Rewiring the System

Notes sent by a friend: HHDL in MA May 2009

Posted in Uncategorized by rewiringangel on May 6, 2009

Some notes from HHDL’s teaching in MA on May 2, 2009


Today at 4:43am

On May 2nd I was fortunate enough to be able to attend two teachings given by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Massachusetts. I decided that even though my notes can never be as clear and concise as His Holiness, it would still be helpful to share them. Any mistakes, omissions, or confusion is my responsibility! Please enjoy!

This is the noble truth of suffering.
This is the noble truth of origin.
This is the noble truth of cessation.
This is the noble truth of the path.

Suffering is to be understood, but there is nothing to understand.
The origin is to be abandoned, but there is nothing to be abandoned.
Cessation is to be realized, but there is nothing to be realized.
The path is to be cultivated, but there is nothing to cultivate.

In order to be healthy, first we must try to understand the illness,
Then we try to eliminate its cause by relying on medicine,
Similarly, the suffering, its cause, cessation and the path,
need to be understood, abandoned, realized and developed.” 

His Holiness started the morning teaching at about 9:30ish in the morning. He welcomed us sincerely as his brothers and sisters and expressed His joy that we all could be here on this day.

His Holiness went on the express His view that cultivating a strong and healthy mental state is even more important than the physical state. He explained with His personal experiences, observations of others, and even scientific evidence why He believes this to be so. For example, if depression resides in the mind, physical pain and problems in your life grow much worse, more intense. If your mental state is weak, then even a small event becomes enormous to you. You fly off the handle at even the slightest thing! You make a mountain out of a mole hill! His Holiness compared this to your physical body: how if your subtle immune system is good, then you can endure. But if it is weak or compromised, even small illnesses can know you down hard, even kill you! So! It is obvious that pleasure and pain are greatly related to your mental attitude.

At this point, the overcast day grew a little windy and more chilly. His Holiness asked those of us with hats and hoods to please put them on if we were feeling uncomfortable. As He proceeded to draw His robes in closer to him, he mentioned jokingly: “While we are talking about mental things, we also need to take care of the physical!!” 

His Holiness mentions that there are two kinds of people: religious and non-religious. Both groups of people have asked 3 key points for as long as we can recall:
A. What is I/Self?
B. What is the beginning of I/Self?
C. What is the ending of I/Self?
Our investigations have lead us to come up with answers to these questions, and His Holiness decides to analyze the answers religious people have come up with.

Theistic religions say that we are the owners of our body and our mind. For example, at death, the physical (body) ceases, but the metal (I/self) does not. It goes on. This is referred to by many Indian peoples as “atman,” and as “soul” by many of the West. The idea is that body changes, but not the atman/soul. This is permanent. 

Non-theistic religions state there is no soul, no I, no Self. The I/Self is merely labeled onto our body/mind. Buddhism asks: What is the reality of self? And concludes upon investigation, that you cannot find it. 

Theistic religion says that God created all space and beings. This creator God is looked upon as a perfect loving parent who possesses all good qualities. This endears Him, creates an intimate personal relationship with Him. It creates respect for Him. Faith is the main practice here. His Holiness says that this is a very powerful belief and it can be a very useful way to think. Serving God helps to reduce attachment and ego. 

At this point, His Holiness said “Buddha’s business, not your business,” but I missed why He said it. It brought to mind a mind training slogan of Atisha’s thought: Do not ponder others.

The Non-theistic point of view of the beginning of the I/Self is the Law of Causality. There is not a belief in a creator-God, but of causes and conditions. (This, as well as karma, ALWAYS brings to mind science’s first two laws of Thermodynamics: ) We can trace this waking state of consciousness we are experiencing right now back to when we awoke this morning, or afternoon, etc. But where did that previous moment come from? We trace this back to an earlier state-when we were sleeping. You can keep tracing consciousness back as long as there is even one bit of consciousness at the subtlest level. Thus we have the saying “beginningless time.”

When the body is here, then the mind functions. When the body is NOT there, the mind stops, aka death. But the mind is not dependent on the physical; it is not dependent on the sensory organs. So what IS mind? Buddhists define the nature of conscious mind as clear, luminous, and knowing. There are also 2 levels of mind to discuss now: that which is at the sensory level, and that which is more subtle. 

