Episode Description

More discussion on our reactions, attitudes, and responsibility around current American events. A brief summing up of the previous episode and sound bites from Raghu Markus ‘ podcast where he and Lama Surya Das, speaking as friends, hash it out.  A discussion on coping and moving forward. Yisrael gives his commentary and sums up by ending with some encouraging wisdom from Jack Kornfield’s Heart Wisdom podcast.

Suggested Reading for this Episode:

I refer to Chapter 72 & 73 of Old Path White Clouds. The whole book is an awesome read and great for priming the pump before meditation. Here also is one of my favorite books from Lama Surya Das, Buddha Is As Buddha Does – since we are dealing with morality and right action, I thught I would suggest it. I will be dedicating a seperate in-depth review to this book as it has been a go to source for me for many years. Watch for it!

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Welcome to Dharma Review. Okay. Hey Everybody. Let me start by wishing my Jewish Family and friends a hearty Shalom Ha Bayeet. To my other friends: Tashi Delek, Salaam, and Namaste.

I have decided to try to keep these Episodes to around 30 Mins. Unless, [laughter] of course, we get into serious Q & A with guests. Let me tell you that I will be setting a schedule for this podcast and that announcement will be in the Calendar when we launch the website this weekend. You will find it at dharmareview.com.

I am so used to speaking in person with people – rather than through this medium, so bear with me – I must tell you – I am so sorry if some of you had to labor through the slow pace of the last episode.  I was responding to a criticism brought on by some sound problem’s I experienced with the interface when first launching and so re-recorded the first 2 episodes.

Well, that problem was fixed, but I ‘m afraid I over compensated by then speaking too slow. So, my apologies to all.  OK, now that that’s out of the way – The initial schedule I’ve set for this show will be every Friday at 3:30PM Pacific time. Occasionally there will be a two part episode which will then be aired on Thursday and Friday.

When there is a special Guest or Guests we may do weekend shows in order to accommodate Live Broadcasts or special events. If a guest has their own Podcast schedule to keep and if it conflicts, then expect me to accommodate them as well.  All of these will be noted on the website and pre-announced.

If this podcast is to be relevant then, it must also be as current – topically – as possible.   And in order for me to get there and be right current on the exact day maybe something happens as we broadcast I want to catch us up and that’s why I’ve been dealing with the subject matter I’ve been dealing with.

And for those that are joining in for the first time let me  briefly state again that the main intent of this podcast is not to proselytize, or preach, but to offer as safe a passage as is humanly possible – to all those seekers and teachers who may be out there struggling, a bit, maybe secretly, or privately with certain issues – and who could use a little help being directed to sources that can provide some answers and certainly, for those needing a little assist at sorting through the vast amounts of videos, articles, books on Amazon, and all the information that’s flooding the web about spirituality these days  – this podcast is for you!

And let’s not forget Dharma Review is here to assist us all in reviewing our own dharma. The website is engineered to also assist in building an online community of trustworthy spiritual buddies. But now lets begin:

I left off last episode, reading and talking about the real-life situations and predicaments of Buddha Gautama and his reaction to the immediate political situations he confronted near the end of his long life. We know this how? Because, we are fortunate enough to have written records preserved and re transmitted across cultural and ethnic boundaries seemingly unbroken for 2,500 years. And the fact also, that the Buddha taught all the way up until he passed away. So, he was teaching for quite a long time. He died at the age of around 80.

Really this is a quite rare phenomenon. This is partly due to the systems the Buddha himself put in place, to the loyalty of his monks and disciples, and to the fact of his long life and the enormity in volume of those teachings.

Also of significance is the way in which Buddhism developed over time as its compassionate teachings flowed from India, to Tibet, to China, to Japan, to Thailand and the islands of the South China Sea. And certainly – we owe a great debt to Tibet’s isolated and hard to reach geography – that is until recent years.

