B. Alan Wallace, 09 Nov 2016
This is the talk that Alan gave on 9th November 2016 after the results of the US election
November 2016 - Spain.
Alan’s talk on the results of the US election.
Olaso. I think we’re not quite ready for business as usual this morning. So just moments before I walked down here for this morning’s session I checked the latest news on New York Times and as perhaps all of you now know, Donald J Trump is the new President of the United States. So time to breathe deeply.
And to practice dharma. Because right now I can say for my homeland, I was born there, spent most of my life there, the whole country I think, I think it’s safe to say the whole country , probably bar, almost bar none, is in a state of a very profound refractory period. Probably so. The sense of the other side being totally wrong and one’s own side being totally right is going to come up very strongly now. Attachment to one’s own side, aversion, horror, bewilderment at the other side, right. So, I think I made my views pretty clearly who I was inclined to have as our president and my inclination was not echoed by roughly half the people in America who decided it was worthwhile to vote.
But my first thought that comes to mind is from Shantideva. He’s a tremendous source of wisdom and healing. And he says - in times that we view, or we regard as adversity, if there’s something we can do about it then why be upset? And if there’s nothing we can do about it then why be upset? So, if those words were every timely certainly now is one of those times, right.
Can we do anything about it? And in terms to the outcome of the election the answer is obviously no, we cannot, nothing to be done. So it doesn’t help anyone to be upset. But is it then time to slip into a sense of helplessness? Despair, dismay, profound depression? And that will certainly be of no benefit to anyone either. Is there something we can do about it? The answer is - of course there is. There always is. It’s in times like these, where there are times of natural calamity, of which there have been many, so many; times of war, times of conflict, stress, that you really see, perhaps more clearly than at any other time, there really is only one refuge. It’s not in political parties, it’s not in individuals, it’s in dharma and I think now you know by that I mean in the broadest and most meaningful sense of the term. Buddha dharma is the path that I’ve chosen, I share it with others a good deal, but there’s very authentic Christian dharma, other types of religious dharma, and then types of dharma that don’t fit into any religious category. But there’s lots and lots of dharma out there.
And so, then we see - aha, hedonically this isn’t going too well. But dharma is always there as a refuge and there’s always something we can do. And so in times like this makes everything more intense, doesn’t it? I didn’t mention to you, but I did mention recently in some teachings I gave in Moscow on the Seven Point Mind Training, the story of my teacher.
[3:44] From whom I received the transmission, the commentary on the Seven Point Mind Training. Who was not a monk but a very profound practitioner. I’ll tell you the story very briefly, many of you know it. But his name was Kungo Barshi and of all the lamas and all the teachings in Dharamsala from whom I might have received this, because the lamas were utterly open handed, generous in sharing their teachings, and these teachings are really all about transforming adversity into the path. And I sought out this man because he was an embodiment of those practices. Of the Seven Point Mind Training. And very briefly his story - was that he was born into a life of privilege, an aristocrat, had multiple land holdings, quite wealthy. Nothing like wealth as we think of it nowadays, but within the context of Tibet he was wealthy. He had a loving wife, he had loving family, children, but he was quite brilliant as a polymath. He had extraordinary capacity for learning, a great thirst for knowledge and understanding and he enjoyed his incredibly comfortable life as an aristocrat in Tibet and he devoted, as he left his wife, invited his wife to run their estates, manage the estates, he devoted himself to the study of dharma and medicine and all different, different branches and fields of knowledge in Tibet. And he really enjoyed it, you know, just, just going into the garden of knowledge and plucking one fruit after another. And then the entire world as he knew it was destroyed very quickly and he was forced with his wife and one of his children only, were able to escape a fate that would have certainly been execution because he was an aristocrat. That was all that was needed by the Chinese Communists coming into the country. Taking over. Genocide. Perpetrating massive, massive suffering. And so he had to escape with nothing. His land and most of his children left behind. Came down to India, abject poverty, but with lots and lots of knowledge, and he became the principal teacher in the Tibetan center for Tibetan astronomy, astrology and medicine. But he had vast knowledge. And so that’s all very good, we have one brilliant man who is a great erudite scholar, but I got to know him when I was living in the Tibetan medical center. And I sensed a profound serenity about him, a kindness, a gentleness, an equanimity like a vast ocean unmoved by waves. Just an ongoing flow of kindness and generosity towards his students, towards everyone.
[6:21] And so he’d suffered massive adversity in his own life. And his country, his beloved country was simply decimated. Who knows if it will ever really recover. It hasn’t yet. That’s for sure. So I saw this man has somehow transformed the loss of everything, including the only son that was able to escape, his only child, and his only son was so psychologically traumatized by the events of his life that he was severely mentally imbalanced. And while I was there I got to know him, we were friends, he was, he had periods of psychosis, he was mentally imbalanced. He killed himself. And so Kungo Barshi and his wife lost all their children and all of their holdings. He lived in a little shack that I think you’d build for about $100 with one electric light bulb and and nothing else. And so serene. So warm, I never saw a whisper of resentment, of anger, of horror. Not a moment. Or even depression. And he said, I feel grateful to the Chinese communists, the cultural revolution, the PLA and all of that, because had, because for me personally, not for the country, but for me personally, because when I was in Tibet in this very, incredibly comfortable life, I took dharma for granted. It was so easy. Everything was so pleasant. And now having lost so much, then I see the value of dharma. And so this has tremendously intensified my respect for dharma, my devotion to dharma, it’s empowered the transformative effect of dharma on my life and every aspect of his life. And so naturally I sought out him. If anybody knows how to transform adversity into the path, he is one.
[8:09] So that’s the time to practice. I think this raises though, in the whole issue of the refractory period where we see black and white, black and white, the total polarization within this one country, but of course it’s so big, it’s so powerful, so wealthy, that whether we like it or not the waves, you know, this is like a tsunami, like an earthquake, a political, social earthquake. Ripping the country right in half and the waves of course are flying out, going to hit Mexico very heavily and everywhere else, everywhere else. It’s just too big not to have impact, however one feels about the country. So I think in times like this it’s time to go deep. We are forced to go deep. When things are pleasant, when we have our, whoever our political preferences are and so forth, it’s easy to be complacent - samsara’s not too bad, samsara’s okay, we can fix it, we just need to fix this legislation here, and this political figure here, and tweak this and tweak that and things will turn out right and then we see, maybe not. I think it’s time to go deeply into the question of who we are, the question that came up earlier - who are we? But not only who are we individually, but who are others? And time to take a stand. If you don’t take a stand, if you don’t stand for something you fall for anything, right. And so to consider ourselves and others, this one individual who now was voted into office by a significant margin, and he has the whole congress, now the whole power of congress is aligned with him, so we are going to see a lot of waves from that. Who are we? And when we cut through all the conditioning, we you know, go drilling, we go deep and we probe inwards, into ourselves and into others we find, if your mind is at all like mine, you find a lot of smog. A lot of old habits, many of which are not so constructive, harmful. Mental afflictions still come up, if your mind is like mine, they still come up, yeah. But then you keep on going deeper, beyond that and you go down to just the substrate consciousness, I’m not speaking hypothetically here or in the abstract, but go down beyond the conditioning, beyond the conditioning. And here’s an affirmation - that we come down to that limpid, that lucid clear flow of consciousness. You come down there and your eyes are wide open, that you come down [there] and you come to know it, your deeper nature. We call it, within samsara, but still deeper nature. It’s not afflicted, it’s not afflicted. It’s luminous, it’s blissful, and it’s serene in the sense of being non conceptual, serene. And that’s our ground, that’s our ground within Samsara, and it’s not afflicted, it’s not dark, it’s by nature luminous. But it does get obscured, you know.
[11:07] But go deeper. As all of the great contemplative traditions have done over centuries and millennia, go deeper than that, go deeper than that, break through that individual continuum. And there you find the deepest truth, the source of eudaimonia, the source of wisdom, source of intuition, source of genuine happiness. Source of all virtue. Coming in from multiple doors. Many, many doors. Religious, not religious, theistic, non theistic, many, many doors leading to this vanishing point where our ordinary sense of identity vanish and opens up to a deeper reality.
