Here is a transcript of the talk given by Gen-la Dekyong, from memory, so apologies if any bits are not quite right. Hopefully the main messages are here. I will write this as if it were Gen-la talking, as this is just easier to write – and read. Enjoy…
Welcome to this event – thank you for coming.
To get the full benefit of this talk we need to develop the wish to remember what was said and try to use the opportunity for the benefit of everyone. If we are with someone, we should try to talk about what this talk contained on the way home, and say ‘then this topic was discussed… and after that it was this other thing… ‘ and so on. In this way we can remember most of the teaching. If we can remember it, we can practice it!
We also need to have a special receptive mind and to develop this we can start by doing a simple black and white breathing meditation.
So for a few minutes we imagine that we are breathing out distracting thoughts and obstructions in the shape of black smoke. The smoke drifts off and disappears into the distance. We can do this for a while… Now we can imagine that we are breathing in inspiring white light which fills our body… Now we cantry to combine our breathing out of distracting thoughts and our breathing in of white light.
We can do this black and white breathing at any time in our normal lives. All we need is to be sitting down and breathing! How often does that happen?! All the time! (Laughs)
By doing this meditation we can attain a little happiness. And that’s what we are all looking for – happiness. We even sign contracts with others so that they can make us happy!
What do we really want to be? We would all like to be a truly ‘good’ person. To become such a person would be wonderful. We would be a real gift of happiness to our friends and our family. To do this we need to take Buddhas teachings into our hearts and keep them there.
The title of this talk is Modern Buddhism, and everything I will be talking about comes from this book, (holds the book) Modern Buddhism. When most people think about Buddhims they think of ancient times. This talk is about how we can use the wisdom from these ancient times in our modern lives. This book contains scientific methods for achieving happiness. What does it mean to be scientific? It means that when we do something, it leads to an effect. If we are careful we can tell what cause leads to what effect. The methods given in this book are ways of making ourselves and others happy, and they are scientific methods because they work every time.
We currently have lots of objects we carry around with us. And then we need other bit to keep them working . We can tell everyone what we are doing all the time! We can tell people all about the sandwich we are eating, and how they didn’t have baguettes, so it is on wholemeal bread – important things like that – giggles. We can tell the whole world if we like. We can send messages all over the world with our technology. (Gestures towards the cameras) In fact this talk is probably being sent all over the world (laughs). And things like the Internet, twitter and Facebook are neither good nor bad. They are just technology. They are neither good nor bad – it is what we use them for that matters.
When I was being driven here, I was in an amazing car. It had a ‘smart windscreen’. Well, the windscreen wasn’t smart, but the wipers were. They came on by themselves when it started to drizzle. And then, when it rained more heavily, they went faster! Amazing. They are working on cars that can drive themselves – can you imagine? You would be able to do black and white breathing while being driven around (laughs). And cars that could drive themselves – they wouldn’t need window wipers, would they! (everyone laughs).
We have so much technology making our lives ‘better’, but there is an inconsistency. We can all sense an inconsistency.
Our world is impure. The air we breath is impure because of pollution. The food we eat is impure. And we are told we need to drink lots of ‘pure’ water. In fact we have to drink it all the time to get through all the water we are supposed to drink (laughs). The impurity of the air and our food and water is causing so many illnesses and diseases. So many people now have diseases cause by these things. Our own pollution is causing so many problems, and eventually we die. Our actions are impure, and our minds are impure.
And I have a friend – she is old now, and she always used to have such a sharp mind. But now she just says to me ‘I get so fed up, you know’. And a bit later she says to me ‘I get so fed up you know’. She says ‘Getting old is not enviable’. She is in her 90s. Her husband is dead and her son is dead. And when she says ‘I get so fed up, you know’, I say ‘I know you do’.
Despite all our technological advances and modern conveniences, we have so many problems. This is the reality of our situation. We are all in this position and most of the time we don’t face it – we ignore it. But isn’t it wonderful when we find someone to talk to who wants to face reality too? We need a teacher who understands our situation and can guide us.
What kind of teachers do we have a the moment? Ordinary teachers. When we are at school, we are educated, but what is the purpose of this education? We are educated to become educated! When we grow older we find that our life does not give the satisfaction we were expecting, and we look to change careers. Engineers decide to become social workers. Social workers decide to become something else. If only we were educated to become happy! That would be a meaningful education.
For this we don’t need an ordinary teacher, we need an extraordinary teacher. Someone who teaches an extraordinary subject.
