8 Talks That Will Make You Love Life

We Can Avoid Aging Completely:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html

One Man Beat Smallpox and How You can Defeat Disease Completely (yes, he made a BILLION housecalls):
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/larry_brilliant_wants_to_stop_pandemics.html

Happiness, What We All Want Anyway:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness.html

The Excuse Remover, Aimee Mullins:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aimee_mullins_on_running.html

Amazing (and short) View on the Role of Children
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/adora_svitak.html

You’ll Never See Numbers the Same Way Again:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html

Why We Need Autistic People Leading Our Best Companies:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds.html

The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology
http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

(As an aside, I’ll get to spend most of the month of August with Venerable Mathieu Ricard, from the 3rd video)

Much love to you all,

– Gelong Tashi

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 7:22 am  Comments (1)  

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People & 5 Ways to Prevent It

For those of you who prefer not to read:

Many of us have times in our lives when nothing seems to be going well.  In spite of our every intention, hope, attempt, effort, vision and assistance from others, things just don’t go to plan.  Occasionally, this will cause us to ask, “What is it about what I’m doing that isn’t working, while I see others doing the same or similar things, yet it’s working for them?”.   As just one example, a couple might raise their two children in largely the same way, yet those two kids turn out very different from each other.  Or, we drive to work the same way every single day at the same time, taking the same route, yet one day we spill our coffee on our shirt, catch our clothes in the door, get pulled over for speeding and get to work late.

Also, notice that you can have the *exact same* situation viewed by two observers, and, asked to describe what they’ve just seen, you will commonly get two very different descriptions.  I have even watched the exact same movie twice and seen it very differently.

What is it that causes objectively the same experience to be viewed and experienced so differently?  Karma.

The word karma gets a pretty interesting interpretation in this society.  Something happens which appears to be highly coincidental, and someone might say, “oh, I must have had some karma around that”.  Or, we watch shows like “My Name is Earl” and they say things like, “karma wanted me to see that person”.  I think this sorta misses the mark.   Saying that karma wanted you to run into someone is like saying that gravity wanted a cup to fall on the floor!  It’s not anthropomorphic like that.

It is said that countless karmic seeds (roughly 60) ripen every single second of every day.   For every object that our sense perception encounters, we experience form, feeling, consciousness, perception and intellect, all in a split-second.  What causes this to occur?  Our karma.  We have vast, vast pools of karma, both virtuous and non-virtuous, or “helpful and not-helpful”.  These seeds are flowering and at profoundly fast speeds.  So, to say that a coincidental event that occurred was driven by karma is correct, but it sorta misses the mark that *everything* that we experience is also karma.  From running into the friend coincidentally to the recognition of a mug as something that you like to drink coffee out of and that you like, it’s all karma.

Lest this appear too abstract, let’s consider an example albeit a somewhat difficult one.  I have an acquaintance who murdered a handful of people this past January.  The murders appear to have been premeditated.  Within a couple of hours, his life changed drastically.  He was taken and put behind bars and he’s awaiting trial where it’s very likely that he will receive the death penalty.    From the standpoint of karma, he created in a moment, a vast amount of the very worst kind of karma and in no-time, he began to experience the worst effects: he’s living like a caged animal in the midst of aggressive people, society wants him punished and killed (the editorial pages and blogs have been rife with people delighting in the punishment to come via the end of his life).  In a couple of hours he went from being someone that many people liked, enjoyed and respected, to being someone that most people say terrible things about and want to kill.

Perhaps that example was too extreme.  Consider people you know who are bullies.  Generally, people don’t like to be around them.  Consider the highly jealous people you may have met.  Again, people are pushed away.  How about those people who only think of themselves and are petty?  Their friends are few.  These are a few tangible examples of karma playing itself out in our lives.

I think of karma like this: Imagine a lottery machine but instead of 36 or 48 lottery balls, there are billions of them and, instead of having numbers on them, they are merely black or white.  Now, approximately 60 times per second those balls come up the little shoot.  Every time these balls come up the shoot, a karmic seed ripens or “flowers”.  It would stand to reason that black ones coming up the shoot make for experiences we dislike and white ones make for experiences that we like.

Through our view, intention and conduct, we can either add lots of positive or negative karmic seeds to our reservoir and those seeds will flower eventually.  When my acquaintance committed those murders, he effectively dumped MASSIVE, MASSIVE amounts of negative karma into his mindstream and as such, he’s sure to experience the effects of his actions.