So, I’d like to go to meditation, I’ll not just give a big long dharma talk here. What can we do? What we can’t do is change the outcome of the election. We can’t have much influence on how now this interface over the next presumably four years unless one more unexpected event takes place. This interface between this very right wing congress and this individual who’ll become president - can’t control really how much, what they will do, individual influences, marginal, vanishingly small. But what can we do as individuals, as collectives, is go deep. Time to affirm intuitively, because that’s where the affirmation comes from, not from the intellect, not from empirical evidence. But to affirm this fundamental goodness, fundamental purity, the loving kindness, the compassion that is our deepest nature. And that is the deepest nature of the man who will become president, of that congress, of that country, all the rest of us.
[12:51] And to operate out of that perspective, I think is really the only hope. There is no hope if we are polarized. If we see the other side as totally negative and we’re totally positive. Because that’s the source of all wars throughout all of history. It’s always my side is right and your side is wrong. My side is better your side is inferior. That’s the source of all human conflict. And if we are part of that we’re part of the problem, whatever our political views are, we are part of the problem. And at least we shouldn’t be part of the problem. And we can be part of the solution. So I’d like to engage in meditation now, there’s, it’s going to take that as, you can like, if you like to think scientifically, I like to do so, but not all of the time. I think scientifically take it as a working hypothesis. If you like to think religiously then think of it as faith. Psychologically as intuition. And as our deepest nature is good, it’s sane, it’s wise, it’s compassionate. It’s loving and it’s joyful. And this is true of every single person around us without exception. And so focusing on that. For the moment what we attend to is reality. But it is not enough for that to be there, not enough for that to be a buried treasure in the mind - stream of every individual. But the whole point then is to bring that to the light of experience. To bring that to reality, to make it public, so to speak. And to be aware that here we are in this little room, I think probably there are a lot of shared views here, about this political turn of events and there may be, I’m sure there are people who don’t agree with me entirely and that’s perfectly fine, but coming from this vision, this deeper vision, to recognize that there are so many people throughout the world, so many people on all sides of political fences who really are motivated by compassion, by wisdom, by deeper values. And we don’t know each other, we don’t carry banners on top of our head, we don’t carry a neon sign, and it’s not us vs them, but in terms of manifesting in the world, there is so much good will in the world, so much goodness. And of course it’s a not black and white, it never is. But to join our hearts and minds with those around us who are simply focusing on - may there be healing, may there be well-being, may we flourish as a species in harmony with all the other species on this planet. There are many many people with diverse political views, religious and non religious views, join hearts and minds with them. Know that we are not alone, we are not disempowered, we’re not disabled, we’re not helpless and our very individual existence is fundamentally intertwined with all those around us.
[15:42] So there is a practice that I normally, when things are kind of more normal, and this is not exactly a normal day, but normally when I’ve taught my portion of the CBTT, then it’s only during the last week that I introduce Tonglen. Well it’s time for Tonglen, it’s time for Tonglen. We are not helpless and there is no power in the world more powerful than the power of the mind. That reality has demonstrated itself innumerable times in human history. It’s always the mind behind it, for the greatest good and the greatest evils that we human beings on the planet, we human beings bring on the planet, it’s the mind. It’s the mind.
So what I’d like to do is go directly to meditation. Share with this, I’m attending to you, not only those in this room right now, but I’ve asked Andrew to share this little, these few words, whatever they might be worth and our meditation together with all the six thousand people or so on the Santa Barbara Institute Website. Or email list, that will be going out. But it’s a message that we need to unite. It’s always been the case. It’s a message to unite, the best of all us and know that is not a powerless base. A base that is rooted in wisdom and compassion is the most powerful base there is. So not feeling disempowered, not feeling discouraged, not feeling hopeless, because as the Dalai Lama said so many time - it’s at the moment that you feel hopeless that the situation is. Because you make it so. So, please find a comfortable position, then after the meditation I’d like to just open that up for discussion, to share your thoughts, your views, your aspirations. So please find a comfortable position and we’ll have a 24 minute session. Focusing on this practice of Tonglen. If you’re new to it, you’re about to get your introduction.
Transcribed by Cheri Langson
Revised by KrissKringle Sprinkle
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti