POSTED: 29 APRIL 2007 - 8:00am HST

The Dalai Lama on Maui

The Black Crowned Night Heron in a pond on Maui

by Keith Mylett on 26 April 2007

The Dalai Lama recently made his second visit to the state of Hawaii, and his first to the Valley Isle. His Holiness gave two talks, The Human Approach to World Peace, and Eight Verses for Training the Mind. Residents from across the state, Buddhists, seekers, tourists, and curious individuals from all walks of life came to see the Dalai Lama.

Despite the Dalai Lama’s message of peace, the venue for his public talks was at the Maui War Memorial Stadium. Security was tight, with Homeland Security, Police, Secret Service, and even rooftop snipers in attendance. Perhaps we wouldn’t need so much security in our world if we built Peace Memorials rather than reflecting, honoring, and idolizing times of war, destruction, and anguish.
Although I was not present for his first free talk, The Human Approach to World Peace, I heard that it was a non-secular, light-hearted, peaceful, relaxed, and humorous affair. A thousand students were there, and a few shared poems or essays on the topic of peace.

The next day, His Holiness discussed the Eight Verses for Training the Mind.

Against many people’s intuition, this paid talk was much more crowded than the previous day. Personally, I believe this might be a commentary on our Western culture. Deep down, perhaps we feel that if we pay for something it will make it better. But for the purpose of raising funds for the Tibetans, I suppose it was not a bad thing.

Upon entering the stadium, the energy felt like thousands of humans gathering for a rock concert. Long lines formed to buy t-shirts, prayer beads, and other Tibetan wares. Admittedly, I took part in this commerce that frankly, goes against the Dalai Lama’s view of non-attachment.

Once the Dalai Lama took to the stage, however, much of the crowd gave him their undivided attention, while others walked around oblivious to the main attraction. With his hands together in prayer, he greeted us with “Aloha.” His Holiness didn’t levitate on stage with a glowing halo, yet he had an instant effect on the thousands of humans watching him – smiles, laughter, and focus. His laughter is infectious, even if you have no idea what he’s laughing about, you can’t help but join in.

He discussed many things. Sometimes in English, which provided a more intimate understanding of his warm, compassionate personality, but most of the time he spoke in Tibetan with a translator. Up front he told us that although normally in his public talks he talks about issues that are common to all humans, today he would be discussing more in depth Buddhist philosophies.

Much of what he talked about was hard to follow, as it sounded like a discourse on quantum physics mixed with philosophy. Some key points struck a chord with me though. While talking about the impermanence of all things, the Dalai Lama said that although we all agree that things change, for example over the course of a year, we fool ourselves into thinking things are permanent in the moment. But if you break a year into months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds, and so on, change is constant. Nothing is permanent, it is always, without fail, in the process of change.

The Dalai Lama also compared being a human to being a horse cart. We see a cart and think, “There is a horse cart,” but we can also break the cart into its various parts, wheels, ropes, wood, and so forth. Just like the cart, we can break our existence into parts, eyes, arms, etc. When we see something, we think, “I see that,” not “My eyes see that” Thus, the Dalai Lama argued that our self identity is purely dependent on outside forces, such as people, things, and relationships. These concepts are in agreement with the theory of quantum physics that existence is dependent on the observer and that there is no solid state of quantifiable existence in the sub-atomic level.

The Eight Verses for Training the Mind, by Langri Thangpa, are as follows:

Eight Verses for Training the Mind

With a determination to accomplish
The highest welfare for all sentient beings
Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
I will learn to hold them supremely dear.

Whenever I associate with others I will learn
To think of myself as the lowest among all
And respectfully hold others to be supreme
From the very depths of my heart.

In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
Endangering myself and others
Will firmly face and avert it.

I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature
And those oppressed by strong sins and suffering
As if I had found a precious
Treasure very difficult to find.

When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take on all loss,
And offer victory to them.

When one whom I have benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.

In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
All help and happiness directly and indirectly
And respectfully take upon myself
All harm and suffering of my mothers.

I will learn to keep all these practices
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
Be released from the bondage of attachment.

The Dalai Lama dissected each verse, explaining how it is relevant to becoming a truly altruistic and compassionate human. From the first verse, I realized it would take awhile to get through all eight, because the Dalai Lama spent about 20 minutes discussing the nature of self due to the inclusion of the word “I” in the verse. He also dispelled some misunderstandings that many people have about Buddhism.

His Holiness stated that although Buddhists teach about the lack of a true self, of course he believes that we all exist as beings, just that our idea of self as independent of others is misguided. Also, he said that he does not believe you should just lay down and let people do bad things. You can oppose negative forces in a way that is strong, positive, and effective, just not violent or hateful.

I, among many others of the audience, after reading and listening to these eight verses, probably came to the conclusion that we are not cut out to be as altruistic as a Tibetan Monk. But hopefully, the Dalai Lama planted the seed of peace in our hearts, so that we may spread its message to this world in dire need of more compassion, peace, love, and positivity.