According to the book “Words of My Perfect Teacher“, there are 4 components to the creation of new karma.  They are:

1. Basis

2. Intention

3. Execution

4. Completion

For instance, with my acquaintance, he had: 1. Basis in that he established that the objects of his aggression were separate from himself.  2. He had the intention to kill them.  3. He pointed the gun at them and fired the gun.  4. 4 of the 6 people that he shot did, in fact, die.

So, in regards to those 4 people who did die, he got the worst possible karma.  In regards to the other 2 of the 6 who did not die, he still got very bad karma because the first 3 components were there, basis, intention and execution.

We see this ethic in our court system.  If you have strong motive, you’re likely to get a worse punishment.  If you are convicted of attempted homicide, you still get a bad penalty, but it’s not as severe as homicide itself.

So, while positive karma can give us pleasurable experiences, once it flowers, we’ll not have the experience again unless we create the causes for more beneficial effects.  If you give a large donation away, you will experience something positive (perhaps someone will say nice things about you, you may have a dinner in your name, etc…) but at some point, the karmic effects will be exhausted and new positive things won’t occur, unless you dedicate that merit to the enlightenment of all beings. Dedicating merit is a very profound topic, but better-left for a future day.

As Buddhists, we believe that one can attain enlightenment by purifying all of our karma and transcending cause-and-effect.  As such, the logic becomes very interesting.  Notice this: If the point is to purify our minds of negative causes, we *want* our negativities to be purified.  This reminds me of a wonderful story:  Ribur Rinpoche was a dear, dear teacher.  Here’s a picture of his dear, sweet face:

He was captured by the Chinese and was tortured mercilessly in a Chinese Gulag for approximately 25 years.  The Chinese would ritually and repeatedly electrocute his genitals and force him to smear his excrement on his face.  They beat him and tortured him in the way I just described on a daily basis.  After 25 years, Ribur Rinpoche was released and he had a meeting with the Dalai Lama.  During this meeting, the Dalai Lama asked him what his experience was like.  At this point, Ribur Rinpoche said, “I was almost in danger at one point.”  Concerned, the Dalai Lama asked him, “What happened?”.  Ribur Rinpoche answered, “I was almost in danger of losing my compassion for my Chinese captors.”

Imagine that!  Upon further discussion, it turned out that Ribur Rinpoche was grateful for his Chinese captors because, in torturing him, they were exhausting his negative karma.  However, in so-doing they were incurring the causes for future negative effects themselves.  As such, he was getting steps closer toward enlightenment and they were creating massive future suffering for themselves.  Through this logic, Ribur Rinpoche saw himself as the aggressor and his captors as the victims!!  As such, he felt immense compassion for his captors.

I, for one, am known to lose my cool when there’s an aggressive driver behind me on our little mountain road.  If only I were to bring my view, actions and intentions in-line with Ribur Rinpoche!  Imagine what that degree of love and compassion might do to transform the situations we encounter throughout our lives!

The trick is that we’re all good people.  Our inherent essence is Buddhanature.  We are all primordially enlightened.  However, through the cumulative effects of our karma (in Buddhism, we believe that karma carries from past-lives, which might explain why two sibling newborns have such distinct personalities even fresh-from-the-womb), we obscure that very nature in the way that clouds might obscure the sun from our line-of-sight.

So, why do bad things happen to good people?  Well, we’re *all* good people in our nature yet we have created karmic conditions for ourselves in the past that create future suffering.

While there are multitudes of ways of skillfully working with and changing our karma (this is most of what the entirety of the Buddhist path is about), there are 5 things you can do to profoundly prevent negative karma:

1: Don’t kill.  Instead, protect the lives of others.

2: Don’t steal. Instead, guard the property of others.

3: Don’t cause sexual difficulties by cheating on your spouse or significant other.  Instead, honor your commitments.

4: Don’t lie.  Instead, be truthful.

5: Don’t get drunk and wild.  Instead, be clear of mind.

(the fifth one is a support to the first four: if you get drunk, there’s a much greater chance you’ll kill, steal, cheat and lie!)

Allow me to close with a quote from my teacher, the Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, “Don’t blame other for your negative karma.”

Much love to you and yours,

– Gelong Tashi

PS. one of the greatest Buddhist teachers in the world will be coming to the United States for the first time in August of 2010.  For information, please go to www.khyentsevisit2010.org.

