How do you go deeper into body, beyond words, and rest? Once there, what’s next? Recorded in Des Moines, NM, 2010.
Middle way as holding both extremes in attention at the same time or “How can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?”; discussion of “Vajra Song Recognizing Mind as Guru;” spiritual path as individual exploration; learning from mistakes; letting go of inner holding; look at life as the field of practice; notice space in which experience arises.
So Thursday September third, right? A Trackless Path morning session.
Janet, you have a question.
Janet: Yeah, I’m wondering if there are some specific practices for developing and sustaining awakening mind? And in particular if you know that you have a tendency toward despair that sort of throws you off that course, is it best to work on practices for dealing with despair, or on generating awakening mind?
Ken: There’s a little book which was written, I guess in the eighth or ninth century. I’m not quite sure when but it’s not hard to track down, in India. And the Sanskrit title is called the Bodhicaryavatara. It’s an epic poem by Shantideva, and there’s a story behind that. Do you know the story?
Ken: Okay. And it’s all about awakening mind. There are twenty-seven translations of that into English. So there’s a little bit of study there. The translations vary, of course, but some of them are from the Sanskrit and some of them are from the Tibetan, but there are now twenty-seven. So, seems to be a fairly important text.
Well, awakening mind is arguably the central organizing principle of Mahayana Buddhism. And the phrase that my teacher used frequently was stong nyid snying rje snying po can (pron. tong nyi nying jé nyingpo chen). stong nyi is the Tibetan word for emptiness. snying rje is the Tibetan word for compassion. And snying po can basically means to have the essence or the pith, or the core. And that—just that phrase—is probably a very effective or useful tool to have in one’s repertoire so to speak.
In the classical presentations, awakening mind is presented as having two aspects: awakening to what things are, and awakening to how things are. And the first is, you might say…I’m just going to take a step back here.
As with all of classical Buddhism, these formulations are answers to certain questions. And I found it somewhat helpful for people to consider what the questions are that these are answers to. It’s a little bit like Buddhist Jeopardy. [Laughter] So, emptiness is an answer to a question. Compassion is an answer to a question. But what I’d like to do right now is to just take a look at the questions. Now, there are probably several candidates for questions, so I’m just going to pull two that I’ve come up with through my own reflections. Okay?
The first question is, What is this experience we call life? Okay? What’s your answer?
Well, yeah, that’s precisely the point now. What did you experience there?
Janet: Free fall.
Ken: Okay. Things suddenly become very open, and what’s underneath them?
Ken: Okay. So there’s emptiness. When we ask that question, you know, What is this experience we call life? it’s like…[Silence]
And one can to study this philosophically, but basically you go through two, three thousand years of philosophy; nobody’s been able to answer these questions, and nobody can. Okay? We cannot say what it is. So, now awakening to that means being able to…let me take a step back here. Is that ordinarily the way that we relate to things?
Ken: No. How do we ordinarily relate to things?
Janet: That they’re solid and permanent.
Ken: And one thing’s, you know…all kinds of stuff. So awakening mind in that sense means knowing that indefinable quality all the time. Now, as you’ve heard me talk with other people here, we talk about being awake and compassionate—what’s it like to relate to the world as the embodiment of awakened compassion? So what’s it like to relate to the world in every moment, completely incapable of saying what this is? What effect would that have?
Janet: There would be a kind of space.
Ken: Yeah. And we can take it a step further—just a little bit of a jump—but, one of the things that comes out of that, we see how everything is interconnected, and nothing is anything in its own right. It’s all defined by the relationships and interactions it has with other things. So things become very, very open. And we see and experience things more clearly when we drop all of those preconceptions about “It is this, it is that,” and so forth. So that, very roughly, is that aspect of awakening mind.
So here we are in this experience we call life and we have no idea what it is. And we come to realize we can never have any idea what it is. It’s just what it is, and that’s about it.
Then the second question is, What do we do with it?
Student: What was the second question?
Ken: What do we do? You know, we can’t stop it. It goes on. Things come to us, come up in experience. We actually have no idea what’s going to come next. We’re sometimes lulled into a sense of order, but then you know, an asteroid hits the earth or something. [Laughter] And you know, the dinosaurs must have, you know, said, “That really screwed us up.” [Laughter] So, what do we do in this experience called life?
Now, when you ask that question, what happens?
Janet: There’s kind of a heartbreak feeling.
Ken: Ah, a heartbreak, say a bit more.
Janet: [Sighs] Well there’s all thatÖsuffering. And something opens out to it.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. That’s very good because… So what will we do with them? We look at what everybody else is doing and they’re just making a mess, aren’t they? I mean in so many different ways, all the time. And part of the reason they’re making a mess is they think they know what they’re doing. But, you know, they have their families and they have their tribes and they have their nations and they have their businesses and they have their organizations, they have this and they have that. It’s all very real, very solid, but it keeps falling apart all over the place and just goes on and on and on.
And so there’s a heartbreak, because you see that they’re all struggling to be happy in some way, or make their lives easier in some way. Awful lot of the time they’re just making it worse and worse. And some people are helping to make it worse and worse, and it just goes on. So there’s like just, “Uh…” That’s compassion.
Okay. So, one can look at awakening mind as answering these questions. “What is this experience we call life,” and “What do we do with it?” And the answer is, “Well we don’t know,” and so there’s that open dimension. And if we let ourselves feel that, then it’s just like, “Oh.” And quite naturally, out of that comes—and this is what Bodhicaryavatara is about—is, “How can I help?” And we see that our ability to actually help anybody is extremely limited, because they tend to be a little bit stuck in their way of looking at things.
So we see that we, ourselves, need to develop a much more stable, deeper, way of being in the world. So we may have the small chance, of being able to actually help a few people here and there.
You have to remember the Zen koan, you see. There’s a woman sitting in samadhi meditation and Buddha can tell that her meditation’s all wrong. So he says to Manjushri—now Manjushri is a ninth level bodhisattva, you know, and the embodiment of awakened intelligence, so we’re not dealing with, you know, a beginner here—and says, “Manjushri, this woman’s meditation’s all wrong. Help her out.” And Manjushri sits down in front of her and says something to her, but she’s locked into that meditative absorption and doesn’t hear Manjushri. And he tries one thing after another. And she’s completely impenetrable.
So after a while Manjushri turns back to Buddha and says that, “Sorry, Buddha, I can’t do anything here.” And Buddha points to one of the first level bodhisattvas and says, “Why don’t you try.” And he goes over, sits down in front of her, says something, she comes out of the samadhi, [he] gives her instruction and everything’s fine.
