This week's morsel comes from Meditation on the Nature of Mind by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Khöntön Peljor Lhündrub, and José I. Cabezón. At the heart of this book is The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel of the Oral Tradition, an accessible and nonsectarian treatise on penetrating the nature of mind. His Holiness teaches on the text and also takes questions from students in the audience. The selection below comes from this session.
Question: I’m wondering if Your Holiness thinks it is more difficult for Americans to focus their minds and to reach enlightenment? We are a culture that thrives on stimulation, excitement, pleasure, and doing everything very quickly. I think that meditation and centering oneself is extremely difficult in American society. Do you think it would be easier for Americans if we lived in a country with a slower pace, where people took more time to be present in their daily life?
His Holiness: Basically, I don’t think there is a great deal of difference. It does not matter much whether one is Asian or Western. In fact, some of my American friends, who have spent many years in meditation, have obtained quite amazing results. These are Americans and not Tibetans! This shows that we are all basically the same. We all have the same human mind. It is true that external influences—one’s surroundings and so forth—are important, but ultimately the nature of mind itself is more important. Each and every one of us has the same potential, the same mental quality. That is what I feel. However, if you, the questioner, are really serious about answering this question precisely, then you should do a thorough investigation. Interview people. Then perhaps you will get a clearer picture. From my side, I don’t think there are that many differences.
Question: How do you feel about the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs to attain higher states of consciousness or spirituality?
His Holiness: Of course, I have to start by saying that I have no direct experience with psychedelics. But based on what I have heard from people who have had actual, firsthand experience, it seems that using such drugs tends to bring a greater profusion of illusions. Since we already have a lot of illusory experiences to begin with, why do we need additional illusory experiences? I think that those individuals engaged in serious practice should not rely on external substances, just simply try to cultivate the natural quality of mind. That is much better.
There is one final thing I want you to know: namely, that I am nothing special. I am just another human being, just like you. When you listen to me, you should think, “I am listening to another human being, just a human being.” We all have the same potential. That is what makes one person’s experience relevant to another. If you consider the Dalai Lama to be special, then my remarks become useless. If you have this idea that the Dalai Lama is extraordinary, you might say to yourself, “I can’t possibly follow his advice. I can’t benefit from his experience.” That is just plain silly.
Some people even believe that the Dalai Lama has special healing powers. Since my surgery last year, I frequently tell people that if I really had healing powers, then my operation would not have been necessary. So my surgery is clear proof that I have no healing power! We are the same. This is very important. It is because we are the same that we can communicate, and it is because we are the same that you might derive some benefit from my words and experiences.
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