.
Sadly, in each generation, the very folks who should be quick to see the blind spots are themselves the last ones to see it. Often the secular media picks up on it, and then Christians follow suit. (I doubt that the secular media will ever criticize paganism though). That is wrong, because we should be leading the charge, as salt and light! (See Matthew 5; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 10)
Looking back now, would you have marched with MLK if he came to your hometown, or would you have sneered, or just as bad, said: “I am personally opposed to racism and segregation, but I don’t want to rock the boat?” The unabashed pursuit of personal peace and affluence was/is another blind spot, and has always caused a lack of concern for significant issues. “Just leave me alone to enjoy my life on my terms.”  Selfish and dishonoring to God.
Would you have said:”Okay, Dr. King, you made your point—why do you have to keep harping on it?” And the answer is: he HAD to keep harping on it because few others were. Same holds true today.
I know that most Christians, who are engaged in spiritistic practices, detest racism and segregation. But my question to them, and everyone, is:  in light of scripture’s clarity, why can you not see OUR glaring blind spot? It is all around us and is opening demonic doors in ways unprecedented in human history.
We cannot scratch our collective heads as to how almost the entire ‘greatest generation’ could have been so blind as to what was happening all around them, every day, when we are just as blind regarding the rampant spiritual adultery that has invaded the church. In both cases, the band played on, until enough people spoke up that it began to have an impact.
We are called in 2 Cor. 10 to “tear down strongholds of evil and error…” (Paraphrase) In the ‘Open Letter to Christian Paranormal Investigators’, and in this blog, my intent is to do precisely that.  Note the last verse, in which Paul says he is ready to punish all disobedience. In today’s context what that would look like is this. If I was still a pastor and one of my members was communicating with the spirit realm, they would be privately talked to by the pastor (me); if they resisted then they would be brought before the elders,; and if they continued to resist, then, with tears, would be excommunicated, with the hopes that they would awaken, repent and be restored to fellowship. The purity of the Bride of Christ is at stake.
In closing, I know that spirit communication (in its countless forms of expression) is not as outwardly rampant as segregation was at one point--not yet, anyway. In light of St Patrick’s Day, it is appropriate to mention that IF we do not change, then the USA/Europe will likely become similar to pre-St Patrick Ireland—full of spiritual darkness and Druidic occultism. In the 4th century the church had to fight valiantly against Gnosticism, and now neo-Gnosticism has reappeared 1,500 years later, with Satan much better informed and filled with a furious zeal to destroy the church.
Segregation is to Racism as Spirit Communication is to Paganism.  We need to address the cause as well as the effect, and ‘pull them down’ through the omnipotent Word of God and the Holy 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, March 13, 2018

Dalai Lama at the Mind & Life Conference - Reimagining Human Flourishing

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - The Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, adjacent to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence was the location this morning for the opening of a Mind & Life Conference focussing on ‘Reimagining Human Flourishing’. Participants, presenters and moderators are seated around a large low table set laterally across the main body of the temple. They are flanked by guests and interested observers—100 from the Mind & Life side and another 200, many of them scholarly monks and nuns, invited by the Dalai Lama Trust. When His Holiness arrived he greeted several old friends before taking his seat at the head of the table.

Susan Bauer-Wu, President of the Mind & Life Institute, began by welcoming everyone present to this Mind & Life Dialogue, the 33rd altogether and the 13th in Dharamsala. She expressed gratitude to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama Trust and the Hershey Family Foundation for their support in making it possible. In the 26th year of its existence she reiterated the Mind & Life Institute’s aim of working to eliminate suffering and promote human flourishing. On this occasion the intention is to delve again into how to give young people a good education that takes account of secular ethics, attention and compassion, love and forgiveness—an education of the heart, bearing in mind the evidence that compassion can be taught. She closed her introduction by presenting His Holiness with a copy of a new book, ‘The Monastery and The Microscope’, a record of the dialogue that took place in Mundgod in 2013.

This morning’s moderator Kimberley Schonert-Reichl introduced the first speaker, Richard Davidson. He started by thanking His Holiness for his time and inspiration and went on to present a brief historical context for the current meeting. He cited five previous meetings as having a pivotal bearing on this one. The first was the 5th Mind & Life dialogue held in 1995 in Dharamsala, at which altruism, ethics and compassion were discussed. Next was the 8th Dialogue, also in Dharamsala, that dealt with d estructive emotions and led to Dan Goleman’s writing a book that catalysed public focus on them. At this pivotal point, Davidson reported, His Holiness advised the members of the Mind & Life Institute to investigate practical ways to cultivate a virtuous mind and counter destructive emotions.