So, I think we’ll stop there ’cause I think I’ve answered your question. That okay with you? No! [Ken answers his own question and chuckles]
Janet: I think so.
Ken. Okay. One more, if there is. Bill.
Bill: So, I want to agree ninety-nine percent with what you said and disagree one percent. Okay?
Ken: I’m disappointed. [Laughter]
Bill: Well, I can shoot for ten percent I mean—
Ken: I’d rather go for ninety-nine percent disagree, with the one percent. [Laughter]
Bill: Well, here it is. One of the things I’ve done in the last day was think about—just repeat—May all beings be free from suffering and the seeds of suffering. But I went through with everybody I could think of that I knew—and including a bunch of you who I just met [Laughter]—and with every single one, no surprise, I guess, I could find some specific thing that seemed to be an important piece of suffering that to some degree defined an important piece of their life. And in some sense, you know, you can react with that with, maybe the despair is almost an appropriate reaction. And a Zen teacher once told me that despair is where things start when you kind of let go of getting—and you’ve tried to say the same thing to me—let go of getting things fixed. And I think this is extremely important.
But, there are also so many things I can also come up with which seem to be grounds for hope. One just simple one that, I think we have trouble seeing, if you look at simple growth data for babies and people for the last century in the developed world, we’ve gained about a foot.
Student: In height?
Bill: In height, yeah. And basically what this means is that a hundred years ago, every child starved a certain part of their time in the first five or six years, really almost with just very few exceptions. And this stunted their growth relative to what’s potential for people. And it hasn’t extended to all the world yet, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, but it’s an extraordinary thing and if you think about it, of course, it doesn’t relieve suffering in and of itself because we’re all pretty well-grown and nourished and yet we suffer. But it is one of those fundamental conditions for, you know, this sort of fortunate life that Gampopa talks about, right, that it puts us in a position to encounter the dharma. And the world is accomplishing it. So, I kind of say, you know, I’m not despairing about all this, that it can go forward. So that’s, end of rant. [Laughter]
Ken: [Laughs] Well, this is a much longer topic and maybe we can go into it in the evening. And it may be worthwhile doing so. It’s important, it’s really actually very, very important to distinguish between what we call progress in society, and spiritual awakening. They’re really two very different processes. And when they’re combined or joined, the usual result is disaster. And I can go into this more this evening. But this is one of the areas where a huge amount of human suffering is generated by trying to combine those two. That’s all I’ll say for it at this point. Okay.
Ken: Okay Monica. Could you hand the microphone over?
Monica: Thank you. One of my favorite teachers back in school was my history teacher. And he always had us ask the question: Why? And I had the realization the other day, that that question is what’s causing me suffering [laughter] because I always want to know why.
I’d never had a dog until I adopted a dog before Christmas last year. And two months ago he was diagnosed with inherited eye disease that would make him blind. So he went through surgery to prevent this and all went well. And then he had an accident and he had to have a second surgery. He lost one eye. And I was so distraught over this, and all through it the dog did fine. And on the way home from Denver, after the second surgery, I was looking at the dog who had just come out of anesthesia and was all groggy. And—
Ken: Monica, can you hold the mic closer.
Monica: I realized that I was suffering and I was crying because I did not want to accept that he had lost an eye because he’s already limp on one leg. And I realized that when he hurts, he hurts and he stays with it. When he’s in pain, he’s in pain and he stays with it. And when the pain stops, it stops, and he stays with it. And throughout all of this he loves me. He never asks why, why did this happen to me, why did you do this to me? [Laughter]
And that was the first time I realized that my suffering is this human condition of always wanting to understand and, why this, why that? And, in that moment, I understood what I had intellectually grasped before, that suffering comes from this not wanting to accept what is. And so I finally let go. And you know, he was licking my fingers and blood was trickling out his nose. And he was okay. And that was my greatest lesson from my little Jack Russell terrier. [Laughter]
Ken: Thank you very much Monica. Okay.
Let’s close here then for breakfast. Thank you.
So, let’s just let the mind settle. Body on the cushion. Mind in the body. And relaxation in the mind.
And I’m going to take you through the energy dispersion exercise for balancing energy at the end of sitting practice—often helpful in retreat situations or intensive practice situations.
So, let the body settle. Let the breath settle. And let the mind and heart settle. Then, let your attention drop to the dantien, the center of your body, four fingers below your navel, a couple of inches in front of your spine, right in the center of your body. And feel energy gathering there.
You may feel that part of your body getting a little heavier. Maybe there’s a slight kinesthetic sensation. Maybe you have your own way of experiencing energy. And just feel energy collecting there. And following the general principle of energy follows attention. [Pause] Let your attention widen. And feel the energy spreading from the dantien throughout lower torso, and abdomen. Up into the upper abdomen and chest. Down into the pelvic region and the legs. Right down the legs to the toes, feet and toes. Now into your arms and down into your hands and right up into your head. Energy spreading gently, smoothly, through the whole body. [Pause]
And then feel the energy coming out of the pores of your skin all over your body, evenly, so that you come to be sitting in a field of energy that extends two or three inches beyond your body. Top and bottom, front, back, both sides, all over. And just sit for a few minutes in that field of energy. [Pause]
Then let it go. And rest for a minute or two. [Pause]
And again, bring your energy to the center of your body. Four fingers below the navel and a couple of inches in front of your spine, and feel energy gathering there again. [Pause]
And again, feel the energy spreading all through your torso and abdomen up into the chest, down into the pelvis, into the arms and legs and up into your head. [Pause]
So energy spreads evenly through your whole body. And feel the energy coming out of the pores of your skin, in front of your body and the back, top of the head, bottom of your legs and feet, arms, so you come to be sitting in a field of energy that extends two or three inches away from your body. [Pause]
Then let it all go and just rest. [Pause]
And once more, feel energy collecting in the dantien. Let it spread through all your body, abdomen, the torso, arms, legs, head. [Pause]
Feel it come out of the pores of your skin. And you’re sitting in a field of energy that extends two or three inches away from your body, evenly all over your whole body. And just rest there. [Pause]
Now this is a simple dispersion exercise. As I said before, dispersion here doesn’t mean dissipating the energy. It means spreading it uniformly through the whole system so that imbalances are evened out, it doesn’t stagnate anywhere, cause problems. And you can use this dispersion exercise after periods of meditation just to balance energy. And it’s particularly useful in retreat settings like this where one’s been practicing a lot. The level of energy has been raised. Sometimes imbalances have set up in the course of the day. But spread this out and it may help one to sleep more easily and peacefully rather than being a bit wired.
