Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Dalai Lama on Creating Positive Change

I was blessed to be able to attend the 14th Dalai Lama's talk in San Francisco today, on Creating Positive Change. My first (and lasting) impression is: the man who wears this mantle embodies his message. He's warm, compassionate, holds a wide-ranging perspective—and is very humorous (which, as anyone who has ever delivered a talk in a non-native tongue knows, is not all that easy to get across in a foreign language—especially English!)

My May newsletter, What Shines, focuses on both personal and planetary peace, so the timing is ideal to integrate His Holiness' thoughts. Here are some highlights from the afternoon talk:

∞ Neither "positive" nor "negative" are absolutes; they vary according to our perception and experience. What brings us comfort, peace, happiness and satisfaction is seen as positive; fear, frustration, unhappiness and anger are viewed as negative.

Example: a homeless person may be happier mentally than someone of wealth who is living in fear and discomfort, because the homeless person has adapted to the situation and is able to feel happiness regardless. As a longtime nomad who's recently published a lengthy article about living nomadically as a spiritual mission, I completely related to what he was saying.

∞ We can learn to transform adversity into opportunity. There are two main tenets of the Dalai Lama's philosophy. The promotion of:

• right thinking/mental transformation
• religious harmony

Mental Transformation

To explain how cultivating mental happiness is far easier than trying to change outer conditions, the Dalai Lama used the analogy of covering the earth with leather to protect our soles as we walk, or covering our own feet (wearing shoes) to accomplish the same result.

∞ As certain emotions increase, other emotions reduce, simply because contradictory forces cannot occupy the same space. We cannot be both self-centered and isolated in fear, stress and anger — and affectionate, warm-hearted, and caring for others at the same time.

∞ Wholeheartedness develops from the mother-child bond; the affection that accrues with survival dependence.

∞ Compassion for others' suffering reduces our own physical pain. The Dalai Lama gave an example of a time a few years ago when he had an acute intestinal illness that was quite painful, and met with some very poor people who were in pain and suffering greatly. As he prayed for them and extended his compassion, he felt his own pain reduce.

** In terms of personal and planetary challenges/difficulties, we must confront without losing compassion, without losing respect. This opens the door to meaningful dialogue. **

Religious Harmony

His Holiness spoke of "secular ethics": taking a non-religious approach to our differences. I've quoted him in an article on the distinction between religion and spirituality.

But since religion is interwoven into so many of our lives, and the cause of much widespread fighting and unhappiness, he offered a visionary path to religious harmony:

In an explanation that brought down the house, he analogized choosing the "best" religion as similar to choosing the "best" medicine: for this person, this medicine is best; for this person over here, that medicine will work best. For himself, given his mental disposition, Buddhism is best. For someone else, Christianity is best. For another, the Jewish religion is best. For this person, the Muslim religion is best. Viewed this way, the Dalai Lama said, "There's no problem!"

Thus, peace begins first with the individual mind. Once we are peaceful, it pervades our home, and others who walk into the room can feel it. (I felt exactly this way recently, when I met with a woman who runs a retreat center and has been meditating and living as a retreatant for 30 years. Her home felt like a sanctuary; it was relaxing the moment I rang the doorbell.)

∞ As he spoke about having lived outside his homeland of Tibet for most of his life (now 72, he has been in exile since age 24), The Dalai Lama closed his talk with an endearing Tibetan saying, which translates as, "Wherever you are happy, that's your home. Whoever is kind to you, that's your parent."


May we all become spiritual activists focused on creating positive, healing change, so that we are all at home everywhere!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the information. For those of us who were not able to be there is is nice to read.