Every once in awhile, I have a whole bunch of ideas, each one of which could be a column, but the conditions are not such that I can do a whole column on each. When this happens, I just post a list of the main point of each of the ideas. Perhaps later these can become full posts.
- The Dharma is in perfect accordance with and perfectly describes how things actually work. The laws of physics are able to describe and govern physical reality to an incredibly high degree of accuracy. But the laws of Dharma, most notably karma and emptiness, describe and govern all of reality, physical, mental and the relationship between the two. They describe and govern the relationship between all phenomena and beings. Bodhichitta is the synthesis of all Dharma, so living our life in accordance with bodhichitta is to live in perfect alignment and harmony with all things, past, present and future. With our tantric practice, we actually build our enlightenment, and thus practically fulfil the bodhichitta intention. So first we learn all Dharma, then we synthesize it into bodhichitta, then with bodhichitta we build our pure alternative self and world for all. Because the Dharma describes and governs all of reality, it reveals itself perfectly and equally in all circumstances. Our job as a practitioner is to become in tune with how the Dharma is revealing itself in our lives.
- When great spiritual masters like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, etc., come they speak the perfect truth in the context of the world of their time. But the context of the world changes all of the time. Religious fundamentalists seek to mold the world back into the context that reigned at the time of their respective spiritual master so that the perfect truth can be realized. Such an attempt is hopeless and ultimately will result in behavior completely contradictory with the teachings of that religion. The better approach is to realize that perfect truth is equally true in all contexts, so instead of trying to shape the world back into a long-gone context, we should strive to express and realize that same perfect truth in the context of the world we inhabit today. This is the true meaning of lineage – a lineage keeps the truth of the teachings fully alive and perfectly expressed in a constantly changing external context generation after generation. We do not need to invent new traditions, rather we need to express and realize the truth of the tradition in the modern context.
- The mind of extended vacation. Even though one is working very hard, there is no reason why one cannot always be on vacation. If you have the mind of vacation, you will experience your life as a vacation, even while working. For example, we can view our time in each country we are posted at as an extended vacation in different places of the world. Touring is only part of vacationing. The best and most meaningful vacations are working vacations, where you take the time to live and work in a different country/culture. This shapes you far more and so therefore you get much more out of your “vacation.” When you are on vacation, the goal is usually to explore and appreciate the best of an area.
- The mind of building a home. Home is your home base, where you are able to retreat to, recharge, relax and grow. In our fast paced, highly mobile socieites, we often times neglect building a healthy and happy home. The environment that is our home shapes our kids and ourselves tremendously. If we create a clean, healthy, happy, harmonious, hard-working, generous home then this is what our kids will become socialized into and revert back to when they create their own homes. So even if we are traveling all of the time to different countries, we also need to make a point of building our own home environment. We may not own the physical home we live in, but that does not mean we cannot make it home. We may move to other places, but that does not mean we can’t bring our ‘home’ with us.
- Investing in your family relationships. The relationships we have with our families are extremely important for our overall well-being and happiness. Very often people start entering into conflict with their families, and then they avoid them by doing other things, then because they are not investing in their families the relationships grow worse and the people enter into a vicious cycle. We need to take the time to invest in our family life, building harmonious and mutually supportive relationships with our family members. We need to take the time to hang out with, appreciate, enter into the lives of and love those in our families. The relationships we have with our family members are often amongst the deepest we will have in this life, so it is through those relationships that we can work on the deepest delusions within our mind. A happy family life very often leads to a happy everything life.
- The extremes of arrogance and playing dumb. One extreme people fall into is arrogance, pretending they know things they do not. Another extreme people fall into is playing dumb, pretending they know and understand less than they actually do. Both are extremes and need to be avoided. The middle way is accepting that you know what you know, but always wishing to learn more. You take this approach with yourself and with others.
- The essence of German culture. We have visted Germany a few times in the last few months and obviously Germany is calling the shots on the Eurozone crisis. My observation is as follows (and yes, it is a gross generalization, so not too much should be read into this): The essence of German culture is “precision quality.” They are are culturally focused on this in all that they do, in all spheres. The problems come when they have a moralistic chip on their shoulder looking down on all those who do not do things as well as they do. Different societies value different things, and so therefore will organize themselves differently. We cannot say one is right and the other is wrong, they are just different. The Frech maximixe “living well.” Americans maximize “comfort and efficiency” (though our best side maximizes making the American dream accessible to all).
- We saw “The Iron Lady” recently. Thatcher was powerful because she firmly believed in and was willing to work for her principles no matter what the price, and there was a certain degree of truth to the principles she believed in. She failed because she did not realize that her principles were not the only ones worth valuing, including respecting the validity of the points of views of others.
- We saw “the Descendents” recently. George Cloney lived in perfect paradise, had money, beauty, fantastic surroundings, power, etc., yet even in paradise samsara is unrelenting. He confronted an almost impossible situation which just kept getting worse and more complex. But no matter what came his way, he more or less responded by doing the right thing. In doing so, we won back the respect of his kids.
- Even though it may sometimes/often do so in unskilful ways, the driving force of U.S. foreign policy is to spread and protect freedom in all of its forms – relgious freedom, economic freedom, political freedom, and social freedom. It does so because it believes in freedom as a matter of principle and because it believes its interests are best served in a free world. It shoots itself in the foot when the sometimes self-righteous means it employes in the advance of freedom engender resentment causing people to reject the message of freedom and when it forgets that there is an institutional foundation and context necessary for freedom to flourish for society as a whole. The same is true for religious traditions in the world.
- Much of history can be understood through the lens of the history of religion in this world. Problems come when one imposes one’s own views on others. The truth will reveal itself in many different ways and many different contexts. We don’t need to mix all of these different truths for ourselves, but we do need to respect that the truth will reveal itself and express itself differently to different people. Respect for religious freedom is an essential ingredient for world peace.
- In this new world we are entering, one which will largely take place within a virtual world, we need to create an environment of internet freedom. But freedom is different than anarchy. Freedom is underwritten by clear institutions which balance and protect the equal rights of everyone, not just the most powerful.
Your turn: What are some key ideas you are working with now?