B. Alan Wallace, 09 Nov 2016
November 2016 - Spain.
Discussions - [Only Alan Wallace’s responses have been transcribed]
Olaso. So I’d now just like to open this up. I don’t have in my mind the notion, question and answer. If you have a question you are welcome to pose it. But reflections, experiences, whatever you would like to share with the group, in the spirit, I think we all know is the way to healing and not the way to greater divisiveness.
Students share their thoughts and those can be listened to on the audio.
Alan’s thoughts in the discussion are transcribed as he responds:
He is certainly holding up the light, and a lot of people are abhorred, horrified by the light that he is showing. By so many of his views and his behavior. Horrified by the light that please stand up and rally around me and half the people have and half the people are just aghast and horrified, you know. So I’m with you, with everything you are saying, but now crystallize it if you will, how can we see that? Some people, half the people in the country see that as a positive light and others see it as this is casting us to the dark ages. How do you see that to be, how can we turn that from our own perspective into something constructive? What’s your view.
[10:58] It’s not that he’s simply, my view, of course, it’s my perspective, it’s not simply that he’s incorrect. I would not say - oh you’re wrong - because people’s first person perspective is actually very reliable. We’re so smart, we’re so cognitively, attentionally cognitive and emotionally balanced that we’re seeing 20/20 most of the time. I would love to say that but that’s not the world I live in. And so is he right? I mean is he responding to some facts of reality? The answer’s yes, of course he is. Where I believe I differ from him is that End and Treisman and Daniel Dennert and I differ in views, is that they’re not suggesting any way we can improve. They are simply saying - we are this way and we should rely upon somebody else. Now I know from Michael Sherman, that’s the scientific community, and specifically that embedded in scientific materialism, as it is for Paula Churchland, only the brain is real and all subjective experience is either non existent or totally misleading and there’s nothing you can do about it. So it is in fact an invitation to helplessness. An invitation to a total disempowerment of us the proletariat and the total empowerment of somebody else, namely those wielding instruments of science and technology. It’s the new priesthood. I don’t think the scientific community wants that burden, they didn’t ask for it but it looks like Roman Catholic church at it’s worst. And it’s had glorious moments and it’s had some pretty dark times. And in its worse it took itself as the infallible, sole source of reality and everybody else’s ordinary experience just didn’t count at all, you know. And that’s how you gain power.
[12:40] By completely demolishing people’s self confidence, their own discriminating intelligence and wisdom, demolishing any notion they could actually refine and gain greater clarity, greater wisdom and go to their full potential and say never mind that - just rely upon me because I’m the only one. And we’ve heard this political individual say - I’m the only one that can solve the problem with isis, I’m the only one. So I think that’s a very harmful message. I haven’t shifted my views at all about his behavior, his attitudes, his facial expressions and his mode of behavior. There’s an awful lot to be deeply concerned about. And we must respond in our most wisest way. And I think that’s the bottom line, and that’s if you look in the classic Buddhist text on meditation, nature of emptiness and so forth, you’ll find very similar statements. I mean in Padmasambhava himself, he’ll say - all these appearance - I mean this is remarkable, this is straight from Natural Liberation - all these objects around you that you feel your world is populated by, they don’t exist. They’re empty appearances, they’re completely delusional. All of these appearances, misleading, all the objects you grasp onto as being really there, they’re not there at all. Oh that sounds like Michael Shermer, right. But then what Michael Shermer the materialist and people of mind said - what I don’t see them presenting, although that’s the situation now, here is the strategy for gaining clarity, and wisdom and tapping into eudaimonia, and becoming fully awakened and realizing your nature as something that utterly transcends these little tiny, limited conceptual boxes of physical mind, matter, space and time, you know. And that’s the difference. Wherever I look you know, I find, just from my perspective, as I listened to Trump, I mean it was almost like having an itch, having to scratch it, I would listen to him repeatedly, and I could find here and there statements - yep, you made a point, you’ve made a valid point. I could. And then so much that I could not agree with, but that’s the fundamental difference, is that he was pointing, Michael Shermer and the others are pointing to a notion of delusion, of ignorance, what is the actual nature of reality, delusion of misapprehending it, what I didn’t see there, apart from simply relying on someone else, someone else with the science and technology, who’s a physicalist, apart from that, there seemed to be no strategy at all except for simply relying on somebody else. And that’s what despots have been doing forever.
