Why does consciousness seem to complicate reality? – A question that arose in my mind upon hearing that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was coming to England to spread his teachings of non-violence. The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, was visiting Manchester to share his wisdom and knowledge, something which he has dedicated his life to doing around the world. Despite leading a life of peace, he has had his share of drama, being in exile since 1959, due to the Chinese government taking over Tibet. Since losing their country, Tibetans have stayed loyal to the Dalai Lama, claiming that they feel alone without him – a bond between a leader and his people we rarely see today. Both have been pleading honorably for Tibet’s independence. Furthermore, the Dalai Lama has been trying to establish a democratic system of governance, speaking with countless world leaders. Parallel to this His Holiness works for the promotion of moral values, harmony and respect for religions throughout the world; not preaching on Buddhism, but teaching how to promote inner happiness and Buddhist science, to which many people take an interest. I had the pleasure of participating in several talks by His Holiness over a period of four days.
I joined a news conference on the morning of his arrival. It’s not every day you see a Buddhist monk being exposed to apprehensive press taking 100 pictures a second. However, like a true Zen master, he seemed barely distracted. I thought how, if every person in the room was of a calmer nature, this would have given him a warmer welcome to a more enlightened country, but then this country thrives off media consumerism.
Immediately, he expressed the purpose of his visit: to spread his message of non-violence, the value of dialogue, universal responsibility and expressing his views on modern education:
“We should implement the teachings of compassion, tolerance and forgiveness by teaching scientific moral education not based on religious beliefs. This has the potential to bring harmony to the basis of human life on all levels. Furthermore, I will be talking about the nature of reality; such as what is really happening in any situation at a fundamental level.”
Everyone laughed when he used an example of the press, saying that they may all seem pleasant, but at a more fundamental reality, they could just be looking for gain and money.
“I am not here to popularize the Buddhist religion but to respect all religions. The 20th century was one of violence; the 21st century should be one of dialogue. Why do we not see the world as one entity rather than separate places of people… wouldn’t this diminish the violence?”
Afterwards, questions were asked by the press. To my curiosity, the questions all came off the topic of what he was talking about. All the questions were about economic problems and the conflict between him and China. Although these may be concerning issues in mainstream modern news, I felt that they could have found the answers they were looking for through the objective attitude that the Dalai Lama was displaying. Nevertheless, every answer was expressed in a highly detached manner:
“Despite being in a world of tough economic times each must lead a life of compassion.”
Afterwards, he came down to have a handshake with the press. As he approached me, he gave me a two-handed handshake and looking at my dreadlocks, he asked what kind of hairstyle I had. Everyone laughed. Noticing my appearance he asked where I originated from; I replied that my mum came from the Philippines. He remained silent for a moment looking into my eyes. I felt a tranquil presence come over me, and then he proceeded. The intellect and true power of this man was apparent. I was very excited for the next three days of his upcoming teachings to the masses.
The first event was free to ages 15-25. It filled over 10’000 seats in Manchester’s MEN Arena. The Dalai Lama was presented to the stage by actor and comedian Russell Brand; the Dalai Lama entered with a happy, humorous nature and received a lively loving audience. He was impressed with the amount of people who turned up. During his talk, he touched on many subjects including: the reason behind why our species is lacking from compassion and happiness, “Most unhappiness comes from the sense of self-importance and self-centeredness;” how to use dialogue rather than violence; and the relationship between thinking and emotions. Moreover, he expressed how we can perceive ourselves and everyone else on different levels of identity and significance. Using himself as an example, he said that on one level, he was a cellular human. However, on the subsequent level, he is a man, then on the next level, he is a Buddhist Monk, and finally, comically expressing – he is the Dalai Lama. In the laughter of the audience, I felt anyone who was expecting a boring preaching session was in-fact delighted to find such an amusing and honest man. He spoke about things which we could all relate to as human beings.
“For us to live harmoniously we must live and conceptualize compassionately with the ‘human level’ of experience. In this way, we cultivate an authentic realistic way of being, expanding consciousness to finer levels of experience, moving us away from a level of consciousness that emotionally attaches itself to identities, for instance, thinking of ourselves as being greater or inferior to others, which can limit deeper levels of relationship.”
He emphasized the importance of cultivating an ‘analytical mind-set’ to develop our sense of skepticism about all things and to think reasonably, scientifically and morally. He went on to say there are two types of meditation. Firstly, stabilizing meditation – which focuses on nothingness, awareness and healing. This allows you to become devoid of mind, which is known as ‘clear light’ or ‘luminosity’ in Buddhism. This purity of mind is Nirvana and gives way to expanse of mind and consciousness. The other type of meditation is analytical meditation – which he explained is the key to understanding, and we do it as part of our nature such as when we are studying or contemplating life. This certainly shed some light for me on distinguishing the types of awareness in everyday life.
