Dalai Lama

16Mar

Just Me

Sometimes I read back over my blog entries and think, “Why me? Who do I think I am? Who am I to profess to know about Zen?”

I know, at the very outset, I made a disclaimer. I am a beginner. But on some days, the tone of my writing seems to take on a sense of authority, as if I have some special insight, or knowledge of this practice. As if I were attempting to teach something to you.

Really, what I am doing, is trying to figure things out for myself by means of my most effective thinking tool — putting words down on the page.

In a lecture on Buddhism by Prof. David Eckel of Boston University, he tells a story about a talk he heard by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama went off on a fairly extensive, complicated explanation of Buddhist philosophy. But at the end, with a little grin, he said, “And who is it that is telling you this? Just me.”

“Just me” when said by the Dalai Lama has some hint of irony, of course, since he is probably the most well-known Buddhist figure in the world today. But his message was meant for all of us. Buddhism is about “no self.” There is no permanent thing that is you or me, only a series of moments. And so, given that, there is no ultimate font of wisdom, no source of answers. It might just as well have been you, or me, standing at the podium that day, talking about Buddhism, suffering, and emptiness.

So I guess the more pertinent question is: Why not me?

28Oct

Saving the Dalai Lama

I am listening to Faith, Doubt and Reason, a collection of interviews from Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air. It is an eclectic mix of Jews and Christians, pastors and laypeople, believers and former believers and nonbelievers. So far, no Buddhists…

The interview that made me cringe shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a lesbian, the religious group that I always have the most trouble with is the Christian Right, since they seem incapable of grasping the concept of live and let live.

Terry Gross spoke with Tim LaHaye, co-founder of the Moral Majority, and co-author of the series of novels called Left Behind, about the Rapture (when the saved will go directly to heaven) and the Tribulations (the seven years of plagues, famine, etc. for the unsaved) that are foreordained in the Bible’s Apocalypse. LaHaye is unequivocal in his insistence that only those who are “born again” will be counted among the saved, quoting the passage from John that says, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. What is alarming is that his books have sold 60 million copies – that’s a helluva lot of end-of-the-world fascination.

The highlight of the interview was LaHaye’s recounting of a chance meeting with the Dalai Lama. LaHaye was in Jerusalem, and happened to see the Dalai Lama approaching, flanked by his entourage. LaHaye stepped forward, shook the Dalai Lama’s hand, and said, Has anyone ever explained to you who Jesus Christ is? If not, I’d be happy to meet with you for an hour. He said he was cursorily dismissed by several of the Dalai Lama’s attendants. But, he went on, here was a holy man, a pious man, who doesn’t know the truth of the way to God, and LaHaye feels it is his duty as a born-again Christian to spread the word.

The arrogance! Can you even imagine attempting to convert the Dalai Lama? To try to sell your own religion, a belief system which defines itself by exclusive access to God, to the man who epitomizes the worldwide movement for interfaith harmony?

It is precisely this kind of behavior that soured me so thoroughly on religion that for years I wouldn’t go anywhere near spirituality, in any form.

In what ways has religious extremism influenced your life? I’d love to hear from all of you out there!

29Sep

Trying Again

I work as a journalist for a small town weekly newspaper, the Calistoga Tribune. I am a staff writer, by title, but my job extends far beyond that, since there are only four of us in the office. We all have our hands full doing page layout, answering phones, dealing with subscribers, taking photos, and orchestrating the myriad mundanities that make up the world of community journalism.

One of my jobs is to gather all of the components for our two editorial pages, Perspectives. There are columnists to send reminders to, letters to the editor to proofread, Mystery Photo identifiers to list. A fun little feature on the Perspectives page is our “Quote of Note,” just a short quote I select each week depending on my mood, sometimes humorous, sometimes inspirational, sometimes political. Last week, scanning my favorite quote site, Brainy Quote, I ran across this one by the Dalai Lama: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Perfect! I rapidly typed it into the appropriate spot on the page, and turned to my next task.

It was a Wednesday. Wednesdays are our press deadline; they are always insane. I start work at 10 a.m., and frequently don’t leave the office until midnight or later. I am trying to compile calendar entries, put together puzzle pages, make last minute interview phone calls, and write my own news stories, as well as a movie review and a column. I am on overdrive all day, racing from one thing to the next. And, for some reason, Wednesday is also the day the phones seem to ring off the hook. It is the day people stop by just to chat, to see what’s going to be in the paper this week. It is a constant stream of interruptions.

In the middle of the afternoon, one of our contributors stopped by to talk about his idea for a new feature. I saw him enter the office out of the corner of my eye, and groaned to myself. Oh, not another interruption! Without even taking my gaze away from the computer screen, I curtly said, “What do you need?” He wanted to talk to my boss; she wasn’t in. He said he’d wait. I continued working. A few moments later, he asked me if anybody needed the Press Democrat he’d found lying on my boss’s desk; it had an article he was interested in reading. Again, without making eye contact, I shot out my answer: “It’s not mine. I have no idea.” I felt him shrink from my sharp words. Instead of eliciting my compassion, his discomfort made me even more annoyed. What, now I had to worry about his feelings, too? I didn’t have time for this! Finally, my boss showed up, and I was no longer responsible for him. I shut him out of my thoughts and continued with my work.

About an hour later, my attention was again on the Perspectives page, as I added in one more missing element. And then I saw it – the quote from the Dalai Lama himself. Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Reading it the second time, I knew I hadn’t selected it for our subscribers. It was a message to myself.

When I got home from work late that night, I found a piece of butcher block paper and wrote out the quote in black marker. Then I thumbtacked it up on the wall above my desk.

This Wednesday, I can try again.

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