[15:09] Don’t rely upon yourself, don’t rely upon each other, give all of your allegiance to me and I will solve all your problems. Religious people have done that, politicians have done that, tyrants of all sorts have done that. It never turns out well. Whatever they say, it never turns out well. And so this is why the Buddha said just before he passed into Nirvana - Take no external refuge. Or going right to, what I regard from my perspective, is the summit of view, The Great Perfection, and there the course Samaya, the pledge, your commitment is - Do not look outside yourself for the Buddha. As in some externally existent, absolutely other enlightened being, dismissing yourself and saying - well I’ll just go with that one. Because the Buddha is at the deepest level - is our own Buddha nature.
It is to be found within and not by objecting someone else and then idolizing that person, political party, religious group, lineage and so forth. So that’s my sense.
[17:34] Well certainly this new president has raised many issues that people care passionately about and feel that major change is needed. That’s a true statement. And then if that can be turned with a wisdom on both parties and the general population, in ways that are constructive and not just for America as an isolated self existent entity, which of course doesn’t exist at all. But something good for America which is an utter interdependence, an inter-relationness with our neighbors globally, then we’ll have turned something that’s looks very distressful into something positive. But this isn’t up to Donald Trump. He doesn’t have that much power. It’s up to all of us around that can turn this into something constructive or fall back in apathy and dismay and just watch how it happens. Yeah, so.
[21:02] I’d like to respond very briefly. But as a person who was born in America, but lived for much of my life elsewhere - years and years in Europe, years and years in Asia, but still roots are roots, it struck me for a very long time, as Craig mentioned from the outset, that America’s still a very young country. You know the people, the Anglos the Europeans have only been there for 3 -400 years, a short time, and the country as such, not even 300 years old yet, you know, and so I regard my own country, and I’m a member of it, and not somebody else, as still quite immature. I think of us as adolescents, like adolescents, like teenager country with great big biceps. Big military big muscle big economy, big ideas, big opportunities, but immature, you know, really immature. Easily swayed like teenagers can be, right. And then having lived for years and years in various countries in Europe, in Switzerland, in Germany, in Scotland and so forth, and coming here, I’m actually teaching in Europe much more than America, for years now, much more. That, it’s not that it’s a better continent which would be a silly statement in any way, but it’s clearly a more mature continent. Well I know something of the civil war here in the 30's. And I can imagine when it was clear that Franco would be your new President, something similar must have occurred. Something similar must have occurred. And the amount of suffering that’s gone on, I mean we just look back through history, when was there a stain period, you know going back to the Romans going back to the dark ages, going back to all the wars during the Renaissance and so forth, and the age of enlightenment, the Napoleonic wars and how many more wars. And then the first world war, Europe suffered unimaginably. America had no idea, I think really, so far away, we just sent our boys over and then they came back. We didn’t really suffer, the boys did, but America didn’t, really. Second world war, there wasn’t a point here that wasn’t touched, even Switzerland and Sweden, stepping back from it had to be profoundly influenced. And Russia, mother Russia, how much suffering there, unimaginable. And so from suffering can come wisdom, can come memory that you have a two thousand year old memory, of living here as this culture, this array, this mosaic of cultures, of two thousand easily, where in America we’re looking back on less than 300, you know. So I hope that we can, we Americans, I mean I speak from many perspectives, but right now as an American, I hope we can learn from our older brothers and sisters in Europe, I really do. Since still the dominant population in Europe is coming from Europe, not from anywhere else. This is, our roots are here. I really do think of myself as Eurocentric, I hope we can learn from the wisdom here, because there’s a lot of it. Maturity that just comes from experience, centuries of experience, I hope we can learn because there’s a lot of wisdom here, that’s my aspiration.
