Friday, October 15, 2010

Thoughts on Eight Verses of Training the Mind

On October 12th, I was privileged to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama give a teaching on Geshe Langri Thangpa's Eight Verses of Training the Mind (lojong tsik gyema), sponsored by the Gyuto Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhist Center in San Jose. There were about 12,000 people there but I got a good seat in the interfaith section right up front since I was there as Wiccan clergy. It was an interesting teaching, the verse is part of the "lojong" section of Buddhist verses about Mind Training. This isn't the exact translation he used, but it will give you an idea of the theme.

The verse about "To think of myself as the lowest among all" didn't appeal to me when I read it beforehand but his explanation is that it means you come from a place of respecting every being rather than from a superior place of pity it is better.

As a Wiccan this bothered me and I spent several days figuring out why. I think what bothers me is how hierarchical the thinking is... make yourself the lowest so you are giving everyone respect rather than feeling superior and offering pity. I want to engage the world looking for equals and team mates. A circle rather than a ladder. I do agree that respect and compassion are a good place to come from when dealing with others. I guess I just don't see the need for that stance to come out of a place of relative dominance. And I'm not saying that I don't struggle or that I am free of judgements! But I try to come from a place of connection and a heart opening posture.

An interesting note was that his Holiness' translator was on the interfaith panel and he talked a bit about the history of the Eight Verses. One of the huge beneficiaries of its popularity was a colony of lepers because of the verse about caring for the afflicted. That, at least, seems an excellent outcome.

After the teaching there was an interfaith gathering of about 800-1000 people with speakers ranging from Huston Smith (age 91) to a young man who wrote "Dharma Punx" and works with troubled youth. Unfortunately the teaching had run long so that about half the people left about 2/3 of the way through the planned interfaith program. Our new Silicon Valley Interreligious Council was scheduled to be part of the announcements and hoped that good connections would be made, but the lateness meant very few people heard about us.

Bright blessings,
Rowan Fairgrove

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