All paths lead homeward…eventually
It is only some days now since many unknown others and I packed the Mahony Hall in the Helix Theatre at DCU to listen to the famous Tibetan Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche address us on Buddhism. What a ray of hope is such teaching! What a still point in the heart of the throbbing city! Great to see so many people of all ages and of all backgrounds there to sit at the master’s feet. Sogyal Rinpoche is well known as a gifted international speaker on Tibetan Buddhism and is the author of the bestseller The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – a classic which has sold millions worldwide. John Cleese has described this book thus: “One of the most helpful books I have ever read.” I like this comment, made by one of the greatest comics, actors and entertainers of the last half century and praise from the creator of Monty Python is praise indeed. Rinpoche (pronounced Rin-poh-shay) has a great sense of humour himself and kept his audience enthralled for two hours.
Well, what did this master tell us? Firstly let me share with you just one quotation from his masterpiece: “Our society is obsessed with youth, sex, and power, and we shun old age and decay. Isn’t it terrifying that we discard old people when their working life is finished and they are no longer useful? Isn’t it disturbing that we cast them into old people’s homes, where they die lonely and abandoned?”(Rider edition, 1992, p.9).
Firstly, his address was entitled “Awakening the Mind, Opening the Heart”, itself a very good description of Buddhist practice. This master told us that there were two kinds of happiness – the happiness of the senses and the happiness of the mind. The first of these two can be very expensive indeed insofar as we might think that happiness lies in amassing the various material items of the world, while the second is inexpensive monetarily. In what could have been termed a Tibetan retake on St Augustine, Sogyal Rinpoche told us: “Only the fooling go looking for happiness outside themselves.”
Then he quoted his spiritual and national leader the Dalai Lama: “My religion is very simple. My religion is loving kindness.” When Tibetans greet each other they say, “How is your loving heart today?” If anyone has a lack of the “good heart” or of kindness or of compassion, then they are lacking in self-esteem also.
Samsara, according to Rinpoche is a vicious circle created by 1) negative emotions and 2) negative actions. People rush around wanting happiness, yet doing everything that does not bring it about.
Karma, Everything has a cause and an effect. This is why Buddhists cannot accept the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo or creation out of nothing. When you harm others it comes back to you. This reminds me of our own Irish proverb or seanfhocal: “Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire”- “The evil deed returns to the evil-doer.” This is karma indeed. When you help others, you help yourself in fact. This is no mere altruism. You not alone feel better, but you become better by helping others.
Taming/transforming/conquering: Buddhism is all about these three synonyms – that is, it’s all about taming the mind. The mind is the root of everything. It is the creator of Samsara and also the creator of Nirvana.
Samsara is the mind turned outwards, lost in its projections on the world out there. Nirvana is the mind turned inwards, recognising its own true nature. The mind can be compared to the sun. The essence or nature of the mind or the fundamental mind can be likened to the sun itself, while our thoughts and emotions are appearances that can be likened to the rays of the sun.
“Don’t seek to cut the root of phenomena, but cut the root of the mind” is old Buddhist saying which can be translated into modern language as: “Don’t investigate the roots of your thoughts and your feelings, go investigate the root of your mind!”
“Don’t just keep the elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest!”
Meditation is bringing the mind home, settling the mind.
“Are you worried about death and dying? Don’t. I promise you we will all die successfully!” (Laughter)
“Death is meeting your own truth!” “Death and dying are the heart and soul of all spiritual practice.”
“Learn to die and therefore learn how to live!”
“Dying is like changing your clothes.” The Dalai Lama.
“Remembering death brings you home.”
“Every religion teaches: Love, don’t grasp!”
“Grasping is fear – you’re insecure!”
There is an old Tibetan saying which is a teaching about the nature mind or about the fundamental mind and it goes thus: “Water, if you don’t stir it, will become clear!” In the same manner the mind will become clear if it is stilled!”
In Tibetan the word for worry means “mind sickness.”
Our true self is the nature mind.
We don’t spend enough time with ourselves.
“Leave your mind alone. Leave it in peace!”
“Learn to ride the mind as you would a bike.”
“Happiness without reason is real happiness.”
“The biggest problems in the West are Speed and Aggression.”
“In Tibetan “Thank you” can be translated as “Your mind is great or magnanimous!”
The above picture is an image of the Tibetan Master Sogyal Rinpoche who gave a talk called "Awakening the Mind, Opening the Heart" in The Mahony Hall, The Helix, DCU, Dublin, on Thursday 22 June 2006.