I have now had the chance to listen to the talk several times, and have taken something new away each time. The following is a much-abridged version of the talk, due to time and space considerations, sharing the most memorable and interesting parts of the talk, with use of direct quotes to the maximum extent possible, and my own commentary in parenthesis.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a rule-breaker – in a good way!
The Dalai Lama thanked the young performers for their dance: “They play quite freely. Some go like this, some go like that. I really appreciate that, the folk dance. When I was young, as a monk, these are not permissible, not allowed – but I played that!” (This drew laughs from the crowd, and was our first indication that he might sometimes color outside the lines.)
Humble, human, and one of us“Whenever I give talk, I always make clear, the speaker and audience, we are same human being, no differences. Mentally, emotionally, physically, we are same. As a matter of fact, seven billion human beings on this planet – same. And most important, each one want a happy life; do not want suffering or problem. And all humanity have right to achieve their wish – be happy life. So I always stress importance of the sense of oneness of seven billion human beings. On human level, all seven billion are same. I think, on human level, I think hardly, not much cause for fighting, killing. On a secondary level, different country, different races, different color, different faith, different social status, different profession - then there are differences. So most manmade problems – not on the level of sameness of human being, but secondary level – different nation, different color, different faith.”
(Quite by chance, I have been reading the book, My Stroke of Insight, by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist – brain scientist - chronicling her own stroke and recovery. Since her bleed was on the left side of her brain, what she experienced after the stroke was what life would be like if she had to rely more/entirely on her right brain – and what she experienced was an incredible sense of oneness; of “being at one with the universe.” In fact, during her recovery, as her left brain functions returned - language, math, spatial awareness - she also feared losing her right brain sense of inner peace. A very interesting book – well worth reading. Only a scientist would react, once realizing that she was having a stroke, by thinking, “Wow, this is so cool!” It’s intriguing, the thought that all we need to do is tap our right brain function more to foster this sense of oneness. And that most of society’s ills may stem simply from too much emphasis on the left brain activities; specifically ego. In a later chapter, she discusses a study by Drs. Andrew Newberg and Eugene D’Aquilie, using single photon emission computed tomography – SPECT – to look at brain activity in Tibetan meditators and Franciscan nuns while meditating or praying. What they saw was the quieting of activity in the left brain areas controlling language and spatial orientation, which literally causes one to “lose sight of where we begin and where we end relative to the space around us.”)
The Dalai Lama then talked about how much has changed in our country, noting the contributions of Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and now our President. “Much has changed.” He was recently in Alabama, and there “still sometimes see a little gap on basis of color; discrimination.” (And yet, there is still Ferguson, which he does not mention. We still can’t “all get along.” There are still wide “gaps” in opportunity and advantage between blacks and whites, and rich and poor.)
“And in some other parts of the world, also it happen. Then of course, different national interests, I think not only in the past, but even today, some violence. Then, very, very unfortunate thing is, in the name of religion, different faith, and causing killing – unthinkable. All major religion tradition teach us the practice of love, forgiveness, tolerance. And people who follow that – still killing. Unthinkable! People who practice love, forgiveness, tolerance – killing? Unthinkable. So, much problem which we are facing is too much stress on the secondary levels of differences.”
“So, therefore, logically, if you want to reduce these conflicts among human beings, killing each other, bullying each other, exploiting each other, cheating each other, we must promote oneness. We are all same human being, we all have same right to achieve happy life.”
(Ironically, the very next night – November 2nd – on Sixty Minutes, there was an interview with Islamic radicals in London who are trying to expand and impose sharia law everywhere. When asked if he could love his Mother, a non-Muslim, his response was: “It’s not allowed for me to love non-Muslims.” Such a juxtaposition of perspectives, separated by just a day.)
“Now, question: What is Happy Life? Become rich? Millionaire? Billionaire? Is it right way to achieve happiness? No. If we closely observe. Some people very rich, but unhappy. A lot of worry, stress, anxiety. So, this shows money, wealth alone – no guarantee bring happy life. Education, knowledge, that also not very sure. Some have very smart brain, highly educated – but have too much stress, worry. So then also, people have disturbed mind. Take tranquilizers, alcohol, drugs.”
“Many years ago, one occasion, visited a family, very big house, rich. After lunch, went to bathroom, to take care of my teeth. Then while brushing, the front of the cabinet - a little bit open. Then, out of my curiosity – maybe, I think, maybe illegal – I opened. (big belly laugh, and laughter from the crowd) Then there I notice some pills, tranquilizers. Then I felt - this family, the people, live in big house – everything good. But they also need tranquilizers.”
