Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Dalai Lama Turns 75

Today was the birthday of Tenzin Gyatso, better known as The Dalai Lama.

This extraordinary global figure in the guise of a wizened old man is the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, a country with its own unique strains of Buddhism. His main message over the last half-century has been that of the power of Compassion, even toward one's enemies.

I've been inspired throughout my adult life by aspects of all the modes of religious thought I've encountered. Growing up, my only religious exposure was to the Methodist Christian tradition & occasionally a Catholic mass. As a high school student, I was also interested in Greek & Roman mythology, but public school didn't introduce students to the wider range of theological perspectives.

My college years were the craziest & most transformative period of my life. During this often chaotic time, I had a "Religions of the World" class that exposed me to humanity's vast reserve of spiritual wisdom. Once this spark was lit, I was set on a lifetime of deeper investigation & contemplation of religion in all forms.

My Christian background will always be the foundation of my core morality. Really, one's entire moral existence can be guided by the Golden Rule. (The Ten Commandments are so Old Testament!)

Buddhist thought, however, has given me valuable insights regarding the nature of the human mind and the suffering that plagues it. I am more interested in the philosophical & psychological aspects of Buddhism more than the devotional rituals & pantheon of deities. The interesting thing about Buddhism is that it ultimately recognizes their gods to be of the same nature of all devotional Gods - imaginary. This doesn't mean such beings aren't 'real'- but that they are internal, as opposed to external, phenomena. Are dreams 'real'? are memories 'real'?

The illusory nature of all perceptual phenomena is explicitly referred to in more esoteric texts like The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying: The Bardo Thödol. Regardless of religion, personalized deities are all creations of the human mind.

"God" is not a separate entity from man - Everything is One & All.

I tend to think along Taoist lines which is similar to the ancient Hebrew view of trying to describe the Eternal:

"The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name."

This opening verse to the Tao Te Ching is a proto-Zen paradox that's needed to keep your mind clear of any false mental constructs regarding the divine source.

My interest in Buddhist philosophy has led me to read several of the Dalai Lama's books in particular, including:

Mind of Clear Light

Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying

A Simple Path

The humorous attitude, humility, and evidently compassionate nature of the Dalai Lama are an inspiration to me and millions around the world, Buddhists & also people of other faiths. He has repeatedly asserted that he is no more than a man, a simple monk trying to improve the human situation.

Dalai Lama Quotes

Hopefully this amazing man endures a while longer to continue shining the Buddha's timeless message of compassion & moderate living in his uniquely uplifting way.

Even the Dalai Lama's mind can't be fully prepared for a random meeting with hip-hop & crack icon Bobby Brown. "Nice to meet you Mr. Lama." HAHAHA! The world is crazier than any of us can ever understand...

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