The Dalai Lama visited Nottingham at the end of May and I went along with my 13yr old son to hear his talks on ‘Bringing Meaning to Our Lives’. It was pretty overwhelming to see this man, the alleged incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, a broken nation. Personally I was struck by his ease, his intelligence, and his sense of humour with the most contagious laugh.
After listening to 6 hours of this monk talking, it is difficult to pick out which part to write about. Politically, He is the leader of Tibet, a nation that has placed itself back in the world’s spotlight with the troubles since 10th march this year, and whilst this wasn’t what He was here for, it was obvious that people wanted to hear His views on the situation. It was really interesting to hear that He felt that the fight to ‘Free Tibet’ was irrelevant at the moment, that what was really important was that Tibetans were allowed to live as an autonomous people, with their own culture and language being encouraged to be kept alive, and that it was this that He hoped for when engaging in dialogue with Beijing. He also hoped that young Tibetans and Chinese would begin to merge, learn each others cultures and become friends: it all seems so idyllic, I hope His dream can become reality.
In the six hours of talks that I listened to, the main theme that I took away was His Holiness’ notion of anger, fear and suspicion: negativity. In His opinion we need to learn how to deal with negative emotions in order to make the world a better place and thus bring meaning to our lives. He stressed the importance of remembering that these negative emotions are energies, and not to grasp hold of them: that when someone is angry, hateful, to remember that it is the energy that is the enemy and not the person. In His view, negative emotions are connected to physical ills, so what is really important in our lives is happiness, for ourselves and for others. Being the Bodhisattva of Compassion He stressed the necessity of having compassion for all other beings, of remembering our interconnectedness, and that helping others is the best way that we can make the world a better place.
As a meditation, He suggested tuning your mind and body into remembering the feeling of being held by your mother as an infant; when nothing can harm you; when all is safe and well with the world. He suggested that this is the mind state that was preferable to be in, in order to live more positively, and that fear, suspicion and other overwhelming negative emotions are really pointless. This is something I feel is really important for people to try and remember, difficult as it is, for the future is nothing to fear; the future has not happened yet, there is no need to be overwhelmed by negativity when basing yourself in the present, in a safe state of mind. It made me think that hateful, angry people maybe need to be helped to feel safe, that personal insecurity has a lot to answer for.
Negative emotions are those which disturb our inner peace; fear, hatred, suspicion all destroy our inner peace and it is important to remember that they are energies which when confronted for what they are, become weak. The energy is the harmful aspect and not people, so it is possible to love your enemy, develop compassion for your enemy, for it is not them who threatens you, but the energy; actions are harmful, not people. These are wise words that could benefit the world, but difficult to remember in heated situations; on leaving the arena I came face to face with a crowd of angry Chinese demonstrators and I instantly felt the anger rise within me and succumbed to a heated discussion (to put it mildly!) with some Chinese students on the issue of Tibet. Afterwards I realised that I had fallen foul of negative energies, been overwhelmed by anger and had lost any ability to feel compassion for fellow beings: I have a lot to learn!!
Peace of mind is not something that can be bought with money. Peace of mind comes from physical and mental happiness. Peace of mind comes from release from negative energies. Peace of mind is our biological and spiritual right and is there for us to achieve by means of compassion; compassion for all sentient beings with whom we share this planet, with whom we are all interconnected and we would do well to remember this. The way to bring meaning to our lives is to encourage positive emotions of love and compassion, to help others and to show kindness in the face of cruelty. We are all human beings, no different from each other; whether Buddhists or Christians, believers or non-believers, we are all the same on a basic level and need to remember this. It would seem we could all learn from this wise and humble man who I was honoured to have the opportunity to listen to.