Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dali Lama

I have just got back home from a weekend of teaching by the Dali Lama on 'Lam Rim' or 'The Path to Enlightenment'. The Path to Enlightenment is a 14 century Tibetan text written by Tsong-Kha-Pa which has just been translated into English.
This was such a wonderful experience and I'm so glad that I decide to go. The Dali Lama has an amazing presence. He's fierce, serious, thoughtful, and mostly filled with an infectious child-like joy. A friend Sue joined me for the weekend and we were lucky enough to be siting right at the front, about 4 people away for the Dali Lama and his monks. This was a lovely experience as you really became involved in the close relationship he shares with his long time translator. The Dali Lama would teach in Tibetan and his words would then be translated into English - his English is pretty good but he struggles to explain more difficult concepts. He was fast to jump in with a stern chastisement when the translator made mistakes but it was clear that the two have a loving relationship.
Much of the teachings were on lack of self and taming of the mind through meditation. As the mind becomes more tame emotions weaken in force (recognizing the destructiveness of certain emotions and cultivating antidotes to them)
Its very difficult to capture what I learned this weekend because his teachings were very deep and I don't think I can do them justice in my own clumsy words. He taught an interesting lesson on the differences and similarities between Christianity and Buddhism.
Tough stuff. The Dali Lama has had some deep friendships with monks etc. of other religions and has clearly spent a lot of time contemplating them. His discussions on compassion and emptiness were beautiful.
I also enjoyed his discussions on developing an indifference to harms caused to oneself - this I'm getting better at, and that one should take a firm stand when harm is being committed. I guess the route you take depends on the harm being committed - I find it hard to know which way to jump.
He also discussed being exposed to people on self destructive paths and how to deal with their pain without disturbing your own peace of mind. He also cautioned that there is an old Tibetan saying ' a man who has fallen cannot help another fallen man to his feet'. I think its best for now that I continue to avoid conflicted people:)
This morning the guy we were siting next to during the teachings offered us free tickets to the afternoon 'public' session. This was a much more generic, less spiritual talk, but he did discuss his views on the causes of unhappiness in the West - grasping at careers, money, always wanting more possessions, getting onto a turntable and being unable to get off. This is much of what his teachings had covered over the weekend, on a deeper level and really sums up the issues that I have been struggling with for years. This came at a really good time for me as I will be handing in my resignation in just over a week to try a more simple lifestyle. The public talk also made us realize how lucky we'd been to go to the private lecture sessions.
What an amazing weekend!

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