Anything can be idolatrous. Therefore, question everything.
The Dalai Lama cedes his political role. Clearly the Dalai Lama understands the Western idea of “separation of church and state,” its importance for entry into the modern world, and its role in fostering healthy civil institutions. Of course, there are many traditions that Tibet will maintain, and it will adapt on it own terms. Perhaps we will how a society can maintain its deep spirituality while developing democratic, secular institutions. This is impressive:
A fascinating discussion of religion and politics that relates to Tibet, India, and China
See my talk: Laurence H. Kant, “Who Are We, You and I: Meditations on Death and Afterlife”: Late Life Concerns: The Final Miles, Newman Center, Lexington, Kentucky, August, 2010: © 2010, Laurence H. Kant, All rights reserved: Who Are We
Because of the massive information overload that affects soldiers in the US military due to a heavy emphasis on sophisticated technology and multi-tasking, there is greater need than ever for awareness and grounding. This article shows the unstated influence of Buddhist meditation, with its ubiquitous focus on mindfulness–an intriguing development. (via Dianne Bazell)
“The Tibetan spiritual leader gave $50,000 to a new center devoted to studying the power of meditation.”
“Contemporary Tibet conjures a mysterious mental image. So imagine how much more mysterious it was 100 years ago when travel was difficult and few foreigners were granted entry. A rare photo album provides a glimpse of that cloistered culture.”
”God” is a word, a name, giving us the illusion that we somehow control whatever “God” is. We don’t. That’s why Jews have no name for “God.” That’s why most Buddhists have no “God” at all.
“In his recent book, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (2008), the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh asserts that Buddhism, as a robust type of humanism, allows people to learn how to live on our planet not only responsibly, but with compassion and lovingkindness. …”
Heinrich Harrer, “Seven Years in Tibet”
I am almost finished reading Heinrich Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet.” A superb mountain climber, sportsman, geographer, and adventurer, the Austrian Harrer escaped from an internment camp in India and managed with a companion to make his way to Tibet in the 1940’s. Even though Tibet closed itself to foreigners, Harrer was able to navigate incredible physical obstacles and bureaucratic impediments to see rural Tibet and eventually make his way to Lhasa. Over time he became an important figure in Tibetan life and one of the Dalai Lama’s best friends. He learned to speak fluent Tibetan. Harrer was not a scholar or a religious leader, but a practical man whose humanity and spirituality overflow in spite of his apparent skepticism. It was that practicality and his love of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism which made him such a beloved figure in Tibet. Because he knew Tibet and Tibetans intimately, he did not idolize Tibet, but could love it for all its wonder and greatness and its flaws. He criticized the Tibetan resistance to adaptation to the modern world, a view which the Dalai Lama seemed to share. At the same time, Harrer deeply respected the emphasis on spirituality and ritual in Tibetan life. His stories of Tibetan workers who, upon seeing a worm in a shovel full of dirt, stop all their labor in order to preserve the worm’s life, is powerful and inspiring.
In Harrer’s memoir, the humanity of the Dalai Lama also comes through, and my respect for the Dalai Lama has deepened, as his Buddha nature appears not because of his lofty intellect or power, but because of his genuineness and authenticity. That seems to me what connects both Harrer and the Dalai Lama. They are first and foremost fully human, with very little posing or posturing. They are who they are. Harrer’s writing style is very matter-of-fact, which makes readers feels a sense of participating in the events described. I found the book gripping.
The Dalai Lama escaped Tibet in 1959, and he and Harrer remained close friends until Harrer’s passing in 2006 at the age of 93. I recommend this book highly.
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