For example, to physically see this computer screen you need a properly functioning eye sense, the object and space around it, and a proceeding moment of awareness. In contrast, mental cognition can be brought about. For example: you close your eyes and you see buddhas, words, lol cats. (Of course, most often you are cultivating a memory or thought here.) 

His Holiness mentions that while Jain practitioners accept the Law of Causality, they also say that a permanent self exists. His Holiness says that He is not sure why this is, as He has yet to see it in the texts. I wanted to mention this, as it illustrates to me how honest and ego free His Holiness is. How he has no problem admitting when He does not know the answer to something. It really illustrates to me the way one should behave! 

The religious theist would say, yes it does. It ends in either Heaven or Hell. His Holiness wonders if this is a truly permanent state or not. Does God eventually withdraw all creations? His Holiness says, “I don’t know.” He feels that scripture is not clear enough on this. 

The non-theistic answer in Buddhism has 2 views. One is the “final solution,” that consciousness ceases to exist, that there will be nothing left. His Holiness’s response to this view was “I don’t like that!” The other schools argue that this view cannot be. What causes this complete cessation of mind? 

His Holiness believes that it is logical that the IMPURE mind would cease to exist, but not all of the mind as it is illogical. Deluded mind states are rooted in distorted states of reality, so these mind states are unstable-thus is makes sense that these unstable states can cease completely. His Holiness states that the majority of Buddhism schools reject that buddhas no longer exist, and believe that the pure self (which is the pure undeluded stable state of mind) remains. This is where the saying “As long as space remains,” is all about.

His Holiness tells us that all beings have different dispositions, and therefore, have the need for different traditions of religious belief. These different traditions, methods, all have the same goal, the same result: HAPPINESS. A good comparison is a supermarket with all it’s different varieties of food items. His Holiness reminds us that the most important thing is to respect all traditions. 

His Holiness begins to discuss the Four Noble Truths, which was Shakyamuni Buddha’s first teaching which took place in Sarnath, called the first turning of the wheel of Dharma.

Our main concern is suffering and overcoming it, always. Also acquiring permanent joy and happiness. This is our BASIC SENTIENT NATURE. Both happiness and suffering depend on different causes and conditions. You cannot get either by mere praying or wishing, there MUST be action involved!

The First Noble Truth deals with the fact that existence is suffering. From physical pain down to subtle emotions, as well as environments, pertaining to one’s own experience.

The Second Noble Truth deals with the origin of suffering. The origin is karma, actions of body, speech, and mind. Essentially it is a mental thing thought: recall the Dhammapada, “It is with our thoughts that we create the world.” The origin is also the mental afflictions that give rise to karma. 

The Third Noble Truth pertains to the cessation of suffering. Suffering ceases when all delusions (ignorance, hatred, attachment, fear, jealousy, etc.) obscurations, negativities are purified from the mind. 

The Fourth Noble Truth asks how do we achieve this? And answers: through the true path! Elliminate the cause of suffering and permanent happiness ensures! This permanent happiness depends on the fourth Noble Truth.

His Holiness reminds us of the 3 Root afflictions, often called the 3 Poisons, which are Ignorance, Hatred, and Attachment. It is from these that all subsequent afflictions arise. And of these, the very root is IGNORANCE. ALL delusions arise from ignorance, ignorance of the “I,” the self, the “Ultimate Nature of Reality.” The object/content of fundamental ignorance comes from grasping at self. 

What is the remedy to this root delusion, root affliction, and therefore, all others? Emptyness, the “wisdom of no-self,” which needs to be cultivated through experiences. Experiencing emptiness directly cuts the root of all delusions completely and permanently. 

His Holiness brings up a quote from a famous teacher: “If our confused consciousnesses rooted in ignorance are brought under control of wisdom, there will be NO SAMSARA. If our consciousnesses fall under ignorance, there will be NO LIBERATION.” We must remember our primordial wisdom, our tatagata essence, our buddha nature which is the clear and knowing mind of ALL beings.

