“A Buddhist Perspective of the Earth and Environment,” Dungse Jampal Norbu, April 21, 2016

“A Buddhist Perspective of the Earth and Environment,” Dungse Jampal Norbu, April 21, 2016


(eastern music) – Good afternoon. Let me move the context
for the presentation today toward the direction
of our esteemed speaker by saying tashi delek. It’s a Tibetan greeting
that one interpretation is it means blessings and good luck to you. I’m Timothy Hohn, I’m
an instructor and chair of the Horticulture Department here at Edmonds Community College. And I’d like to move the,
further the tashi delek moment just a little bit more. Looking up at the sky, think about this. The heavens so blue, the sun so radiant, the clouds so playful,
the soaring raptors, the meadows in bloom,
the woodland creatures, the rivers singing their way to the sea. Celebration everywhere, wild and riotous, immense as a monsoon
lifting an ocean of joy and spilling it down over
the Puget Sound landscape, drenching us with a deluge of delight. My first exposure and my
beginning of Buddhist practice began with Alan Watts in the 1970s. I’m an old fellow. Dungse Jampal Norbu’s
Tibetan Buddhist education began at his birth from an accumulation of Buddhist wisdom practice by a long line of family Rinpoches, lamas, Buddhist lamas, if you will, going back generations in his family. Dongse La, under the tutelage
of his father and mother, practice has increased in Colorado. One of the things that really
excites me about his teachings and his orientation to Buddhism is his, he has a rather informal and
relaxed view of the practice, particularly as it
pertains to young people, based on compassion and mindfulness. He also teaches on the subject of Buddhism in the environment and the
practice of mindfulness, distinguishing between mindfulness as a practice and as a path. Please join me in welcoming
Dungse Jumpal Norbu to Edmonds Community College
to speak on the subject of a Buddhist monk’s
perspective on the earth. (audience applauds) – Hello, everyone. I’d ask how you’re doing, but I heard that you’re doing very well. So. It’s my pleasure to be here at Edmonds Community College and to have this
opportunity to speak about maybe not necessarily the environment, but not in any, not anything that’s
disconnected from that. As my wonderful contemporary has just stated, I come from traditional
Buddhist background, so I’d like to speak a
little bit about that. The view of Buddhism and then how that relates
to the environment and relates to
environmental responsibility and sustainability. Because although Buddhism has a
very strong connection with the environment and
a very strong connecton with responsibility towards our world, it’s not necessarily an
environmental movement that is, I guess it goes without saying
in Buddhist communities, that there will be respect
for the environment, there will be care for the environment, and for all the beings that
live in the environment. So, I’d like to come from that, that understanding first. So, the first teachings that
the Buddha ever gave focused very much on the human condition. The human condition that all beings whether human or animal, have the desire to achieve happiness, they have the desire to
be free from suffering. And when there is that
natural desire to be free from suffering, to be free,
not just from pain, but from a sense of alienation, a sense of depression, a sense of isolation, and to feel happy, to feel fulfilled, to feel connected, that driving force, that natural tendency can be a guide towards a more meaningful life. Now what gets in the way of that is a sense of holding on to one’s self as individual, as separate, as special in some ways. Not necessarily that anyone that we are not individuals, that we are not unique in our own ways, but the grasping to our sense of selves. Not necessarily that we
have a sense of self, but just the grasping to that. Because the grasping to the sense of self is where all suffering arises from according to this Buddhist view. The grasping to the
sense of self manifests in a variety of ways including attachment, aggression, stupidity, jealousy, pride. And these five negative
emotions, so they’re called, really become the basis for all suffering that we experience. And we can see that somewhat in a more environmental sense as well. There is a tendency to want to push away things that we don’t like, because it just doesn’t
suit our own needs, it doesn’t suit my needs,
it doesn’t suit my plan for the way I want to live. And so I push away, I push away the weeds that
grow around my garden, I push away the trees
that obstruct my view, I push away the, the natural beauty that gets in the way of my business,
my production, et cetera. The attachment constantly
trying to draw things in towards myself to which I can
make a very comfortable home, I can make a very entertaining game room or however. There’s a lot of emphasis
on drawing things in that I want and rejecting
things that I don’t like. And that comes from the
attachment to the sense of self, that comes from wanting to cherish and protect that ego. Now this is an unfortunate mistake, because it assumes that
happiness exists outside of us, that we can find happiness in objects. Or there is suffering inherent in objects. So, for instance, water. I like water. Not everyone likes water. Sometimes it’s boring and