This is quite a safe technique. There are no inherent dangers in it that I know of. And if you’re feeling very high states of energy, you can extend it further than two or three inches. You can take it out six inches, or even six feet or more. So you just have this feeling of being in an even field of energy which is commensurate with what you’re feeling. And you’ll know how far to take it out by how you feel. It’s when you just begin to settle and feel in balance that will tell you that that’s the right distance to take it. And again, you’re not removing energy from your body, you’re creating a larger and larger field. So, again I want to emphasize this isn’t about dissipating the energy, but dispersing it so that it can balance out. [Pause]
Okay Bill. Thanks.
Okay. I think there were a couple of questions people want to—[coughs] excuse me—wanted to raise this evening. I can’t remember them so I’m just going to throw that open. Art.
Art: Yeah, I had a question on The Thirty Pieces of Sincere Advice [by Longchenpa HYPERLINK http://www.unfetteredmind.org/30-pieces-of-sincere-advice] towards the bottom of page 27. It’s the second from the last there.
Art: Yeah, 27.
Mindless talk about emptiness ignores causation.
You may think the ultimate teaching is that there is nothing to do,
But when you stop the two ways of growing, your practice will wither.
Cultivate these two together—that’s my sincere advice.
The footnote explains that The two ways of growing are…goodness and…pristine awareness. I was wondering if you could expand on that a bit.
Ken: Endlessly. [Laughter] I translated this quite a long time ago. There is a standard phrase in Tibetan—tshogs.bsags [pron. tsok-sak], which translated literally means something like, gather the two accumulations, or gather the two gatherings, or something like that. And it refers to…well, it’s a banking metaphor, which was appropriate at that time. But the way it comes across in modern culture, is that you have this spiritual bank account, which you can add stuff to, and possibly even earn interest on. So lately I’ve been experimenting with other metaphors. And one that I think actually works, probably a little better for us, is to think of it as building momentum. And, so you can say two ways of building momentum. And one is goodness, and one is pristine awareness, whatever that it is.
Pat: I think it’s generosity. Is it?
Ken: No, no. I was making a joke there, Pat. [Laughter]
Pat: [Unclear] I think. Oh.
Ken: Let me finish, okay?
What does it mean to build momentum, goodness? Well, when you do something good, without particularly being concerned with doing something good—that is in thinking like, “Oh, I’m being a good person if I do this,” just let that part of it go—when you do something good, how do you feel? What do you experience? [Pause]
And it could be anything. Suppose you give some money to a homeless person, or you give somebody a ride. Maybe it takes you a bit out of your way, but you have the time so you just do it. Or, you give a helping hand to somebody in some way. How do you feel in that?
Art: The word that comes up is, natural.
Art: Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that.
Ken: Okay. I’m going to throw in a couple of other words and you tell me: lighter, clearer?
Ken: Yeah. And I think this is most people’s experience. And, you know, you get the biological-psychologists and the psychological-biologists trying to figure out whether human species are altruistic or not, you know, and the evolutionary psychologists, things like that, we don’t even need to worry about all that stuff. It’s just that when we do good, we generally feel lighter, clearer, and I think you’re right, I think it has like this is the natural order of things.
Now, imagine doing that on a consistent basis. Okay? You can feel how a kind of momentum builds. You follow?
Ken: Okay. What’s that going to do about the way you live? [Pause]
Art: Relief. Freedom. Calm. Simpler.
Ken: And how’s it going to affect how people relate to you? [Pause]
Art: I haven’t the slightest idea. [Laughs]
Ken: Oh take a wild guess! [Laughter] Are they going to be wary, suspicious, restrained, nervous?
Art: I’m sure [unclear] like I’m being asked to tell what someone else’s experience is.
Ken: No. How are they going to relate to you? What’s going to be…you know, what’s possible? And this is conjectural, I understand.
Ken: Well we can turn it around. Do you know somebody who consistently does good things for people?
Ken: How do you feel about him or her?
Art: Positive, admiration, loving.
Ken: Open, trusting?
Art: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Ken: Okay. So, if people start relating to you that way, what’s that gonna do for your life?
Ken: [Laughter] That gets really uncomfortable.
Art: Complicated. [Laughter] Okay.
Ken: Okay, what? [Laughter].
Art: Awwww. [Laughter]
Ken: See this is how I teach people not to ask questions. [Laughter] [Pause]
Art: It would createÖ[chuckles]…there’s the word—momentum. It wouldÖit would…it would…
Ken: What kind of—
Art: Foster more of it. It wouldÖit would… [Pause]
Ken: So things become more natural, more open—
Ken: Lighter, clearer, etc., etc., okay. Now, how does that help you with this small task of addressing the questions of that stammering voice?
Art: It creates an opening.
Ken: Yeah. So that’s one kind of way of building momentum.
Now the other way, which has this fancy name of pristine awareness. We can call it wisdom. Call it lots of different things. [Pause]
You said earlier that doing good for others is natural, feels natural.
Art: It creates a…yeah.
Ken: Okay. Now, I’m going to take that a little bit further. When you do good, without particularly thinking about it, how aware are you of doing good?
Art: Not at all.
Ken: Do you feel like you are someone acting on something or someone else?
Ken: No. It just feels natural.
Ken: Yeah. So, I’m going to suggest that in that naturalness, there’s very little sense of subject, object, acted on, etc., etc.
Ken: That we can call, just natural expression of awareness—you know, taking expression in our life. You see what I mean?
Ken: And so, you drop into that. You drop into natural awareness periodically. What does that feel like? [Pause]
Art: Free. Warm. Calm.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. If you do this repeatedly, can you imagine building a slightly different kind of momentum, probably more open, or emptier than the other kind?
Ken: Yeah. Okay. So that in a certain sense is the momentum of wisdom or pristine awareness.
Now what Longchenpa is saying in this verse: Mindless talk of emptiness ignores causation. I would probably, if I were translating it now, say, evolution thereof rather than causation. But, you know, we talk about the emptiness of this and the emptiness of that and how this is empty, and things like that. And, it’s all conceptual stuff. And, what we ignore is how various things interact to create other things, because it’s all nice theory, conceptual stuff. But actually everything in our lives comes about from different things coming together in different ways and creating possibilities for other things, which is what emptiness is actually about. But when we’re talking about emptiness as concept, we ignore all of that. You follow?
Ken: Now we get into these abstruse logical arguments about, you know, does mind have shape, color, form, all of that kind of stuff.
