~~ Children are usually born with their eyes closed. I was born with my
the 14th Dalai Lama
I have next to me in my small room a picture, some of you will know it, I
re-titled it as - to build a house of calm. Something I believe Barry Mallis
wrote that happened to be on my desk as I discovered the image.
A few months ago I had a dream, it was orgasmic ;-) in the sense of a
revelation ( I believe the word 'orgasm' means in some eastern cultures ' the
small death' which is very fitting in the ambivalence of this, our churning
world). It (the dream) had no imagery, nothing except a word that simply
spoke itself. the word was family. FAMILY.
Now! the image is of a nice family gathering, mummy and three little children
in a warm room, and at the breast of the woman whose smile is like that of
some quattrocento angel figure is a feeding child about to fall into a deep
sleep. On this looks a little sibling, his head slightly inclined as if in a
deep appreciation of what is happening in the scene before him. Now, to the
right there is a tiny child of about five but looks three, standing, holding
all his own weight up as best he can, and his head too is inclined upwardly.
Around his spindly frame is the arm of his mother, her touch is so absolutely
soft and the gaze of her upon him a weight by comparison. In this room there
is both light and dark, heaviness and lightness, there is cold and warm, past
and future, living and dying. In my stupidity I have put the image, the words
and the dream together. I expect you have built a picture of this in your
imaginations. Not many things called 'art' in this world are free that spring
from our culture, this art is free. You just write me off line and I will
send you the picture that we might dialogue in the distance between vision
and reality. As usual I expect the acceptance to be very, very tiny. Let us
see what we can do from such a tiny beginning. But do not come to this as
children. THEY are the children, WE are the grownups.
Below is a life in the day of someone my friend and neighbour has met. I
thought you might all like to picture it too.
'When I wake at four o'clock, I automatically start reciting the Ngagjhinlab
mantra. It's a prayer that dedicates everything I do, my speech, my thoughts,
my deeds, my whole day, as an offering, a positive way to help others. Like
all monks, I obey a vow of poverty, so there are no personal possessions. My
bedroom has just a bed and the first thing I see then I wake is the face of
the Buddha in a holy seventeenth century statue from Kyirong, one of the very
few that escaped the Chinese desecration. It's cold when I wake, as we are at
7,000 feet, so I do some exercises, wash and dress quickly.
I wear the same maroon robe as all the other monks. It's not of good quality,
and it's patched. If it was of good quality and in one piece, you could sell
it and gain something. This way you can't. This reinforces our philosophy of
becoming detached from worldly goods. I meditate until five thirty and make
prostrations. We have a special practice to remind ourselves of our misdeeds
and I make confession and recite prayers for the well being of all sentient
Then at daybreak, if the weather is fine, I go into the garden. This time of
day is very special to me. I look at the sky. It's very clear and I can see
the stars and have this special feeling - of my insignificance in the cosmos.
The realization that we call 'impermanence'. It's very relaxing. I sometimes
don't think at all and just enjoy the dawn and listen to the birds.
Then Penjor or Loga, monks from Namgyal monastery who have been with me for
twenty eight years, bring my breakfast. It's half Tibetan and half western
mixture (porridge). While having breakfast I listen to the news on the BBC
Then at six I move into another room and meditate until nine. Through
meditation, all Buddhists try and develop the right kind of motivation-
compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. I meditate six or seven times a day.
>From nine until lunch I read and study our scriptures. Buddhism is a very
profound religion and, although I have been studying all my life, there is
still so much to learn.
I also try to read the Western masters. I want to learn more about western
philosophy and science. Especially nuclear physics, astronomy and
neurobiology. Often Western scientists come and discuss the relationship
between their philosophy and ours, or compare their work on the brain
function and Buddhist experience of different levels of consciousness. It is
an absorbing exchange for all of us!
I often get up and go and fiddle with things. Charge batteries for the radio,
repair something. From childhood I have been fascinated with mechanical
things- toys, small cars, aeroplanes, things I could explore with my hands.
We had an old movie projector in Lhasa that belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai
Lama. It was looked after by an old Chines monk, but when he died no one else
knew how to make it work. So I learnt how to make it go, but it was trial and
error as I couldn't read the instructions. I only spoke Tibetan. So now
sometimes I work in my workshop repairing things like clocks and watches. Or
planting things in the greenhouse. I love plants, especially delphiniums and
tulips, and love to see them grow.
At twelve thirty I have lunch, usually non-vegetarian, though I prefer
vegetarian. I eat what I am given. Sometimes thpka- soup with noodles,
occasionally momo- steamed dumplings with meat - and skabaklen- deep fried
bread with meat inside.
My afternoon is taken up with official meetings of the Tibetan cabinet in
exile. There are always people who come from Tibet, with or without the
permission of the Chinese. Mostly without. Brave people who have escaped over
seventeen thousand feet Himalayan passes.
It is very painful for me. They all have sad stories. Practically every one
tells me the names of relatives who have been killed by the Chinese in prison
or labour camps. I try to give them encouragement and see how I can help them
practically, as they arrive here destitute and in very bad health. Very often
they bring their children here. They tell me it is the only way they can
learn our faith our language and our culture. We put the younger ones here in
the Tibetan Children's Village here. Older ones who want to become monks we
train in southern India.
Sometimes Pema, my youngest sister, who runs the orphanage here comes and
discusses problems. Like all monks, I don't see much of my family; my parents
are dead. My elder brother Norbu is a professor of Tibetan studies at
Bloomington, Indiana. Thondup is a businessman, he lives in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately my middle brother, Lobsang Samden died two years ago. We were
very close. He lived and studied with me in the Potala where we used to get
up to all sorts of mischief. Before his death, he worked here at the medical
center. I miss him very much.
At six I have tea. As a monk, I have no dinner. At seven it is television
time, but unfortunately they transmit discussion programmes. And as one is
from Amritsar and the other from Pakistan, and I don't know Punjabi or Urdu,
it's all talk to me. But occasionally there us a film in English. I like the
BBC series on western civilization, and those wonderful nature programmes.
Then it's time for bed and more meditation and prayers, by nine I fall
asleep. But if there is a moon, I think that it is also looking down on my
people imprisoned in Tibet. I give thanks that, even though I am a refugee, I
am free here, I am free to speak for my people. I pray especially to the
patron deity of Tibet for them. There is not one waking hour when I don't
think of the plight of my people, locked away in their mountain fastness."
the 14th Dalai Lama
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