we’d rather have soda, or juice. I find water refreshing. Is the refreshing aspect of water inherent in the water itself, or does that have more to do with me? If not, everyone finds water refreshing, how can I say that it exists
inherently inside the water? Some of you have cell phones, right? Probably most of you
have cell phones, right? Is happiness inherent in a cell phone? Usually it’s the opposite. Because when you it falls out of your pocket
and cracks on the sidewalk, then it’s usually the thing
that makes you unhappy, very unhappy. So, the possession of an object,
the possession of an iPhone, or any kind of phone doesn’t, it doesn’t bring happiness, the happiness isn’t
inherent in the objects that we try to accumulate for ourselves. Happiness doesn’t exist
naturally in those objects, because they are also
the cause of suffering. So, where does happiness
actually come from? Happiness has to come from within. Happiness has to come from a release of the attachment to the self. It has to come from a
more compassionate place where we go beyond the sense of self, not in any sort of violent way where we are hard on ourselves, or try to destroy our sense of self, but just extending that, gently extending that towards other people through compassion, through kindness. And by extending our sense of self, our sense of care and compassion to others, we
feel more connection with them, we feel more enrichment
and we’re able to cultivate more natural happiness than if we were to try and
drag it in from the outside. So this is really the basis
of most Buddhist practice, that happiness cannot be
found outside of one’s self, and it comes from a greater
sense of compassion. Not just compassion as a feeling, but a very logical kind of compassion, because, although I
appear as an individual, although I consider myself
to be just one person, I really don’t exist in a bubble, I don’t exist as an island. I’m constantly in relationship
with my environment, I’m constantly in relationship
with the people around me, whether those are my friends or my family, or even people I don’t know,
but I see or encounter, I’m constantly in some
kind of relationship with the world around me. And being in a relationship, I have an effect on everything around me, even if it’s obvious, even if it’s subtle, there’s always some kind of relationship. We’re having a really nice
trend of weather here, right? I hear this is totally
normal for the area, right? (audience laughs) Since I arrived, it’s been sunny. Is this normal? Okay. I’ve seen people come out
of the different buildings and they go like this. (inhales and exhales deeply) And then the people around them go. Yeah. (inhales and exhales deeply) So, the one person that
comes out of the building and sees the weather
and enjoys the weather, and really shows appreciation. The people around them
are affected by that. They see that, they understand that, they sympathize with that. And then they all feel
the same appreciation for this nice weather. So, that’s an example of how
we affect our environment. Just our mood can affect
the people around us. If someone walks out
of a building and goes, “Screw this weather,” you
know, starts swearing, or just has a bad attitude in general, that can affect the
people around them, too, in a negative way, bringing
their attitude down, bringing their energy down. It’s not always so
explicit, not so obvious, but we do have an impact
on our environment. That isn’t to say we have any kind of control on our environment, because the environment is
constantly affecting us as well. We are being affected
by the people around us, we are being affected by the weather, we are being affected
by what we eat, even. They say you are what you eat. And here at the school there’s
a wonderful, organic, right? Organic garden with all those, all that great broccolini and sage and blueberries, it’s beautiful. And we take in foods and they affect us, they affect our mood. We are constantly being affected even as we affect the
environment around us. And when we’re constantly being
affected beyond our control, we don’t control how we
affect our environment either. But we have infinite influence in how we engage our environment, because everything we do matters. There’s nothing we do that does not in some way affect our environment. And on a larger scale,
there’s nothing we do that does not affect our planet. So, from the place of a Buddhist practitioner, we can come, we can face the, we can face the environmental
issues of our day, we can face the challenges of even everyday life with a positive attitude, a positive influence on our environment through practices like
compassion, kindness, generosity, sympathy, and many more. And that in turn will
create a wonderful benefit. And as we transform the
environment around us, it will become a much nicer place to live and we will also be enhanced by that, because our environment
affects us as well. So, this is the background, or
my background with Buddhism. I do notice that on the poster outside it says that I’m a monk,
which I am not, unfortunately. The shaved head kind of
gives that impression, but I am single, so. (audience laughs) In relationship to what we
can do with the environment, how we can approach the
environmental issues right now, I saw something on the