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm  Comments (19)  

OPEN YOUR HEART

600 people including many Buddhist monks (I nearly ordained with this teacher) were killed in an earthquake in Tibet a couple of days ago.  If you have ever considered or would consider doing anything for me whatsoever (like a Christmas present, birthday present, etc…), please instead make a contribution: http://www.vajravidya.myevent.com/3/miscellaneous3.htm (be sure to take a look at the short video at the bottom).

Please send this link to others, post on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you so very much,

– Gelong Tashi

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  

It Gets Different

In some circles, when someone is going through a tough time, you’ll frequently hear a wise elder say, “well, it might get better, it might get worse, but rest assured, it’ll get different.”

At first, blush, this is almost embarrassingly simplistic.  It may be jingo-istic and trite, but, there’s so much more to it than that…..

If we were to treat everything as if it were subject to change (which it is) I suspect that we’d be considerably more authentic, genuine, appreciative and happy.

Truth of the matter is that we spend almost our entire lives treating impermanent things as if they’re permanent.

Remember the last time you lost a job that you didn’t intend to lose?  How about the last relationship that came to an end unexpectedly?  Have you known someone to die of unnatural causes?   Have any ladies out there ever torn your pantyhose unexpectedly?  Have your kids ever broken a dish?

Here’s the rub: When I treat something as unchanging, and then it changes, then the subtle sense of security I had mistakenly given that thing provides a source of unexpected emotional disruption.  With your permission, please let me repeat that again: When I treat something as unchanging, and then it changes, then the subtle sense of security I had mistakenly given that thing provides a source of unexpected emotional disruption.

This is, in my experience, why we feel so groundless and lost when a loved one dies, when we get the unexpected lay-off, when our clothing gets torn/soiled on the way into a job interview and when our dinnerware gets broken unexpectedly.

The problem actually isn’t that they died or that the job ended or that the plate broke, for that is the NATURE of life, jobs and plates.  The problem was mistakenly expecting that those things wouldn’t change and therefore in trying to get some sense of stability and security out of things which are incapable of providing it.

– If we expect a building to last forever, and a terrorist blows it up, our security is so threatened that we decide that we must go to war.

– If we expect our reputations to be above reproach all-the-time-no-matter-what and our family member is critical of us, we cause a rift which lasts for generations.

– If we expect our spouse or partner to be forever-faithful and they stray, we go through a heart-wrenching break-up or divorce.

– If we expect to be a successful businessperson and our business is disrupted, we collapse emotionally.

– If we believe that our political candidate of choice will deliver us our needs or will nicely represent our principles, then 4 or 8 years later when the other guys are in office, we think that this country is headed down the tubes.

All that has happened in any of these examples (please look to your own life for more examples) is that we had an expectation of permanence that wasn’t met.  How tragic!!

I suspect than ANY time you are unhappy, you can trace back to find something that you’d treated as impermanent to be permanent.  Try it now!  I mean it, stop reading and find something that caused you suffering.  Now, go back to find the assumption that you’d made that something would be permanent.  You’re suffering because your hips torture you in their wearing-out of old age?  You probably had a deep expectation that your body would permanently be pain-free.  You’re pissed because your kids make bad choices?  You probably had an expectation that the innocence of their youth coupled with your good parenting would create a permanent situation in which they made good choices, at least around the “big things” and then you’re disappointed deeply when you find you’re wrong.

Life itself however, doesn’t play by our all-too-human tendencies to find patterns of false-permanency where there in-fact is none.  It isn’t POSSIBLE for life to show you what’s next.

Life is magical, mysterious and does not lend itself to telling you what is going to happen next.  This isn’t to say that we don’t make our best estimate and take then next step.  But, this ever-changing nature is precisely where its vibrancy and magic comes from.  This is where all potential turns into reality.  This is just where life demonstrates its magical display of awe and wonder.

If you have a deep need for stability and security, this “display of awe and wonder” will sound like moronic, namby-pamby hippie stuff.  The bad news is, even with your preference for stability and security, it won’t help.  It will just set even-higher levels of expectation that will increase the divide between your needs and your experience.  To precisely that degree, you will suffer unnecessarily.

Life isn’t knowable-for-certain.  Our bodies will die.  Our planet will disappear (perhaps in many billions of years, but it will disappear).  Our government will change.  Our families will cease.  Our cultural will decline.  Our leaders will cease to be leaders.  Our relationships will change.