His Holiness mentions the Characteristics of Existence: 
1. Impermanence
2. Discontent, known as Dukka.
3. Emptyness
4. No Self

(emptyness and no self are often combined)

His Holiness goes on to discuss impermanence, on the gross and subtle level. An example of gross impermanence is the obvious changes we can see: grey hair, fashions, different governments, decaying of structures like bridges or buildings, the aging of our bodys, the growing of plants and tress, weather, etc. We notice these easily! 

But subtle impermanence is well, subtle! Such as the second to second, minute to minute decay of our bodies, our structures, etc. This is moment to moment change brought about by it’s own causes. The very cause that brings you life will kill you. (Iron Maiden’s lyrics in “The Clairvoyant,” illustrate this point well, I think: “As soon as you’re born, you’re dying.”) This applies to all things brought into being. 

So! We must understand cause and effect relationships are crucial! Even animals can see this a little bit! No cause and effect is independent! They are mutually dependent. Dependent Origination (in terms of casual appearance) serves as a basis for Dependent Designations. Therefore, in the sutras Buddha says all depends on conditions, all is essentially unborn, devoid of intrinsic existence, that which is dependent on causes is empty. 

His Holiness reminds us that it is important on two levels for us: the short term and the long term. The short term would be a better, higher rebirth. The long term would be full and complete enlightenment. Both depend on a better understanding of dependent origination and dependent designation–that one creates and seeks both! 

His Holiness also reminds us that only a Perfect Human Rebirth can make it possible to practice the Dharma. His Holiness reminds tells us that the way to achieve true lasting happiness and permanent cessation of suffering (complete enlightenment) is to combine Bodhichitta with the “Three Higher Trainings,” which are: 
1. The Practice of Morality.
2. Avoiding non-virtues (aka concentration)
3. Cultivating wisdom (aka reality)

During His Holiness’s last few moments on the stage before the morning teaching was ended, His Holiness gave refuge and bodhichitta/bodhisattva vows to those who were truly committed to the path, and renewed the vows of those of us who had previously taken them. What a blessing, what a surprise and what a joy this was for me, I CAN NEVER EXPRESS PROPERLY. 

This ends His Holiness’s morning teaching. We had about a two hour break to eat, stretch, meditate, or wander around to view the different tables set up at Gillette Stadium, which sold Dharma tools and books, as well as contained information on various important charitable organizations. At about 2 in the afternoon, His Holiness came back to the stage to enjoy the wonderful traditional songs and dance many wonderful Tibetans put on for His benefit. He also gave a talk about “a path to happiness through inner peace.”

His Holiness once again gave a heartfelt welcome and thanks to all the people who were here with him today. He began by reminding us how we all want happiness, and how no one wants suffering. And how every being has a right to this! His Holiness reminded us that we can always communicate with each other easily on these points. He called these points the “fundamental human level.” Topics such as status, religion, politics, or nationality cause many barriers between people. There are secondary things that may bind us, and not fundamental. 

His Holiness discussed spirituality on two levels:
1. Religious, organized faiths.
2. Secular, with it’s basis on universal values.

All beings enjoy warm heartedness, loving-kindness, friendliness, compassion–it is universal! Real friendship comes from compassion, respect, a warm heart. These inner values cannot be produced by drugs, medications, injections. You can’t buy them, and government cannot create them. We have to develop these things, and we all can because we all have the same potential. 

His Holiness talked fondly about His own mother next. He told a story of of some starving poor Chinese people who she gave all her food and even helped to pay burial expenses for a relative of theirs, to illustrate her generosity. He mentioned how friendly, compassionate, kind, calm, and warm hearted she was. He mentioned some stories from His childhood that illustrated her great love and patience, especially for him! His Holiness, as a very young child, used to ride around on His mother’s back. His Holiness used to tell her which direction He wished to go in by pulling on her ears! And when she would not go in the direction He wanted, He would hit her on the head! His Holiness says He was a big bully to his mother, while she was so kind to him! His Holiness credits His mother as His first true teacher of love and compassion in this world. 

His Holiness brings up the fact that physical touch and affection is crucial to continuing life and proper brain development of a baby. He suggest that perhaps then those individuals who are fortunate enough to have much physical touch and affection from their mother/father/family/caretakers, have the best foundation for life. He suggests that this creates great compassion for others. 

