Wisdom’s Goldenrod Audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
May 7, 1998, Washington, New Jersey

Note: “(Eng.:)” precedes His Holiness’s comments spoken in English; “(Tib.:)” precedes his comments spoken in Tibetan and translated for him into English.]

Herbert: Your Holiness, I’ve been asked to speak for the group. Ella May, our spiritual mother, is ill, and she sends you her prayers. She just sends you her fond regards. We’re honored that you have granted us an interview, an audience. We don’t want to waste your time; we have some concerns we’d like to address for the truth. We want you to address us-that’s why we’re here. We have questions, we have specific questions if you want them, but really if you could talk for say an hour or so– (laughter)
If it’s possible, would you grant us say five minutes of meditation also? That would be wonderful.

HHDL: (Eng.:) Your late spiritual master was great friend of mine, as you know. So I really feel some kind of special connection with him. So as it should be between. . . Whenever I see the followers of him, I extremely happy. So, greetings. So how is your Center? Doing normal?

Herbert: We are going along.


Herbert: We have classes.


Herbert: We have summer study programs.


Herbert: We have several people who are part of our group publishing. We have programs for young people. And we’re trying to progress. One of the questions we ask is, can you address the question of sangha to us? Specifically, the material world impinges on us, and it’s very hard. Most of us-we are all householders. No monks. That’s hard. So, that was one of the questions we thought to ask you, if you could speak to and try to inspire us towards . . .

HHDL: Hm. (Eng.:) This morning I told the followers of late [Ishyawandala?] that, they, similar, yeah. Your work, or your Center, not for one individual person, but certain, as a concept or certain spirit [?]. So therefore, whether that person alive or not, the spirit or the concept *must* continue. Vision. Ah-vision should be continued. So I am very glad you all carry that same spirit. That is very very important. So sometimes any noble work carry, is bound to face some obstacles. I think the more nobler-more noble, is more hindrance. That is, I think, quite normal, quite natural. So, when you face some hindrance or obstacle, you should increase your determination or your enthusiasm and determination. So, about sangha?

Sangha-in the sense that, say, community. Community. Community of some certain or special relation. (Tib.:) You actually already mentioned some of the activities that have been pursued at your Center; for example, like courses that have been given and publications that you are bringing out. These are the activities that will draw everybody together, because these are shared, that these activities represent your shared vision and shared beliefs. So it is through these communal activities that you can create a sense of community.

But other than that, His Holiness will say that he doesn’t really have much to say.
(Eng.:) I don’t know. So some questions.

Herbert: Could you speak to, many of us have children. Do you have any words that perhaps might inspire our children to meditation? And the value of meditation? Obviously it’s quite important, the essence of the practice.

HHDL: (Eng.:) Meditation, in broad sense, is a certain technique to increase the mental strength. (Tib.:) Given that meditation is a form of mental discipline, the more you engage in it, the better the chances for increasing your faculties such as sharpness, clarity, or thought. And also your power of recollection, memory. So, and the more you have developed these faculties, then you’ll be better equipped to deal with any forms of activities, any forms of disciplines that you want to engage in.

And from another point-of-view, meditation is also a form of relaxation, sort of a form of giving respite to your mind. And I’m very certain that meditation and mental discipline will be tremendously helpful, especially for the youth to live their life. Of course, this also means that through mental discipline, when you increase sharpness of your intelligence and also your faculties of memory and so forth, when these are used in a negative way of course you gain more power as well, and then destructive side is . . . (laughter)

(Eng.:) So, one hand, meditation very important; but other hand, the warm heart, good heart. That’s it. Equally. And even more important.

Herbert: You spoke today in your talk about balancing self-thought with other-thought. Could you speak more about that in relation to the [?] and how the other is better, so to speak?

HHDL: (Tib.:) In terms of trying to cultivate a thought which will cherish more the well-being of others, than being totally involved with one’s own self-interest and cherishing one’s own interest, one of the ways in which one can sort of right [?] this is to contemplate on the negative consequences of being self-obsessed or self-absorbed, and also on the positive consequences of more expansive thinking and cherishing the well-being of others. So it’s by judging on the positive and negative consequences of the two kinds of thoughts.

However, this is not to suggest that one should, one is expected to totally disregard one’s own self-interest for the sake of others. That’s not the message. However, in very specific context of meditative practice, sometimes we do find certain techniques, for example like in “Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”, this text by Shantideva, sometimes we do find special context where we may have to- in order to correct the balance-sometimes reflect upon even the negative consequences of simply cherishing one’s own interest. But the bottom line really is to maintain a balance, so that you have a regard for both your own interest and also others’ interest.

So, I also spoke about twin forces. One is the thought cherishing one’s own self-interest at the expense of others and so on. There is another side of that which is grasping at some form of true existence of oneself. In our normal states of mind, it seems that one reinforces the other. This self-cherishing thought and self-grasping thought seem to reinforce each other. However, even without having any deep insight into emptiness or selflessness, as the Buddhists would call it; even without such a deep insight, it is possible through training of mind, through meditation, to at least reduce the force of clinging at one’s own self-interest, that kind of strong self-cherishing.

So, although these two forces reinforce each other, they have kind of relatively autonomous sources. So, just as one can reduce the force of self-cherishing without having any deeper insights into emptiness, similarly, simply by having deeper insights into emptiness does not necessarily lead to overcoming self-cherishing thoughts.

The point here is that even if the person has deeper insights into emptiness, that alone isn’t adequate to overcome the forces of the self-cherishing thought; in order to counter which, one has to deliberately and consciously cultivate thoughts that cherishes others’ well-being. There needs to be that kind of affirmative approach. Of course this is a rather complex subject and I’m here talking from the Buddhist point-of-view.

Herbert: Uh, we like the Buddhist point-of-view! (laughter) Many of us study the Buddhist point-of-view. (laughs) Avery had a question.

HHDL: Hm? Yes.

Avery: Well, Your Holiness, this is partly a question, but, uh, we really love you, and that’s why we’re here. We really want to express our sincere appreciation for everything you do for us. In our tradition, sitting with a sage and being in their Presence meanseverything . . . it’s everything, everything.

HHDL: I think that’s,

Avery: . . . almost.

HHDL: I think a little too extreme, I think! (all laugh)

Avery: A little too extreme! It’s a lot-and we’re often, we know that you’ve made this commitment to Anthony,

HHDL: M-hm! Yes.

Avery: and we hear things about it, and I think we really want to tell you that we feel, from our point-of-view, that you have done so much for us-both real and imagined-(laughter). We don’t know, I mean sometimes, but in our point-of-view, the fact that you allow us to have contact with you, and to allow us to open a connection to you, and allow us to be in your Presence as much as you do, is unbelievable for us. We couldn’t ask for anything more. There’s nothing more we could ask for. It’s *so* incredible. And so we’re sometimes surprised at your surprise at not knowing how much you do for us. I mean we just-, I don’t have words to tell you. I really don’t.

HHDL: . . . Thank you. . . .

Avery: . . . And we hope we could sit just a few minutes quietly.

HHDL: Yes, of course, yes . . . I want . . .

Avery: And, there is one other thing. We have something we’ll give you later . . .

HHDL: (Eng.:) If you feel, you see, from my side, you see you give somebody benefit, then you can utilize, *maximum*! That’s my sort of dedication. My very existence, is if something benefit for others. So if you feel something good from it, something beneficial, then I’m only happy. Although I feel my own, very limited-I wish to offer more, but of course, myself . . . [puts index finger and thumb close together to indicate small amount] So?

Avery: But your Holiness, there is one thing you could do for us. It’s a big request.

HHDL: Uh-huh.

Avery: We’d like to invite you to come to Ithaca. (laughter) I’m serious; we’ve written out some possibilities. One of them is to just totally offer you our Center. If you want to come at any time you’re in the country to stay there, we’ll clear everybody out. . .

HHDL: (Tib.:) His Holiness say that you don’t have to help me, he can do it himself! (laughter) Perhaps, if necessary, with the help of a stick! (more laughter!)

Avery: Or, if you need the service of 60 or 70 would-be philosophers, we’d offer those services too. Or, we’ve contemplated trying to set up some kind of conference on the nature of mind. We know you’ve been interested . . .

HHDL: I think that’s good. That’s good, that’s very good.

Avery: and invite you as a participant, to share our views–

HHDL: That’s very good.

Avery: east and west philosophy, about the nature of mind, scientific and otherwise. With Cornell and Namgyal [Tibetan Monastery in Ithaca]. And the issues you were so interested in a few years ago on the nature of, the relation of the old and new schools’ view of the mind. We’re tremendously interested in that.


Avery: And we think others would be also. And in some kind of a forum, that, you know, you could enjoy a dialogue, or something.

HHDL: Hm. I like that, very good. Hm. M-hm.

Avery: We would love, we’d love to set that up.

HHDL: (Eng.:) And through such meeting, [?] . . . your group, possibly gain some-ah-have a new, new insight. That very good, very good.

Avery: That would be even beyond our imagination! That would be unbelievable.

HHDL: (Tib.:) His Holiness was saying that you should communicate with him through correspondence, and then we can set a time, and . . .
(Eng.:) Ah, very good. Hm. [pause] When you express with such . . . (Tib.:) So he said that since you expressed your strong feelings in such a way, with such trust and conviction, His Holiness was saying that he’s beginning to feel the weight of the responsibility–
Although I feel that there isn’t much that I can really do to fulfill your wishes and to be of real benefit, but however on my part there is a total preparedness, and with joy and happiness I’ll do all my best.

Avery: We should go for three. We have a piece of Astronoesis here .
. .
HHDL: What’s that? What’s that? What what[words and laughter between HHDL and Avery, indecipherable]

Avery: No, we’re very close to finally, after many years, having Anthony’s book ready for publication.

HHDL: Oh, very good!

Avery: And we have a small piece of it with beautiful layout. And we’re going to give you-don’t read it now! (laughter) Spend time reading [?] maybe, I don’t know. So, we’ll give it to you to take with you.

[Avery presents His Holiness with of an example layout of part of Anthony’s new book, “Astronoesis”]

HHDL: Ah. Ah. . . . Anything else?

Nancy: As you know, we study many different philosophies at Wisdom’s Goldenrod. So in connection with the conference on nature of mind, perhaps the approach of various schools from various traditions . . .

HHDL: Hm. Yes. (Tib.:) This will also be enriching for His Holiness, because he will have exposure to other points-of-view.

Nancy: Then, in connection with the class on Buddhism, we study Buddhism, we study your writings, and some of the great masters. But many of us are not, have not taken the Bodhisattva vows or the refuge, are not practicing Buddhists, and yet study Buddhist philosophy.

HHDL: That’s right way.

Nancy: It’s okay?

HHDL: That’s right way. Study! More. And, become Buddhist . . . later. Later. No hurry! (laughs) (Eng.:) I think, is very good. Very important to check, to test some of that. (Tib.:) It’s very important to pursue the mind of enquiry. So we’ll do a short meditation, a silent meditation together. (Eng.:) I think usually I give, sort of, individual choice. But, perhaps, I think here, in this case, I think one subject, all people concentrate together. Maybe, I think useful. Hm.
(Tib.:) How about just reflecting upon the nature of the very meditator himself or herself, who is meditating. (Eng.:) That state we call analytical meditation. Then, finally, we can’t find. So that’s the sign of emptiness. It does not mean non-existence. So existence is . . . (Tib.:) So, through such a process, we will arrive at a point that we can’t seem to find who the meditator is, and then, but however, this does not suggest that we don’t exist as individuals. Of course, we do, so the existence is to be understood in terms of dependent nature of reality. How things exist only in dependence upon other factors. (Eng.:) So, five minutes. Meditate.

[five-minute meditation]

HHDL: Thank you. (Tib.:) This kind of meditation is actually quite effective when, . . . if you are feeling unsettled, rather disturbed by certain provocation or such incident, then, try to take a pause and then try to examine, who is that “I” that is experiencing this, this disturbance? And this can have a calming effect.
So, as I mentioned there, when you begin to get more and more familiar with this kind of meditation, examining the nature of self, or the experiencer of these faults, then you get to a point where, although of course as individuals you will continue to use self-reference terms like “I” and “I am”, but your attachment to it will be less strong. So then there will be no . . . So the sense of self, the object to which you refer to as self, will be always kind of ephemeral, kind of a fluid. Fluid.
Even in my own case, in my daily practice, in my own case, meditation on emptiness and meditation on trying to counteract the forces of self-cherishing thought and cultivating thought cherishing the well-being of others, these are the two key elements of my meditation.

(Eng.:) My age, I think, when I, of course, study Buddhism-six, seven years old, since then I study, I begin to study. But then, because of a little fear of my tutor, so I compel [?], compel study-no sort of, volunteer-voluntariness. Then I think I study volunteerly, that I think around 15-16 years old. Then, real sort of interest develop, and meantime, practice, meditation, only started.

But then, somewhere more, around my age, I think, late 20’s, after become refugee, I think 26, 27, 28, 29, I think these years, I put special sort of *effort* to try to understand emptiness. Then, although still I cannot claim I have this experience, proper experience, but certainly, you see, I gained some experience. Some experience. As a result, the admiration about, towards Buddha, and it was his teaching. In other words, I think firstly, when I understand through little experience about emptiness, then I develop real sort of admiration for Buddhist teaching. And through that way, I develop some kind of a *strong* faith through reasoning, towards Buddha.

At that time, still, I find it very difficult to meditate or to practice about the bodhicitta. [Infinite altruism ?]. Then, around I think the early 50’s, my age around 30’s, then, step by step, gradually, you see, my feeling evolved altruism. Something! Something. Something there. So then since then, these practices, these two practices of meditation on shunya, meditation on altruism, these have become my main practice.

Now 63. 63-year old. Still very limited experience. But even that small, limited experience for *immense* benefit. So, so meditation on shunya, or concept of shunya, concept of altruism, these are some things very [living truth ?]. So there. So I want to share.

Thank you. he he he.
Respectfully transcribed by Greg Kramer.
Audio copies provided by Graham Hall and Bill White