Tag Archives: Dalai Lama

11. Live temperately

Most people I know, when they think of temperance, imagine crowds of people, mostly women, protesting the sale and consumption of hard liquor – usually proceeding and following the passage and repeal of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, which prohibited production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States between 1920 to 1933. Other interpretations found in guides for living in many world religions and published in private “how to live” guidebooks suggest that temperance means moderation, in all things. As Benjamin Franklin put it, “eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation”. Many sages and saints talk about keeping the belly only partially full of solids, with the remainder air. The Stoic idea (and Buddhist monk) idea of unflappability in the face of adversity, hunger, pain, arousal, or any kind of distress provides the name for the Middle Path. Only during periods like the height of the Romantic period, when enlightened thinkers took William Blake’s the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom…you never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough to its logical extreme, has the “advice” to humanity on a good and suitable life ever veered from a more or less strictly defined narrow way of barely enjoyed pastimes. Certainly, Montaigne’s ideal given his Stoic, Epicurean and Skeptic influences and nature included always seeking and preferring that Middle Way of centered non-perturbation.

Where one’s influence ends and nature begins is always a subjective argument. Without digressing completely into nature versus nurture again, I think unless we redefine what is meant by nature, and one’s natural state, any discussion is probably absolutely pointless. After all, is it more important that we possess a nature, that we become aware of it, or that we act in a way that we believe is in accordance with that perceived nature – even though in truth we probably have no idea how to actually define something so apparently outside ourselves (and if it is human nature, it is outside the purview of the individual), nor how to actually point our actions to achieve a demonstrably nebulous goal? What we know of nature is more or less a function of how we are nurtured. We are only able to subjectively make the distinction when we observe others; where these shades of gray melt into each other in our own persons is indistinguishable to our own eyes.
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A Drop in the Bucket

His Holiness came
to visit the Big Easy:
a mixed race culture.

He spoke to thousands:
they lined up for hours to hear
his message of peace.

His smiling face shone
on all those who assembled;
what great energy!

Practice compassion,
be kind and giving to all:
we are all the same.

After it was done,
the throng of rich, white faces
sought the French Quarter.

While poor, black people
(still the large part of New Orleans)
went about their day.

Five hundred thousand:
the dollars raised for this trip.
That’s a chunk of change.

20 MAY 2013

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The Art of Happiness

The question was, “How can I be
more compassionate; how can my
efforts to be compassionate
be more effective?”

His answer, politically careful,
was that it was an individual
question; that each person’s
contribution was different,
that one’s answer was not
necessarily another’s.

Before he spoke, under my breath,
I said, “the answer
is: just start.”
If you spend all your days
in thought,
about whether you’re wasting time
or if your “talents”
could best serve
some other way,
you’ve missed the point.

The object will not ever be
to change the world,
but change yourself.
It does not matter the reward
if what you do you know is right.
One need not over-complicate
the matter; just begin,
and do not worry on
the end effect, the bottom line,
the dividend, spiritual gain.

Just do it. Start
by smiling. Now,
right here, where
you are at.

And just keep at it.
Never stop.

20 MAY 2013

for the His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama

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Wanting what you have vs having what you want

I paraphrase the Dalai Lama a bit here, but the gist of it is that most of the world focuses on having what you want— which is a constant state of acquisition, of needing to augment with more, of rampant consumerism that ultimately ends in devaluation of anything that is not imminently disposable.

If you find satisfaction in what you are, where you are, who you are right now, that is peace of mind that is not illusive, transitory or subject to entropy. Wanting what you have is the ultimate expression of living in the moment. The goal is to be here now, not to dwell on how much better your life could be if only …

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Thought from the Dalai Lama

Perfection is not perfect actions in a perfect world, but rather, appropriate actions in an imperfect one.

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