“Ultimate source of worry and mental pain come from mind itself. So logically, the method to deal with that also must be developed within mind. So, our daily experiences, physical comfort, will not subdue our mental level of worry or pain. Other hand, physical pain can be subdued by mental calmness, or satisfaction.”
At this point, he donned a black Bruins cap, to the delight and applause of the crowd.
“This useful. Very powerful light.
Hockey! Hockey cap!
But have zero knowledge about hockey.”
“Therefore, the right method to deal with mental level problem, unhappiness – must develop within mind. I think if nature creates physical pain, there’s some antidote for physical illness by nature developed within our own body, like immune system counters virus. Similarly, mental level, emotional level, such as anger, fear, too much worry, brings really unhappiness.
So, the counterforce also by nature, by biological factor – we are already equipped. Sense of affection, sense of concern for others well being. These are the countering forces we already have. So, therefore, irrespective, whether believer or non-believer – warm-heartedness, sense of concern of others’ well-being, that is the real important thing. Now medical science found through investigation: fear, anger, hatred weaken our immune system. Other hand, more compassionate thought, sense of concern of others well being - very helpful to sustain immune system.”
“Obviously, we all have experience, the day we face some kind of problem, quarrel, anger, and shouting – then next morning, you feel a little uncomfortable. Sometimes bad mood. Dreams also, some sort of discomfort. The day you really enjoy with genuine friends who really trust each other, respect each other, genuine sense of concern for each other, then you feel lighter. This has nothing to do with religion. “
“Sometimes people, when we talk about value of compassion and forgiveness, then people feel these are part of religious practice, so those people who have not much interest in religion, then they also never think about these things. I think this mistake. That part we must make effort to make known. Whether believe religion or not, this one or that, is up to individual. Now, today, out of seven billion human beings, over one billion are non-believers. Okay if they prefer not, that’s their individual right.”
“So, here according to Indian tradition – secular concept. The secular means respect all religions, no preference of this one or that one. Unique – secular also means respect non-believer. Very, very relevant in today’s world. In West, secularism and atheism – close link.
So, I think India, constitution based on secular concept, not at all against religion. Most stable and non-violent and religious harmony because of secular concept and also ahimsa, non-violent tradition. India is really example – most populated democratic country. Stable, peaceful, though a lot of drawbacks – gaps between rich and poor, corruption.” (I would personally add to that list of “drawbacks” several more issues: honor killings, rape, the trampling of women’s rights in general, including a huge reliance on female sterilization as the preferred form of contraception, and of course their longstanding caste system.)
“Secular is something not distant at all from religion. Need to educate secularly about inner values, based on scientific findings. In conclusion, ultimate source of happy life is within ourselves. Not money, education. Education does not bring inner peace. Will not happen overnight, will take years. 21st century can be a different world. 20th century – century of violence. 21st century – should be century of peace.” (applause)
“Cannot pursue from one angle. Interdependent, so therefore – education system. Not enough paying attention to inner values. If put in more religious education – different faiths – creates complications. So, secularly educate these things. Change of humanity – achieve happy society, happier world - initiative must start at individual level. First individual think more about inner values, then translate to more compassionate life. Then create more compassionate family. One family. Ten families. One hundred families. One thousand families. Then society. Change society, build peaceful world.”
“I never consider myself the Dalai Lama, just another human being, simple Buddhist monk, so that we can communicate. If I think too much – isolate, then become lonely person. That brings more anxiety and frustration. No use.”
“When I consider I am one other human being - then easily communicate. Please think more seriously about these points. If feel make some sense, then try to implement. If you feel no sense – then Phuket!” (Big laughs from the crowd, most in shock and disbelief at his non sequitur reference to an island in Thailand in the midst of his talk!)
Q & A:
1. Can you teach empathy? "Yes, certainly."
2. Where is the middle path for a busy American life? “Actually, you know better… Extreme luxuries, not good. Of your money – spend more meaningfully. Extremes, blind faith, materialistic – not good. I think you should investigate that!”