You may think the ultimate teaching is that there is nothing to do.
Now, I want to draw—and you may accuse me of being Bill Clinton here [laughter]—but, I’m going to draw a distinction here between there is nothing to do and doing nothing. There is nothing to do is a view on life. And, it’s actually a somewhat negative view, if you follow.
Art: A somewhat what view?
Ken: Negative view.
Ken: Okay? Doing nothing is a practice. And, as we heard from Judy earlier, a lot happens when you do nothing. [Laughter] More than you bargained for sometimes.
Ken: Yep. So, what Longchenpa’s pointing to here, is the tendency of people to get wrapped up in a conceptual understanding of emptiness, feel that there is nothing to do, and kill any momentum, or any notion of building momentum in practice, which moves you towards some unfolding. So, that’s why I say, when you stop these two ways of growing, when you stop building momentum, your practice will wither. It’s absolutely true.
Cultivate these two together, which is, I understand him as saying, you know, practice doing good. And if you look at the various ways of doing good, you can see pretty clearly that almost all of them will be in some way an expression of one or other of the four immeasurables.
Art: Oh, okay.
Ken: Okay? So it’s a way of giving expression to the four immeasurables. And, one of the themes I’ve been—I’m sure some of you feel this way—harping on, is making practice real in the sense of giving it expression in the world, so that there are real consequences. And it’s very, very powerful. I don’t mean making it something like solid, you know, but making it real in the sense it actually takes expression in the world, and there are actions and things that are expressions of what you’re cultivating inside. And, this makes it real for both you and others. And, when you’re doing that, then practice is alive and substantial. And that’s what I think he’s referring to. Okay?
Art: Thank you.
Anything else you want to follow up there? Okay.
JP and then Helen.
JP: So you’re talking about doing good and in a natural way.
Ken: Yes. And sometimes in a deliberate way.
JP: Well, so that’s where I’m going. You know, I found in my own life I’ve tried to do good. And it’s more deliberate than natural. [sighs] Does that evolve at some point to natural? I mean, how do you—you know, I could walk away from this talk and, I mean, I want to do good but it probably wouldn’t be natural.
Ken: Yeah, well, there’s what I call the crack in the dam approach. And, this is something I used at one point. I noticed that I had a very hard time being generous. And someone suggested this to me. And I thought they were completely nuts. But four or five years later, I thought, maybe I should try it. I’m very slow in a lot of stuff.
And his suggestion was, “Oh, you want to learn to be generous? Give something to someone every day no matter how inconsequential it may seem, even if it’s a paperclip.” So, you actually experience the transfer of something in your possession to somebody else. That’s what I mean about making it real. So I did. Sometimes a piece of candy, sometimes it was something else, a book or whatever. But it became a practice. And what I found—and I’ve worked on similar kinds of things with many people—if you want to remove a dam, all you have to do is to put a small crack in it, and everything else will follow. ’Cause water starts to flow out of that crack and it will gradually widen it. And, you know, sooner or later, the whole thing comes tumbling down.
So, yeah, you make that effort. And that effort gradually becomes a habit, but it’s a constructive habit. And then it becomes a way you relate in the world. And now a whole other way has just fallen apart as a consequence. And there are many, many ways you can exercise that kind of thing. And then, as you suggested in your question, it absolutely becomes natural.
Okay. Helen, you had a question.
Helen: Yes, I’d like to know more what your take would be on burnout. First I’ll tell you what I think it is and see if you have somewhat additional or different ways of understanding it than I do. Sometimes it’s like over-giving. And, it might happen under conditions of say, obligation, or expectation because you don’t want to disappoint someone. But, also in the middle of—sometimes when I am doing more than what I really want to do, there are times when all of a sudden it becomes sort of interesting, you know, then it kind of opens up and then there’s more energy for it. But usually it’s a pull, a kind of a push-pull type experience.
Ken: [Pauses] What you’re referring to as burnout is a kind of thing that happens when you exceed your capacity, for a period of time. You burn out. You think of a fuse. When you run too much electricity through the fuse, it exceeds its capacity and it burns out. Same with, well, what we had here with the air-conditioning. If you exceed the capacity of the motors, they burn out.
Now, one can be in situations where demands or whatever are placed, and you may in the process discover that your capacity is greater than you thought it was. And I think that’s the kind of thing you’re referring to when you said there’s an opening. That’s very good. But if the demand actually exceeds the capacity, then you are going to burn out. And generally speaking, that’s not such a good thing. People have asked too much of you. You have taken more on than you… You may have felt capable but then you find out that you can’t actually do that without doing yourself harm, and so forth.
So when you no longer feel that you’re doing things of your own volition, that’s kind of a red flag. But we have to be a little bit careful here because sometimes we don’t want to admit that we’re doing things of our own volition.
And, many years ago I was skiing with a friend at Taos. And as we were riding up on the ski lift together, he was describing how a friend of his was coming to town. And he kind of resented it because he felt obliged to spend some time with him. So he was being very ambivalent about this proposed visit. So we discussed it as we rode up the lift. And, what I ended up pointing out to him was, the feeling of obligation wasn’t coming from his friend. It was coming from him. Because that’s what being a friend meant to him. But because he didn’t want to acknowledge that, he was projecting it onto his friend.
So that’s why I say we have to be a little careful here. Is someone making me do this? Or is this how I want to be? You follow? And then the obligation is coming from inside, and we may need to examine that, you know. Maybe how we want to be exceeds our capacity of how we’re currently able to be. And that way we’re going to burn ourselves out. Which a few people have done now and then.
Helen: Well sometimes I will see a task that I think can be done fairly quickly and then once I get into it, it is always more than what I thought. And so then I am getting sort of like, “How come I didn’t size it up properly in the first place?”
Ken: Well that—
Helen: I don’t know, and it’s repetitive. It goes on and on and on.
Ken: Well, there’s something you can learn from there, okay? [Laughter] “Before I say I will do this, let me take a good look at what’s actually involved.” And I think we’ve all had this experience. I mean, I can remember, people ask me saying, “Well, would you do ëx’?” and I will go “No, not a chance.” “Well,” they say, “it’s very straightforward.” And I say, “No, it’s not, because x is going to involve a, b, c, d, and k, l, and m.” And they’ll go, “Oh, you’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.” [Laughter] Because I’ve learned, that that’s what x involves. So I say, “No. I don’t have time for it.” And that way I don’t get caught in that thing. So we need to take a good look at what’s actually involved because some things look very simple, but once you get into it we find, oh, there’s an awful lot there to do. And people are very happy to pass work on to us. [Laughter]
Judy: Well, is there—
Ken: One second.