The third key meeting on ‘Investigating the Mind’ took place at MIT. It was pivotal again because it was the first public meeting to raise questions about the mind and destructive emotions in a mainstream scientific context. The prestigious scientific journal Nature reported it and so brought the mission of Mind & Life to the attention of the world. The fourth key meeting, focussed on Neuroplasticity, revealed that training the mind can change the brain, while the fifth, in Washington, DC, focussed on educating world citizens.

Having reviewed the topics that will be discussed during the course of this conference, Davidson began his own presentation under today’s theme of Early Childhood Development and Social and Emotional Learning. He mentioned neuroplasticity, the role of genetics, sensitive periods and innate basic goodness in early childhood development. He talked about early synaptic overproduction, cortex pruning and prefrontal pruning in the context of a timeline of brain development. Some developments can lead to vulnerability, while others lead to resilience. He also made reference to sensitive periods in childhood development, such as birth, starting school and adolescence.

In the context of thoughts associated with changes in the brain, His Holiness wanted to know, if someone is physically at ease, which comes first the thought or the change in the brain. Davidson replied that many scientists say thought and brain activity co-occur, remarking that this relates to the relation between mind and brain about which he considers little scientific progress has been made for 100 years. This prompted His Holiness to reflect on the purpose of his meetings with scientists.

“One purpose is to extend our knowledge. Several decades of experience have shown that ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind derives from practices to cultivate single-pointedness and analysis—shamatha and vipashyana. It involves knowledge of how to transform emotions that remains relevant today. On the other hand, science presents a challenge to traditional Indian cosmology, which has resulted in my publicly rejecting belief in Mt Meru as the centre of the universe.

“However, since science is only beginning to investigate the mind, I believe ancient Indian knowledge has a contribution to make and that it is important to bring these traditions together. In 1979, when I held discussions with scientists in Moscow, they were happy to acknowledge five sensory consciousnesses, but dismissed mental consciousness as only of religious concern.

“The second purpose of these meetings relates to the crisis of emotions we witness in the world today, which is manifest in the contrast between the peace we enjoy together here and the anguish experienced in other parts of the world where people are being killed or dying of starvation. We need to show more concern for others’ well-being. We need a greater sense of the oneness of all human beings, the sense that we all belong to one community. We need to promote warm-heartedness. Religion can contribute to this, but sometimes religion leads to greater divisions. In such a context, scientists’ finding evidence that basic human nature is compassionate is a source of hope.

“That basic human nature can give rise to self-confidence, trust and transparency. It allows us to smile. Viewing others with suspicion is not a way to be happy. The one billion of seven billion people alive today who have no interest in religion are still human beings. We and they need a secular approach to creating a more peaceful, joyful world. Science shows us, for example, that warm-heartedness is good for our physical health.

“The time has come to think in terms of the whole of humanity not just our nation within its own boundaries. The environment too is telling us that we human beings have to work together as one community, which is the only way we’ll meet such serious issues as the increasing shortage of water. It will require a new approach to education that takes account of scientific findings and that cultivates human qualities on the basis of a secular scientific approach.

“This world with its human population may last another few thousand years, but we have to encourage the next generation to do things differently. I’m nearly 83, so I don’t have that much time left and when I’m gone I may go to heaven, if there is one. But I may be reborn on this planet since I pray to abide to dispel the misery of the world for as long as space endures and as long as living beings remain.

“It is our generation’s responsibility to act. We’ve seen too much war. We’ve seen too much money spent on weapons. To respond to problems by resort to the use of force is out of date. It’s the wrong method and yet we see it being repeated now at the beginning of the 21st century. We have to change, but our education system is too materialistic. However, we can improve that and the work we do now can influence the centuries to come.”

Richard Davidson concluded his presentation noting an increase in depression and suicide among children and young people. He remarked that leading scientists are beginning to acknowledge the potential contribution ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind can make.

After a fifteen minute break for tea Michel Boivin spoke about studies in child development, especially the investigation of the way twins develop. With regard to whether nature or nurture has greater influence in child development he quoted another expert in field asking which is more important to a rectangle, the width or the length.

Dan Goleman considered social and emotional learning in the context of reimagining human flourishing. He spoke of teaching young children to think about what would make a given situation better and what would make it worse. He reminded His Holiness that his friend Paul Ekman had commented that maturity is about widening the gap between impulse and taking action. Amongst social and emotional learning’s advantages are that it leads to greater self-awareness and self-management skills, as well as responsible ethical decision making.

His Holiness remarked that the mind can change and that children are susceptible to being taught to analyse. He noted the ancient Indian approach that reading or listening to an explanation is not enough. You have to think about it to really understand it. And having understood something you have make yourself really familiar with it in order to embody that understanding.

As the opening session came to an end, His Holiness left the temple and returned to his residence. Conference participants continued their discussions during the afternoon. His Holiness will join them again tomorrow morning.

Original link & photos: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2018/mind-life-conference-reimagining-human-flourishing-opening-day

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dalai Lama Celebrates the Day of Miracles

Celebrating the Day of Miracles

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - The courtyard of the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, was packed with people, Tibetans and others, who had gathered to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning. He was escorted from his residence to the throne set up beneath the Temple under the shade of a huge ceremonial umbrella, to the stirring accompaniment of chanting monks. After His Holiness had taken his seat, the Heart Sutra was recited while tea and sweet rice were served.

After reciting a verse calling on gods, demigods and others to listen to the teaching, His Holiness also repeated Nagarjuna’s verse,

Homage to Gautama
Who, through compassion,
Taught the exalted Dharma,
Which leads to the relinquishing of all views.

“Today,” he began, “is the Day of Miracles, celebrated as part of the Great Prayer Festival that has been held in Lhasa for almost 600 years. It commemorates an occasion during the Buddha’s life when he defeated other ascetics in a display of miraculous feats.

“Gods or human beings, we all want to be happy and the root of happiness is in the mind. Liberation may take some time, but we can all find peace of mind if we pay attention to it here and now. Even animals, when they are not in danger, remain relaxed and at peace. What makes us upset is anger, fear and suspicion. It’s the unruliness of our minds that makes us unhappy. The ancient Indian traditions saw dealing with mental afflictions as more important than cultivating sensory pleasure. The Buddhas don’t wash away misdeeds and mental afflictions with water, they show us how to understand reality as it really is—that is how we can overcome them.

“We tend to see things as existing independently on their own part, and when they are attractive we become attached to them. When somehow our access to them is disrupted we get angry. American psychologist Aaron Beck explained to me that in observing people, who he described as prisoners of anger, he saw that they viewed the object of their anger as totally negative. However, he judged that 90% of this response was their own mental projection. Nagarjuna stated similarly that the elimination of karma and mental afflictions, which arise due to our conceptual exaggerations, leads to liberation. Ignorance is a combination of misconception and exaggeration. And it’s because of insights, such as dependent orignation, that today scientists are taking interest in what the Buddha had to say about the mind.”

His Holiness explained that the Buddha did not teach immediately after his enlightenment because he reflected that no one would understand what he had realized. In due course, however, he taught the nature, function and results of the Four Noble Truths.

We cling to the appearance that things exist independently, he said, a distorted view that the Buddha countered by use of reason. Human nature is compassionate, rooted in the love our mothers show us, without which we would not survive. And yet the world is rife with conflict and problems, which occur when we are overwhelmed by anger and attachment. Secular education based on universal values can help us better understand the flaws in this. On the other hand, the Buddha taught that we can put an end to karma and mental afflictions by challenging our view of true existence through meditation on emptiness.

“We need to know who the Buddha is,” His Holiness continued, “which doesn’t mean being able to identify the major and minor marks of his body, but coming to understand his teaching. The more we familiarize ourselves with his teaching, the more we appreciate how scientific it is.

“The Buddha taught different things to different groups of people at different times. He first explained the Four Noble Truths. In the second turning of the wheel of Dharma he explained the perfection of wisdom, and in the third turning he taught about Buddha nature. The Four Noble Truths included a rough account of selflessness, which the perfection of wisdom explains more subtly. In the ‘Unravelling of Thought Sutra’, part of the third turning of the wheel, he clarified that he taught according to his listeners’ different mental disposition.

“Essentially the Buddha taught how to transform the mind, which involves the use of logic and reason. By seeing through our distorted views we can penetrate our mental afflictions. Just as we preserve our health by following a code of physical hygiene, we need to adopt a sense of mental hygiene to achieve and preserve our peace of mind, here and now.”

