What Buddhists want to know: Why can't we all get along

Two Buddhist monks from the Do Ngak Kunphen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Redding spoke at Mark Twain Library Sunday, Sept. 23, and briefly explained the traditions and practices of Buddhists and who the Dalai Lama is and why he is invited to Connecticut.

Jampa Gyaltsen, a Buddhist monk from China, said, “We are glad to be here today, especially in a library. Books were considered holy objects and in temples the most sacred place was the library.”

Jampa said a question many Buddhists ask is “Why can’t humans get along? It is a question we want to know.”

He quoted Mark Twain when he said how “man is a reasoning animal” and he [Mark Twain] experimented with a dog and a cat and taught them to be friends.

“Why we can’t get along is because we are not happy with each other, and we are not happy with each other because we are not happy with ourselves,” said Jampa.

He then explained Dharma, which is the Buddhist belief system.

“Unrealistic reasoning leads to a disturbed mind, which then goes to unskillful action. This action will not give the satisfaction we want,” he said. “As Buddhists we say, let’s change it.”

Dharma ideology says reasoning is mindfulness, which leads to a peaceful mind, which then brings morality and finally virtuous action, he said.

“Buddhists teachings are on a personal level,” said Jampa. “We transform a peaceful mind to compassion then transform virtuous action into an altruistic action — doing for the benefit of others.”

The sun, moon and flower are symbols of Dharma. The sun stands for reasoning and understanding, the moon stands for compassion because it is cool and nice, and the flower stands for the altruistic action, he said.

Jampa then explained the origin of Buddhism and Gautama Buddha.

“He embodied Dharma, that’s why we call him Buddha,” he said.

The first Buddha taught for 45 years. The people he taught were called Sangna and in many images, deer are depicted because deer are focused and gentle creatures, he said.

“And when you are being taught you become more gentle, kind and compassionate,” he said.

Sarnath, India, is the place Buddha gave his first talk. From there his teachings spread all over Asia, said Jampa. In 1944 Buddhism came to the United States via Japanese Buddhists. The Buddhist Church of America in San Francisco was the first temple in the country. Tibetan Buddhism came in 1955, South Asian Buddhism came in 1970 and Chinese Buddhism came in 1975.

“In 2007, 1% of people in Connecticut were Buddhists,” he said.

The 100-acre property DNKL is on was donated by The Maurice Pate Institute for Human Survival in 1997. Maurice Pate was the first executive director of UNICEF and died in 1965.

Jampa then explained the five commitments Buddhists make.

“The first is no killing and instead try to save. There are different ways to prolong life for humans, animals and the environment. The second is no stealing, be generous,” he said.

People will offer food to temples, volunteer and donate.

“The third is no lies, speak nice to people. Speak with respect, understanding, sincerity, kindness, with a good heart and knowledge. Buddhists will bow to each other and will also make confession,” he said. “The fourth is no cheating, hold your family as a high place. And the fifth is no drugs or alcohol. You must be aware of your mental state and thinking [clearly].”

The first four commitments relate to morality in Dharma, while the fifth is mindfulness, he said.

The final step to reasoning, which is the most difficult and challenging, he said, is group reciting of text and scriptures.

“It’s a self study to understand the meaning and how it is relevant to yourself and how to integrate it into life,” said Jampa.

Geshe Dhargey, residential teacher and senior monk at DKNL, spoke about Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama from Tibet. Geshe Dhargey invited the Dalai Lama to speak at Western Connecticut State University in October.

“Gendun Drup is the first Dalai Lama,” he said. “[The Dalai Lama] is an extremely holy person. A growing number of Westerners see him as a special person. The Chinese government don’t see him as a holy person, they think of him as evil.”

To Buddhists, the Dalai Lama is “beyond what we can imagine,” he said.

“We believe that he realized previous things, therefore we believe he chose to come to Earth on his own choice,” said Geshe Dhargey.

Geshe DhargeyGeshe Dhargey said the Dalai Lama was the best mentor.

“His teachings have helped to make me a better person,” he said. “He is totally holy and humble. He is a promoter of world peace and has a genuine love of everyone no matter where they come from.”

He said that he noticed that people in this country invite famous people to give speeches.

“I admire this tradition,” he said.

Geshe Dhargey explained the Dalai Lama’s commitments and concerns.

“As a human being, my first responsibility is to promote human values in human society. As a religious person, my second responsibility is to promote religious harmony, and as a Tibetan, my last responsibility is to resolve Tibetan political issues with the Chinese government.’

He then said the five areas Buddhists need to concentrate on are, according to the Dalai Lama — human population, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, ending violence and armed conflict, environmental issues, and increasing harmony between different religions.

“We promote basic human value,” he said.

Buddhists are now looking to the future and keeping their own traditions.

“The Dalai Lama will say it is better to keep own religion but learn all different religions. You will understand more,” said Geshe Dhargey.

He said the Dalai Lama speaks from the heart and not from an intellectual level.

“We need someone who has experience — from the heart,” he said.

At the end of the presentation audience members were allowed to ask questions. One woman asked who determines if someone can be considered Buddha.

“When we eliminate our own ignorance completely, then we are Buddha,” he said.

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