|My Groups | CASonline Main Page|
bb and one other being from CAS were needed at Taiwan for matters both "official" and "semi-official" and we were gone for more than half a month with several days at the world-famous "Fuo Guang Shan" ~~~
We basked in the splendor of the great Temple and bowed down to Venerable Master Hsing-Yun's majesty of spiritual might and virtues....
We had the unforgettable joy and happiness of meeting the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas disguised as the myriad volunteers and friends of the organisations' where They displayed the magical net of their unsurpassable skilful means in absolute unstinting care and kindness and so much so much bare genuineness and greatness of heart....
Together with so many visions and dreams of breath-taking beauty and light....!!
"Namo Amitofuo..... !!"
"Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha ......!!"
bb and rikzin [ back !!] @ CAS
[ One out of the infinite number of the
Buddha's statuette depiction at Fo Guang Shan ]
Invoking Buddha to save the big cats (BP)
May 23, 2005
The poaching of tigers from supposedly protected areas in India has got so bad that the Dalai Lama
has thrown his weight behind a campaign aimed at changing attitudes among Tibetan expats in that
country and in Nepal
By Dinesh C. Sharma, Bangkok Post, New Delhi His Holiness the Dalai Lama is throwing his weight
behind the campaign against wildlife trade. Tigers in India are today found more in newspaper
pages than in jungles. It is known that the population in wildlife parks and reserves is shrinking
but few could have imagined that the situation was so grim that not a single tiger would be
sighted even in showpiece tiger reserves such as Sariska. An embarrassed government has ordered an
enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the disappearance of tigers and has convened a
high-level task force to suggest protective measures. An independent wildlife intelligence and
enforcement agency, on the lines of a narcotics control bureau, is also on the cards.
The situation has only confirmed the fears, which wildlife and conservation organisations have
been voicing for several years now, that the poaching of tigers and other big cats in India has
reached alarming levels. India does not have a market for wildlife products and derivatives, but
poaching is rampant; this is because of the demand for such items in China, Japan and parts of
East Asia where there is a thriving underground market for tiger bones and skins.
After conducting field investigations in India, Nepal, the autonomous region of Tibet and other
parts of China, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) last year traced several
routes used by traders in endangered-animal parts all the way from the jungles of northern India
to end-users in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and elsewhere in China. The investigation unearthed a
vast, organised network of poachers and traders operating in the Himalayan region.
The single largest seizure in the region to date of big-cat pelts took place at Sangsang, Tibet in
October 2003. A total of 31 tiger skins and 581 leopard skins were impounded on that occasion,
along with 778 otter skins All the evidence indicates that this consignment originated in India
and was on its way to Nepal via Tibet. According to EIA campaigner Debbie Banks, the size of this
consignment revealed the scale of the illegal trade and confirmed the role of Tibet as a key
location for the smuggling, distribution and use of such skins. It is a multi-million-dollar
business with a single tiger skin fetching prices in excess of $10,000 (398,684 baht) on the
international market. Confiscated chiru skin in China. A recent study by the New Delhi-based
Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) found that Tibetans living in exile in India and Nepal have become
increasingly involved in the trading of wildlife derivatives such as tiger and leopard skins and
bones, otter pelts and parts from smaller cats. They work at different levels, from buying and
selling to providing courier services along India's borders borders with Nepal and Tibet, as well
as along the Nepali-Tibetan frontier. The Tibetan links became apparent when eight tiger skins and
about 400 kilogrammes of tiger bones were seized in 1983 at the Tibetan resettlement colony of
Majnu ka Tila in Delhi.
Trade operates in the other direction, too. Raw shahtoosh wool, obtained by killing an endangered
species of antelope found in Tibet, is smuggled from that country, via Nepal, to Kashmir. This
trade now appears to be under control, however, as a result of a ban imposed in India on shahtoosh
While the governments of India, Nepal and China have stepped up efforts to exchange information
and intelligence on illegal wildlife trafficking, wildlife bodies have decided that a greater
effort is needed to sensitise local communities against this practice. The WTI and the UK-based
Care for the Wild International recently launched a groundbreaking "Tibetan Conservation Awareness
Campaign" to make Tibetan expats in India realise the importance of protecting endangered species
of animals and to wean them off participation in the illegal trade in animal parts. The campaign
has received the full support of the Dalai Lama.
"Tibetans are basically Buddhists in the Mahayana tradition and we preach love and compassion
towards all other living beings on Earth. So, it is our responsibility to realise the importance
of wildlife conservation," the Tibetan spiritual leader said at the campaign launch in New Delhi.