Noting that the tradition for commemorating the Buddha on this day includes reading one of the Jataka Tales, the stories of the Buddha’s previous lives, His Holiness observed that the collection was compiled by Aryasura, also known as Ashvaghosha, a student of Aryadeva who was the disciple of Nagarjuna. Today’s story concerned a noble, selfless hare, who lived in the forest where he led other animals, an otter, a jackal and a monkey in particular, along the path of virtue.

After reading the opening of the Jataka Tale, His Holiness annnounced that he would also like to read Je Tsongkhapa’s ‘In Praise of Dependent Origination’, transmission of which he received from the Kinnauri Lama, Rigzin Tempa. It begins with a verse of homage to the Conqueror who saw dependent origination and taught it. It is on the basis of this that we can overcome our distorted view of reality that is the root of our mental afflictions. These mental afflictions, His Holiness stressed, are not of the nature of the mind. He remarked that the perfection of wisdom teachings of the second turning of the wheel deal with the emptiness that is the object clear light, while the third turning of the wheel refers to the subjective clear light, the subtle mind that is used to realize emptiness. This mind of clarity and awareness is the basis of the practice of tantra. All Tibetan Buddhist traditions stress the importance of understanding the nature of the mind.

As His Holiness read through the verses he paused to clarify and observe. Understanding dependent origination helps us overcome ignorance, the first of the twelve links of dependent origination, which can involve not understanding the law of causality, or ignorance of how things are. He observed that ‘dependence’ counters the extreme view of eternalism, while ‘origination’ counters nihilism. We know things exist because they affect us, but they only exist by way of designation. In clarifying dependent origination His Holiness mentioned that a result exists in dependence on its cause, but we can also say that something is only a cause because it has a result. There is a similar relation between a whole and its parts.

“The study of logic prevailed in India and we have continued that tradition in Tibet,” His Holiness observed as he was nearing the end of his reading of the text. “The great texts of Indian Buddhist literature were translated into Tibetan, thereby enriching the Tibetan language, which is now the language in which Buddhist ideas can be most accurately expressed. The Buddhist tradition we have kept alive in Tibet is something like a treasure for the world; it’s something for us to be proud of.

“Even after the political fragmentation of Tibet, the Kangyur and Tengyur collections were a source of unity and harmony. They were found and revered in all three provinces of Tibet, as well as adjacent lands like Mongolia and Ladakh. Although I am not very highly educated, I can appreciate that there is knowledge in this literature that can contribute to a wider conversation. For example, the quantum physics view that things have no objective existence resonates with the views of the Mind Only School. The difference may be that in our tradition we try to use our understanding of how things are to transform the mind, which quantum physicists may not do.

“Je Tsongkhapa applied what he learned in practice. We too have to integrate what we have learned into our own minds. We need to study and reflect so that our faith is based on reason. In the past, Namgyal Monastery, the two tantric colleges of Gyutö and Gyumé and nunneries didn’t peruse the philosophical treatises, but at my urging they have taken up their study to good effect. These monks and nuns have set a bright example for the generations to come.”

Dedication prayers were recited as His Holiness descended from the throne. He then walked back to his residence, greeting friends and well-wishers in the smiling crowd on the way.

Original link & photos: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2018/celebrating-the-day-of-miracles