“However, it is easy to misinterpret reality. The analytical mind can come to a distorted way of knowing. At the root of all distorted perception is ignorance. An example of this would be of people who perceive impermanent things to be permanent, i.e. material objects. In doing so, we can become attached to things whether it be material or thought forms.”
An interesting fact which struck me: a scientist, with whom the Dalai Lama spoke, said that there are an estimated six billion different perceptions about the world, all defying each other. So how can we know which ones are factual? He said to cultivate what he calls the ‘ultimate perception of reality’, we must question and contradict every view we have with defying ones to come to a more realistic, natural way of knowing.
Another event with the Dalai Lama was named ‘Being western – being Buddhist’ and included a panel of 5 western Buddhist practitioners. This was a Q&A event about any aspect of Buddhism. The panel was surprised to find such a large audience. They only expected a few hundred people to turn up but over 4,000 participated. It is obvious that Buddhist interest is flourishing at an accelerating rate in the western world. One of the answers which caught my attention was from a man who told a story that he once took a group of Monks through a prison where he worked. As they walked through, the prisoners hurled abuse at them, and the man said to the Monks that this must be the worst place to practice Buddhism. In fact, they replied saying it is a perfect place to practice, adding that the best place to practice is in a place of suffering, and the prison was abundant in suffering. A significant message I thought. We conceptualize spirituality as different from everything else. It seems that we are unable to learn vital information from all things. As long as humanity continues to identify all experience as separate, we ignore the fact that all experience can be our spiritual teacher, not just school, books or going to see the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama had also expressed this when he said:
“We should pay particular compassion to people that we wouldn’t usually take a liking to, i.e. criminals, people who get shunned in community. As well as this we should see close relations (who give us pain and suffering) as spiritual teachers in order to analyze experiences. For example, during an argument, check to see if there is any intelligent thinking going on rather than just defensive emotion.”
I think people who participated in these events who had a general problem with religions were surprised to find the Dalai Lama talking about the negative sides of religious beliefs such as God. He also expressed his attitude towards his religion, which I found very viable for all religious people:
“I am Buddhist, but there is no attachment to Buddhism, if there is attachment you become biased; you start to become suspicious about other faiths and start to close your mind to other possibilities. It’s very helpful to have the ability to appreciate other faiths as well as your own.”
After three days of the Dalai Lama connecting, laughing, philosophizing, articulating universal energy, he went on to his next destination in the UK to spread his light.
Why must the Dalai Lama travel across the world discussing our problems? Why does consciousness complicate reality? Are we fooling ourselves for a reason, a purpose? Do we really know deep within ourselves the ultimate truth? Where does common sense originate from? An ‘all-knowing source’? If it is, then we surely have all the answers we need within ourselves. However, it seems evident that the human race currently lives through a perception far-off the ‘cellular human level’ as we tend to seek spiritual understanding from sources we regard as ‘spiritual’. You could say the Dalai Lama was not teaching, but reminding people of what we already know. How have we lost this simple universal wisdom that he was expressing? Are our habitual ego-driven minds holding us back from seeing the truth?
Did you know that there is an inherent nervous system within the heart made up of 40000 neurons similar to brain neurons? Research shows it can learn, remember, feel and sense independently. Maybe in this ‘brain in the heart’ lies the simple universal truth of compassion that the Dalai Lama was expressing.
During the first event, a video of a Mayan woman was played to the audience before the Dalai Lama was presented to the stage. She spoke about her people who predicted an era of peace and harmony around the year 2012. The possibility struck me that the Dalai Lama also sensed this shift happening. Is he going around the world to accelerate the process of the evolution in consciousness? Only time will tell.
After the four days, I was left with a great sense of admiration for the Buddhist religion. Cultivating a fully awakened mind benefits all fellow sentient beings, and as long as every sentient being endures suffering, the practice of Buddhism will remain to dispel and endure the miseries of the world. However, I think that once humanity reaches a tipping point in the awakening of the human psyche, it will flourish in a sense of connectivity, expansion, abundance and purpose.
“Whatever seems impossible now may be a reality in 100 hundred years.” – Nagarjuna
About the Author
Gene Hart is a dedicated yogi currently studying Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. He is most interested in the multidimensional nature of the universe. Through extensively practicing meditation and out of body exploration, he investigates the links and relationships between the non-physical and physical; dreams, thoughts, emotions, and the root, or essence, of all reality and existence in its entirety. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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