Friday, February 08, 2008

Living: Insight from the Dalai Lama

Today's words from the Dalai Lama calendar from my brother are worth meditating on:
If a person's basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience. On the other hand, if someone is suffering from depression, anxiety, or any form of emotional distress, then even if he or she happens to be enjoying physical comforts, he will not really be able to experience the happiness that these could bring.
The point here, I take it, is that what is 'out there' around us is not nearly so important as what is 'in here' in our own minds. Dharma teachers are often quick to tell stories of travels in India and Tibet, amongst the poorest people of the world, where they were greeted with kindness and joy - and often gifts - in contrast to the folks in wealthy western countries where people are stingy and cynical.

Yet I think it is equally important to state that we all need good conditions to cultivate the serenity and calm which is naturally inherent within us. Even a Pope or Dalai Lama, in the midst of utter chaos, will find life incredibly difficult. Think of the sixth Dalia Lama, raised in turbulent times, shrouded even from potential teachers for many years, a virtual prisoner well into his teens. Or of Pope Pius XII in the chaotic years of WW II.

We all need the initial conditions for happiness: some degree of peace and quiet, safety and sufficient nourishment. But beyond these, and these are amazingly readily available if we search for them, it is upon us to do the work of cultivating the inner peace which is the mark of the sage, the yogi, the sensai.

In are difficult times, it is always fair to seek greater comfort. This is part of our human nature and the realization that we all have difficult times. Even as hard as it is to seek help, it is equally wonderful to be asked, and to be trusted in another's time of need. This is the beauty of humanity: we care for each other. Even when our reasons escape reason, we care. And we want to help.

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