news about southern Chile and there’s these huge groups of dead fish that are
washing up onto the shore. It’s like millions and millions of fish of all different kinds. No one really knows right
now why all the fish in that part of the world are dying and washing up onto the land. It’s some mysterious, mysterious issue, so they say. But, it’s a huge health concern, because you have several
thousand tons of dead fish on the shore that’s going
to lead to some disease, it’s going to lead to some
environmental repercussions. What about the ocean and
the reefs and the plant life in that area, that’s going
to have a huge impact on us. And I haven’t seen it in any, I haven’t seen it from anywhere, except this one tiny little news feed. It’s a big thing. And it’s going to have an effect on us. Myself, I’m not quite
sure what to do about it. There are all these environmental
issues, like that which seem very much beyond my control. They are beyond my control. I can’t control the
situation with the fish. I can’t control the situation
with global warming, but I do have some influence. I have potentially infinite influence. And when I saw that, I thought,
I may not be able to fly down to Chile and start scooping up fish or dive into the ocean
and solve the issue, because nothing’s ever that simple. The world doesn’t lend
itself to being fixed in any definitive way. That’s more human error, I guess, thinking that we can fix the world, because we’re separate from the world and we have some definitive
control over the world rather than being a part of it and being influenced by the world. But what I can do is
I can spread the word. I can tell other people,
I can create awareness, and I can make sure that all my actions, or at least all my intentions,
are directed towards encouraging this sense of connection, this sense of interconnection
with my environment and with the people around me. Someone recently brought
to my attention the, they were saying, “We have
so much technology right now. “We have the internet and
Facebook and news feeds “and stuff like that. “And it seems like we’re
more connected than ever “to everyone around us. “Why is it that we see more
depression, more isolation, “more disconnection somehow, “even though we are more connected”? There is a difference between being connected with our environment and being interconnected
with our environment. The internet tends to suck
away a lot of our opinions, or we can put our
opinions into the internet and you have no idea where it goes. And it doesn’t ever seem like what we put into the internet
will come back to us. But, that’s the idea of connection
versus interconnection. Whatever we put out there,
whether it’s into the internet, whether it’s into our
environment or community, that will always come back to affect us. Just like how a bad attitude
can affect the people around us and then that will further
affect our attitude, because we’re surrounded by grumpy people. So, it’s really important from
a Buddhist perspective to always consider how
interconnected we are with our environment,
how interconnected we are with other people and to always cultivate a sense of compassion, a
sense of altruism with others so that we can release
that attachment to self, we can release that grasping, and thereby be a positive
influence on our community and transform our world in a positive way. Environmental issues are often linked to greed or corruption or just people not having
the right information, or being, having too little
compassion for animals or fish or coral reefs, however. That comes from a sense of
holding on to your sense of self. It comes from not
relinquishing that attachment, not considering that
you are interconnected with the situation, trying
to be a powerful individual rather than part of something bigger. So, it’s not just about
what we can do externally, but how we approach the world internally. Not just the environment, but
how we approach our neighbors, our classmates internally, what kind of attitude we’re holding, what kind of mindfulness
practice we’re generating. Mindfulness is a very powerful practice. We were actually just speaking about that in the horticulture department, because it takes time
to cultivate a plant, time which I don’t often have. But it takes patience, it takes awareness, it takes a certain level of mindfulness to engage with a plant,
to see what it needs, to, to act in the right way,
to water in the right way, to trim in the right way. It takes a certain level of
awareness and mindfulness, but it also takes a certain
level of compassion. Not just seeing the plant
as separate from ourselves, but seeing that the
plant grows and develops according to our care. And the plant affects us as well. When the plant grows well, we feel happy, when the plant doesn’t grow
well, we feel irritated. I feel irritated often with plants, because I always overwater them and that’s my not being mindful. But it takes that awareness,
it takes that mindfulness, and it takes compassion as
well to engage our world in a positive sense. So, I’m more interested in
your questions about this, and any opinions you have on Buddhist philosophy, global
warming or myself, even. So, I welcome any
questions you might have. – [Voiceover] Hi. – Hi. – [Voiceover] Can you share with us some of your daily mindful practices in terms of the earth and sustainability? – Sure. A lot of my, a lot of my mindfulness
