For the last two days, I sat with His Holiness (“HH”) the Dalai Lama to receive his teachings. I have been receiving teachings from him since 1980. This year, the quality of his teachings seemed to take on more urgency—certainly he always sees the need to urge us on to deeper meditation, contemplation, reflection and action. Yet, I was struck by the immediacy of his pleas that we practice with spiritual urgency, study to realize more deeply “true nature” and reflect and contemplate in such a way that our practice and study are not superficial but more deeply investigative of the nature of this precious human birth and its world. Accordingly, even though it is difficult to summarize in this slim column two days of teachings, it seems beneficial to pause our reflection on the five spiritual faculties to glimpse them. Essentially, he said that if we stay on the superficial level of knowing the nature of persons and phenomena, without realizing deeply their empty and selfless nature, freedom will not be ours. Clinging to and grasping at self leads inexorably to suffering. Thus, he taught, without developing our understanding of emptiness and living accordingly, liberation is not available. You may be more familiar with the phrase “not self” in the Theravada teachings than HH’s “emptiness.”
How have you received those teachings? Have you developed and deepened understanding? If not, why not? Reflect on the depth of your desire to be free and see how you can find the resolve and patience to do what it takes. The time is now.