[25:29] Well said. I think Craig has made the same point using different words. But, you know however we conceive of this one individual, Trump or Clinton or anybody else, however we conceive of them, whatever comes to mind when we think of these individuals, we are the painters, we are the artists who have painted that image from our own mind-streams, you know. He cannot have any quality, I can not imagine that he has any quality, this is a truism, I cannot imagine that he has any quality that I can’t imagine in myself. There are, I believe, my world view, there are great spiritual beings, enlightened beings who do have qualities that I cannot imagine. I haven’t been there. I’m still quite ordinary person, so they’re off my scope. So I can only see them as images, really good images of myself. But I’m missing them of course, I’m getting only an approximation. But when it comes to the dark side of seeing dark qualities - delusion, craving, hostility, my sense is that in principle we can imagine it all because we’ve been there. In this life, past lifetimes, but we’ve been there, you know. And then so exactly this - when we think of the other side in America, I’ve never seen that, I’m 66 years old, and I’ve never seen us so split. I lived through the Vietnam era, and the Bush era, George Bush, pretty divided - oh I’ve never seen anything like now before. And yet as we envision the other side we are exactly as you said, and I think with real insight, we’re envisioning the other side of ourselves to which we respond with horror. Otherwise we couldn’t even imagine them. And so to see that the healing, this is a point that is almost always missed in revolutions - we look outwards. The Bolshevik revolution, the Civil War here in Spain, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Chinese Communist revolution, pretty much every revolution that’s manifesting out there in the world, and it always starts - is there is so much suffering, there are causes of suffering, and we’re going to fix it by changing something outside. Because I already know what is good and true because I embody that, I stand for what is good, and what is bad is out there and now everybody who is with me, are you with me? Now let’s go and change the bad which is out there. And it’s never turned out well. Not over the long term. And so any true revolution, any true revolution that has sustainable goodness, sustainable well-being, harmony peace and so forth, and I think it is possible, but I’m sure it’s impossible if it doesn’t begin and is not sustained with a very deep and irreversible transformation from within, a revolution from within. And then it’s just good flowing out and good will give rise to good. Whereas the motivations of I think many people who voted Trump in, I think - not so much compassion and wisdom, but other mental impulses. Of fear, of anger, resentment, outrage, sadness depression, hopelessness, disempowerment and wanting basically anything that would give rise to change. And he’s the option because Hillary stood, in their mind as more of the same, more of the same and they couldn’t bare it. So I think well said. You gave the root text, I just gave a little commentary.
[31:23] I’ve just been reading a book, in fact I’ll just recommend it right now, I find it has many points that I’m learning to my benefit. By a Tibetan Lama, very senior, very highly esteemed Tibetan Lama, who has his primary center in Australia. And the book is called - Demystifying Shambhala, Demystifying Shambhala. By a very, very knowledgeable man, so I’ve never met him, but I’ve now corresponded over the last week or so, there was some real synchronicity taking place here. Over the last week or so I’ve had a lot of email exchanges with his attendant who attended one of my eight week retreats in Phuket, so he knows me, we know each other a bit and he’s really become very very strong student and assistant helper for this very, very fine Lama. But so without bringing in the book, which I do recommend - Demystifying Shambhala, it’s very inspiring in some ways, but he does go through in quite some detail, a lot of the history of Tibet over the last thousand years or so. And, during these thousand years, let’s say, from yeah, well just that, especially starting in the 13th century, no actually even earlier, about a thousand years, during this period, with the research, that is Buddhism first came in 7th / 8th century and then was suppressed and then sprang back around a thousand years ago with Atisha, and others. So we have a country, especially those periods, the 11th 12th, 13th century of just massive proliferation, of growth of monasteries and just very strong, and very rich diversity. It wasn’t locked into schools that were kind of hard core, hunkering down, we have the best way, but more just in different lineages and people going fluidly from one to another just like flowers, like bees going into a flower and taking nectar from there and pollen from this and this and then, so you know, and when he described this and then he moves right into the recent history, the first impression one has is one sees the big picture is -oh this was a unique experiment in humanity, I don’t know of any country in the world that was like this. Where their spirituality so dominated every aspect of their lives, with eventually six thousand monasteries for six million people. There’s no place like that.
[33:42] I’m not saying better of course, I’m just saying I’ve never seen this, just this person who’s observing global events. And how many for these last thousand years, how many individuals gained profound states of realization. Manifesting siddhis of wide variety, but more importantly than that - such profound wisdom and compassion. Having said all of that - that sounds like wow, like that and then finding the power trips, the political struggles, the turf acquisitions, families coming into power, lineage coming into power, that whole anguishing interface between spirituality and politics, church and state. And you in Europe have a long history of that. Ever since the Roman empire, ever since Constantine, right that’s a long history, that’s 1500 years. And in America well see the hard right, they voted as a block all those red states, of course they voted as a block for this man, they felt as one Evangelical Christian said - God can use even a harlot, he can use this man. You know, that was her view. So let’s just overlook all of his glaring faults, in ways that his behavior, attitude and speech are so absolutely at variance with the teachings of Jesus, let’s overlook that because God can use this man. And so there’s a complete fusion of church and state, right. God will use this man, we will have God’s emissary in the white house, his name is Donald J Trump. So, but seeing, okay this is a very strange interpretation of Christianity, but there it is. Um, well in Tibet it was no exception. I love this culture, I lived in this culture for many, many years, I immersed myself in it for years, and yet the same troubles that have beset the church and state interface, in Europe and so much of Europe, this in Tibet as well. And so there was one group, ransacking, pillaging other monasteries one sect doing that to another and then the retaliating. Then they would call in the muscle, the Mongolians often, or they would bring in this and they would , and this went on and on, even up to the 20th century, the time of the 13th Dalai Lama. So much power now invested in the monastic tradition, which treated many hundreds and thousands of people as serfs. And so much power in the aristocracy, again treating so many people as serfs.