practice isn’t actually related to the environment directly. I don’t have a lot of opportunities
to recycle, sometimes, or compost or anything like that. But I try to develop mindfulness
towards the environment just by, just by considering
that I’m not so separate and trying to develop
compassion wherever I hear it, because there’s a lot of room
for compassion these days. I open my Facebook and
it’s just tons of disaster, earthquakes or tornadoes, or water poisoning or fish dying. You know there’s so much
stuff which is happening which is intense, it’s
almost overwhelming, and I try to take that
in as much as I can, and not feel guilty,
because I don’t always have the conditions to help these situations. But I try to take it
in as much as possible and see that I’m not disconnected, that I can make a difference, and that this also affects me in turn. Then when I’m not browsing
online and I’m out and about, and I see an opportunity,
it comes very naturally that I will recycle or I
will pick up this trash or I will not buy more than I need
or something like that. What I do in my own home with my own meditation practice, that carries on into the rest of my life. And that’s a great support for me. Also not taking it too personally, because that’s another product of clinging to my sense of self. And if I take it personally
that the world is suffering in so many different ways, and trying to take that
as my fault partially, then I’m just going to be overwhelmed. So I have to see myself
as part of the picture, but not the, not necessarily the culprit all the time. Because the compassionate
person tends to feel a lot of, a lot of pressure from
not being able to do as much as they want to do. I’ve a lot of friends like that. And we talk about our
levels of responsibility. Responsibility is practically infinite, but it’s not about blaming,
it’s not even about trying to take all that onto
ourselves as one entity, because we’re not necessarily one entity. We have our own personality, but we’re also a part of
something much bigger. We’re affected by our environment just as we affect it. So, there’s no need to
take it so personally. But always to have compassion, to always engage with compassion. So that’s more or less what
I do on a daily level to, to work with the environment. And hopefully in the near future I’ll have some opportunities to really work directly with that. Yeah. Yes. – [Voiceover] It is appropriate to ask sort of a metaphysical question? – Yeah, totally. – [Voiceover] So I’ve been
reading about the syllable om. And it almost seems
like what you are saying how there’s, how we think
we’re living in a bubble, and there really isn’t
that separation sometimes that we think there is. Om kind of seems like sort
of the abstract meditation regarding that, but I struggle with it, because it doesn’t seem
like it’s from my culture, but it’s something I wanna
understand and attain. Is there something in English
that would equate to that, or is that the syllable? – Yeah, totally. Om sometimes is misconstrued as something a little more esoteric like
some guy sitting on a cushion in a cave going, “Om, om.” And something’s supposed
to be happening, right? It’s not necessarily that
he’s saying the word om or that he’s even sitting down in a cave. It’s about his state of mind. And the state of mind with
a lot of mantra recitation, particularly in my own
tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, comes from the contemplation
of interdependence. Not just interdependence
in how we’re all connected, but interdependent origination which is the gateway
to emptiness practice. And emptiness practice is seen as more or less the gateway to all the stuff that seems metaphysical
and way out there, because emptiness translates it into something much more understandable. If we don’t have the
background in emptiness or meditation on
interdependent origination, then it’s just hard to follow all that, we just don’t have the basic
structure to understand that. It’s like learning calculus before you learn basic arithmetic. Just hard to understand. Interdependent origination,
very much like interdependence, focuses on, on nothing having an intrinsic origin, nothing having an intrinsic existence. Intrinsic being solid, unchanging essentially, it
doesn’t change, singular, it can’t be broken up into any pieces, and existing from it’s own side, it doesn’t depend on anything else. Nothing we observe in the
world is actually intrinsic. Nothing really is unchanging. Everything changes. Rocks change, metals change,
things that are really hard and dense and seem like they
would never ever change, these things change, even
on a very small level, on a very subtle level. The planet changes, the sun changes, the solar system changes. Things that have existed for
billions and billions of years, even those things change little by little. Singular, nothing can’t be broken down. A person can be broken down into characteristics, attitudes, feelings, cells, proteins, bones, muscles, tissues. Everything can be broken down in some way, and those parts can also
be broken down in some way. And so we don’t find
anything solid or unchanging within those pieces. Everything is changing, and everything can be
