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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2009 69 In general, I’m attracted to Zen’s focus on absolute freedom and all-embracing oneness, its reverence for nature, and its respect for humor. When Zen or tantric masters visit North America, they’re often astonished by how earnest, how overly serious, Westerners are about their spiritual practice. They’ll go to a zendo in Minnesota, for example, and wonder aloud why nobody there is laughing. This led Chögyam Trungpa, in a lovely expression of crazy wisdom, to squirt righteously zealous meditators with a water pistol. To be uptight about one’s Zen practice, to become attached to it, is to miss the whole point of it; one might as well hook up with one of the fear-based, authoritarian, guilt-and-redemption religions. Over time you have changed your mind about whether Americans can thoroughly and successfully adopt Asian philosophies such as Buddhism or Taoism. What is your opinion now? There are numerous paths to enlightenment. In Asia, the paths have been worn smooth by millions of experienced feet. The Western seeker, while he or she may have ready access to guides, maps, and road signs imported from Asia, must nevertheless stumble along overgrown, unfamiliar trails pitted with potholes and patrolled by our indigenous cultural wolves. Americans may hold Buddhist ideals in our hearts and minds, but they’re not yet in our genes. That takes time. Mean- while, Asians are becoming increasingly Americanized. Who knows where this exchange will lead? JuLY, 2008 The Dalai Lama & Pico Iyer Pico Iyer: These days you probably spend more of your time talking to non-Buddhists than to Buddhists, because you travel so much and you’re speaking to so many different audiences. The Dalai Lama: perhaps yes, perhaps yes. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk or speak outside the Tibetan community, my basic concern is with secular ethics. I make a distinction between spirituality with faith and spirituality without faith— simply to be a good human being, a warm-hearted person, a person with a sense of responsibility. usually I emphasize the secular ethics, and it seems this is beneficial. I explain the basic human values, or human good qualities, such as compassion, and why these are important. I explain that whether one is a believer or a non-believer is up to the individual, but even without a religion, one can be a good human being. I notice the majority of the audience appreciates this—with or without faith, just being a good human being. They’re more receptive. That is important. The majority of people in the world are non-believers, and we can’t argue with them and tell them they should be believers. No! Impossible! Realistically speaking, the ma- jority of humanity will remain non-believers, and it doesn’t matter. No problem! The problem is that the majority have lost or ignore the deeper human values, such as compassion and a sense of re- sponsibility. Then we really are faced with a problem. That is our big concern. Wherever there is a society or community or family without these good human qualities, then even one single family cannot be a happy family. That’s perfectly clear. Certain emotions, such as hatred, create such a clear de- marcation of “we” and “they.” Immediately, there is a sense of enemy. There is so much competition, so much negative feel- ing toward your neighbor, and on your neighbor’s side, also a negative attitude toward you. Then what happens? You are sur- rounded by enemy, but the enemy is your own creation! Recently I am emphasizing that due to the modern economy, and also due to information and education, the world is now heavily interdependent, interconnected. under such circum- stances, the concept of “we” and “they” is gone: harming your neighbor is actually harming yourself. If you do negative things toward your neighbor, that is actually creating your own suffer- ing. And helping them, showing concern about others’ welfare- actually these are the major factors of your own happiness. If you want a community full of joy, full of friendship, you should create that possibility. If you remain negative, and meantime want more smiles and friendship from your neighbors, that’s illogical. If you want a more friendly neighbor, you must create the atmosphere. Then they will respond. Pico Iyer: So we need to be reminded of our most basic, most fundamental, responsibilities. The Dalai Lama: That’s my main emphasis. I really feel the im- portant thing is the promotion of secular moral ethics. That’s what we really need. Those emotions or actions which ultimate- ly bring happiness or satisfaction, they are positive. Because we want happiness. Those emotions and actions which ultimately bring suffering, we should consider negative. Because we do not want suffering. These are basic human values—no connection to creator, no connection to Buddha. NOVeMBeR, 2001 Richard Gere The Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism puts a strong emphasis on analysis. What drew you to the more intel- lectual approach? Yeah, it’s funny. I think what I probably would have been drawn to