Judy: Is there a bridge between the momentum that you’re talking about and the burnout that we’re talking about? It seems like they both may have a similar starting in tension, but then the outcomes are very dissimilar.
Ken: I would say there’s more a connection between the building of momentum and the accumulation of capacity. And as you build momentum, you become capable of more and more. But if you’re building a momentum in the way that I was talking about with Art, you’re very unlikely to burn out. You won’t actually. Because remember one of the things that Art was reporting about that was the naturalness. So it just becomes part of the way we relate to the world. And that’s part of the reason for building momentum, is so that one doesn’t burn out. Because burnout isn’t very helpful. I don’t think it’s helpful at all, actually.
Start small. Let things grow. It’s much better than starting large and burning out. Okay?
Other questions? Peri.
Peri: I just wanted to know if you would follow-up on what Bill brought up this morning? You said—
Ken: [Chuckling] Oh, that minor topic. Okay.
I think in response to Janet’s comment on despair, Bill responded with “evidence shows that more children are being better nourished and growing into healthier bodies.” That was my understanding. Okay? And I think there’s great danger here. [Pause]
Quite often people want to take improvements in the functioning of society or the conditions of the world as evidence of spiritual growth.
Many years ago, I was taking a certification in a certain workshop. And the person who was doing this was an elderly Jewish man, quite delightful, very quirky sense of humor. And he described how he had lost a fairly major client. And, I can’t remember the details, now as I think about it, but the client was going on about how her baby was born with some kind of problem. And she prayed very deeply to God. And the doctors who where attending it, found a cure. And so her baby was saved. And she really felt that this was an example of God’s work in the world. And this is not, of course, an uncommon thing. And this was the part I can’t remember, but because of the context, this elderly Jewish gentleman just felt completely outraged by this statement. And said, “Where was your God in World War II, when six million of my colleagues were being murdered?” Well that kind of killed the client-relationship. [Laughter]
And we have this again with The Secret and the Law of Attraction, and so forth—that you think good things, you do good things and good things will manifest in the world. And we also have it in the New Age perspectives that you choose cancer. And, you know, if you are afflicted with a terminal disease then somehow you’ve chosen this. And if you un-choose this and get clear then it will get better.
Now, there is a truth in all of that and the truth is that one’s mental attitude to things has a very significant role in how healing and disease progress in one’s system, including things like recovery from surgery. It’s been actually quite well documented at Harvard and so forth. But it doesn’t mean to say that they can determine the outcome. And what we have here is a combination of magical thinking, in some cases, and just putting that aside—but also a deeper confusion or conflation arising from equating notions of progress in society, with spiritual growth.
This can take quite difficult forms of expression. The whole notion of progress, in the sense that, society as a whole, the world as a whole, is somehow progressing to some better or more perfect state begins in the late seventeenth century—maybe it’s a little earlier than that, beginning of the seventeenth century or so forth—when people recognized that science, you know, was able to give rise to a control of the world that was hitherto unthought of, you know, inconceivable.
And beginning with—actually a French guy called Auguste du Comte—he actually fashioned a religion based on the notion of scientific progress being applied to human affairs. And, the question comes up, if you have a vision of how things can be improved, what do you do with the people who don’t go along with your vision? And the answer, historically, has been you kill them. As happened in the French Revolution, as happened in Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, China, now in fundamental Islam, and so forth. And all of these movements come out of an attempt to move to an ideal state.
And I can go further with this. Historically, whenever rulers or people have tried to translate religious myths into political reality, the results have been disaster. You get into millennial thinking. We have this in today’s age. The Christian right supports pro-Israeli policies, not because they’re pro-Israel, but because they think it’s going to bring Armageddon faster. You know, it’s going to create this war to end wars in the world. And there have been many, many examples. We see this whenever a cult leader proclaims himself as messiah—disastrous results. And James Jones was a horrible example of that. But we see it in all kinds of political areas.
And a whole notion of progress in society is very, very suspect. Two points on this, one is a quotation by Karl Kraus: Progress represents pyrrhic victories over nature. Because we think we’ve been able to do something good, but then we find out later that the cost of doing that actually made the world that much more complex and more difficult. And so often when we take a larger look, it’s like, well, did he actually do good there or not. It’s very, very difficult.
In the smaller picture, it really does look good, you know. Babies are born larger or healthier and people live longer, etc., etc. But when you expand that out to whole populations, whole nations, things like that—and the advent of antibiotics, you know, meant a whole lot more people lived than would ordinarily have lived. And that created all kinds of problems in feeding, etc., etc. And these are very, very, very complex issues.
And we labor under the illusion that we are masters of this whole process of the evolution of societies, that we can really determine how societies will evolve and make sure they evolve in the right direction, but we don’t have a very good track record for that actually.
So, that whole notion of progress when it’s linked with spiritual values becomes quite tricky because a lot of the progress we experience is the result of very significant surpluses that we’ve been able to develop through different technologies and so forth. And when those surpluses disappear, then the society’s probably not going to evolve, but devolve. And this is the subject of Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, which is very, very sobering reading.
My own view on this is that there’s a very, very big difference between the accumulation and refinement of knowledge in science, and the accumulation and refinement of knowledge in human affairs, including spiritual affairs. If I pick up a book on science at the time of the Greeks or medieval Europe, it’s almost useless to me in terms of science, because what has been developed in science in the last, you know, hundred, two hundred, five hundred years, however you want to go, I mean it’s extraordinary. It builds knowledge. It’s refined, different theories are tried out, mistaken theories are exposed by further experimentation. There’s a continuing refinement of building knowledge. That same kind of refinement and accumulation of knowledge doesn’t take place in human affairs. And the simple evidence for that is, you can pick up a copy of Seneca, you can pick up a copy of Marcus Aurelius, or the pre-Socratic philosophers, or Gampopa who wrote only a thousand years ago, or people in the time of Buddha, and those books are just as relevant about how to work with one’s mind as anything written by anybody today.
So from that point of view, there has been zero progress, [Laughter] if you see what I mean.
Because this is something each of us has to discover in ourselves in every generation. And I don’t mean this in any way to be a bleak or pessimistic view of things, but to be just a way of being clear.
In the Chinese, during the Warring States period—which is a three-hundred-year period of continuous warfare, 500 BC to 215 when it was finally over and China was united—out of that came numerous treatises on war. And one of the most popular to have been translated is Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War. But there was another one written by a group of Chinese philosophers three hundred years later called Mastering The Art Of War and looking at the really long-term implications.