So let me jump start this episode by quickly recapping where we left off, I was reading from Thich Nhat Hahn’s master work Old Path White Clouds: Walking In The Footsteps of The Buddha – The Buddha was facing a schism in his own ranks and political shifting sands that were shocking. It was a move, one might say, to capitalize on a kind of fundamentalist approach and a manipulation of that kingdom’s politics.

Let me just read a bit to finish off the story – I promise I’ll be brief okay?

” Lord we often publicly praised Venerable Devadatta’s ability and virtue in the past. How will it look if we now denounce him?”  This was the schism that was happening.

The Buddha asks, “Sariputta, in the past when you publicly praised Devadatta, were you speaking the truth?”

“Yes Lord, I was speaking the truth when I praised venerable Devadatta’s ability and virtue.”

“Will you be speaking the truth now – if you denounce brother Devadatta’s actions?

“Yes Lord.”

“Then there is no problem. The important thing is to speak the truth.”

So, we go on to learn that [pause] the Buddha and his followers were facing political upheaval and the political upheaval was that the king’s son had made an action to overthrow actually, attempted to assassinate the king, and then stopped short of that later the King died in captivity and the Buddha refused to go to the coronation of the new king and forbid his followers to do the same. So, in essence that was a peaceful protest. So, we see, that the Buddha actually protested and encouraged his followers to do the same thing. He did that by saying, “It is my wish that none of our bhikkhus attend either. We cannot lend any sign of support to this cruel and unjust affair.”

And due to that action, “There grew among the people a quieted steadfast resistance to the new regime. So, although Devadatta called himself a leader, the people began to notice that there were differences between how his bhikkhus and the Buddha’s bhikkhu’s (or followers) reacted and acted inpublic.”  – And in politics.  So, the Buddha set a pretty strong example there. And later we go on to learn that he was even involved in counseling the queen on how to act in her semi-captivity.  And the people recognize that the Buddha took a stand. So – that’s really my point about this story. That we actually have historical record.

And again, that’s Old Path White Clouds: Walking In The Footsteps Of The Buddha – as translated – and retold by Thich Nhat Hanh. Very awesome book.

Amazing, huh?  – Not unlike what we are going through in our own country right now. And that’s what everyone is talking about these days isn’t it.  Certainly, in spiritual circles – people are dealing with shock, disbelief, pain, broken families even, as spouses take sides – not to mention parts of the country.

And if your spiritual circles have not talked about it – we’ll look at that too, if you’re willing.

Just so you know – I myself have recently rediscovered this treasure trove of resources, which by the way, is now more powerful than ever.  Embodied in what is now called – The Be Here Now Network of teachers, which includes lamas, gurus, and musicians. From the Tibetan Buddhist path, the Bhakti path, the Zen Buddhist path – It really is a wonderful resource for inspiration and wisdom – especially now. It’s an amazing collection of podcasts and recordings and articles.I would encourage you all to check it out for yourselves. You will find links to it on the Dharma Review website. So we’ll make it very easy to find. And now let me take a look at the chat board and see if anybody’s out there listening live.

Pause] ……….[typing]……….[pause]…….typing] Let me just type a hello and welcome. [Typing]………[Pause]…….[Typing] You know, I realize this is a brand new podcast and it’s been a little difficult setting up a schedule and being able to keep to it and start lining up guests – which hopefully will be in active working – this next episode. So, we’re going to broadcast every Thursday, every Thursday at 3:30 and like I said we will also carry over to Friday at 3:30, if we have a two-part episode –  instead of stretching it out kind of like we’re doing this one.

So, I’m taking a bit of a risk, but I think it’s worthy – and worth it.  –  Since I’m talking

about the Be Here Now Network and everything it has to offer, let me play you some discussion on this subject which we’ve been talking about and listen to what Raghu’s interview, in his own words, with Lama Surya Das and how they were talking about it and what Lama Surya Das had to say.

This is the episode called Mensch Up. Raghu asks everyone “Where were you?” And so, he puts it to Lama Surya Das. Listen now –

[Clip Playing] “Where were you that fateful night? [Lama Surya Das laughing] December or rather, November 8th, 2016? – Where were you?”