3. Most memorable thing you’ve done? Study of four fields: cosmology, neurobiology, quantum physics, psychology.
Q & A – from children ages 5 to 11:
1. Do you have a pet? “Yes, nowadays one old cat. Now, no longer playful. In early period, very, very playful. Nowadays – like myself!” (big belly laughs)
2. Do you ever get angry? “Oh, yes!”
3. What do you do in your spare time? Gardening, repairs. “When have time, think – analytical meditation. Then, study, read. The unique thing about Buddhist practice – utilize human interaction to maximize way, more insights, transform emotion. My day starts at 3 o’clock in the morning, four hours meditate, and in the evening one hour again. Then about 6:30 or 7:00, sleep.” He told the story of when he stayed at a Berlin hotel across from a nightclub, and being awakened by the zhunga-zhung zhunga-zhung of the music and bright flashing lights all night. “Nature created day and night. Night means sleep. Or – lay people – sex!” (belly laughs)
4. Do you still feel there is no need for Westerners to become Buddhists, but instead simply incorporate Buddhist elements? “I respect all different major religions. Westerners should keep their traditional faith. Must respect your own traditional religion. All - same practice of love, forgiveness, tolerance, self discipline, and contentment. Buddhist concept of interdependence – differs from view of creator as an absolute. Buddhism and Hinduism are like tree. Real difference – Buddhism - no soul theory; no independent self. Hinduism, and all other non-Buddhists – independent self and soul. (It wasn’t until afterwards, in talking to my cookie-coveting friend with the rabbit from the very first post, that I understood what he meant here. She explained to me that it’s said that the Dalai Lama cried when Mao Tse Tung died. Because he’d miss him? I didn’t think he liked the Communist leader. No, he cried because Mao didn’t evolve over the course of his life, and so – he took all of that negative energy with him when he died and returned it to the collective oneness. Ohhh. He really means it when he thinks of everyone as ONE. Reminds me of a photo I saw of starlings flocking together, something called a murmuration. Just Google: murmuration, starlings, Gretna, and you’ll find some amazing pictures and videos.)
5. What can we do as Americans to help Tibetans realize their justice and freedom? He spoke of the yearning to preserve language, script, and traditions, and culture of peace, non-violence, compassion. “Really worthwhile to preserve.” (applause) “Unusual for a Communist leader to be supportive of importance of Buddhist knowledge and culture. The problem – hard liners. They consider Tibetan culture to be a source of threat of separation Look at India – different languages, different scripts, but not in danger of separation.” “Please, whenever you meet with Chinese scholars, business people, and students, tell them the reality of Buddhist culture and language and environment.” “Best thing – visit Tibet. It maybe little bit expensive. Borrow some money from friend. When reach Tibet, buy some antiques and then when return, sell at little higher price.” (he chuckles) “Get there, visit, and see. And then tell people what the reality is.” He spoke of his admiration of the European Union and the United States. Those who were traditionally enemies could, “because of new circumstance, new reality, therefore, realize change. So, now today sovereign states, but whole continent depends on each other.” He also spoke of how the future of Africa will also need to be some kind of union. “Small, small states, civil war, fighting each other. Mutual destruction. We should not fight for complete independence. Try to materialize Chinese constitution to give certain rights. What we ask for – consider an ethnic Tibetan area – autonomous. Middle way. Not seeking independence. Middle way approach. That’s the way to help.”
He had been asked to give a few words in Tibet at the end. “Top secret,” he chuckled, then spoke in Tibet for a few minutes. (Translation currently not available.)
After his talk, Richard Gere surprised the crowd, and said a few words to lift us up, and then we were off to lunch in the North End!
Post Script:I want to thank the Tibetan Association of Boston for the press pass and the opportunity to partake of this amazing experience. Thank you!
Reading/hearing the Dalai Lama’s talk just on the heels of Black Friday, and as we enter the holiday season, one could ask – if the Dalai Lama came to visit your house, and peeked in your medicine cabinet, what would he find there? Will any of the things you bought on Friday bring you – or others – true happiness? The best thing we can do for each other is to show that we are thinking of them. It’s not the size of the gift, but the thoughtfulness of it. And the greatest gifts we can give are those of our time, literally – our presence!
Of course, a book also makes the perfect holiday gift, and there is still plenty of time to order a copy of Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life, available on Amazon.com. It is cyber-Monday after all.
So, my “free” press pass wound up costing us just over $200, by the time we paid for a ticket for Susan, parking at TD Garden, and lunch in the North End. We were so close, we just had to, plus we were able to get into La Famiglia Giorgio’s, no line, no wait. On the up side, I gained enough material for two blog posts, which is, of course – priceless!
And, that is my gift to you, dear readers, near and far.
References:Taylor, Jill Bolte, PhD. 2006. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York, New York: Viking, The Penguin Group.
Coming Next:An update on the status of women’s collegiate rugby, from one coach’s perspective.
© 2014 Rosemary A. SchmidtRose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life.” If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact the author. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted.