Spotlight On Tibet: The Bright Side PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Julie Adler   

Timeless Wisdom From The Dalai Lama For Challenging Times

It was a drizzly morning as I walked up to Thunderdome, the basketball stadium at University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) to attend a day of teachings with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Once inside, I looked around to see that not all 3,000 of us gathered were Dalai Lama groupies. Among the scholars, VIPs and dharma practitioners, hundreds of students filled the bleachers for His Holiness’ fourth visit to UCSB. It was initiated by Professor Jose Cabezon, the XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Chair in Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies.

The feeling was celebratory, even with the hanging clouds outside. The Dalai Lama sat perched on a plush sofa, and despite a head cold, launched into a morning talk on the nature of reality and the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, which often needed translation from Thupten Jinpa and perhaps espressos for the rest of us. Luckily for most, the afternoon talk on ethics was not lost in translation but addressed topics ranging from seeking one’s own internal truth to dealing with the current economic meltdown. His Holiness also answered personal questions including how he tends to his own garden, if he eats tsampa (Tibetan barley), if it’s possible to see one’s own deceased mother in the next life and what to do if your partner isn’t practicing mindfulness like you? For me, the kicker was: “How does one stop the internal struggle, and keep the peace in the face of stress such as financial worries, relationship problems and physical pain? In other words, when life becomes such hard work, how do you maintain a peaceful and happy heart?

Dalai Lama by Julie Adler
Dalai Lama by Julie Adler

Here’s the Dalai Lama’s response:

“Mind like matter has many components; even tiny flowers have many aspects. Similarly, mind is not just a single, absolute thing. For a healthy mind, compassion and wisdom are important. Training in compassion and awareness take time, like the growth of a flower. Mental and emotional changes take time. Some Tibetan masters say, ‘If while observing your own mental states, you recognize grasping things as permanent, you need to apply the antidote of reflecting on impermanence. If you have a tendency to not take your time seriously, reaffirm the preciousness of human existence. If you have the tendency to grasp at your ego, reduce the strong grip on your self.’

With physical health, if the immune system is good, then viruses may not disturb it much but if it is weak, even tiny germs can create problems. With mental health, if your basic attitude is sound, then when unfortunate things happen, it may not be disturbed much. If it is weak, even tiny problems will bring a lot of ups and downs.

According to Buddhism, all things are karmic, under the domination of ignorance. So when we face problems, it simply indicates their ultimate nature. The body will have problems because its basic nature is of suffering. There are three levels of suffering: suffering of suffering, suffering of conditioning and suffering of change. If you understand these things, it’s no surprise.

When faced with problems, I always look at them from different angles. We lost our country, but in the last fifty years, I have learned from others’ experience and traditions. If I were still in Lhasa, I wouldn’t have had these experiences. The suffering in Tibet is very sad but I personally feel very fortunate. Sometimes I really feel grateful to Chinese communists for creating this opportunity for me. You must also look at problems from a distance, more wholistically – then they become smaller. With six billion people on the Earth, each one has problems. Humanity’s problems are endless. That is the nature of life; so accepting this, your mind opens up.”

This is excerpted from The Tibet Connection radio program’s OPEN MIND series. To hear the entire segment by producer Julie Adler and to find out more about the show and the Dalai Lama and his teachings, please visit:

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