If you look at American foreign policy particularly in Vietnam and now in Afghanistan, it violates absolutely every principle of Sun Tzu. No learning. Because societies go through this kind of thing and they don’t progress in the same way that scientific knowledge progresses. And so we have this fantastic and really wonderful body of knowledge in the very broad arena of science and what comes out of it. And we translate what happens there into other areas of life, which actually don’t apply.
And so when it comes to spiritual practice—now I’m going to say something which will just probably be very unpopular—I’m reading a book called Straw Dogs. It was written by a relatively obscure philosopher/economist out of the London School of Economics in England [John Gray]. It came out in 2000, 2001 somewhere around there, and caused this big furor in England. It hasn’t been so well-known over here.
He starts it off with the simple statement: One of the great fallacies of modern thinking is that the contents of human consciousness are universally significant. Now, what we experience is what we experience while we’re alive and it dies with us, and then another person—what they experience. And he takes great issue and has some very, very interesting, and I think, actually quite good arguments arguing against that. It’s all individual experience. There isn’t a mind or cosmic consciousness or something out there of which we are all part of. That what we experience as, you know, open, ever-enduring awareness is an experience. It’s an immensely valuable experience. It’s an immensely meaningful experience. It’s a way of experiencing things. And it leads us to engage and embrace our lives in a way that doesn’t produce suffering and pain for ourselves and others, which is exactly what Buddha was talking about, and that it isn’t something that exists on its own. It is a way of experiencing the world. And it is in pursuit of something like that, that brings all of us here to spend our time and efforts the way that we have been this week or two weeks, because as I said, we come here out of a curiosity impelled by the need or the longing to come to terms with this experience we call life.
So, now that’s been a little all over the place, but did I communicate anything there?
Peri: You’ve communicated a lot of things and I very much appreciate it.
George and then Leslie.
George: Do you think—
Ken: No, I don’t. [Laughter]
George: Well, do you think that there’s any evidence that there has been, all over the world, an increasing number of people following not only the process that you’ve just talked about, internally, but who have left ideologies behind, ethnocentric points of views behind, that there are enough people that evolutionary change may be taking place? Do you think so?
Ken: I think there’s absolutely no evidence of that. And I think it’s completely wishful thinking.
George: I think, personally, it could go either way.
Ken: Well, there hasn’t been enough time. Evolutionary change takes place far more slowly than the timescale we have to observe. The train of thought I just lost here. [Pause] Ah, it’s gone. If I can get it back I will.
But basically, one can observe stages in the evolution of societies, but does this translate into the evolution of consciousness, which is what I think you’re talking about? Very questionable, very questionable. I mean, it’s what I said before. What makes a gathering like this possible are surpluses in the society. We have the leisure to do so. The Anasazi, you know, a couple of hundred miles from here, had a magnificent civilization, and it disappeared completely in the eleventh, twelfth century. Why? No wood.
Student: No what?
Ken: No wood. They had chopped down all of the forests. They had nothing left to cook with.
George: It wasn’t because of marauding other tribes?
Ken: And so all of the cities, the vast cities everything were emptied because there was no way to sustain life. And they had to go elsewhere.
George: I personally think that, at best, there are some encouraging signs here and there amidst many more that are not encouraging.
Ken: Ah, now I remember my train of thought. Bill was referring to nourishment of infants. Again that’s something that’s made possible by increased production. There are other changes; in one of his more recent books, Eckhart Tolle says that We live in an extremely violent age. This is not true—We live in an age of increasing violence. This is not true, because if you look at the percentage of males who die at the hands of another male, including all of the wars of the twentieth century—you know, millions of people dying in various ones, and like 23 million people in Russia in the Second World War and little things like that—it’s an all time historical low of 2 percent. You contrast that with a certain tribe in the Amazon, which when—until discovered when missionaries came in—the chances of you dying if you were a male in that society at the hands of another male was 60 percent. That’s a violent society.
Bill: Or if you look at medieval European society.
Bill: Same statistics.
Ken: Same statistics. So this is a far less violent age, globally than it’s ever been. But is that the result of evolutionary consciousness? I very much doubt it.
Yeah. There was a question over here but…oh, Leslie, then you Bill. Art?
Leslie: We might be talking about different things, but I can think of very big changes that I’ve seen in the services available to my patients, particularly in the area of psychological care and services to families, that all of that requires compassion and loving kindness and spiritual qualities to deliver. And I’ve seen it make a big difference in, you know, kids who get caught early, in the process of becoming addicted to things and undergo extensive treatment. They end up living a good life. Families that have very complicated situations, get multiple services put into them, and it makes a difference. Where there might have been murder-suicide, there’s instead depression, and you know, whatever. It just goes up a little bit.
Ken: Depression and neurosis. Yeah, and you’re completely right. But I don’t see that as an evolution of consciousness. I see that as coming right out of the conditions in society which enabled those kinds of things to be studied and understood. So we get Virginia Satir’s family systems. And I think the accomplishments in Western psychology in this area, are absolutely extraordinary.
There’s a verse in the Bible, I think it’s in Genesis, but I’m not very good on my Bible—maybe Deuteronomy, I don’t know; maybe it’s Exodus. [Laughter] I know it’s in one of those! One of the Pentateuch—which says The Lord thy God is a jealous God visiting with iniquity the sins of the Father unto the children, nigh onto the seventh generation. Now there are many ways you can read that. But one of the ways that I read that is, it was an implicit recognition in the Jewish culture that family patterns perpetrated for seven generations. Well, Western psychology has now developed the technologies to be able to end that in one generation. That’s extraordinary. And it’s exactly what you’re talking about. But I see it as coming out of the research and the clinical studies and things like that—and you know what resistance there’s been in actually having that promoted in society. But that’s where the knowledge has come from and in changing attitudes to mental health and addiction and things like that.
Leslie: So why do you take the perspective that there is not evolution just because it requires having enough resources?
Ken: I’m distinguishing between evolution in society—which I agree—and evolution of consciousness, that we are evolving to some higher consciousness and we’re becoming more compassionate, etc. This I don’t agree with.
Leslie: Oh, well, then I think that’s what a lot of people are thinking more is that when people have resources through hard effort which is, you know, a quality, a spiritual quality to make good effort, things get better. Overall, if people work together they want to make things get better.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. Yeah.
Leslie: Isn’t that what most people are trying to say, that there is good in the world?
