Simple and accessible wisdom from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on how we stay in the moment in the midst of the demands and stresses of everyday life.
Be Here includes discussions of the Buddhist concepts of attachment, emptiness, compassion, love, and resentment and how our sense of the past and the future affect our ability to be in the present.
Many Buddhist practices and meditations focus on “being in the present moment.” But what does that really mean? What does it mean to be here now?
Attachment. Emptiness. Compassion. You will hear the Dalai Lama present these three words again and again in this book of wisdom designed to move us toward the goal of “being here.” He speaks of attachmentto things, to people, to memory, to feelings of anger and resentment, to future goals. Being attached means we are not here now; we are living through wherever our attachment takes us.
Does emptiness mean we let go of everything? Even the present thoughts in our minds? How does understanding emptiness help us to be here now? The Dalai Lama is clear: if we are not educated about past history and if we have no sense of the future, then how can be possibly have a “present”?
When we are here, we can practice compassion in the present moment and focus on social justice now. When we are here, we are no longer attached to our past, no longer stressed about the future, no longer tethered to suffering. Being here means we find happiness, peace, and the fullness of life.
|Publisher:||Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||3.90(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
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The time when only monks decide how we should practice Buddhism is over. People from all walks of life — educators, scientists, administrators — should come together to discuss the revival of Buddhism in our modern time.
The Buddha's teachings have two levels, wisdom and expedient means — or, in other words, the understanding of truth and practical action in the here and now.
"Wisdom" is the knowledge of causality, or emptiness; "expedient" refers to nonviolent action, or the practice of compassion.
What is emptiness? It is the view that all phenomena must be understood as mutually interdependent. This idea forms the core of Nagarjuna's teaching of the "middle way." Nothing arises without a cause.
This is in contrast to the Christian belief in a divine creator of all things. In Buddhism we grasp that all things are produced through cause and effect. Happiness, suffering, and all phenomena arise due to specific causes. All things are born not of themselves but from their causes.
Causality refers to all things being interdependent. Emptiness is not nothingness; it means that all things exist within causality. All things are empty of self-nature; they do not exist on their own, but are mutually interdependent.
In Buddhism, both the wisdom of emptiness and the practice of compassion are important. Compassion and kindness are the essence of Buddhism.
Emptiness and Compassion
What is the connection between emptiness and compassion? Some Buddhist monks understand and expound the doctrine of emptiness, yet clearly lack compassion toward suffering sentient beings. In this case, there may be understanding of truth but no practical action.
If a person truly understands emptiness, then compassion naturally arises, and if it does not, then his understanding of emptiness may be flawed.
Emptiness means that all things are interdependent, yet it is often misinterpreted as nothingness. If we develop our understanding of emptiness, then compassion naturally arises because all things are interdependent and interconnected in causality.
Yet how is it that compassion naturally arises? I think this matter conceals a very delicate problem.
Regarding the understanding of emptiness, there are four philosophical schools: the Sarvâstivada, Sautrantika, Yogâcara, and Madhyamaka. The first two are Hinayana philosophies, and the latter two are independent Mahayana philosophies; those who study Mahayana Buddhism must study all four. The fourth, the Madhyamaka, is further divided into the Svatantrika and Prasangika schools.
To understand profound emptiness, we must grasp the subtle difference among the views of "no-self" that is emphasized in the Yogâcara, Svatantrika, and Prasangika schools. The most profound and highest emptiness, according to the Prasangika school, is the interpretation that all things exist depending on causes and conditions.
In other words, nothing exists on its own, but rather, existence is understood in such a way that all things arise dependent on causes and conditions. In this view of causality, all things are dependent on other things, and through causality we can perceive reality.
Emptiness is understood as causality. When we see that emptiness is based on causality, then emptiness does not signify a void in which nothing tangible exists, but rather that all things arise in this world according to cause and effect.
My first point is this understanding of emptiness based on causality, in which nothing possesses self-nature. But the mind of compassion does not arise from this understanding alone.
My second point is that once we know the meaning of emptiness based on causality, we are able to see that the suffering of all living things is rooted in the mind of ignorance, and that it is possible to extinguish that ignorance.
Emptiness and ignorance are completely contrary to each other. The failure to understand emptiness and interdependence is ignorance, and as one strengthens one's conviction about emptiness, the mind of ignorance loses its power.
Through cultivating this awareness of emptiness, the ignorance that is the source of our confusion and suffering can be extinguished.
We see that sentient beings suffer because of that ignorance, and a feeling of compassion toward them arises. We become able to see the cause of human suffering. We see that if we extinguish its cause, suffering disappears, and that is how compassion arises.
There are many different levels of understanding of emptiness, but if we correctly perceive the most profound emptiness based on the teachings of the Prasangika school, then we know that ignorance can be cleared away. When we see sentient beings suffering because of ignorance, the mind of compassion awakens in us.
For monks who study profound sutras and achieve a high level of knowledge, it is difficult for them to feel compassion toward ordinary suffering because their knowledge is academic.
According to Buddhism, human beings experience three types of suffering: the suffering of physical pain, the suffering of change, and all-pervasive suffering.
Of the three, the studied monks tend to be more aware of the more difficult concepts of the suffering of change and all-pervasive suffering than they are of the suffering of physical pain. So when they encounter this "lower" type of suffering, it may be more difficult for them to feel compassion.
Why do some people who say they are Buddhists have no compassion?
In Tibet, a grandmother or grandfather who sees a sick and hungry dog will feel sorry for it and give it something to eat, while by comparison some monks seem to have no compassion.
Here is the personal experience of Geshe Dorje Damdul. He was educated at the Tibet Children's Village School for Tibetan refugees, where he received a modern Western-style education. Then at the age of twenty, he entered our monastery in south India. So he can speak about two distinct educational experiences.
Geshe recognizes that some very knowledgeable monks do not translate what they have learned into practice. On the other hand, there are monks who are truly able to use their academic knowledge to cultivate the mind of compassion. Then their compassion is so transcendent and profound that you cannot compare it with the compassion of ordinary people.
Geshe studied in the monastery for sixteen years, and his personal experience was that monastic life was very different from that of society outside the monastery.
In the monastery you feel so relaxed, and your friends are always there to offer you help. But once you leave that institution, then gradually you feel a huge difference, as though there is no one around you and you have to sustain yourself.
In the monastery there is an enormous amount of harmony, an incredible sense of confidence, security, and happiness.
That's the positive side of it. [Laughs.]
But I do admit there is also a negative side. Among very knowledgeable people in monasteries, some never integrate their knowledge with actual practice, so in spite of all their education and understanding, because of their lack of practice, they may behave in a coldhearted and indifferent way. But there are only a few monks with these negative traits. Most people in the monasteries do integrate study and practice, and many possess deep kindness that is based on wisdom.
In the worst cases, some monks become very learned in monastic institutions, but they are not able to integrate knowledge with practice. They become very eloquent and good at debating other people, so nobody can really challenge them, while in practice they lack compassion and kindness.
Suffering and the Middle Path
The middle path is very important in Buddhism, but it does not simply mean staying in the middle, avoiding extremes.
The Buddha himself was born as a prince into life of worldly pleasure but then renounced the world and went to live as an ascetic, practicing fasting and austerities until he nearly died. But he did not attain enlightenment, so he came out of the forest, healed his mind and body, and then entered into meditation and attained enlightenment.
The middle path means avoiding extremes of pleasure and pain, but it does not mean that we should merely remain in the middle from the start.
In Buddhism, the true meaning of the middle way is moving dynamically between the two, experiencing both.
When we are between the two, we are here.
So many monks and other Buddhists do not address the actual problem of suffering, but mistakenly think that the middle path means just to sit comfortably in the middle, avoiding extremes, without doing anything.
It is not enought to remain quiety meditating in the monastery — we must confront the suffering in the outside world.
It is foolish to say that the middle path means to be indifferent to reality or not even to know about the other extremes.
The Buddha taught the need for peace. Naturally we may ask why he taught that peace is important.
We know that violence causes suffering. So we may seek peace because we think that to get rid of that suffering, we must put an end to violence.
We need to have both the Buddha's teachings and the awareness that is based on our own actual experience.
If we look at the Buddha's life story, it is clear why he taught the middle path. The Buddha himself taught based on his own experience.
Buddha renounced the world, went off alone to undergo religious training, and practiced austerities for six years.
He often fasted, but he ultimately realized that fasting and other physical efforts were not sufficient. He saw that he had to use his intelligence, so he stopped his ascetic practices and began to eat again.
When he used his intelligence to cultivate wisdom, then, for the first time, he attained enlightenment.
First, we must become aware of suffering. Even without trying to, sooner or later we all experience suffering and want to put an end to it.
To eliminate suffering, we must understand that ascetic physical practices are not enough, but that it is absolutely essential to use our human intelligence to cultivate wisdom.
The Buddha himself taught based on his own experience, and we too must start with our own experience of suffering.
Love and Attachment
Scientists are already starting to show that inner values [holds hand to his heart] are what matter most for a happy life, and they are what we need right now, not only spiritually but also for our physical well-being.
Our whole society is deluded by material things and has lost sight of what is truly valuable. We judge everything on a material level, and we don't recognize any other values.
In families, too, people who earn money are treated well, and those who don't are treated as useless. People treat their children better if they are likely to earn a lot in the future, and they neglect their children who are not.
Some may even feel that since disabled children are not useful, it would be better to kill them. The same is true of old people — since they don't earn money anymore, they are not treated well and are given nothing but leftovers to eat.
We deal with animals the same way. Hens that lay eggs are treated well, but male chickens are killed. Females that don't lay eggs are also killed. People are exactly the same. Only useful people are valued, and those who are not useful are abandoned.
Our society is youth-oriented, but we can also say that it is use-oriented. Modern civilization recognizes those who are useful but not those who are useless.
In a society that treats only useful people well, we now have to pray that we will live shorter lives. [Puts hands together.] When we get old, we will be useless. [Bursts out laughing.]
This is a global problem. I think most societies believe money is the only way.
Deeper human values and compassionate friends are the most important things in life, but people don't recognize that.
For example, in a poor household that is filled with affection, everybody is happy. But even in a billionaire's household, if the family members are jealous and suspicious and unloving toward each other, then no matter how wealthy they are or how nice their furniture is, they are still unhappy.
This example clearly shows the difference between superficial values and deeper, higher values.
The affection and kindness that we human beings originally possess are the deeper values, the foundation of all human values.
With this foundation, superficial values that have to do with money and material possessions can contribute to human happiness. Without it, those superficial values are meaningless.
How then should we distinguish between love and attachment? Some parents think that having a "good child" is proof that they are loving parents. They believe that if their child gets into a good school, it is because of their love for the child.
Getting into a good school is not a bad thing, of course, but if the parents want the child to get into a good school based on conditional love, isn't that just control that goes by the name of love?
Children are not their parents' property, but when the parents treat them like property, that is attachment not love. It seems they use conditional love to control their children.
They are attached not only to their children, but also to their own image of themselves as the parents of good children. That kind of relationship is not real love.
This is the difference between conditional love and unconditional love.
I think genuine love will be given absolutely equally to a bright child or a handicapped child alike. In fact, I think a handicapped child would naturally receive more love, more care. But if the love is not genuine, if it is conditional, then a handicapped child would be seen as useless and would not be loved.
To some extent, I think animals also behave like parents with conditional love. Some kinds of birds give more food to the larger offspring in their nests. I noticed that owls and eagles don't feed the same amount to their larger and smaller offspring. Since they feed more to the larger offspring, I thought maybe the smaller offspring would eventually die. Maybe in the animal world they are distinguishing among their offspring in the same way that humans do. I don't know.
With dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, how do the mothers treat the strong versus the weak offspring?
I don't know, but I am very interested in this question. If they are giving more food to the large and strong offspring and not much to their weaker offspring, then theyare distinguishing among the value of various offspring. Animals behave in such a way because of biological factors.
Female animals also often prefer males that are larger, so that they will have healthier, stronger offspring. They prefer larger males because of a biological instinct to propagate the species and produce better offspring.
Male deer will often fight over the females, and the one that wins looks majestic while the loser withdraws, looking very disappointed as he leaves. [Laughs.] All these things have a biological basis.
In the same way, if a human mother has several children, treating the stronger child better has a biological origin. And if she sees the weaker child as useless and does not give him very much care — setting aside what we just said about money and a child's value — I wonder if that behavior arises from a biological point of view.
What is Civilization?
If culture is a certain fixed pattern of behavior, then we can say that culture exists in the animal world, but civilization is a little more difficult.
On the animal level, everything is governed by physical factors. On the human level, in ancient times, we were closer to the level of animals, in that physical strength was superior. The physical was all that mattered.
But as civilization advanced, human intelligence became more dominant. Through human intelligence, life has advanced and become more sophisticated, and that social development is what we call civilization.
In other words, the concept of civilization is deeply connected to human values, or at least to our intelligence. So the triumph of the strong over the weak on a physical level has become less important.
Intelligence is a unique trait that human beings possess, and in civilization the intellectual level is superior to the physical level. Just as human intelligence plays an important role, so also do the true affection and kindness that human beings possess.
The most important basic human values of affection and kindness exist on a different level than the intellect.
In a civilization founded on the intellectual level, the intellect plays a greater role, and we tend to evaluate and select people based on their usefulness.
But if we make only intellectual judgments and neglect our original attributes of affection and kindness, and instead choose and value only things that are useful, there is a danger that we will leave those judgments as the legacy of our civilization.
I woud like to speak about what I mean when I talk about civilization.
From an animal society in which physical strength was dominant, human intelligencegave rise to what we call "civilization," which overcame the animalistic law of the jungle.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Be Here"
Copyright © 2019 Noriyuki Ueda.
Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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