I’ll start off by saying that I went to these events with an open mind. And all I can say is that the following points left a very big impression on me. Hence why I decided to write about them. Perhaps, you too will be inspired, dear reader.
Before moving on to the actual points, though, I’d like to start by describing what the atmosphere was like during the sessions.
As I made my way into the dimly lit room, I could hear entrancing, ambient meditation music playing. I sat in my chair, approximately forty-five minutes before the start of the event. The hypnotic notes and sounds oozing out from the speakers immediately put me at ease, and calmed my nerves. I remember sitting there, with just two or three other people present, and feeling completely relaxed, almost as if being induced into some hypnotic state by the sheer calmness around me.
As the room slowly started filling up, I couldn’t help but notice the behaviour of some audience members. People who knew each other embraced for a longer-than-usual amount of time, and some people who walked by simply smiled or nodded at me in greeting. Now, these humans were complete strangers to me, yet I felt a sense of belonging being among them. The complete opposite of how I feel when I’m at social gatherings with friends or family. I guess it’s true when they say it sometimes feels better to be in a place/country where nobody knows you.
Another small observation I made was that I was the youngest person in the room, on both days.
Now, on to actual points themselves…
The Refuge and Generation of Bodhicitta Prayers – The sessions would begin with the following prayers. This would take approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
SANGGYÉ CHÖEDANG TSHOGKYI CHOGNAM LA/
In the Buddha, Dharma and the Supreme Assembly,
JANGCHUB BARDU DAGNI KYABSU CHI/
I take refuge until enlightenment.
DAGGI JINSOG GYIPEI SÖENAM KYI/
By the merit of my generosity and other perfections,
DROLA PHENCHIR SANGGYÉ DRUBPAR SHOG/
May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings.
(repeated three times)
SEMCHEN DEDANG DENGYUR CHIG/
May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness.
DUGNGEL GYUDANG DRELGYUR CHIG/
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
DEWA DAMDANG MIDREL SHOG/
May all sentient beings never be apart from the supreme bliss, which is free of all suffering.
CHAGDANG DRELWEI TANGNYOM SHOG/
May all sentient beings live in the great equanimity, free from the attachment and aversion that keep some close and others distant.
So, what did you notice in the texts? Did you notice, for example, how characters such as ‘god’ or ‘the holy spirit’ are not even mentioned once in these prayers? This is one thing which really struck me. The fact that prayers aren’t addressed to a particular supreme being of some sort. Instead, they are prayers which simply “wish” the best for all people. Correction. All sentient beings, I should say. Which means any living thing; from the biggest blue whale to the tiniest tick (yes, that includes cockroaches, snakes, and grasshoppers, too, for better or for worse).
One thing, however, still eludes me. If, as many say, Buddhism is not a religion, then why the need to pray?
The Orange and Apple Seeds Analogy: I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: We may seem different, but we are not all as different as we may seem. Rinpoche explained this better by using a simple and interesting example, which I call “The Orange and Apple Seeds Analogy”. What this means, basically, is that, although an orange and apple are two completely different fruits (their shape, colour, texture, taste, etc.) they are really the same thing: fruit! Peel away their skin (literally), and you’ll find that they have the same origin: seeds. Yes, once again, they look different, but when you think of it, even their origin is the same (both are planted in soil, given water
Although the fruit seeds analogy made the concept easier to understand, I still have my doubts. I am still unable to fathom how people are “connected” in some way. It is extremely clear that people are different, and I’m not referring to appearance, of course. If we are “all the same”, why then do we each have different personalities? Why do we have different opinions? Why do we disagree on certain matters?
On karma: Buddhists believe that all beings are made up of two things: the mind and body. Karma starts before we are even born, and that when we die, the “mind” part of us lives on.
The Tibetan Buddhist concept of karma is similar to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is presented as a universal law that has nothing to do with abstract ideas of justice, reward, or punishment. Karma, whether one is aware of it or not, is constantly being created.
As someone who believes that there is absolutely nothing after death, the karma concept doesn’t seem as far-fetched as, say, the theory that when we die we are reborn as an animal. It kind of makes sense, actually. The things we say to people, when we learn something from others, that’s all passing on of knowledge, right? So, technically, we are sharing our “mind” with those we speak to, and that is how it lives on.
*short water break before carrying on*
The link between Buddhism and science: Chamtrul Rinpoche made a short but bold statement to introduce this topic to us. ‘Look up anything about Buddhism, and you’ll most likely find an explanation about it. Just like science’, he had said. In other words, rather than a reliance on faith, hearsay, or speculation, there is actual evidence.
The case is made that the philosophic and psychological teachings within Buddhism share commonalities with modern scientific and philosophic thought. Buddhism has been described by some as rational and non-dogmatic, and there is evidence that this has been the case from the earliest period of its history. Some popular conceptions of Buddhism connect it to discourse regarding evolution, quantum theory, and cosmology.
On religious extremism: During Q&A time, a woman in the audience asked: What do you make of the recent Rohingya Buddhist attacks? As always, in his calm manner, Chamtrul answered, ‘The Dharma is always good. It is the people who, ultimately, go against the teachings and do wrong in the world. It is the same with other religions, of course. It is not these extremists that define a religion.’
Rinpoche’s concluding words, before the end of his final session, went something like this: I do not expect everyone to leave this room and remember everything I’ve said, or anything I’ve said, for that matter. But the fact that you were present for these sessions, and provided that you’ve listened carefully, then the seed has already been planted in you. Ultimately, it is up to you to acknowledge it, find it within you, and make it flourish. Just like a farmer who sows seeds in his fields, simply planting it in the soil is not enough to make a tree grow. He needs to water the soil, give it nutrients, and maintain it in order for the plant to grow.
Other terms I learned:
khata – A traditional ceremonial scarf, usually made of silk. It symbolises purity and compassion and are worn or presented with incense at many ceremonial occasions, including births, weddings, funerals, graduations, and the arrival or departure of guests. Tibetan khatas are usually white, symbolising the pure heart of the giver.
samsara – A Sanskrit word that means “wandering” or “world”, with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change. It also refers to the theory of rebirth and “cyclicality of all life, matter, existence”.
The Dharma – The teachings of the Buddha, commonly known throughout the East as Buddha-Dharma. It includes especially the discourses on the fundamental principles (such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path).
nirvana – A term used to describe the goal of the Buddhist path. It is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain – a state of enlightenment – meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering go away.
Although I am still quite sceptical of certain Buddhist views and beliefs, one thing I was very impressed about was the way everything seemed to link to one another, even if they are non-related subjects! These two days were truly a fascinating and enlightening experience for me and, should another similar opportunity arise, I will certainly not think twice about going again.
Note: Images shown above are not my property. All photos in the slideshow were taken by Mr. Neville Delmar, during the talks.
– Preston __/\__