His Holiness once again reminds us how science agrees that clam mental states are better for our heath and that they sustain our immune system. Research has shown that anxiety, fear, hatred, worry, jealously, anger, etc. cause more health problems. They eat away at our immune system. His Holiness also mentions how science is finding that people who use these worlds: I, Me, Mine, My, even have a higher risk of heart attack! 

So the self-centered and self-absorbed mental attitude gives one a narrower vision of the world, people, reality, and it closes our inner door. It makes it harder for us to reach out. It creates more loneliness, depression. Whereas the opposite creates higher mind and vision. People who are more calm, compassionate and concerned with others have more perspective and can handle pain, hardships, problems, illnesses, stresses better. 

His Holiness really does have equanimity; he looks on all of us as equals. His Holiness focuses on our similarities, not our differences. (This is definitely behavior we should emulate, I think!) 

His Holiness mentions a Tibetan saying: “Where ever you feel happy, that is your home. Who ever you receive loving-kindness and care from, those are your parents/your family.” 

His Holiness goes on to talk about His recent gallbladder surgery. He mentioned who the doctor told him his body is over a decade younger than HE actually is, and they both attribute a lot of this to the calm, content mental states of His Holiness. His Holiness takes this opportunity to laugh at how people think He has healing powers, stating that the fact that He had to have this operation and could not heal himself should show us that “Dalai Lama has no healing powers! I’m just like you!” 

At one point, it was getting rather warm! The sun was peaking from behind the clouds for most of the afternoon, and His Holiness traded his (red Patriots!) hat for an umbrella, never forgetting for a second that his translator was up on the hot stage too-His Holiness of course made sure he also had an umbrella to shield him from the warm sun. 

His Holiness asks us to realize and pay attention to our inner qualities and values. He mentioned that good, basic values come from us by the examples of our families/caretakers, but that religion re-enforces them, supports these good basic values. His Holiness mentions the importance of secular beliefs, giving the great Mahatma Gandhi as an example of a supporter of these. He was very learned in all traditions, and had respect for all religious and spiritual paths. 

On a side note, His Holiness discussed the French revolution (aks “The Bloody Terror”) and also Bolshevik revolution in Russia. He talked how the privilege the ruling class had through the church and at the expense of their people, and their use of their claim to divinity to justify their suppression of the people, drove the revolutionaries to destroy and despise not only the ruling classes, but also all religion as well. 

Now, getting back to the main body of the talk, His Holiness reminded us that we are social animals. We are bound to each other through our sense of community and compassion, not through money and material things! Hatred and negative emotions that evoke a negative action/response go against our basic human nature as a social animal. This things divide and cut us off. Common sense says that good qualities are natural, and science backs this up!

His Holiness reminded us again how our emotions and state of mind effect how we see others. For example, when you look at others with hatred and fear, you see enemies. When you look at others with love and kindness, you see a friend. Violence and hatred only breed more violence and hatred. Violence causes torture, repression, resentment, and fear. 

His Holiness reminds us that it is ALWAYS possible to change for the better! (Might I also add it’s always possible to change for the worse, as well–so it pays to be eternally vigilante when it comes to matters of the mind and your behavior.)

At this point, His Holiness answered some questions. I think the first question had to do with how can the youth of today find happiness and contentment…His Holiness mentioned that often, constant tv, video games, and music in modern society can lead to distraction and addiction. It makes one almost uncomfortable with out the sounds and sights! (For example, I and my boyfriend find it VERY hard to even sleep at night without a tv on!) His Holiness says that we need to not become dependent on sensory things. We need to focus more on our inner world, get more dependent on analytical meditation. Inner peace means inner values! 

Someone asked how to deal with all the delays we face now, how to be able to deal with them better. His Holiness mentions how he has many of these things to face as well, such as delays in flights at the airport. His Holiness says there is really no need for impatience, as you always have your mind with you! Take the time to meditate, pay attention to your inner world! Or observe your surrounding and fellow humans more closely. His Holiness mentions a saying that Tibetans have: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” In this manner, you are not facing a big let down, or disappointment. You are prepared already so it’s not such a shock.

Someone asked His Holiness how can we balance spirituality with such a crazy world around us?! His Holiness chuckled at this, and said “The world is not crazy! If it was we would ALL be crazy, it is our inner world that is crazed.” His Holiness said to start with yourself, your own mind, and then branch out from there.