I remember something that I heard Geshe Kelsang Gyatso say in a Festival years ago. He said that ‘solving our problems is easy – we are just not listening to the advice of enlightened beings’. Solving our problems is easy! Why can’t we solve our problems? Because we are not listening to what the enlightened beings are saying to us.
We need to find a qualified teacher who can guide us and teach us.
To use an analogy, if we wanted to learn to be a pole vaulter, we need to find a coach who knows about pole vaulting. We don’t need someone who can’t do it themselves. The only way we can truly learn to do something is from someone who has mastered it themselves and who can teach us what to do at every step of the way.
Buddha appeared in this world 2500 years ago and attained enlightenment himself, to show how we can all do it. He gave teachings which explain how to attain enlightenment. These teachings are known as Dharma, which is a sanskrit word, which means ‘protection’. How wonderful this word is: Protection. By listening to Dharma, we become protected from suffering.
The more we listen, and contemplate and meditate Dharma, we become more and more protected, until we finally attain complete protection from suffering. We can become completely protected – how wonderful it that? And then, when we have mastered this, we can be a teacher for others. What a wonderful gift this would be!
At the moment we look for happiness in the wrong places. For example, we look for happiness in Marks and Spencer’s Profiteroles! (Everyone laughs). We can get a pack of them, and look at them, with their chocolate and their choux pastry and their cream. And I know you’re not supposed to eat them all, but it’s hard not to! (Everyone laughs). And afterwards you can feel it. You feel like you can’t eat anything else for a week. The happiness we thought we would get has not come. All these things offer us is artificial happiness, not true happiness. They cannot give us true happiness.
But the protection offered in this book, Modern Buddhism, can give this happiness. In here, is the way to attain true happiness.
Now at the moment, people are confused about what they have to do to become a Buddhist. They feel that they may have to give up their family or their house or their job. But this is not necessary. What Modern Buddhism is about is us finding a balance between our spiritual life and our modern life. We need to skilfully blend the ancient wisdom of Buddhism with our modern lives.
If we read this book, and practice what it says, we can turn our lives around. We can turn everything around so that all the problems we have disappear, and we can experience happiness. Every single word in this book helps to do this. Even if we only read one page, or one line, we gain this protection.
In this book it is explained that we normally see external factors as the cause of our problems. But this is incorrect. This book explains that the actual cause of our problems is our own delusions of mind. Furthermore, the only way to combat and be free of these delusions is to practice Dharma. When we practice Dharma, we overcome our delusions and our problems.
So what do we actually do when we practice Dharma? We need to change three things: our intention, our view and our actions.
We need to change our intention because at the moment our intention is mostly self-centred. What we need to try and do is change this so that we hold an beneficial intention towards others instead. Our intention is so important. It guides us in all our actions.
The second thing we need to change is our view. At the moment our view is that our happiness and suffering come from outside ourself, but we need to change this view so we recognise that our happiness actually comes from within. In the pages of this book it explains how this is so.
Finally we need to change our actions. We need to engage in virtuous actions such as giving. We can give Dharma, like the black and white breathing meditation. If we know someone who has trouble getting to sleep, we can teach them the black and white breathing meditation. We don’t have to talk about Dharma or Buddhism – we can teach them the meditation in terms that are acceptable to them, and in this way we are giving love and Dharma. We can give protection in this way too.
We can practice moral discipline by avoiding harming others and causing suffering.
We can practice patience by accepting what happens to us. Patient Acceptance. These two words will protect us from so much suffering.
We can practice effort in our activities, always thinking of other and working for others.
We can practice concentration by keeping our mind away from delusions, and we can practice wisdom by understanding Dharma thoroughly.
Why should we do all this? Because it works! Fancy that! Finding something that actually works and gives us protection and happiness! We have never found something like this before, so we should be very happy that we have finally found something that works! How wonderful.
Finally, we need to remember that we are working for the benefit of others, so we should develop a sincere wish that the time we have spent here and the teachings we have heard will be of great benefit to others. How many people are in this city? Hundreds of thousands. How many people are in this country? 70 million. How many people are in the world? 7 billion. All of these people need to hear about how to make themselves and others happy. It is our dearest wish, and it is their dearest wish too. So for the final few moments of this talk, can we all try to develop the strong wish to be of benefit to all these people so that they can find true happiness. (Pause).
Thank you to Gen-la Dekyong for a lovely inspiring talk, and to all the other people involved in making the arrangements for this talk to be provided. May all everyone find the ability to use the ancient wisdom of Buddha in this modern world so that all living beings may be happy, and free from suffering.