” I was watching the election results, I think that’s the date, right – with my friends here in Massachusetts in Lexington in our town, but I was very much with the spirit and with the community and with what was happening and kind of startled – shocked, [Pause]…….[Thinking….] learning something new. For example, remembering that some of my British journalist friends had said, ‘You know, Trump could actually win this election. Think, notice what happened with us with

Brexit and was such a surprise.’  And I said, ‘Eh neh,’ but um, that’s where I was, and in some sense – still there, but moving along and things have moved along. What did you say, we’re going through the change?”

[Raghu] “C” change, C Change -I’ve been calling it, that’s how I refer to it rather than Trump.”

[Lama Surya Das]”Yeah, it would be good to see more change and transformation not to play on words too much,  but I like when you said The Change – because I think I’m going through some kind of man-of-pause or something. But I think the problem with the country has is mensch-a-pause and we need to mensch up a little bit and I’m not sure we have a mensch at the helm. I’m not sure we have a mensch at the helm we may have somebody with a diagnosable you know certifiable condition but I’m not going to pick on the president individually. We did vote him in you know, ‘We,’ whether the public majority did or not we voted him in with our democratic process and we have to live with the consequences and I think, perhaps, resistance and clarifying things, clarifying ourselves is very important now not passivity.”

[Raghu]“ Yeah.”

So, it’s very clear from that sound bite that…[pause]……..Lama Surya Das is talking about acceptance. Accepting the situation that we’re in. But he does go on to mention in no uncertain terms that he thinks some resistance is definitely warranted. And again, we’re listening to Mindrolling – Episode 181, called Mensch Up – with Lama Surya Das, Lama Surya Das and Raghu.  And let me play now another clip:

[Clip Plays] ….[Lama Surya Das]  “I don’t think if there’s any easy answers about this, but we too are dealing with the difficult emotions and our reactions and that’s where I think we can have traction about spiritual practice and cultivating love and acceptance but also accepting our impulse, our intention, our good-hearted altruism, impulse to do, to make a -to become better people and make a better world – not be passive, complacent, laissez faire to an extreme – but the middle way – some contemplation and acceptance and inner harmony –  and some external action, engagement and activism and you know responsibility. Engagement definitely.”

[Raghu] ” now…”

“Engagement definitely,” but again he points out – make sure to do your inner work. So – what is that inner work?  What does it entail really? Well, one thing is, obviously, not to become obsessed or attached to the situation, but to remain in a state of equanimity – and we will talk about some of these things later on.  So, this was a serious discussion and it warrants our attention and it warrants our further discussion, I think., and that’s why I’ve chose to bring it up. So, Lama Surya Das then goes on to talk about the fact that he’s to talk about the fact that he’s traveled all over the place – all over theworld. That he’s been in lots of different cultures and for serious amounts of time so he’s had the ability to truly observe those cultures and to understand them better. So here he talks about understanding and making contact:

[Raghu]  “I mean and have you thought about this yourself have you actually talked to anybody who has supported this uh, new administrator, administration?”

[Lama Surya Das] “Yes, absolutely from top to bottom – from [clearing throat] people, intelligent – learned people, on panels, and individuals to just people I meet along the way, or in travel, or in the coffee shop, or watching sports somewhere. It’s just different views. We Buddhist teachers and magazine editors and other people also a wrestling with this and it’s very important not to, we feel, you know I feel, that not to conflate or mix up, a particular spiritual message about freedom and liberation and wisdom and empathic compassion and all, with your spiritual or religious teachings –  with the particular politics of the moment, left or right.”