Someone asked His Holiness if He had a pet. His Holiness mentioned He had a dog, but that the dog had passed on, and that He prays for that dog every day.

Someone asked how does someone remain optimistic in the face of constant pain?? His Holiness replied that you MUST find meaning in this pain. His Holiness suggest to look at karma, think about past mistakes and misdeeds that could have brought you to this pain. Understand that these things are related to your pain now. And understand that there is NO absolute! Please get a different perspective, look at the pain, problems, troubles, hardships, from a another angle. A good example is the tragedy that is ongoing in Tibet. Take a look at what is happening, and make a list of pros and cons. It is best to remember that everything here in samsara is dualistic; nothing is completely “bad,” nothing is completely “good.” His Holiness suggests that you try to focus on the sufferings and problems of others, as that often reduces your own sufferings and problems. Remember that you do NOT suffer alone, everyone else suffers as well. 

His Holiness talks about when we are angry, the object of our anger seems COMPLETELY negative! 90% of our anger is mental projection. Try to use realistic approaches to reduce our anger, or other harmful emotions like jealousy, depression, fear, etc.

His Holiness reminds us: “If you can do something about the situation, then there is no need to worry. If you cannot do anything about the situation, then there is also no need to worry.”

Always try your best to see the positive side!

Another question was basically how can we love everyone, when there are people who are determined not to “live and let live”?? His Holiness mentioned that love and compassion have two levels. 

On one level, it is based on biological factors–it is bias and limited, as it is oriented toward action. On a deeper level, it is not oriented towards action. It disregards their attitude towards you and focuses on their humanity, their capacity for suffering. You need to take appropriate action without losing your compassion! Compassion is your battery! Their wrong doing will turn back on them, so have concern for their well being. You can develop this compassion and love based on biological factors, but your compassion and love increases by practice through awareness training. This second level is genuine! 

The next question was how can we help with the situation in Tibet? His Holiness said that by showing interest in justice, not just being pro-Tibetan, but in being pro-justice, we could greatly help. His Holiness reminded us that the situation there is not just a Tibetan problem, or a Chinese problem, but a global human problem. His Holiness reminded us that full protection of the language, culture, and religion is what He was seeking for Tibet, but that it is best for Tibet and China to cooperate with each other. 
His Holiness said that many are not thinking in the long term with this situation. His Holiness still appeals constantly to the international community, media, and the Chinese government. 

His Holiness made a joke about how the Chinese government called Him a demon, and when someone asked His Holiness why they were so afraid of Him, he put his two fingers on his head and replied: “Because of my demon horns!” as a joke. 

His Holiness suggested that we try to go to Tibet, study the situation there on the spot, get the real reality, find out the cause of the strife, what is really going on, through direct experience. His Holiness said that it were proven false that the Chines were oppressing the Tibetan people, then He would gladly apologize for all His misinformation! 

For the last question, someone wanted to know how to fix the world! And His Holiness said that there was no simple solution. The problems are so complex. 

His Holiness reminded us in His last few minutes that desire breeds desire, that while there are limitations in the material world, there are none in the non-material world. His Holiness suggests we do our best to live simpler, more content. He demonstrated this and his great charity and generosity but refusing to take a money offering; His Holiness laughed and said, “See? I must learn to practice contentment also!” 

Through this virtue may I swiftly
Having gained guru Buddha’s state,
Place each and every sentient being
Without exception in that state.
Precious supreme bodhi mind,
May it, where unborn, arise
And where born, never decline
But increase forever more.
In that snow-mountain encircled land,
Source of every benefit and joy,
May Lord Tenzin Gyasto Chenresig
Remain in life ’till samsara’s end.
mig me tse we ter chen chen re sig
dri me khyen pe wang po jam pel yang
gang chen ke pe tsu gyen tsong kha pa
lo sang drag pe shab la sol wa deb

PLEASE FORGIVE ANY SPELLING OR GRAMMAR MISTAKES I MAY HAVE MADE AS WELL! It is now 7:38am and honestly? Haha I’ve been working on this note since about 2am this morning! And it was well worth it, time I passed meaningfully. Om Main Padme Hum!


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