When the Dalai Lama gave a talk in Central Park (August 15, 1999) he spoke about 8 verses On Training the Mind by Geshe Lang-ri Tampa. If the Dalai Lama felt that he should base his talk on these 8 verses they must be central to Buddhist thought. The verses translated into English by Jeffrey Hopkins are:
The highest welfare of all sentient beings,
Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel,
I will learn to hold them supremely dear.
Whenever I associate with others I will learn
To think of myself as the lowest amongst all
And respectfully hold others to be supreme
From the very depths of my heart.
In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as a disturbing emotion arises
Endangering myself and others,
I will firmly face and avert it.
I will learn to cherish ill-natured beings
And those oppressed by strong misdeeds and sufferings
As if I had found a precious
Treasure difficult to find.
When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take all loss
And offer the victory to them.
When the one whom I had benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.
In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
All help and happiness directly and indirectly
And respectfully take upon myself
All harm and suffering of my mothers.
I will learn to keep all these practices
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly concerns,
And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions,
Be released from the bondage of attachment.
The ideas of cherishing ill-natured beings and offering victory to those who mistreat me are ideas I have trouble with. Buddhism has the idea that attachment to things is a source of unhappiness which explains the last verse.
There are 4 noble truths that are at the core of Buddhist philosophy. The truths are:
The cause of suffering is given as desire. The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving. This concept is reminiscent of Julian Simon's mood ratio. It is true that a lot of unhappiness stems from not achieving our desires. Does that mean however, that we should conclude that our goal should be to eliminate those desires? That conclusion leads to a paradox. If we are supposed to eliminate all our desires than we should eliminate our desire for happiness. If we eliminate our desire for happiness than we won't be motivated to eliminate our desires in order to achieve happiness.
Perhaps some of the joy of life comes from our desires. Our desires lead us to take actions to achieve happiness for ourselves. If we desire to make the world a better place, certainly that is a desire that should not be eliminated.
A danger of the belief that one should eliminate one's desires is that than one will not be motivated to change things for the better. The Dalai Lama clearly desires that the Tibetan people not be persecuted by the Chinese. He has worked toward achieving that end and has helped make the world aware of their plight. If he eliminated his desire to help them they are likely to suffer more.
Although eliminating all desire in my opinion will not lead to happiness there may be something to trying to put one's desires in perspective in order to achieve happiness. The Dalai Lama in his speech in Central Park mentioned that Westerners had told him that desire gave color to life. Yet he said that attachment can bring unhappiness.
The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) in his book the The Art of Happiness shows Buddhism as an approach to self help and to achieving happiness. This book has discussions between the Dalai Lama, and Dr. Howard Cutler, a psychiatrist. The Dalai Lama and a psychiatrist may seem to be a strange alliance for writing a book but Buddhism is an ancient philosophy about achieving happiness and psychiatry concerns itself with helping patients achieve happiness. This writer's alliance works beautifully in explaining Buddhism in a way that is easy for Westerners to relate to. In their discussions Dr. Cutler challenges the statements made by the Dalai Lama which results in more in depth explanations of his philosophy. Dr. Cutler also includes information about research done in Western Universities that are relevant to the concepts discussed by the Dalai Lama.
According to a paragraph in an encyclopedia that I read:
The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is to achieve Nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. The ethic that leads to Nirvana involves cultivating loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. It involves acts of charity, as well as observance of the five precepts, which prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. According to Buddhist belief, observing these precepts make it possible to overcome the three roots of evillust, hatred, and delusion.
What a beautiful goal Buddhism has. Instead of the goal of acquiring power and riches or scoring with the big guy upstairs (God) the goal of the Buddhist is to become a kinder more compassionate more enlightened and happier person. Tragically this innocent religion has a terrible enemy, Communist China. The Communist Chinese have conquered Tibet and have imported Chinese into Tibet in order to dilute out the Buddhists. They indoctrinate Tibetan children to leave their Buddhist faith in school. The Dalai Lama gives one example of how they do this in his book, The Art of Happiness. He writes that Buddhism teaches that all living creatures are sentient beings and to have compassion for all living creatures. The Chinese in order to undermine this belief give out points to children for killing living creatures, for example a worm might be one point a frog might be two points and so on. The Communist Chinese imprison and torture those who teach Buddhist philosophy. More information about the Tibet situation is at http://www.savetibet.org.
Why are the Communist Chinese out to destroy Buddhism? The Communists want people to obey them and to see them and their ideology as the only and highest authority. The Communists see themselves as bearers of a revolution that will create a socialist paradise. They see those who do not share their views as the enemy to be conquered or liberated. Communist ideology and it's problems are discussed further on the Communism page of this web site.
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