broken down in some way. So where is that intrinsic existence? Nothing exists from its own side. Because we all have parents. And I think I can say that definitively. We all have parents. We all have grandparents, we
all have great-grandparents. And without one of those
people, we could not come to be. We are dependent on our family, we’re dependent on food,
we’re dependent on air, we’re dependent on so
many different conditions that we can’t say for
certain that there is a sense of self here, there is a me which does not change and is definitive and is always constant. I am different than I was yesterday and I am different than
I was this morning, and I will be different later today. So, what is there to hold on to as far as the sense of self? The planet earth. What is there which is
really solid to hold on to? There is no intrinsic existence to myself, there is no intrinsic existence
to planet earth itself. That being said, I do have
to take care of myself, I do have to eat to stay alive, and the world needs to be taken care of if it’s going to, if we’re
going to survive on it. But that doesn’t mean it
has intrinsic existence. When someone is saying, “Om,” in a cave, they’re very, they’re
contemplating on this very deeply to see that the sound that they make, the syllable, om, is not one syllable, it is actually everything, it is all connected, it is not
separate from anything else. So, the reflection on interdependence and that logic, and the experience of that logic, really feeling that we are now connected, really feeling enriched and connected, that’s where most of those seemingly esoteric practices come from. It’s not the external sounds or motions, it’s more about what’s going on inside represented by om or hum, or ah, something like that. So, that’s, that takes it to a whole new level which really drew me
into Buddhist practice. I grew up in it, but you know, it wouldn’t have
been as interesting to me if I hadn’t experienced that myself. – [Voiceover] And so
our mantras to be used more like calculus where
you feel like you need to be prepared with the
fundamentals, or do they have sort of a magical intrinsic value where you don’t know what you’re doing, but if you follow the steps that it’s gonna help you understand? – I guess you could consider
mantras to be like calculus. Sometimes calculus is
done just for the sake of knowing how to do it, while mantras have an
ongoing effect on our lives and on our understanding of the world. So, you could see it that way. But, have you ever heard Neil deGrasse Tyson
speak about mathematics? He practically sees it as magic, he sees it as this
all-encompassing, mysterious truth which binds the world together. Could say that seeing mantras as math is, and most people don’t like
math as much as he does, but, yeah, they are both
magical in that way. Only magical, because it’s somewhat beyond our typical understanding. We just don’t have that background. We need to build up the foundations before the magic really hits us, yeah. Oh, yes. Nice sweater. – [Voiceover] Hi, my name is Brahma, and I wanna ask about the
techniques of meditation. – I’m sorry what was that? – [Voiceover] The
techniques in meditating. Like in practicing mindfulness, there are a lot of
techniques in meditation like vipassana or focusing on the breath or some people use om or om
mani padme hum in my country. Then there are also
people who contemplates on the life of people like from when we are born unto our death. And they all have their own benefits. As you said before, you do meditation on a daily basis, right? – Mm-hmm. – [Voiceover] I would like,
what is your technique in your meditation? Is it with vipassana or anything? And what does it benefit
personally to you? – Well, there is a tradition of vipassana and my tradition also includes that. So we do have the vipassana
practice in my tradition. The most basic meditation practice we do, and I do this a lot, it’s
not always so pointed, it’s building the foundation,
it’s the building blocks, it’s even more basic than vipassana. It’s shamatha practice. It’s very much like mindfulness practice. So what it is is, you can
all join me if you like. What it is is sitting still and watching the breath, watching how the breath moves in, watching how the breath moves out. And when the mind wanders around, and we’re distracted by stuff, is to gently bring the awareness back. So shamatha is about developing focus, developing concentration. And that frees us somewhat
from being carried off by our thoughts, we have
more control or agency in bringing our awareness
back to what we want, bringing our focus back. So vipassana is very much like that, except instead of focusing on the breath, we focus on the feelings,
focus on the sensations. And it’s very much like the
practice of interdependence where as we focus on the feelings and sensations and emotions, we see that they don’t have
an intrinsic existence, they come and then they go,
they come and then they go, just like with shamatha. The thoughts arise and then
the thoughts dissipate, they arise and then they dissipate. And this allows us to have more
freedom from habitual mind, from our habits, the way we think, the way we tend to get stuck
in our thoughts or feelings. And this isn’t just about
manipulating feelings, it’s about seeing through, seeing through that