So, if we think about this deeply, one would think that we’d be depressive, yes?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

I challenge you: Consider impermanence and do so deeply.  All that happens is that your sense of clinging to the unclingable will erode.  You will experience life more fully. Your relationships won’t be based upon future security but rather upon a sense of current wonder.  Your appreciation will sky-rocket as you’ll not fatally attempt to wrest a probable tomorrow out of the wonderful today.  You will sense contentment, gratitude and love in ways you’ve never-before experienced them.

As a monk, I have dedicated myself to renunciation.  There are many misunderstandings about that word.  At its heart, the renunciation I’m describing is that of letting go of seeking security from things that can’t give us security. In this way, it is much more about renouncing a discounted version of tomorrow for a delightful, awake version of today. What an utter, utter joy.

It gets different.

Much love to you,

– Gelong Tashi

PS. If you prefer to watch/listen than read, here you go:

Published in: on April 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Have You Made the Best Use of Your Day?

I think about death a fair amount.  Why would I do something so dreary?  So scary?  So confronting to my very nature?

Simply, it helps me prioritize in the best way I know how.

For example, in the last year, I’ve known two wonderful people who died unexpectedly:  Donald Masters and Casey Najera.

In both of their cases, it is a near-certainty that neither of them expected to die minutes or even seconds before they did.

It seems horrific, but is it so unexpected?

Please, take a look at this: 2010 People and do a quick scan.  Chances are, within a page or two, you’ll find someone near your own age.

THERE ARE TWO CONSIDERATIONS WHICH I PONDER REGULARLY AND I ASK YOU TO DO THE SAME:

  1. It is an absolute, unshakable certainty that I will die.
  2. I have no idea whatsoever when or how I will die.

By considering these two things, contemplating them and considering the countless people I have known that have died, let alone the people I haven’t known, I must tell you that my chances of getting out of here alive are not good! hahaha

So, if we can accept this reality into our heart-of-hearts…. THEN WHAT?!?

Well, here’s where it gets interesting. While sure, some people are likely to want to go run up their credit cards, get loaded and act wildly, I would submit that if you contemplate this over time, you will find that you are likely to get rid of the riff-raff in your day.

I have found that, largely due to this practice, I treasure my interactions with people (it might be our last).  I find that I waste time much less (though I still spend too much time on hulu!).  I find that thinking this way enhances my commitment toward my spiritual development, which then adds a deeper poignancy and greater capacity for love in my life.

Lastly, allow me to close with the stories of two people I knew.  Linda F. and Don P.  Linda taught me more about living in her last months of life than one can describe.  My friend Mary and I would visit her regularly as she was battling her fatal illness and every time we’d visit her, we’d end up laughing to the point of tears and several-days-aching stomach muscles.  Folks, if you’re gonna die, THIS is how to do it.  She once said to someone in similar shoes to hers, “you’ve got to wake up every day and be grateful for the pain you’re NOT having… Life is short, make the best of it.”

Now, to Don P.  Don died 5 years ago today.  He was a man among men.  A kind-hearted gentleman that made the most of the two halves of that word.  He was a mentor, a grand-father-figure, a sage, a medicine man, a priest, a leader, a connoisseur of cheap Chinese Food and a dear friend.  I miss him greatly.

I ask you: have the courage to bravely consider your own mortality in this empowering way.  I hope against hope that it provides you the benefit of perspective that I am so grateful to receive in slivers here and there.

Much love,

– Gelong Tashi

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 1:05 am  Comments (2)  

Celebrating the Return!

Today we had a conference call in preparation for Celebrating the Return!, the return of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to the United States.

I have worked on a lot of inspiring projects in my life, none of which can even come close to this one.

Here is a recent video of the reincarnation of this great teacher:

For more information on the vist, coming in August of 2010, please visit: http://khyentsevisit2010.org/stay-in-touch/.

Much love,

– Gelong Tashi

Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Relics!

In spite of the fact that my long-awaited Macbook Air is awaiting me at home, waiting its unboxing, I have something, much bigger and much more exciting on my agenda for this evening…. The Relic Tour is in Boulder!

Experiencing The Relic Tour is one of the most beneficial experiences that a person can have in this current life.  Here’s a little video that covers it in under 4 minutes:

If you’re around Boulder tonight, come join me at 7:00pm at 2205 Broadway (The Masonic Lodge).

Much love and I hope to see you all soon.

– “Gelong Tashi” Gonpo

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Finally!

