Monday, August 24 ,2020
Vernon, BC, Canada – At an early age I remember wondering what is the purpose of life? In my early teens I began to challenge myself and my parents on many aspects of life and dogma. I even took courses in philosophy, psychology and sociology at The University of Regina while completing my Bachelor of Business Administration.
So, it was not much of stretch for me in November 2018, as I began to seek clarity and stability of mind, to look at the workings of world masters. My mind has always worked simple like that. You want to be a world-class investor ? Study Warren Buffett. You want to be a great squash player , watch Jahangir Khan. Pretty simple stuff, in theory. So, while I was in Thailand that November I began reading on the fundamentals of Buddhism as a framework to understanding the mind and body.
With the passing of my amazing and loving daughter Emily on January 26 ,2019 I was thrown into the dark forest. There is no way to explain the intense experience because it just happened, and it is real. Life was going on around me, but I was instantly launched to another place and began to enter a deep sort of mediation on things that simply is just there – constantly. At first it may have been the search for Emily in my own mind, but it is much more than that.
In January 2020 while I was in Maui, I did some work with The Venerable Lama Gyaltsen. Master Gyaltsen introduced me to the work of Shantideva, who lived in the 8th century CE, and composed two texts the ‘Compendium of Training’ and ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’, which complement each other. Shantideva followed the Consequentialist Middle Way view propounded by Chandrakirti that asserts that while things have no objective existence they nevertheless exist conventionally.
It implies that happiness and truth is attained by overcoming ignorance, clearing away the obstructions to knowledge by developing an understanding of emptiness. I had already uncovered this simple concept in November 2018. Of course, I had no idea what was to come in the form of a lightning bolt in January 2019 when my daughter Emily decided to abandon her physical form. This had the effect of burning all the illusion and ego that I had developed over my life and left with me true emptiness and sadness but also left my world with an outcrop of gold and illumination. Emily became my guru and has left this world and left us all with much to consider.
It is stunning that very few people (including me until the last year) even know who Shantideva is. Even more stunning is how many of us eight billion humans have no real concept of reality.
It is time for us to better understand what is going on within ourselves and then we can begin to know what is going on in our loved ones. It is time for us to understand that the true root of happiness is compassion and love.
I was soon to learn that to overcome ignorance that is the basis of disturbing emotions like attachment we need to know things as they really are. The well know American psychotherapist Aaron Beck stated that when we are angry or attached to something, about 90% of our anger or attachment is a mental projection. We get caught up with how things appear to us instead of seeing them as they really are.
Only when you develop some understanding of emptiness do you become aware of the actual possibility of attaining the truth. Although we have all heard of the concept of developing the awakening mind , we don’t understand what it means. If you think closely about it, you can understand the process of transforming the mind into the mind of enlightenment. Or in some rare cases of pure grace – it just happens.
This concept takes work and investigation by all of us. If I were to give you a gold nugget, you would most certainly take it to a goldsmith who would burn it , cut it , rub it, and make sure it was real. You should do the same about your understanding of the world and what you have think is reality. You should read what Shantideva has to say.
There is so much more to discuss but let me leave you with a few simple videos. Both are powerful.
I met Kiley Hamlin in mid 2019 and was intrigued with her work on early childhood morality. Dr. Kiley Hamlin is a Professor of Psychology at UBC.
Dr. Hamlin’s experiment: Helpers and Hinderers is evidence that at the heart of humanity is the need for love and compassion. We start with this but as life and learning advances much of it becomes dormant when the focus turns to grasping for material things.
In the second video you will find some real homework. This lecture is entitled Shantideva’s “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”. You will note that the beginning of the lecture the Dalai Lama refers to the work of BC’s very own Dr. Kiley Hamlin. This lecture is three hours. To put this in perspective, you will spend more time going for a game of golf or a well-executed dinner party, both of which will provide you with zero perspective on the true nature of reality.
hantideva’s ’A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ | The 14th Dalai LamaThe Official Website of The Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lamawww.dalailama.com
Helping others is true compassion and love. We are born with it and it is with us always. It is up to us to work on awakening our minds. Emily was full of compassion and love. Emily helped all others , always.
How are we doing as a society?
How are we teaching our children about love and compassion versus external and material desires?
How are we helping others?
Sherman Dahl , The Emily Dahl Foundation
An Experiment by Kiley Hamlin: Helpers and HinderersCheck out this video from Volume 1 of the 3 volume vook, Mind in the Making – The Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, by Ellen Galinsky. To see more, visit vook.com!www.youtube.com