habit to something deeper to where a lot of those other practices like mantras come from. Om mani padme hum is often, that’s the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, so that’s the mantra of compassion where we have compassion for the world and we say om mani padme
hum as part of that, to develop compassion. We can also say om mani padme
hum really feeling that, that freedom and it becomes
a whole other thing. It becomes more than just compassion, it becomes compassion but
also realization and wisdom. And you say this happens
a lot in your country? Are you from Nepal or? – [Voiceover] I’m from Indonesia. – Indonesia, wonderful. Yes, so. Yeah, they’re just wonderful traditions. I believe there is some
vajrayan traditions in Indonesia as well where that, that kind of practice
is heavily emphasized. So, that’s the benefit of mantras and that kind of contemplation
and basic practice. – [Voiceover] Thank you. – Yes. Oh, um, we’ll come back to you next. – [Voiceover] Hi. – Hi. – [Voiceover] There is a
lot of debate going around the mind and no mind. And hearing Grosso and all
believe that everything is mind, but in our culture they believe that mind is just machine to project the targets. – Right. – [Voiceover] Yeah. Can you please explain that? – Well. (audience laughs) – (laughs) The difference
between mind and no mind. (laughs) On a relative level,
yeah, you can totally say that we have a mind, I mean, in relationship to you, I
seem to have a mind of my own, where you have a mind of your own, and we talk to each other, because we’re not necessarily of one mind. So we could say that, for
all intents and purposes, we do have separate minds and
that there is a mind there. However, when we look very carefully through interdependent origination or the emptiness practices, not just where is the
mind, but what is the mind? Does the mind exist in the head? Does it exist in the brain? Does it exist in one
particular cell or synapse? Does the mind exist in
one particular moment where an electron fires? Does the mind exist as the whole brain? But then it can be broken up into pieces. And if it can be broken up into pieces, how can it be one thing? If it can be, if the
mind is presently here, and was here yesterday, how
can that be the same mind? Is it the same mind it was before? Is it the same mind now? It can be broken up into pieces, it can be broken up into time. So where is the mind? If there is a mind, is it in the head? Is it in the leg? Is it in the heart? The stomach? Is it outside of the body? We don’t really know where the mind is, and we don’t even know,
necessarily, what the mind is, because it can be broken down into so many different moments and pieces. But we still refer to the mind, we still talk about the
mind as if it’s real. But that mind may also be just as empty of an inherent existence. It has no intrinsic existence. And so, this is where a
lot of different schools and a lot of different Buddhist schools, even within Tibet have
different opinions on, on what is the mind. Is the mind just pure awareness? And if so, can that pure awareness be
broken down into bits and pieces? There is the nature of things
in Buddhist philosophy, and then there is the
appearance of things, and they’re not mutually exclusive. They’re not mutually exclusive. It’s not either/or. They can be both sides of the same coin. So we can have the appearance of mind while there is no actual
mind to grab on to. So, that’s maybe one of
the biggest questions in all Buddhist philosophy,
so I hope I do some justice to your question. In that. Before myself, I never really found it. And it’s given me a lot of freedom in how I conduct myself, and how I engage with the world. So, again, that’s one of the
reasons why I love what I do. It’s a great question. Yes. – [Voiceover] So, I’m very
ignorant when it comes to Buddhism cultures, so just to clarify, is meditation, are you praying to a god, or is meditation for like inner self, or just like for clarification on that. I guess. – It can be both. I sometimes don’t, don’t even see a difference. There are really no gods,
necessarily in Buddhism, and particularly Tibetan
Buddhism and onwards. There are deities, there are
Buddhas, deities, dakinis, somewhat, they seem intangible. Not necessarily real beings, but historically these were real people. We don’t worship them as
gods as some Almighty Creator or a destroyer, but beings just like us who have followed the path of Buddhism, who have nurtured that understanding of interconnection and have essentially become
one with their environment and one with the world itself. Dakinis are often linked
to the five elements, to water, fire, earth, space,
so they’re definitely one with the environment themselves. And we respect that. And we make prayers
and aspirations to them so that we can be like them, so we can have the understanding. But not that they will
come down and fix us. The Buddha himself said that
I have shown you the means towards liberation,
but you must understand that enlightenment depends upon you. No one can attain enlightenment for you, no one can just whisk you away, toss you into the higher
realms like a pebble. So that’s a source of many Buddhist prayers, it’s more of an aspiration
and a sign of respect rather than worship. So, it can seem that
way, because, you know, we do have our hands together,
and our heads are down, so. Yeah, thank you. Ah, yes. – [Voiceover] I have two questions. First of all. – Wait, uh, we need the mic. – [Voiceover] Two questions. First of all, what’s in the bag? – Mm, well. Uh, when I heard this
was a brown bag talk, I realized I had a brown bag. And so I decided to bring it. – [Voiceover] Okay. – And then I was informed
that no one had ever brought a brown bag to a brown
bag talk, so I thought, oh, I definitely have to bring it. It’s a book and some tea. – [Voiceover] Oh, okay. So how is the mind
different or interconnected with the spirit? – Spirit in Tibetan Buddhism
or Buddhism in general, I think, isn’t really
different than the mind. It’s just two words for the same thing. In a more Western tradition, there is maybe an idea of a
spirit, something which endures, something which kind of
carries on after death. And you could say that the
mind is like the spirit in reincarnation, there is
something that carries on into, into the next life. And a lot of the reasoning around this, some people accept it or they don’t, but it comes back to
interdependent origination, and whether or not something is intrinsic. Because you don’t find
any solid singular thing, it doesn’t really have the constraints of beginning and ending. We can’t even really find
the beginning of anything. For instance, the beginning, actually Thich Nhat Hanh has a wonderful, little explanation on interdependence talking about paper. He says, “Look at the a sheet of paper. “Can you find the origin, “the beginning of this sheet of paper?” Was it when they mashed the pulp of a tree and laid it out on a screen and dried it to make the paper? Was it when the lumberjack cut down the tree
in order to make the paper? Was it when the tree was planted and the seed that came from the tree? Was it when the sun
shone down on the earth and allowed the plants to grow? Where is the origin of
this piece of paper? Where is the definitive
beginning of this piece of paper? You can’t really say when
the paper became the paper. And also, the paper comes from
so many different conditions that it doesn’t even seem
to come from one origin, it would have to come from every origin. All things are in the piece
of paper, the whole world, the whole universe is
in the piece of paper. Carl Sagan had a similar quote, he said, “You cannot make an apple pie from scratch “without reinventing the universe.” ‘Cause you can’t make apples from scratch, you have to make the tree from scratch, you have to make the wood from scratch, you have to make the earth from scratch, you have to make the sun from scratch, you have to make water from scratch. So, you can’t just make
these things from scratch. You can’t just assume
that they have one origin. Just so, what ends? What definitively stops? What definitively dies? We may leave a body behind. We may leave a healthy body behind. Or it may appear that something has ended at the time of death,
but does it really end? Or does something carry on? In terms of life and
human beings and animals, it seems like something
has just dropped off, and we have no idea where it is. That is life. The body turns into the
earth and becomes more trees and becomes plants which
become food and so on. But that spirit, that soul
or mind, where does that go? Just ’cause it’s invisible,
I mean, I can’t find it, even when I’m alive, doesn’t
mean that it doesn’t carry on to something else. So, you could say that the
spirit is like the mind in the Buddhist tradition, and
that reincarnation is really paying homage to that interconnection, to that lack of an intrinsic nature when we talk about a mind
transitioning into a new body or into a new space. So, yeah, that’s a good point or a good question. Yes. – [Voiceover] I was just gonna ask, do you think that other
animals and plants, in a sense, practice mindfulness
or interconnectedness, or do you think it’s inherent
within them or possible? – Hm. I think it’s possible. I don’t know if they do it. Do you know about Eddie
Izzard, the comedian? Okay, so. We were watching Eddie
Izzard a few nights ago and he was mimicking a squirrel. And he was saying,
“Squirrels always eats nuts “with two hands, two
hands, very carefully, “like, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk. “And then they sometimes go, huh, huh. “As if to say, ‘Did I leave the gas on? (audience laughs) “‘No, no, I’m a squirrel,’
tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk.” So, sometimes a squirrel
does do something like that, it takes a moment and goes, “Wait, what?” And then just goes back
to what it’s doing. It’s like a moment of mindfulness. Like it said, all this can wait, I wanna take a look at what’s going on right now. I wanna be present, just for a moment. So I can’t say for sure with plants, ’cause I don’t have that
relationship with plants, but with animals, I think so. ‘Cause you can kind of see it at times, it’s not sitting down and saying om, but they do something, so, yeah. – [Timothy] And with that, I’m afraid we’ll have to call our meeting to a close. – Okay. – [Timothy] Thank you all for being here, and thank you for such a nice presentation and attending to all of our questions. – [Voiceover] Thank you so much. – Thank you everyone. (audience applauds) And happy Earth Day tomorrow. (eastern music)

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