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Lordship Attributes

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
We call God “Lord” all the time, but what does it mean? To say that God is ‘Lord’ includes at least these three things: His control, His authority, and His presence. Let’s briefly look at each. This has nothing to do explictly with the paranormal, but I have long thought (and said) that the greatest need in the church in general, and those interested/involved in the paranormal in particular, is a greater understanding of who God is: theology proper. Knowledge of God and knowledge of are ourselves is inextricably connected in a thousand different ways.  So, for many reasons, the doctrine of God and understanding His Lordship attributes , are of immense practical benefit.
In God’s dealings with Israel, He regularly connects His lordship with His sovereign power; controlling ALL things. He shows mercy and grace to whom He wills, and withholds it from whom he wills (Exodus 33:19); whatever he intends to do, He accomplishes, and nothing or no one can thwart Him. Nothing is too hard for Him (Jer. 32:17) His Word is never void of power (Isa. 55:11) God controls the forces of all reality (visible and invisible) including nature, human history, and free human decisions (including sinful decisions by men and Satan/demons). It is God who is sovereignly powerful in salvation. The following texts show the comprehensive reach of God’s absolute sovereign power.
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
    unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that good and bad come? (Lamentations 3:37-38)
 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11 emphasis added)
 God’s authority is His right to tell His creatures what they must and must not do. Control is about might; authority is about right. Control means that God makes everything happen; authority means He has the right to be in control of all things and the right to be obeyed in all things. Authority implies obligation on our part to obey Him. Just as God told Moses that all the people must obey Yahweh, so Jesus says that we are to obey His commandments as an expression of our love for Him (John 14:15, ect). His authority flows from being both our Creator and our Redeemer—the ascended King. God’s authority is absolute, which means that we should not doubt or question it; it also entails that His lordship must transcend all our other loyalties. And to say that God’s authority is absolute, means that it covers every area of human life. (1 Cor. 10:31) He has the right to order every aspect of our lives; nothing is autonomous, morally neutral, or in a ‘personal compartment’. For example, no matter how much ‘in love’ you may feel, neither your feelings nor your conscience, may sanction illicit sex which God forbids. And there is no quicker way to open yourself to demonic influence than through illicit sex. Under God’s authority, this gives the evil one legal rights.
In a sense, this lordship attribute is the most precious; His commitment to be present with us, personally. The essence of God’s covenant was/is His promise: “I will be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Jer. 7:23; Gen. 17: 7; Ex. 6:7; Rev. 21:3) HE IS WITH US! The transcendent Creator is with/in us, His children. He places His Name upon us and dwells within us. Jesus is “Immanuel”, God with us. (Matt.1:23) At Pentecost, He sent the Holy Spirit as the agent of the Trinity, to dwell within in His children, and be a Trinitarian homemaker within us. (John 14:23) 23 Jesus answered him,“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” How lovely! How comforting and precious!
Power, Authority, and Presence
Since we have been discussing the law and ethics recently, I want to apply these lordship attributes to Christian decision making and the structure of Christian ethics. And I might add, all of these, considered individually or collectively, are supremely comforting!
By His control, God plans and rules nature and history (including our own personal history), so that certain actions are conducive to His glory, and others are not. By His power, God protects us from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Only God knows how many catastrophic and tragic events His power has protected us from, as well as overwhelming temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13) In a sense, every second of our lives, is a “God thing.”
By His authority, He speaks to us clearly in His divine Word (Old and New Testaments), giving us norms to govern our thoughts, actions, and deeds. The Holy Spirit works in tandem with the Word, which He authoritatively inspired.
By His presence, He is with us in our ethical decision making; we are not orphans. His presence within us empowers us with the ability to do good and to set us free from the enslaving power of sin and the devil. (John 8:34-36)
What is the appropriate response to each lordship attribute?
His control teaches us to trust in God and not fret, and that Romans 8:28 is literally true! His absolute sovereign power means that every atom that bounces off of you was ordained by God. It means that in every step you take, you can take comfort in God’s sovereign care for you. He is our mighty fortress!
His authority means that we need to learn to obey Him, in all areas of life. (Deut. 6:1-3).
You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. (Psalm 119:4-6)
God’s control of all things motivates us to trust Him, and His authority motivates us to obey Him.
And when we become aware of God’s presence, we are moved to worship; when the King enters, we bow down! It has been said that all theology should lead to doxology, and none more so than an awareness of God’s intimate presence with us!
Faith/trust, obedience, and worship: these responses to the lordship attributes provide the foundation for ethical decision making. In all ethical decisions, we should consider this triad of lordship attributes: Am I trusting the Lord in this situation, or am I sick with worry/regret? Am I obeying Him, or bowing before an idol? Am I worshipping Him, or am I quick to complain?
One of the most precious promises is Romans 8:28. In order for God to be able to ‘deliver’ on that promise, He has to have absolute, sovereign power over all things; He must have divine authority over all things; and His presence must be intimately near. This triad of Lordship attributes guides the weaving of the ‘tapestry’. God’s lordship attributes ensure the realization of this blessed promise in Romans 8:28 for His children.
And when you combine all three, then we realize that in every situation we find ourselves in (including my sitting in this chair at this exact moment) has been ordained by God, and I meet Him personally in all my steps—or sits! Every trial, every blessing, all the slogging through a tough day, every step, we meet God. Every step is holy ground because He has ordained that step, He has the authority to do so, and His Holy presence is with us in that step. Every foot-fall is holy ground. It is quite amazing, actually, when you consider the implications of how all three of these lordship attributes bring purpose, comfort, confidence, security, significance, and love to every moment of our lives. Power, authority, and presence.
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.