Ken: No but, I’d have no disagreement with that. But there are other people who feel that humanity as a whole is evolving, in terms of consciousness, to a higher level. And this, I see no evidence for.
Leslie: But if you separate that out and see it as group consciousness instead of individual consciousness, that when human beings get together, over time as a group, the tendency is for them to try to reduce suffering for their group.
Ken: This is biological.
Leslie: Well. So?
Ken: No argument.
Leslie: Why not celebrate it?
Ken: Well. That’s not what I’m taking issue with. Okay.
Bill you had a—
Bill: Well. The first thing to say is that I’m very sympathetic to a lot of what you say.
Ken: Ninety-eight percent, but this time you disagree.
Bill: No. [Laughter] You’re more at the ninety-fice percent level tonight. But still that’s a lot. I’m basically a pretty argumentative guy so that’s not bad at all.
Bill: A lot of the other stuff, I think is just sort of opinion that doesn’t have much to do with the dharma.
Ken: I agree.
Bill: So, I don’t want to pursue that, although, you know, obviously I’m extremely sympathetic to a lot of what Leslie just said. You know, I’ll just take a moment and say, if what we are seeing is a response to that, a more sensitive person might worry a little bit when, you know, the Holocaust and magical thinking get mentioned as a sort of response to what you just said. But luckily I’m not that kind of person. [Laughter]
Ken: Yours was the tip of the iceberg, so I was using it as a jumping-off point for a larger thing.
Bill: Yeah okay, that’s about the way I understood it. But I do want to say that—because this is what I said this morning was heartfelt and this is heartfelt too—I run into a lot of despair, and I really like to bring out things that not everybody sees, like the effects of improved nourishment, because I don’t have any certainty that everything is going to work out, that progress is working in a positive way. I think there’s lots of reasons to fear it’s heading to catastrophe. But there’s also this other stuff that is I feel grounds for hope. And I thought I was—I mean obviously I wasn’t careful enough—but I am trying to be careful is not to equate this kind of progress with spiritual progress.
Bill: To say that I thought, we might be providing the groundwork on which we could have spiritual progress in the sense that, you know—and I think this comes from Gampopa, and I think this is what Leslie was trying to say—we’re in a fortunate time in some ways. There are lots of people who have the security, who have the leisure, who have the resources to address some of these things that you can’t when you’re dealing with a 60 percent murder rate. I mean it’s very hard not to be controlled by anger when two or three people in your family have been killed. Right?
Bill: But that’s just a hope. It’s by no means a certainty. But the only thing I guess I would add is—and this may be relevant to the dharma, I don’t know—but we’re gonna have to come to grips with a lot of these big social questions. We just don’t have a choice. The whole thing is now dynamic in a way that it’s either gonna work out really well, or it’s going to go right into the abutment at about 150 miles an hour.
Ken: Actually we have no idea of how it’s going to work out.
Bill: And we have no idea. But what I believe anyway, and this is—it’ll sound sappy—but if people of good heart get together and make a go at…and I don’t think of this a spiritual thing, nevertheless, necessarily, it’s maybe part of the activities of daily living that you know, we try to do in as virtuous way as possible. But Buddhism has something to say about that, too. So that’s really…notions of social determinism and “are things progressing” or “are they not”, was not where I was going today.
Bill: I was trying to spread a little hope.
Ken: [Laughter] Thanks Bill.
Ken: I’m a gloom and doom guy, you know. Just nothing happier than when I’m spreading gloom and doom. [Laughter]
Student: Leslie can probably make some time for you and she probably charges a reasonable rate. [Laughter]
Ken: No. Unfortunately she’s a medical doctor. [Laughter]
Ken: What was that?
Student: There’s drugs for that.
Ken: There’s drugs… [Laughter]
Nick: My experience, personally in my life, kind of speaks to both of these issues, I think, a little bit. I was really, really fortunate. If you want to like consider that dharma is something worthwhile to do, and that being exposed to it is good, you know, and having it [unclear] for it is good, somehow—taking that as the basis, I was exposed to it really young, you know. Because of the environment that I grew up in, I had the opportunity to come across these things. I didn’t have any contrary views being put on me really. Saying, like, “Well that’s blasphemy,” or “It’s worthless,” you know. But my neighbor might have, you know. So the opportunities were provided by the situation. But nevertheless, you know—something struck a chord so here I am—nevertheless…it was awful.
Nick: And you know when I really started to work with my mind—
Nick: As opposed to just sit for a long time. I was about 14 when I first came across all this stuff. So for a good—I mean with very isolated experiences—for a good, I don’t know, maybe eight years, I pretty much just studied this stuff and other things and read about it, you know, because I had access to all this stuff.
So when it finally came time to do something about it, it was just awful. I mean there was so much like aggression, and still is, you know, and all the three poisons, if you want to use that term, which is so rampant and strong. So, they’re there, heavy-duty regardless of the fact that I was inspired by it very young. And because I still went through what you go through in high school. You know, with social stuff, and you know, pubescent stuff and drugs and all the horror and just…I had a lot of fun too. [Laughter] In all those areas too.
Ken: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll?
Nick: Right. Right. It was terrible and awful. [Laughter] But—
Ken: Really terrible and really awful! [Laughter]
Nick: And awesome too, yeah. [Laughter] So the affinity was there maybe, and the opportunity was there, but my point in saying all that is that as far as consciousness goes, if there was an evolution of consciousness, then, I mean, all of us would be in a situation where based on just the people in this book that you’ve translated from, we should all have attained rainbow body when we were, like, eight. [Laughter] Only because it should have…in the way that scientific progress kind of builds on itself?
Nick: I mean, we should have been able take what—
Ken: Should have built from generations of—
Nick: Yeah, like what Longchenpa did. We should be able to take that and like start off at his level and go from there, which…yeah, not so much. [Laughter]
Ken: Yeah. That’s very nicely said, Nick. Thank you. Okay.
Any other comments, questions on this? Well, as Click and Clack—oh, Randy. Judy.
Randy: I guess I have to fall into the Leslie camp.
Randy: I’m falling into the Leslie camp on this. It’s funny, with the passage that—
Ken: Will all those who side with Leslie sit here. [Laughter]
Randy: It’s funny ’cause of the passage that Art had you translate and interpret, talking about momentum of goodness, in which you’re saying that has not evolved, that’s the social consciousness, that you think hasn’t evolved. And I was reading a story about a young gentleman, I guess, late twenties, early thirties, and he was a club promoter in New York City.