[36:08] Strong alliance with the aristocracy, the government , the state and these very deeply established, very wealthy, very powerful monastic traditions, monastic colleges and so forth, which are very powerful. And enormous inertia. Because those who have power, wealth and prestige, they don’t want to give it up. They’ll do almost anything not to give it up, and as this has been true throughout all of Europe, America and elsewhere, Tibet was no exception. So I’ve never been an advocate of Tibet as Shangri la, you know, the utopia we should all aspire for. Having said that though, and this is true, I don’t think anything I am saying here is really debatable, I think these are valid observations. Having said that, it’s also true that individuals, communities of individuals could make oasis of heaven, call it what you like, but something really, truly marvelous. Individuals, but not just one person dominating, oh no, grass roots with their stars in the sky, you know these marvelous individuals, men and women, who uplifted everyone, inspired everyone, embodied the ideals that they were advocating and teaching to others. There have been throughout this whole history, even in the darkest times areas where individuals would change a whole environment. By their contact, their aspirations, their profound realizations. And when I first visited Tibet in 1992 my wife and I went to one region and I don’t want to get too idealistic here but I will say what I experienced - this was in 1992, just 12 years after the period prior to that period, prior to 1980, it was illegal to say Om Mani Padme Hum. I mean any expression of religion was illegal. You could face serious, serious consequences, any manifestation of religion of any kind, Bon, Buddhism, Islam anything - you’re in serious trouble. And then that stopped, the gang of four was rounded up 1980, suddenly you could start practicing dharma publicly and not have to keep it absolutely secret. So in 12 years, from a period in 1980 where there was basically not a single monastery in Tibet that hadn’t been destroyed, all but a handful. And they were empty, you know. Going from that to what I saw in 1992 when I visited this region, this large valley in Eastern Tibet called Abba? in Chinese or Amdo ? in Tibetan [38:31] I visited this place and in 12 years, visiting this rather high valley, maybe not quite three thousand meters up, not terribly high by Tibetan Standards, the fields were lush, it was very prosperous agriculturally, barley, barley but tall barley, rich barley. And then this beautiful serene valley, and then in that, there was kind of the main route through it, there was a Gelugpa monastery in it, this is within 12 years, a Gelugpa monastery with 500 monks, across the river a Shakya monastery with 500 monks, just down the road a Gelugpa monastery with 2000 monks, just across and down the road a Jonangpa monastery 800 monks, just down the road there, it was like looking out on the field and seeing the red robes of monks like red poppies in a field. And just seeing these laypeople. It wasn’t some big charismatic person that came in and shook everybody up. There was no such person. They had been in a spiritual drought for about at least 20 years, where every aspect of their spiritual life could never be public and they would be severely punished if they did. They had been through a twenty year drought and these people in this area, these simple farmers, there’s no big cities there at all , there are just farmers, little villages. I was told they gave up to 50% of their income to reestablish their spiritual heritage and encouraging their children to fill these places and reignite the flame of dharma.
[40:01] I went there, I didn’t want to leave. You know, still under Chinese communist, but I didn’t want to leave, I thought I have never been in an environment like this. And my wife and I got there a little bit illegally, just because we, you had to have a pass, a permit to get in there because it was restricted, and we didn’t have one. So when we came to the border where they said - do you have a pass? We said - well, no I don’t a permit but I have a letter for the governor, and I did, from somebody high up in Beijing. A letter for the governor and he will certainly allow us to stay when we get there, so would you let us pass? And they did. So it was illegal but they didn’t lie. Then we got to the town and we sought out the governor and he wasn’t there. [laughter] Had a letter for nobody. And then what was it, that very night, after I visited one monastery after another and just my heart was singing, then a policeman came, we were staying in this little dingy hotel, it was absolutely not set up for tourists, crappy little hotel, dingy little room. And a policeman came to our door and said and he was Tibetan but he worked for of course the government, he was a policeman. And it turned out he spoke central dialect which I speak, and he said - oh Mr. Wallace, I’m very sorry but you can’t stay here, you don’t have a permit, I really apologize but you’ll have to leave I said - I understand you’re only doing your job, and I said would you allow me though just to spend tomorrow morning and then you can watch me leave? Would you allow me to spend the morning? Because I would like to visit some more monasteries before I go. He said - sure, sure. And next time you come, if you have a permit, I will welcome you back I have never been kicked out so graciously by a policeman [ laughter] having broken their laws, you know.
