Friday, October 23, 2009

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week - The Self at Which We Grasp

There are many teachings in many faiths about the emptiness of the self at which we grasp - maybe emptiness isn't the word used, maybe its imperfect, or wounded, or some other metaphor. One need not be Buddhist to get that much of what we consider "self" is unreal at best.

The following teaching comes from one my favorite books by the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama's
Heart of Wisdom Teachings

by H.H. the Dalai Lama
trans. & ed. by Geshe Thupten Jinpa


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

By understanding emptiness, by clearly perceiving the empty nature of all phenomena, including ourselves, we can liberate ourselves from negative emotions, and thus from the creation of unwholesome karma and the power of the internal enemy. Through this process, we can begin to undo the harm we've caused by our grasping, and the derivative strong emotions to which it gives rise. The moment we begin to develop insight into the empty nature of self and all reality, the process of releasing our deluded grasp begins. At the moment of our first insight into the empty nature of self and reality, we start to break free of the enslavement of ignorance and the attack of the internal enemy. By reducing our grasping, we start to undo the causal chain of unenlightened existence. By undermining self-grasping ignorance, the first link of dependent origination, you prevent the arising of the second link, and ultimately become free of the endless cycle of suffering lifetimes.

But what does all this mean exactly? If we arrive at the knowledge that the self at which we grasp is empty, we may imagine this means that we as individuals with personal identities do not exist. But of course this is not the case--our own personal experiences demonstrate that as subjects and agents of our own lives, we certainly exist. So how, then, do we understand the content of this insight into absence of self? What follows from this insight? We must be very clear that only the self that is being grasped as intrinsically real needs to be negated. The self as a conventional phenomenon is not rejected. This is a crucial aspect of the Buddha's teachings on emptiness.

--from Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings by H.H. the Dalai Lama, translated & edited by Geshe Thupten Jinpa

When we, as men and as human beings, begin to relinquish our grasp on the false self, and stop wasting energy grasping at that illusion, we break the chain of being as His Holiness suggests in the quote above.

But we also have so much more energy that was once invested in grasping to use for compassion and caring about others. And we become more free to live a more integrated life. We can live from integrity.

We need not be Buddhist, as I have mentioned many times (although I think Buddhism has the best technology for working on these issues), to engage in opening ourselves and becoming more compassionate. Most of the world's religious traditions offer some path toward this goal.

For those who would like a little guidance, I highly recommend Roger Walsh's Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind.
Based on over twenty years of research and spiritual practice, this is a groundbreaking and life-changing book. In his decades of study, Dr. Roger Walsh has discovered that each of the great spiritual traditions has both a common goal and seven common practices to reach that goal: recognizing the sacred and divine that exist both within and around us. Filled with stories, exercises, meditations, myths, prayers, and practical advice, Essential Spirituality shows how you can integrate these seven principles into one truly rewarding way of life in which kindness, love, joy, peace, vision, wisdom, and generosity become an ever-growing part of everything you do.

1 comment:

Christine Johannis said...

Thank you so much for these comments - and quotes. These have come at a helpful time when I am truly beginning to experience emptiness . Christena