Q. How did the Dalai Lama become the most famous Buddhist in the world?
A: Spiritually speaking, many people assume that the Dalai Lama is like the pope of Buddhism. This is not true. For one thing, the Dalai Lama is the highest-ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism, but he is not officially recognized as a leader among the other schools of Buddhism.
For example, although Tibetan Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, the last independent Buddhist kingdom in the world, Bhutan has its own head lama. Other schools of Buddhism have their own chief monks or sangha leaders. The Sangha Raja (Sovereign...
Q: How can I deal with impatience and anger? My young children and my business partners often make me irate, and I really don’t know what to do - even though I have been meditating almost daily for the last few years. I asked a Tibetan lama, and he just said not to get angry because it is all like a dream. I know I should be kind and loving, but how do I do this when my buttons keep getting pushed? Do you have any practical advice for me?
I find that fear, anger and irritation are a big burden, and a serious impediment to communication and relationships of all kinds. It is important...
Buddhists beware: You can't just sit there.
Dear Lama Surya Das,
I recently listened to one of your "Natural Perfection" tapes and liked what you said about people NOT having to meditate. I think some of us are suffering under a perceived (or projected) meditation culture that virtually stigmatizes those who do not sit well or practice consistently. Everybody doesn't have to sit a whole weekend, or morning, or hour. Right?
Sitting Some But Not Too Often
Dearest Sitting Some,
This is a very interesting and fairly common question. So let me answer by getting right to the point....
As wars rage, Buddhists use their inner clarity for global harmony.
Q: I am frustrated with how our nation is exporting aggression and I don’t know what to do. I talk to my friends and colleagues, write our elected officials, vote, participate in the PTA, and volunteer at a local charity; but what can one person do to turn the tide?
It may be fatuous to think that one person can move the world, but there are those who seem to have done so. Buddhist wisdom consistently reminds us to recognize how interconnected and thus interdependent we all are in this small world, and that unconditional...
Breathe. Detach. Here's how to stay centered spiritually now that the election is over.
Q.: Dear Lama Surya Das, I'm so stressed out about the election and attached to its outcome, I can't think. We are a nation so deeply divided that my heart aches. What can I do?
A.: Whoever you voted for, whatever you think, feel, believe, celebrate, or worry about--Buddha says, first of all, breathe. One deep liberating breath can begin to alleviate the stress of a long, divisive political season.
To loosen my own attachment to opinions, I remind myself that if I really knew everything there was to know--past,...
Careful discernment is the order of the day when you want to separate spiritual materialism from pure aspiration.
Q: In your book "Awakening to the Sacred," you relate a story about a monk who found it impossible to please his master by his efforts because he was “clinging.” If desire is one of the sources of suffering, is “desire for enlightenment” a stumbling block on our path? Do you need to not want to be enlightened in order to become enlightened?
A: Buddha’s first fact of life, clearly expounded in the Four Noble Truths, is that life is difficult because of our clinging, craving,...
Our columnist explains why not.
Q: Is there a God in Buddhism? I read in a book by the pope that Buddhism is atheistic and life-denying.
A: I read the same thing in the pope's book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," in a chapter called "Buddha?" But the pontiff should know better, or at least be better informed by his scholar-advisers.
Buddhism is neither atheistic nor life-denying. We can witness this in the great surge of socially activist Buddhists in the Western countries today, which includes the widespread movement of so-called "engaged Buddhism" founded in part by the Vietnamese...
Q. If I meditate, does that make me a Buddhist?
Anyone can practice Buddhist meditation. Whether or not you wish to become a Buddhist depends entirely upon you. But it's also true that not all Buddhists meditate. In fact, most Asian Buddhists, including many ordinary Tibetans, do not. Some chant and pray, some make offerings (candles, flowers, food incense, bows, and prostrations) before statues of the Buddha, or give charitable donations (money, food, medicine, service) to hospitals and the like. Some Buddhists attend lectures on the Buddha's teachings, memorize scripture, or build temples...
Lama Surya Das pays loving tribute to one of the earth's great souls
I happened to be walking past a table of used books this past summer and, from the discounted remainder pile, picked up a thick book of Van Gogh's letters, then couldn't put it down for days. As I read, I felt that perhaps I was him or his brother in a previous life, or at least one of the birds or peasants in his luminous paintings.
Since this week [March 30th] marks the 151st anniversary of Van Gogh’s birth, I’d like us all to pause for a moment and think of him. At any exhibit of his paintings, I find myself standing...
Finding a way to fit practice into daily life.
Q. How can I fit Buddhist practice into my daily life? I hardly have time to meditate or study Buddhist scriptures. Where do I find the time and space?
A:This is a very important question. It is something we each face, every day--especially in this speeded up culture of ours. We each have 24 hours in a day. It all depends on how skillfully we manage to allot and utilize that time. It is not unlike trying to add an exercise regimen to one's daily schedule. We have to actively make the time for it, on as close to a daily basis as possible; And if we miss...