[41:33] And so the next morning my wife and I went from one monastery to another and I went back 12 years later and visited the same area, this time legally. But I saw what can happen locally, you know, what can happen locally. Around about 1992, so many problems still, but in this area the Tibetans got along with the Chinese. There was harmony. The Chinese were not oppressing them, the Tibetans were not revolting against them. In that little oasis they created for themselves they got along fine, as they had for most of their history. The Chinese and Tibetans do not have a long history of strife. They don’t, they’re neighbors, they intermarried no big deal. And I looked at that and I got inspired. Okay that didn’t change all of China, but these were people with good hearts, altruistic motivation, focusing on the enrichment, the preservation of their dharma. And I thought if it could happen there, under very dire circumstances, under tremendous travail and suffering, and oppression, if it could happen there then it could happen anywhere. And so I’m just devoting the rest of my life to try to create at least one such environment. And where we have focused on right now is Tuscany. A beautiful place. [a student speaks and Alan responds]
I beg your pardon? Oh you asked that question about political leaders, well the thing about Buddhism is, it’s not evangelical. That the Buddha having achieved enlightenment, one would think - why don’t you just run off to all the Rajas and come in you know, and just zap them with your supernatural powers and then pin them down to the ground and say - look I’ve got some great dharma, listen you better listen to me because I’m really awake. And he never did that, of course. He never sought out political leaders. And yet he had so much to offer, compared to him I’m nothing, I’m little grain of sand. But when people asked, whether they were farmers or courtesans or government leaders, or whether they were kings or business leaders or simple peasants and so forth, men or women, it made no difference, it really made no difference, but when people came to him, including Kings, they did come to him, then of course he shared his wisdom with them. And in many cases it had very a very beneficial effect. But I’ve never had any political leader seek me out and say - hey Dr. Wallace, please share your wisdom with me. So if ever anybody comes knocking on my door [laughter] of course, but until then I’ll just try to continue the revolution in my own mind. Try to be a beacon of light and try not to be a part of the problem, it’s my job.
Alan in response to a student -
[46:48] And everybody is not just all American. We Americans can forget that sometimes. Because we have these friendly neighborhoods of the north and this little pesky neighbor to the south and it’s easy to think well that’s pretty much it. Here we are, great big oceans on the other side where they really matter. Whereas in Europe you just can’t think that way. You just can’t think. Spain cannot just think that it’s totally an island unto itself, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean. And nobody in Europe can. That’s an advantage. Because the sense that we’re isolated, that we’re separate, as we thought in the first world war for the most of it. As we thought for the first two years of the second world war. That that’s not our business because we’ve big oceans, well, that really supporting delusion. And now, now in terms of the environmental issues. The last four years, no last five years have the hottest in recorded history, and you know, to deny that we’re involved in that is absurd. But when it comes to environmental issues that would have been my life had I not encountered dharma. I would have been an environmentalist. But from an environmental perspective the notion that any country is separate is just absolutely absurd. A complete fiction. So it’s time to wake up and smell these roses. We’re all living in interdependence here and everyone means actually everyone, and not just the human species. To shrug, I mean this didn’t make much of the headlines, but to shrug at the fact that we’ve wiped out half the world life on the planet in 40 years and we’re emptying the oceans of fish and replacing them with plastic bags - this is not a time to be closing the eyes. And so in such times the necessity, the primacy, the indispensability of dharma, in the richest, broadest sense of the term, becomes just painfully evident. But then joyfully evident. At least there is something that is a possibility.
In response to a student:
[49:50] Thank you. I think we will pause on that lovely note, that uplifting note. But we do have something of a united nations here, don’t we And you know interestingly enough, and you might not know this but Paul, Eve and I have been doing this since 1910 - it’s every single time. It’s in Phuket in Australia, in Mexico we held one year, every single time it’s like 50 people and 17 countries, you know. So it’s a wonderful thing. This is I think, I know for Eve and me, we love teaching anyway, I mean you know that, but to see such diversity of background and worldviews. There’s not just a group of Buddhists coming together, and I think we’ve make it as evident as possible - Trump supporters are here also they are welcome, you know. They must have a different vision of him than I do. But then I just have my vision. So but here we are, so I think we’re collectively doing the best we can for right now. Just sow the seeds of inner transformation and then in a couple of weeks we’ll go out into the world and ............. blessed are the healers.
Transcribed by Cheri Langson
Revised by KrissKringle Sprinkle
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti