Here are some recollections I have from a Public Talk given recently by Gen-la Dekyong in Manchester. It was a very inspiring talk, full of down to earth and accessible wisdom. Breathtaking in its simplicity and it profundity. Very skilful, and it definitely put fuel into my spiritual tank!

She started by thanking everyone for coming and showing an interest in learing about Buddha’s teachings.

She spoke about how we normally are only half listening- walking while listening on an iPod or to a radio – only half concentrating. She said that as our body was here, it would be good for our mind to be here too because if we want to get real benefit from the talk, we need to be able to remember what she said. She also advised us to discuss what she said with each other on the way home and in that way try to piece together a complete record of her talk. She then led a brief black and white breathing meditation.

After that she spoke about her teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and how he has one wish – to spread Buddha’s teachings across the world. He has written a book called Modern Buddhism for us to read, and he has made it available free of charge on digital devices. She made the point that the teachings are authentic and come from Buddha, but the presentation is modern and suitable for modern people who need clear information and logical reasoning.

She read a bit from page four where Geshe-la says ‘If everyone learns about compassion and wisdom, all our problems will be overcome – I guarantee it’.

She said that we all have the same wishes. We all wish to be happy all the time and free from suffering.

She talked about a local shopping centre where people go. Why do they go there? To buy things. Why? Because they think buying things makes them happy. But when you look at the faces of the people in the mall, they are not happy faces. They are troubled. You would think that we would have realised by now that shopping does not make us happy. We are engaging in a fruitless search. We are searching but what we are looking for is not there. We are like a person who searches again and again in the same place for their glasses. They declare ‘They are not here’… and then start looking again! We would think this person had lost their marbles! But that is what we are doing. Searching for happiness again and again in the same places, being disappointed each time.

So what are we going to do. Well we have looked everywhere *external* for happiness – but we should actually be looking ‘in here’ (points to her heart). Happiness is an experience in here, and the causes of it are also in here – not out there.

We also have the wish to avoid suffering. We all know what suffering is, and even animals and insects know what it is. She said that when she puts her finger down in front of an ant, it turns around and runs the other way, because it recognises that there is danger and suffering ahead.

She said that we have a huge advantage over animals because although they have the wish to be happy and avoid suffering, they cannot understand the methods to achieve this wish – but we can. As humans we can understand Dharma and put it into practice. Animals cannot do this. Gen-la said that if we are not doing this, then our lives are basically animal lives. We should focus on doing what animals cannot do – focus on what make us human, which is the capacity to understand our predicament and practice the paths which lead us out of suffering.

She brought the talk to a close by wishing she had the opportunity to discuss these teachings in more detail with us on a one-to-one basis, and to answer all our questions. Then she made to point that there are local centres where these teaching are discussed by skilful and experienced teachers and that we should make the effort to find these centres and go there to ask questions and learn how to make our lives meaningful.

Once again she thanked us for coming and showing an interest in Buddhism, and led a short but very beautiful and extensive dedication towards the benefit of all living beings.