[Raghu] “Wait’…

[Lama Surya Das] “Although as an individual – it’s good to do that, but to preach from the pulpit of a non-profit church is something that the government has prohibited for nonprofits to get involved in politics, although most churches do it.  And to think you have to be a Green or a Liberal Progressive you know, American-style, because the world is big and you know spiritual and leading religions like Buddhism and Hinduism and Christianity and Judaism and Islam are all over the globe – don’t necessaril subscribe just to the liberal progressive ethos that we do. And so, it’s very confusing to the audience if they hear your spiritual message and it seems like they have to be of a particular political side or persuasion – and so we are taught and learn to avoid that as much as possible, although individually we may march. Of course, we vote however we vote and –  and –  and talk to our friends however if we talk to our friends. But from the pulpit and so on, that’s different, so this is not my pulpit so I feel free to say whatever, but as Lama Surya Das, I’m a little careful about, you know, if I talk about compassion and wisdom enlightenment as if you have to believe in science and evolution and ecology and support the movement to protect our endangered planet in order to get enlightened.”

[Raghu] “No, OK, but…”

[Lama Surya Das] “I don’t think those necessarily go together in the bigger picture.”

Alright, so let’s talk about the bigger picture for a moment. When we look at the bigger picture, and he’s talking as a teacher of a specific tradition – and he’s saying that he has to keep a certain view in order to represent his lineage –  in order to represent the faith that he teaches – the practices that he teaches, and keep in mind his audience, that his audience is really worldwide.

Let’s think about this for a minute. I mean, there’s something I don’t necessarily agree with in his approach here.  And that is –  I’m more inclined to – to agree with Sharon Salzberg, who in the last episode I was quoting, where she says, “You know, I don’t agree that we have to entertain all views equally some views are just wrong.”  There’s some things that morally –  are reprehensible – that morally you cannot support with a good conscience and I’m more inclined to side with Sharon there.

I do understand Lama Surya Das’ position. I understand his need to try to be totally removed to some degree.  He does, in his defense also, I’ll say he makes a distinction between his professional platform and his – his personal views. He, which he declared quite – quite clearly. I’m just not sure that as spiritual practitioners, adherents, and especially teachers, should be making that kind of division because as we saw with the Buddha’s situation way in the past. You know – these are not new problems the back workings of secret politics, etc., etc.

But I guess this is something we can continue to discuss if anyone wishes to discuss it feel free to make comments or whatever.  Bear in mind we’re not going to entertain any nastiness, or attacks, or whatever, we’re talking here from a spiritual standpoint and from a standpoint of true intellectual reasoning and compassion. We’re coming from a place of trying to understand other people’s views but also trying to take a stand. Why?  Because I believe that that is part of our faith – to take a stand.  A moral stand, a righteous stand. Okay, so here’s where he talks about living around the world:

[Lama Surya Das] “I’ve lived in Japan, I’ve lived in India and Nepal. I’ve lived in France for years, I’m not talking about for a week, or a month. People are all the same at that level and that is so prevalent and that’s how it was a total surprise to me that half the country went for this person that never held government office, elected office, and wasn’t prepared this.  Against a highly-qualified candidate, whatever her down sides were. But the Brexit vote showed the same and now France is struggling with similar issues and the very right wing is ascendant which is totally against immigration, Islam – it’s homophobic and a whole bunch of other things so, we’re having a backlash and I’m not sure why a lot of it is fear and anxiety about the economy and the state of the world certainly.”

[Raghu] “Well a lot of people in this country and all these other countries, as well,  there’s a very, very similar pattern of people being left behind – there’s no doubt…”

[Lama Surya Das] “Yes”

[Raghu] “…about that and – and those causes and conditions are just as important or are what we are talking about-  and I’m not sure that I can just totally agree that – that anybody who grows up in those causes and conditions would not have an awareness of, of the lack of humanity in another human being.”

OK, so that was Raghu Markus conversing with Lama Surya Das and giving his response to what Lama Surya Das had just said and I’m inclined also to agree with Raghu Markus. When he said, …”that I don’t necessarily believe that it’s just cause and condition that causes this.”

I mean, this is something we are going to talk about we’re going to talk about where do these kind of views – and Buddhism would certainly call them wrong views – come from?  And where do they get and how where and how do they get entrenched into people’s consciousness and cause this kind of huge polarization that we’re experiencing right now?   There are causes and effects, I mean, I agree with Lama Surya says in some respects about that, but we’re going to go more into depth and we’re going to talk about actual life experiences that illustrate this from my personal experience and from hopefully some of the experiences of guests that we’re going to have on in the next week’s.

Again, we’ve been listening to an episode, outtakes[clips] of Mindrolling-  Episode 181 called Mensch Up. This is Raghu Markus’s podcast on the Be Here Now Network and – as this is Dharma Review – we take some liberties to actually review these shows and then to discuss them further and hopefully open up a broader discussion. All right – here is the last piece I want to play from that podcast and then we’ll talk about it a little more.   Again this is Mensch Up with Raghu Markus and Lama Surya Das:

[Lama Surya Das] “Trump making fun of the crippled reporter which he backpedaled off of and tried to weasel out of you know it was pretty horrific, but I don’t know if you’re missing something? You’re perfect as you are. Two thoughts, one is, I’m getting like a message channeling from Maharaji –  No I’m just joking – Maharaji said, ‘Never throw anybody out of your Heart.’  So that’s one thing that I try to apply across the board  – even to the edges where people who I disagree with violently, or detest, or can’t believe they’re doing what they’re doing, seem to me to abide. Never throw anyone out of your heart – but that’s a big general kind of love everyone. One with everyone. Jesus Love acceptance, Buddha Love acceptance level statement.”

[Raghu] “Right, right.”

[Lama Surya Das] “But then what? What I want to say was, we’re talking now about inhumanity and that’s you know, somewhat subjective. Like, I read…” [Cuts off]

OK, so he says it’s somewhat subjective, right? So all of this is very interesting conversation and I’d really love to start hearing from the listeners out there what your views are on some of this and hopefully like I said we’re going to talk about it some more. There’s another podcast I’m going to play some sound bites from that’s on the same network, The Be Here Now Network, called Heart Wisdom, which is a podcast by Jack Kornfield who is a Zen Buddhist teacher of quite well renown and he has some very interesting points to make so let me play one of those:

[Jack Kornfield] “Think about the courage that’s required for you or for any of us to truly live a life of forgiveness, of compassion, of the deepest values of our heart in the face of a culture of materialism and speed and in some ways a glorification of violence that we see in the world. Archbishop Cesar [actually Oscar] Romero said, ‘They can kill me but they cannot kill the voice of justice if they kill me I will rise again in the Salvadorian people,’ he said, and he was assassinated. Or Martin Luther King Jr., ‘I still believe that standing up for the truth is the greatest thing in the world, this is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy, the end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, the end of life is to live in a sacred way – come what may.’

Interesting huh?  The end of life is to live in a sacred way, is to stand up for the truth, also. He was quoted as saying. [pause] Again, we’re listening to Episode 45 – Some sound bites I’ve taken for our discussion, out of Heart Wisdom by Jack Kornfield –  Also on the Be Here Now Network.

This is just really an illustration of some of the resources that are out there for us. But we have to find them – we have to know where they are. We have to find them, then we have to weed through all of the various episodes, to find something that speaks to our Heart and gives us sustenance for right now – the current situation. And that’s part of what Dharma Review is about.  Doing just that.  And helping guide our listeners to resources that can be of great benefit.  …. [Pause] ….
So, Jack Kornfield went on to also mention Krishnamurti: “And honoring that what needs to be healed gets healed in Love…….[pause]……as Krishnamurti says, …….[pause]……. ‘It is the Truth that liberates and not our efforts to be free.’ ”

Again, notice how [slight laughing] many times “truth” comes up and what’s one of the biggest things we’re facing right now is disinformation and misinformation and this is not just important to people who care about politics or people who care about the next great technological breakthrough that’s for our phones or our cars. It’s for us spiritually inclined practitioners –  and actually serious practitioners – and hopefully also for you teachers out there, who might be listening. These are some very important topics right now in our lives and avoiding them is definitely – not part of the path. I want to be very clear about
that. Non-attachment is not avoidance. Non-attachment is not denial. What non-attachment really means is that it doesn’t emotionally adversely affect us or take us off the path or lead us into anger or acts of violence and things like that.