And he lived the life. And he had everything he wanted—his money, women, drugs—everything he wanted. And woke up one day and said, “What am I doing?” And he went to his friend who worked with an NGO, a not-for-profit organization overseas and went over there for two years. Came back, didn’t have a penny to his name. Slept on his friend’s couch. But used the knowledge that he had attained—saw what he saw in Africa—used the knowledge that he had attained from being a promoter. Got his black book out. Has raised over 20 million dollars to build wells throughout Africa, Asia, and people are contributing to that. So, and there’s many people like him, men and women, who are doing things like this today.
Ken: This is one of the facets of American society which I just find so admirable. And I think it has a lot to do with the founding principles of this nation, that there is this kind of extraordinary generosity, which surfaces again and again, very often in shifts of conscience or exposure to things. And people grow up in one thing and then are exposed to something else and their response to it is, not infrequently, this kind of outpouring of ability and resources for the good of humanity.
I mean, one of the things that happened, when there was that devastating earthquake in Pakistan a few years ago up near the Hindu Kush, it was regularly reported that the Pakistan population couldn’t figure out why so many Americans were in there providing tents, first aid, all kinds of help, when their experience up to that point was being bombed, you know, sanctions, all the kinds of stuff that manifest in foreign policy. But it was their first contact with that aspect of American society. And I think it’s a wonderful aspect.
Judy: Two things. One, you know, I wonder about the people you’ve named as having written these books, but I’ll add to them, is that, you know, in every time there’s just remarkable people that just are, kind of, just are not in a class of time or space really. So I just wanted to say that. And, on a more personal note, I almost feel like what we’re wrestling with is, for lack of a better word, survival and inner development. And on a very personal note, I come from a lineage of Holocaust survivors. And it was a very liberating thing for myself, to realize that survival wasn’t the first choice. That how you live and what you do in a situation and what you choose was the first choice. And I’m just kind of wondering if that’s a piece of what this discussion is about.
Ken: That’s a hugely important piece. Thank you.
Pat: Not to be thinking about choosing camps, I wanted to key off some things that were said that I think are images to ponder. And that is, when I think about your comment where you said some things must be discovered in each of us within every generation, I think that what Nick talked about is the idea that there have been great ideas for thousands of years, but we really haven’t had the way to pollinate, the way we have now, whether it’s through media or whether it’s through the Internet, etc. So there’s a way for great ideas to be more accessible.
I think that following up on something that Bill said, in terms of, things are getting better, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the TED lectures. Quite a brilliant physician and epidemiologist, from the Karolinska Institute, named Hans Rosling did this incredible piece of—I don’t know how to explain the idea of taking graphs and charts and making them—
Ken: Oh. Was this the guy who put the sword down his throat?
Student: [Unclear] visualization.
Ken: Yeah, I know.
Pat: Yeah, the guy who put the sword down his throat. Yes but before the sword—
Ken: Yeah, I know. It’s brilliant. And there’s a website, you can go do it yourself.
Pat: You can google TED. But what he has been able to do is to really show, what we’re going to call, conventional wisdoms, like things are getting worse. Well, he can actually show you that, through the concept of, let’s just say, we educate women, and we build wells. And what happens is that all of a sudden, we change public health. So families are smaller and that we have increased survival. So then all of a sudden we have more resources. And that we don’t have the incredible disparities where we have very, very rich and very, very poor. That we’re merging the kind of global resources so that there’s a building momentum. And so if we have this idea that we’re leveling the playing field, and we now have easily accessible information, that’s quite ancient, that this sense, for me, of critical mass becomes the next step. We haven’t experienced critical mass yet. But now we have the ingredients to do so, I think.
Ken: Yep. And, I highly recommend that particular talk at TED. It’s just, it’s a wonderful talk. And—
Pat: And watch the part before he swallows the sword, before you—
Ken: The thing is, the reason he’s swallowing the sword is to demonstrate that remarkable things can happen.
Pat: Yes. Yes.
Ken: And that this statistician has just pulled all of this data together. And he has this actual website that you can go to and play with those charts yourself.
Ken: One of his arguments is that what we call developing countries, is actually a far more complicated thing. And many of them have achieved the levels in certain key measures of where the developed countries are or have even surpassed them, through just such policies as Pat was mentioning, like educating women and drilling wells. Very simple things, which make huge differences.
Hans Reisling is it?
Pat: Rolling. R-o-l-l-i-n-g. [Rosling] And he is a physician.
Pat: He’s also an epidemiologist. And so he came from a lineage of physicians and epidemiologists. So that, I think that he’s actually born in Africa. So he’s been very interested in the development.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. Anything else?
Pat: And it’s TED. So is everyone familiar with TED?
Ken: TED.com, yeah.
Pat: Technology, Education and Design.
Student: Oh, I thought it was a [unclear].
Ken: No. No. Yeah.
Ken: Yeah, okay. Pat, you’ve…okay.
Go ahead Bill. Then we need to close, ’cause we’re after nine already.
Student: Judy, is it TED.com?
Bill: I just wanted to say the other thing that, I have hoped for, I have no idea if it’s going to work, is I think His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is reaching out to the neuroscientific community. And look maybe that will get somewhere. And—
Ken: Okay. Don’t get me started.
Bill: I won’t get you started. I retract all the previous statements. [Laughter]
Maybe that could show.
Ken: As a translator, that is so extraordinarily painful, I can’t tell you.
[Several students talking at once.]
Student: What do you mean?
Student: Say more.
Student: Say some more.
Student: You have to say—
Bill: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to cause you pain. Neuroscience is sometimes very good.
Ken: There are a lot of things going on in neuroscience which are very interesting and have extraordinary potential. I have no doubts at all about His Holiness’s interest in getting Tibetan Buddhism—which is basically a medieval institution—to think really broadly and embrace the modern world. But when I’ve watched the interactions and read the transcripts, from a translator’s point of view, it’s two ships passing in the night.
Bill: It could be accepted that it’s had a very…I can tell you with absolute certainty, that it’s had a very positive effect on psychotherapy.
Ken: Well, I’m very glad to hear that.
Okay. Last comment, JP, then we’ve got to close.
JP: This is a—
Ken: You don’t need to—
JP: If we’re going to meditate, or if you could just briefly do the—
Ken: Oh, okay. The dispersion?
JP: Yes. You walked us through it and then the next time you didn’t and I—
Ken: You’d like me to do that again?
JP: Well. Or just go, you know…say it really quick whatever it would be.
Ken: Okay. Art, put this on a separate track, would you?
JP: Thank you.