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A conversation with students of yoga

Spontaneous comments by Dr. Vijayendra Pratap, director of the SKY Foundation in Philadelphia, Pa., during a talk with students on October 30, 2014. (Some comments are paraphrased; this is not a verbatim transcript.)

On Yoga

Wherever you go, it (yoga) is with you. You don’t need “stuff” to practice yoga. The main focus will be your senses. They allow you entrance into yourself. It is your choice how and what you want to see. Contemplate on what you choose. You have the tools: use them. If you lose your focus, so what? Come back to it.

Human Nature

You are fundamentally perfect, according to my definition. Yoga teaches this. But somehow you got the notion that you are not. The moon on the second day of its cycle is perfect. But you compare it to the day before when the moon was full. No two people are alike. See the beauty of creation in individuals. Know that people are fascinating.

Knowing

You have the answer for everything. Look within. Knowledge does not come from the outside.

Rising Sun

(A student asked why we begin practice by visualizing the rising sun.) The rising sun opens the lotus. In meditation, the rising sun stands for the power of awakening. The lotus is associated with who we are. It never sinks in water, never drowns. There is mud and filth at the bottom of the pond, but the lotus is untouched. There are dark places within, but you float above it.

In the morning, look toward the sun just rising. If you give yourself quiet time, understanding arises. First comes darkness, but then, the truth is bright and clear. Dig deep: the foundation materializes.

Conditioning and Communicating

We are conditioned to think a certain way. This keeps us from understanding. This is true everywhere, from India to China to America. Go with a fresh mind, an Open Mind (OM). Don’t be so serious, but be sincere.

Did you know you can communicate through silence? Two people deeply in love do not have to say a word: they understand each other. It is like a tuning fork, when one is struck, the other hums. When people are synchronized, they can communicate without talking. How beautiful it is when we are in tune with one another.

Posted on Monday, November 10, 2014 at 08:14PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Compassion, love are natural responses, Dalai Lama says in Princeton talk

During his Oct. 28, 2014, visit to Princeton University, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke with Princeton students in the afternoon during a program, “In the Service of All Nations.” The title refers to a speech by Princeton (and later U.S.) President Woodrow Wilson underscoring the university’s global role. (A blog entry about an earlier public lecture was posted Oct. 28, 2014.)

The following are maxims and reflections offered by the Dalai Lama during this second lecture in Princeton, N.J., on Oct. 28, 2014, often in response to student questions:

Compassion is a key value. Even animals show compassion, the strong will look after the weak. Even dogs, when they meet, show affinity for each other. They don’t compare collars, for instance!

Can you imagine hatred of all humanity? It’s not possible. Compassion, love are natural responses. Anger and hatred arise from particular circumstances. Our basic nature is to be more compassionate. Constant anger is very hurtful for our body.

From an evolutionary point of view, empathy and connection are our primary inclinations. We need a certain amount of hate and anger for survival, but they are not fundamental characteristics of humanity.

We must attack the root causes of inequality between rich and poor. Otherwise, our actions are unrealistic.

Happiness is the goal of life. Loving kindness is the source of happiness.

Modern education has the potential to open our eyes

A student asked: In our careers, should we aim for higher income doing what we don’t feel passionate about, or earn less doing what we love?

HH replied: This should be decided on a case by case basis. We all need money.  First take care of yourself, then others. If  you can’t stand on your own two feet, it is difficult to help other people.

A student asked: How can we get through to people with no interest in helping others?

HH replied: This is a real problem. The very existence of the  educational system is oriented toward the material, not inner values. You cannot change by force or law, but by volunteering. Voluntarily make inner values familiar, with positive emotions.

Asked about the media, HH said: People with no morals get more coverage. Scandal, killing: these are big news. Caring for people is not news. We can change this through education.  Think of the money spent on clothes, beauty products, etc. The heart is valued only at Christmas time!

Asked about social justice in the wake of Ferguson, HH said that many forces are at play: The long-term goal is to improve life through education. We have to make effort, mainly through education, to achieve the same goal but through different professions. Toy factories, video games: less of that. Then better world. You cannot change a materialistic life overnight. One or two individuals can’t do it alone.

A student asked whether she had to go back to her country and provide service.

HH replied: Look at the larger picture, plus consider what you can do (what your gifts are and how they can best be used). When you take care of your teeth, you take care of all of them, not just one!

Take a holistic view. If you look at only the negative, it will make you angry. Develop a method, some sense of developing your courage, so you can help.

A student asked how to deal with large entities such as corporations and nations.

HH replied: Consider your own body, then treat others that way. The entire creation of God preserves, respects, and takes care of others. We have no dialogue with God, only with creatures. The human mind is quite flexible.  We can create that attitude with groups as well as with individuals. Through training and attitude we can change.

A student asked about service and compassion.

HH said:  Service is seen as going to a third world country. But alleviating suffering on a small scale also is service. It is not always physical. The mental level is more important.

When your mental attitude is happy you can reduce physical suffering. When your mental attitude is fearful, you won’t be able to reduce suffering. Scientists are discovering that mental attitudes and training can actually change the brain.  Education itself is not about sensory gratification, but cultivating the mind.

Asked another question about Ferguson, HH said: Ancient Indian psychology teaches that destructive emotions are sudden, positive emotions are cultivated. When the immune system stops, the virus enters. So mental attitude must be cultivated through training. We need more study of emotion. There is a whole map of emotions: we need to get the whole picture.

A student asked how to convert intentions into acts of service (after graduation).

HH replied: It depends on the depth of your conviction. If your intentions are a fad, they won’t last. On my own path, we try to exercise compassion and help others. Habituate yourself to this way of thinking. You have to start somewhere. A professor once started out learning the alphabet. A pilot is trained to fly a jump jet so it appears to be effortless. This is all about practice. Unless you are really well trained, you might pull the wrong switch!

(Reported by Linda Brown Holt. Some of these comments may have been rephrased in places to emphasize meaning. They do not constitute a transcript of the Dalai Lama’s talk. This blog entry is based on the writer’s notes and recollections.)

Posted on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 06:34PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

21st Century of Peace, predicts Dalai Lama in Princeton, N.J.

by Linda Brown Holt

newjerseynewsroom.com Religion Correspondent

The 21st century can become the “Century of Peace” if the new generation takes responsibility and seizes the opportunity to make an effort to champion inner values and live compassionately, the Dalai Lama told thousands of rapt listeners in a Princeton University lecture at Jadwyn Gymnasium in Princeton, this morning. The program was simulcast by Princeton University’s Media Central Live.

In a public lecture titled, “Develop the Heart,” the 79-year-old leader of some 20 million Buddhists worldwide (www.adherents.com) called for all humanity to recognize its oneness and for people to treat each other fairly, with understanding and compassion.

“Our target,” he said, speaking in English under a Tibetan thangka (banner), “is 7 billion human beings. But it is not enough to have wishful thinking or just prayer. Be active, make an attempt. If one person influences 10 people, and each of them reaches 10 others, soon hundreds of thousands will be taking action to spread happiness, understanding, and peace.”

Wearing the traditional monastic robes of red and yellow, the Dalai Lama, considered one of the most influential spiritual leaders in the world, stressed that believers of all religions, as well as non-believers, need to respect and have compassion for all other people, even those with opposing dogmas. “All religions teach love, forgiveness, self-discipline,” he said. “We need a sense of concern for each person’s well-being.”

Known for his jocular sense of humor and frequent bursts of laughter, the Dalai Lama donned a Princeton baseball cap at the beginning of his presentation. “Carry out any action of your life with a sense of compassion. If you think of the well-being of others, there will be no possibility of hurt, bullying, cheating others.”

The Dalai Lama urged world leaders to revisit and revise the educational system to include values. “Scientists and educators already are discussing this important issue,” he said. “People in society think money is the secret to happiness, but it will not bring inner peace. Each person deserves a totally happy life, not just relying on money.”

People do not have to be religious in order to put materialism in its place, he said. “Of course, money is important, but pay more attention to inner values. You don’t have to include much of this in the curriculum…just a little bit.”

Referred to as His Holiness, the leader also noted that too much emphasis is placed on differences. “We have differences in family, professions, education, faith, color,” he noted. “but we need to put more emphasis on the first level, that we are human beings who need compassion. We are brothers and sisters. There is no basis for war or killing.”

The Dalai Lama broke with tradition by suggesting that certain parts of his own religion (Buddhism) may evolve over time. He noted that some statements and restrictions need to be updated as society changes. Asked by an audience member about a scripture suggesting that women are inferior, His Holiness said that cultural norms at the time sometimes affect how people are perceived. “There are no differences between the male and female brain,” he said. “There is no difference in people because of color, gender, and so forth. I think we have the ability to change things.”

The Tibetan leader, who escaped from Tibet during the uprising of 1959, said students and others today do not need to become hermits in order to practice a more spiritual life. “Study is very important. Learn to remain calm, do not become angry,” he said. “I find that meditation is a great practice that you can bring into the world in your work and daily activities. Think of others, do not be self-centered: that is the secret of happiness, and happiness is the purpose of life.

“There is no guarantee what will happen, but make an effort on the basis of hope. Our lives are based on hope,” he said, “and a happy life is our goal.”

The Dalai Lama reflected on influences that shaped his life. “My mother was illiterate, uneducated, just a farm woman, but very, very kind,” he reflected. “She carried me as she worked in the fields and with the animals. I would hang comfortably on her back, and grab her ears. If I wanted to go right, I’d pull on the right ear! I was a young, spoiled boy!” (laughter)

In another light moment, the Dalai Lama was asked what is the meaning of life. “Ah,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye, “Money! Sex!” Uproarious laughter followed this tongue-in-cheek remark, as the leader went on to seriously address the need for compassion and values.

Since Buddhism developed out of the teachings of India, the Dalai Lama spoke reverently of Indian writings on spirituality and psychology, especially those from southern India.”We gain knowledge by study, hearing and critical reflection, and experience,” he said, quoting a famous Indian text. “Think critically, analytically,” he said, “and change your mental attitudes.”

The Dalai Lama is delivering two more talks in Princeton: “What Does it Mean to be In the Service of All Nations?”and a private gathering the morning of Oct. 29, 2014. (Quotes in this article were occasionally rephrased because of language differences.)

 

 

 

Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 12:48PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Metaphysics, in a new key?

Interesting article on Thomas Nagel's ideas about metaphysics. One reader states they have nothing whatsoever to do with religion. But that depends on how you define religion.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/thomas-nagel-thoughts-are-real

 

Posted on Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 06:41PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Women in spiritual leadership

It is hard to fathom how prejudice continues against women leaders in spirituality and religion. When I read today that the Church of England has approved women bishops, I was shocked to learn that this was not already the case. It would be laughable if not so pathetic.

Women priests, sybils, wise women, ministers, and other leaders have existed throughout recorded history, and no doubt before. I came across this interesting site, which provides some arguments on behalf of women priests in the Western European tradition:

http://www.womenpriests.org/minwest/conhospitae_overview.asp

Posted on Monday, July 14, 2014 at 06:03PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment
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