My dear friend Konchog confirmed what my friend Thubten said quite awhile ago…  I need a Dharma blog!  So, consider it started!! hahahaha

Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Virtual Date

My friend Rachel and I are doing one of my favorite things, a virtual date.  See, Rachel lives in El Paso, TX and I'm in Colorado.  We met online and have developed an amazing friendship (she's in a fulltime relationship and I'm not looking) and we treasure each other.  The idea of The Virtual Date came from Ali and her friend Howard years ago.

Here's what we do:

1. Set a time.  We usually go for a Friday or Saturday night a couple of weeks in advance.  We recognize that this is prime calendar real estate, but hey, we're worth it.

2. Get goodies.  Now, Rachel and I are mega-foodies.  This time, we've decided to apply Sam's recipe of putting Peanut Butter M&Ms into freshly popped popcorn (If you've not tried this, stop reading, get to the store and do so).  It is sooooooooooooo delicious.  One serving once every few weeks won't derail your diet too badly.  Also, because a friend of ours (Paul) got back from Germany recently, we're in a particularly pretzel state of mind, Rold Golds are our side salad tonight.  Again, not a problem as a rarity, BIG problem if it's your morningly breakfast!

3. Go to http://www.hulu.com/movies or http://www.joost.com and pick a movie. I picked last time (Mad Dog & Glory, not our favorite).  Rachel's picking this time, I think she did better than me in picking this time.  On tap for tonight is the Vincent Price 1964 classic: "The Last Man on Earth".

4. Get on an IM client together at date time.  We like Skype.  Hit me up at Greg0692.

5. The person who picked the movie counts down… 3…. 2…..1…. and both people hit play at the same time.

Watch and comment together.

Seriously, this is more fun than you can imagine.

Love,

 - Greg

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Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 2:09 am  Comments (1)  

Why are You a Vegetarian?

In an article a couple of days ago, Waylon Lewis, founder and editor of "Elephant" asked that very question and requested that his readers comment.

Here is my response.  I thought that, since I've never mentioned my vegetarianism on this blog, it might be of interest to some of you.

Here 'tis:

I was nearly an obligate carnivore…. I used to go to Rodizios (all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse) and amuse my friends as I wolfed down pound after pound of exotic and not-so-exotic meats. I loved the flavor, the hyper-gluttonous zeal of it all.

Then, I heard a teaching on suffering from the Ven. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche…. Never ONCE had it crossed my mind that the meat I was eating was more than meat. Further, it was an animal. Further than that, it was a being who didn't want to experience pain. After about a 10 second contemplation on what it might be like to be an animal going to its slaughter so that a nice package of meat would show up in a local store / restaurant for a couple of bucks, it was overwhelmingly evident that I had been missing out on a… no THE key perspective.

See, I wasn't acting selfishly particularly. It's not that I was inhaling all this meat thinking "booo to the animals". It was that I was being self-centered. I merely failed to consider anything but myself. It was a sort of blissful ignorance in that I didn't really think about anything other than my own tastebuds getting off.

However, upon making the connection that I was experiencing this fleeting sense-pleasure of taste and the cost for that pleasure was that a particular, specific being with desires of happiness had to be slaughtered, it was over, all done, no more.

So, it's been about 8 years. My friends *STILL* laugh about my pre-Rodizios fiber-inhalation and fasting rituals (so-as to maximize my meat consumption skills). I still occasionally pass a burger or BBQ joint and notice the smell (which I unfortunately do experience as marginally pleasant). However, the thought of having something killed for my own sense pleasure (Would I then have killed an animal so that my eyes could have the pleasure of watching it die? To let my ears hear it die? NO! Why did I then do so so eagerly to indulge my desire for taste and/or satiety?) has now utterly gone away.

I've found that a little empathy goes a very long way.

Then, after going vegetarian, I was told to read "The China Study", which essentially links cancer to animal proteins (both meat and dairy) and discovered that an *overwhelmingly* causal relationship appears to exist between cancer and meat/dairy.

All that said, I also don't evangelize about vegetarianism. This very post is the most I've said about it in the last ~8 years.

I find that, as an ex-smoker, an ex-drinker, an ex-stoner, an ex-lots-of-other-things-er, soap boxes and high horses surely lead to my own self-righteousness and even more surely lead to the current embiber of those things to fortify their own position and turn a deaf ear to me. Basically, for me to try to convince someone to quit their milk, cheese, eggs, beef, seafood, chicken, beer, vodka, weed, LSD, blow, is for me to become an ass and for them to stop listening to me, and often making stronger cases to themselves as to why they should continue.

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Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 8:51 pm  Comments (2)