Chicago, Illinois, 18 July 2011 - On his last day of this two-city current tour of the United States, on July 18, 2011 morning, His Holiness participated in a dialogue with interfaith leaders in a session entitled, Building Bridges: Religious Leaders In Conversation With The Dalai Lama. Hosted by the Theosophical Society and held at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago, it was attended by a sold-out crowd of 1500 people.
Theosophical Society President Tim Boyd introduced His Holiness to the audience. He recalled the visit of His Holiness to the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America, located in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1981. He said His Holiness had given a talk at a local school then but not many students knew who he was. Since then things have changed greatly, Mr. Boyd said adding that His Holiness has now become one of the most recognized and the most respected persons in the world. Mr. Boyd said that His Holiness’s continued call for adherence to the universal qualities to bring change to human hearts and minds have made him one of the greatest teachers in the world.
Mr. Eboo Patel, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Thupten Jinpa (His Holiness's interpreter) at the Harris Theater in Chicago on July 18, 2011. Photo/Mike Kelly
Thereafter, Mr. Eboo Patel, the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international nonprofit that aims to promote interfaith cooperation, moderated a brief session with His Holiness alone before inviting the other panelists. Mr. Patel called His Holiness as probably being the world’s leading example of religious tolerance.
A short documentary on the artwork created by religious organizations about their perception of other religions was screened.
Mr. Patel then said that he would be asking His Holiness some questions, which have been compiled through different channels from different individuals. In his first question, Mr. Patel asked His Holiness the reasons that led to him adopting religious harmony as one of his commitments, in addition to the promotion of humanvalues and resolving the Tibetan problem.
His Holiness responded that if we use common sense then it would be clear why he was stressing on the need for religious harmony. He said every day we hear news about violence, some of which are related to different religions. Having a feeling of sadness for a short moment in such situations was not the right approach. He said that while praying for the wellbeing of all sentient beings may be seen as unrealistic there was the need for considering the wellbeing of the nearly seven billion human beings on this planet. He added that there was the possibility of all people co-existing in harmony.
His Holiness referred to the harmony among different religious practitioners in India as an example. He talked about how Muslims in Bodh Gaya have friendly relationship with the Buddhists there despite the historical fact that they are descendants of people who may have been involved in the destruction of Buddhist institutions in the past. He made the case for the need of the existence of the different religious traditions to fit the different mental dispositions of the people. He talked about the projection of the entire Islamic community negatively in the wake of the September 11 incident and how he had come to defend Islam.
His Holiness stressed on the need for religious communities to be more involved with society. He praised the Christian community for theirinvolved in the health and education sectors. He also said that Buddhist monks in Thailand and Burma were active in ecological preservation.
In response to a question on how the young interfaith leaders, who are humanists, should play their role, His Holiness talked about his commitment to promote basic human values through secular moral ethics. He said we could all work to cultivate warm-heartedness, which builds trusts, which in turn builds friendship. Saying that his concept of promotion of moral ethics was not based on religion, he said this makes it possible to easily introduce it in the education system. If moral ethics is to be based on religious faith, His Holiness said that it couldn’t become universal.
Rev. Peg Chamberlin, Rabbi Michael Lerner and Dr. Ingrid Mattson join His Holiness the Dalai Lama on stage at the Harris Theater in Chicago on July 18, 2011. Photo/Mike Kelly
Thereafter, Mr. Patel invited the other panelists to the stage. They were Rabbi Michael Lerner, founding editor of the progressive Jewish interfaith magazine Tikkun, which is dedicatedto building bridges between religious and secular organizations; Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Hartford Seminary Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations; and Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches.
Discussions touched on their personal experience at interfaith initiatives and the challenges they have faced. Dr. Mattson said how shewas inspired by His Holiness’ outreach to scientists to have a new perspective in her ethical research in schools. Rabbi Lerner said how the Buddhist concept of letting go attachments enabled him to strengthenhis own faith. They also talked about how interfaith dialogue could be promoted in today’s world.
Mr. Patel in his concluding remark expressed his gratitude to His Holiness for his interfaith initiatives. He said that His Holiness couldhave chosen to live in the bubble of his Tibetan Buddhism but he chose to learn about the best of all religions. He thanked His Holiness for setting an example.
In his concluding remarks, His Holiness said that he was not saying anything new but only being a messenger of the ancient Indian teachings.He thanked his co-panelists for their work, including one of them for highlighting women’s rights.
TV Journalist Bill Curtis was the MC for this session. His Holinessthen had lunch with the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and some guests who had attended the dialogue.
In the afternoon, His Holiness addressed around 300 members of the Theosophical Society. He told them about his appreciation of the Society’s mission. He then answered some questions before departing to the airport to begin his return journey to India.
During this tour His Holiness arrived in Washington, D.C. on July 5 and spent 13 days in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
As a child, my mother Enid often said to me, “There is no such thing as a silly question,” and then would add, “unless.” This latter word was left hanging, and I eventually realised that it was up to me to learn the depth of its meaning.
At the same time that Enid was planting seeds for reflection, my first spiritual teacher, Ven. Lama Senge Tashi, encouraged me to cultivate more skilful thoughts, speech and actions. Sometimes I would try to verbally assert “I” or “Me,” and Lama would respond with, “Who is speaking?” or “Who is asking?”
During the Covid-19 pandemic a dharma sister passed from this life. Her name was Robyn. Although she did not call herself a Buddhist, nevertheless, Robyn had a special connection with the deity Medicine Buddha.
Over the six years that I worked with her, in my role as a hospital chaplain, Robyn frequently asked me to chant the mantra of Medicine Buddha and guide her through the visualisation. During her many stays in hospital, this particular practice brought comfort to her while she was experiencing chronic pain, anxiety and fear of the unknown. The medications she took would sometimes cloud her memory, so I would guide her through the details of the visualisation and begin chanting:
Once, as I was about to hold a summer Dharma class on a beach, as the first students began to arrive for the session I picked up two rocks and carefully placed them, one on top of the other, on to a much larger rock base. Observing what I had just done, three students approached: a young married couple and their five year old son.
True Seeing (Ven. Shih Jingang) One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing.
‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’
‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’
‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’
But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day,
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.”
These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them?
A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death.
At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Today I sit alone in a house. The government of the country in which I live has requested that I stay here in isolation for the health and safety of the community both here and abroad. Countless others are doing the same thing, except that some call it a forced lock down, or an obstacle to their free movement. I see this as an opportunity to practice.
The Buddha taught that the suffering connected with birth, sickness, old age and death is a fact of life for sentient beings in Samsara. But so is the possibility of transcendence from Samsaric suffering.
So, for a practitioner, the question is not just “Why?” but also “How?” Why do I/we suffer and, how do I/we overcome suffering? The answer to the former is found in intuitively recognizing (the 3 Poisons): harmful habits of attachment, anger and ignorance; and the answer to the latter lies in resolving to study and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (the antidote) and, fully realizing Buddhahood for the benefit of a
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action.
I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.