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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.

The thing that I like about the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist teachers taking questions from everyday people is that you get such a wide variety of queries that most people can relate to. Sometimes you read an interview of the Dalai Lama or other teacher where deep, philosophical questions are put forth from some journalist or documentary director.

At times, they are so in-depth and esoteric that I don't even understand what's being asked!! I do like deep, philosophical questions and dialogues from time to time but sometimes it's like drinking to quench my thirst from a fire hose. So, it's with joy that I present one of ten questions for the Dalai Lama from average folks who don't feel the need to show off how profound they are with their question:

Do you ever feel angry or outraged?Kantesh Guttal, PUNE, INDIA
Oh, yes, of course. I'm a human being. Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something's wrong. He's not right in the brain. [Laughs.]
James: I really like how direct yet disarming he is with his answers. He gets right to the point and doesn't feel the need to go into a dissertation all the time as some spiritual teachers can, which is why I think he is so popular with every day people. He knows how to speak to his audience, and to each question. So, one day he can be speaking very simply and the next very in-depth. This shows to me just how much he is in tune with the present moment and the energy and essence of each person. Again, I don't mind in-depth discussions but I also like a teacher who is well-rounded to be able to speak with average people too. That is a common trait I think with those who are awakened, as Buddha was known to be able to teach differently to whomever came before him. He understand that because of different karma, not everyone learned the same way. And so it is with the Dalai Lama as well. To read his other questions from the Time magazine article, click on this sentence.

UPDATE: My friend Markus wrote the following on Facebook in reply to my posting the above question regarding anger. I thought it would be a good addition to the post, "Marvellous, thank you! Sometimes certain Buddhists seem to think that feeling angry or outraged is non-Buddhist and it would be better to stay Holy and Pure all the time. "Look at me, I'm a Buddhist, I'm always smiling and singing Kumbayah!"

To which I replied:

@Markus. I agree. Yes, if we Buddhists were supposed to be "enlightened" just for being a "Buddhist" then why are we still living in samsara? Simply being Buddhist doesn't mean you don't get upset anymore about things. From my studies and contemplations I've found that It's about understanding your anger. Why are you angry? Contemplate and meditate upon it regularly. Embrace it in meditation with a compassionate mind of understanding. Don't heap on the guilt as that's just more anger--directed at you).

Doing this allows us to see what makes us angry. Thus, what to avoid in the future to reduce it in the future but pretending to not be angry isn't any healthier than spewing that anger about. So, rather than somehow being perfect and ignoring your anger, it's about how to LIVE with that anger. That living directly with anger is through the Buddhist teaching of mindfulness. When we are mindful of what set-off our anger we can better prepare for the next time, so that we over-time increase our abilities to react differently. However, to somehow expect to magically make your anger disappear for good is perhaps falling prey to another of the three poisons, delusion.

It's also not about ending pleasure from our lives as some Buddhists believe. I don't believe it's about living a sterile and sanitized life. It's fine to enjoy pleasure--otherwise we'd be nihilists, which we know Buddha advised against. No, the way I see it, pleasure is fine but the problem to guard against is becoming ATTACHED to that pleasure to where you suffer deeply without it. According to the teachers I've read and listen to--that's the essence of what Buddha meant when discussing "desire."

If we were to avoid ALL desire then don't we have to stop being Buddhist? Because at some level we Buddhists WANT to be Buddhists to end all the suffering in our lives. Isn't that very desire to end suffering, "non-Buddhist" if we are to follow the logic and admonitions of the Buddhists who say we shouldn't
desire anything or enjoy pleasure?

PHOTO CREDIT: Vincent J. Ricardel / Contour / Getty Images

~Peace to all beings~

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6 comments:

turquoisemoon said...

Good post... Thanks!

Jayarava said...

Yeah, good one.

Gabriel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabriel said...

A bunch of us decided to infuse a public place with the energy of peace, so we walked into a downtown Washington, DC bookstore and this is what happened. Hope you like it!

Rob Gee said...

Very insightful comments on anger. I recognize Nhat Hanh's teachings in what you say. The true Buddhist way is not to ignore anger or pretend it does not exist, but rather to be mindful of anger and overcome anger with compassion.

This may mean that through practice, one day a person does not show anger anymore, but that does not mean that they do not feel anger. The mistaken notion that Buddhists never feel anger I think confuses beginning Buddhists.

I once had the notion that I should never feel anger. I went about my daily life thinking of myself as being immune to anger. Things came up that might have bothered me in the past, and I let them go. I was very understanding of others and did not fault them for their wrongs. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do, right?

Then one day a drunken man sexually assaulted a friend right in front of me. Before I could stop to think twice about what I was doing, I had the man by the throat and had smashed his head into a metal hinge. He bled everywhere. It took me days to calm down and realize how I had failed to understand this man who was suffering greatly, and that I had merely caused him to suffer more. Ultimately, my violent behavior only scared my female friend and injured the man. It did not alleviate her suffering or his.

So yes, I still get angry, and it is very important to remain ever mindful, ever present, and ever aware of my feelings lest my feelings overwhelm me and dictate my behavior.

They call him James Ure said...

@Rob Gee...Great comments.

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