Okay?  Here’s one more sound bite and then we’ll move on:

[JK] “When I was fortunate enough to be at the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one of the people who had been traveling in his entourage around the country to all these different teachings. A westerner, who’d been involved in, there’s this whole series of people who’ve been editing and helping the Dalai Lama get his books out in English – a number of which are on the New York Times Bestseller List – so forth – that you’ve seen.  He said, “I can’t understand it, I am so tried. I am so overwhelmed by the intensity of going from place to place and the schedule and the teachings and the energy and the questions that come to his Holiness. I can’t imagine how he lives this life to me I’m overwhelmed. And I reminded this particular person that the Dalai Lama gets up at 3:30 every morning and does three hours of meditation and purifications and visualizations and prayers and compassion practice and forgiveness practice and I ask this person how many hours do they do in the morning before, they said, ‘Oh, I sleep late, I get up, I brush my teeth I rush out here for the teachings. So, it is here, in us, what Ajahn Jamnian did, is what any of us have the capacity to do in the face of praise and blame and gain and loss because that’s the way the world is. We will have praise and blame. We will have gain and loss, we will have joy and sorrow, and conflict. We will have illness as the story of Tenzin described. What resources do we have to bring to that?  We have the resources of our own inner wisdom which is there in everyone. ‘Oh, nobly born, you who are the sons and daughters of the Buddha do not forget who you really are.’  Do not forget that inherent dignity and truthfulness and forgiveness that is your birthright, but also remember that it helps to practice – because we forget. It helps so much to have quiet times, to meditate, to reawaken and reconnect to that place of wisdom. It helps so much to have a practice of meditation, of solitude, of walking in the woods, of prayer. It also helps to have community.”

Ah – hum, and so, we get to community. But did we hear what, what uh, Jack was actually saying?  Really, really saying? He’s saying this is what helps. Do your practice we have those practices to help us through these kinds of times. Even more so. So – the practice helps. If you’re not doing the practice, if you’re no doing your meditation, if you’re not doing your Atma Kriya or your Kriya practice then, and you wonder why you’re getting angry, or why you’re exploding on someone, or why it bothers you so much, or you’re becoming obsessed. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you’re not doing enough for yourself. And you can’t help anyone else. You can’t change the world until you help yourself and change yourself.  And that’s what practice is really about. So I encourage us all to do our morning meditations, our mid-day meditations, our evening meditations. All of those things can be very, very helpful. And I’ll leave Heart Wisdom – Episode 45, with this last little piece:

[JK] “Here in us, what Ajahn Jamnian did is what any of us have the capacity to do in the face of praise and blame and gain and loss because that’s the way the world is. We will have praise and blame, we will have gained and lost, we will have joy and sorrow and conflict. We will have illness as the story of Tenzin described. What resources do we have to bring to that? We have the resources of our own inner wisdom which is there in everyone. ‘Oh, nobly born you who are the sons and daughters of the Buddha, do not forget who you really are do not forget that inherent dignity and truthfulness and forgiveness that is your birthright. But also, remember that it helps to practice – because we forget it helps so much to have quiet times to meditate. To reawaken and reconnect to that place of wisdom. It helps so much to have a practice of meditation, of solitude, of walking in the woods, of prayer.  It also helps to have community.”

And once again, that’s what Dharma Review is all about. Helping you find your Sangha, helping you find a community. Helping you find a trustworthy teacher, or trustworthy spiritual buddies who have no hidden agenda other than your continual progress. Coming up next episode, will be a segment on spirituality, faith, and the environment. I spoke alongside a friend of mine at a panel discussion this past week about that very subject: Spirituality, Faith and The Environment. And hopefully, I’ll have Elkha Katz on with me, as a guest, and we’ll talk a little bit about what we talked about.  After that – I’m looking forward to our discussion on True Believers, and what do I mean when I use that term? So, I hope you’ll join in on these interviews and discussions. Be sure and check out the schedule at dharmareview.com

And until next time, I’m Yisrael Bisman – Shalom, Salaam, Tashi Delek, Namaste.
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