His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Third Day of Mind & Life XXX
Dicembre 19th, 2015 by admin

Third Day of Mind & Life XXX, Perceptions, Concepts and Self

Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India, 16 December 2015 – Before the Mind & Life meetings began this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met a group of 72 senior Sera monks who were among those who originally escaped from Tibet in 1959. After greeting and teasing several of them individually, His Holiness addressed the group.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting senior Sera monks who originally escaped from Tibet in 1959 before their meeting at Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on December 16, 2015. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

“When we first came to Missamari in Assam we didn’t know what to do. We believed the truth of our cause would eventually prevail. But in Missamari it was hot remote and the food was poor. Many of you monks fell ill. We thought of shifting to another place, but the Abbots felt that if they were dispersed many of the monks would disrobe, so it was better to stay together where they were. Eventually we were able to realize a plan to establish settlements elsewhere and you were able to come together to South India.
“You are the monks who worked hard to preserve our tradition in those hard times, you had faith in me, and I thank you. As the Chinese have found they can’t uproot our religious culture, they have been forced to interpret our dedication to it as an expression of an urge for separatism. However, we are following a non-violent path; we are united and will not give in.
“In the past, monks used to come to our monasteries from Mongolia and China. Now we have people coming to join us from places that have not traditionally been Buddhist, scientists among them. We’ve seen ups and downs in Tibetan history, but we still remain together because of the dedication of our great religious kings in the past. Nowadays people offer Long Life Offerings, but the time will come when we have to go. It’s the same for you, and when that time comes what you’ve learned and practised of the Buddha’s teachings will be important.
“I’m giving each of you a statue of the Buddha. Keep it in your room and recite Nagarjuna’s verse of salutation to the Buddha as I do.”

Geshe Yeshe Thapkhe, a Professor at the Central University of Tibetan Studies (CUTS) at Sarnath, delivering his presentation on self during the third day of the Mind & Life XXX conference at Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on December 16, 2015. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

Today, the theme of the Mind & Life meetings was the self. The first presentation was given in Tibetan by Geshe Yeshe Thapkhe, a renowned senior scholar who is a Professor at the Central University of Tibetan Studies (CUTS) at Sarnath. This is where both John Dunne, who was moderating the morning sessions, and Jay Garfield, the morning’s other presenter, have studied with him.
Geshe Yeshe Thapkhe explained that at the time of the Buddha, the orthodox position in India was that everyone possessed an unchanging, partless self that was distinct from the mind and body. This, it was believed, was what was reborn. The Buddhist notion of no-self rejected this view. The Buddha taught that nothing is permanent, nor does it have an essence. Persons, like everything else, are impermanent, constantly changing, consisting of parts. They exist in dependence on causes and conditions, in dependence on their parts and in dependence on mental imputation. This stance denied the orthodox view of the self, but did not reject the existence of a conventional, functioning, empirically experienced self, which was a dependently arisen phenomenon.
Geshe-la explained how Buddhist investigations are guided by four reliances: not relying on the person of a teacher, but on his words; not relying on the words he speaks, but on their meaning; not relying on the conventional meaning, but on the ultimate meaning; and not relying only sensory evidence, but on the mind. He also alluded to the Buddhist approach to learning that employs reading or hearing, reflection and meditation to reach conviction and insight.

Members of the audience watching His Holiness the Dalai Lama commenting on a presentation during the third day of the Mind & Life XXX conference at Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on December 16, 2015. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

Within the wider system of Buddhist thought are different ways of identifying the person. Some identify the mind and body as the self. Others insist that the person is the fundamental mind. The view of the Madhyamika or Middle Way School is that everything is an impermanent dependent arising that is ultimately empty of true existence and only conventionally real. Within this school the Consequentialists say that although the body and mind are not the self, they are the basis upon which it is designated. Geshe-la alluded to the classic example of a chariot, which we are able to use, but which cannot ultimately be found under analysis. It exists as designated on the basis of its parts.
Jay Garfield took a different angle. He described positions in Western and Buddhist philosophy with regard to the self and the person and what motivates them. He discussed how we can think of a self as it exists for one moment and a self as it exists over time. And following the Buddhist model he distinguished between a conventional person that is accepted and an intrinsically real self that is negated.
In the afternoon, Vasudevi Reddy, a psychologist who has done extensive work with infants explored the beginning of self. She asked, What is the self? When does it emerge? And how does it emerge? She said that there is no doubt that an infant’s self has fuzzy boundaries, but still has a cohesive effective core. Her observation is that it begins to emerge early. And as for how it emerges, it is in relation to others, usually the mother. It is important for the infant to have someone to look at, to touch and to talk to. One of the indications of a self at work is infants’ playfulness, a quality she recognises in His Holiness. There is a tendency to make boundaries and then break them for fun.

Vasudevi Reddy explaining her presentation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the Mind & Life XXX conference at Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India on December 16, 2015. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

In answer to the question, what do babies need, Reddy answered: openness, response and recognition. It is important too that the infant recognise that recognition. She showed several charming video clips that made clear that new-born infants are interested in faces and the human voice. They are interested in connecting. Smiling is one of the ways human beings do this. It matters too, for example, if the mother is depressed or distressed and doesn’t respond as positively. She mentioned infants’ inclination to playfulness again and that they can’t be playful unless there is someone else to be playful with. Connection is important, as is the element of surprise. Playfulness can extend to clowning, even at an early age.
Reddy mentioned the importance of respectful, caring recognition of the other person in making connections with infants. This has a bearing on connecting with infants, but also has implications for conflict resolution. Both situations require respect.
In the discussions that followed, after His Holiness avoided one question, saying that to answer it he would have to produce some children, making everyone laugh, Richie Davidson asked him something else. He said he recognised that His Holiness had not been a parent, but that all monks have been children. He wanted to know if His Holiness had any insights from his childhood about the emergence of a sense of self.
“I always say that my mother was very kind,” His Holiness replied. “When I was the youngest of her children she gave most attention to me. My mother’s kindness was important and influential for me. She had an extraordinarily kind face, so in her presence I felt safe. Bob Livingstone, an early member of Mind & Life, impressed me with his suggestion that a mother’s physical touch is important for the proper development of a child’s brain. I instinctively felt this was true.”
The Mind & Life meetings will conclude tomorrow.–life-xxx-perceptions-concepts-and-self

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