DHARMA IN THE MODERN WORLD
It was a gift of enormous proportions to be one of over 10,000 people reverently sitting in rapt attention on October 12, 2010, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave a teaching on the Eight Verses for Training the Mind. The event was hosted by the Gyuto Vajrayana Center and was held at the San Jose Convention Center.
His Holiness began the event by preparing participants for delving into the Eight Verses. He explained that all sentient beings share a feeling of wanting joyfulness, happiness, the right to achieve a happy life with less suffering and greater inner peace. To this end all major traditions favor love, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. But unless we know reality fully, often our approach is very unrealistic. Logical investigation is needed. The Buddha stressed to his followers that they should not accept his teachings simply because of their devotion to him, but by investigating his teachings carefully.
After a brief history of Geshe Langri Tangpa who recorded the Eight Verses lojong instructions in written form, His Holiness described the two advantages of using this text: it shows how one can practice altruism in daily life with difficult people, and the text is short, “only one page long!” Ten thousand people laughed in delight.
His advice for those of all traditions was to investigate, observe mindfully, progress in stages and become increasingly familiar with the practices contained in the verses. This is the way to combat the destructive emotions which violate our inner peace.
The surge of energy and happiness peaked during the oral transmission of the Eight Verses, for as His Holiness spoke, the thousands present recited the verses in unison with him. It felt like taking a vow, all the more sacred because it was in his holy presence. And with this vow came the determination to start memorizing the Eight Verses with that evening’s meditation practice. The Dalai Lama recites the verses daily and describes them as one of his main sources of inspiration.
An interfaith gathering immediately followed His Holiness’ teaching. At his specific request, the seating arrangement was banquet style rather than rows of seats in lecture style. Upon walking into the room we simply found an empty seat at one of the tables. Over light refreshments, conversations quickly sprang up with others at the table as we reached out to friends and strangers, hearing their stories, embracing them as fellow sentient beings. This format worked wonderfully to propel us directly to the task at hand – to engage those from many faiths.
The distinguished speakers included such notables as Ohlone elder Ann Marie Sayers (Native American), Prof. Huston Smith, Rev. Matthew Fox, Samina Sundas (Muslim), Dr. Thupten Jinpa, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Noah Levine, Bishop Koshin Ogui and others. One speaker led us in song, another in chanting om, and yet another in meditation. Many key ideas were stated, but two stood out for quite a few participants: Prof. Huston Smith underscored the importance of Muslims being involved in every step of the dialogue, because he feels Islam is the most misunderstood of religions; and Rev. Dorsey Blake reminded us that dialogue is not the end, but must lead to action. And thus he echoed His Holiness who taught us that through altruistic action we can be a resource of benefit for all beings.
Gwen McEwen’s involvement with FPMT goes back to 2008 when she enrolled in Jon Landaw’s Discovering Buddhism series at Land of Medicine Buddha. She completed those classes this past June, and also along the way has attended various retreats and teachings at both Land of Medicine Buddha and Vajrapani. Having retired after a 30-year career in the medical field, Gwen is happily using her time now to help out with gardening at LMB. Most recently she has taken on a very rewarding assignment with Mandala to transcribe years of back issues so that they can be incorporated into the electronic archives of FPMT.gwen mcewen, gyuto vajrayana center, his holiness the dalai lama