Archive for November 10th, 2011

changing our ways

November 10, 2011

We begin the Dalai Lama today in SOL, but we don’t all have the book our class voted to select, For the Benefit of All Beings, in hand yet. So, we’ll just read around on the New York Times Dalai Lama “Topics” page today. In particular, his op-ed pieces: “Our Faith in Science”  and “The Monk in the Lab”. Journalism has its limitations, though, so we might also want to  check out BuddhaNet.

JMH’s last words in Happiness Myth were “other ways to see things.” “Change our way of seeing things” are among HHDL’s first in Benefit. No coincidence. Both authors are concerned to displace easy assumptions about how to live well, and do it by urging us all to pay closer attention with fresh eyes.

The DL urges as well that we “reflect on impermanence,” but of course he got where he is today because elder Buddhists decided he was a very old soul.

The spiritual and state leader of Tibet was born in 1935 to a peasant family in northeast Tibet. At age 2, he was identified after the death of the 13th Dalai Lama as the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.

Seems to me we mortal skeptics have a lot more impermanence to reflect on. I for one would love to look forward to more spins around the wheel, but it all sounds pretty sketchy. Past and future lives? I’ve got my hands full with just the one, this morning.

Buddhists think we’re all on a merry-go-round called samsara, floating through a succession of lifetimes in “bondage” to the cycles of life, death, and rebirth. To get off the wheel, break out of the circle, earn our release, we must seek enlightenment and stop sowing the karmic seeds that supposedly keep us stuck.

Reincarnation. Quite a concept, not so scientific. But the DL says

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.


It may seem odd that a religious leader is so involved with science, but Buddhist teachings stress the importance of understanding reality, and so we should pay attention to what scientists have learned about our world through experimentation and measurement.

Paying attention is not a one-way street, though.

Similarly, Buddhists have a 2,500-year history of investigating the workings of the mind. Over the millenniums, many practitioners have carried out what we might call ”experiments” in how to overcome our tendencies toward destructive emotions.

We can all learn from one another, if we’re open and eager, and we don’t have to convert to Buddhism to do it: that’s the promise. Let’s look & see.

Buddha’s BrainContemplative ScienceQuantum & Lotus