"In Tibet, some people use fox tails to decorate their head gear and this forms a part of their
tradition. We must realise that because of our own follies a large number of our animals are
getting killed or destroyed and we must stop this. The message of mahakaruna has clearly asked us
to follow and preach love and compassion for all living beings."
The Dalai Lama pointed out that animal sacrifices were common in Tibet before the arrival of
Buddhism but that the practice has gradually declined since, although it may still be prevalent in
some remote areas. "People have become more compassionate and the lessons of mahakaruna were
gradually popularised," he said. "Even in India all the monastic institutions today are promoting
vegetarianism. So I think, after a thousand years, that the Buddha's message of mahakaruna is
[now] very much [part of the] Tibetan way of life."
Devout Buddhists admire a conservationist rather than a "licentious" lifestyle, said WTI senior
adviser Ashok Kumar. "This forms the essence of the campaign to spread the message about the
conservation of nature, to build awareness in the Tibetan community and remind the ones who have
veered away from the tenets of compassion and respect for all living beings [to return to the
fold]," he said.
The Dalai Lama's thoughts on this subject have been taped and are to be replayed at Buddhist
monasteries and Tibetan settlements across India, where educational material on wildlife
conservation will also be distributed.
Rupa Gandhi Chaudhary, coordinator of the WTI campaign, feels that the trade in endangered animals
can be checked at its source by changing people's mindsets and developing alternative livelihoods
for those involved.
"The most effective way of achieving this objective is to raise education and awareness levels
among Tibetan communities," he said.
The campaign, and the support extended to it by the Dalai Lama, is indeed praiseworthy. At the
same time, one cannot ignore other links in the chain of this illegal trade involving known gangs
and certain tribes in India. A cluster of 14 villages in Madhya Pradesh state and another set of
villages in Haryana state are known to harbour wildlife poachers belonging to two tribes in
If awareness campaigns, coupled with rehabilitation and alternative-livelihood packages, were
targeted at such areas, it could help a great deal in breaking the back of the trade in endangered
species of wildlife.
Why am I not a Buddhist? (Haaretz)
By Gil Kopatch
World Jewish News, June 2, 2005
Both Moses and Buddha grew up without a mother's love and apparently
longed for it all their lives. Buddha was orphaned at an early age; the
infant Moses got a one-way ticket for a Nile cruise. Both of them grew
up in palaces as pampered princes. Both of them ventured out of the
royal hothouse and were astounded to encounter the suffering of their
fellows. Both of them turned to meditation for many years - Buddha under
a tree, Moses in the wilderness of Midian.
So much for the similarities between these two spiritual giants. But
what are the differences? And if there are no differences, why am I not
I decide to pay a two-week visit to India. To find myself with alacrity.
And to return as enlightened - and as delighted - as possible.
On the day after Pesach, at 6 A.M., I pick up Rabbi Mordechai Marc Gafni
from his beit midrash (house of study) in Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood.
The rabbi is impossible to categorize. He is certainly not Reform. He is
committed to Jewish law, but could not be considered classically
Orthodox. He's spontaneous, ecstatic, profound, filled with joy - and
embraces and loves everyone he meets. Gafni is among the most important
of the new generation of religious leaders in Israel today, a profound
teacher and thinker, a serious scholar and an original philosopher who
addresses and provokes both mind and heart. He is much more of an
Eastern-style spiritual master, a kind of Jewish Bodhisattva, than an
establishment rabbi. Together with fellow scholar Avraham Leader and
businessman Jacob Nir David, he founded Bayit Chadash (literally, New
Home), a new national spiritual movement, which includes a research
center and rabbinic certification program, and appeals to people who are
dissatisfied with the world of the religious establishment. Many of his
students are former India backpackers, who are now yuppies and part of
the mainstream of contemporary Israeli society. The rabbi is also my
good friend and partner on a Channel 2 program about the weekly Torah
reading, in which he usually explains and I usually nod.
A few weeks earlier, he told me about a dialogue he had intended to hold
with a friend he met at a meeting of clerics in Rome and asked if I
wanted to be the moderator. His friend's name? Tenzin Gyatso, better
known as the Dalai Lama - the great ocean of compassion, guardian of the
white lotus, who looks down with mercy.
According to the tradition, the 14th Dalai Lama, who will turn 70 on
July 6, is the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and, in fact, of all
those who preceded him. He is a Bodhisattva - a soul who, because of his
love and compassion, does not seek liberation from the cycle of human
suffering, but remains within it in order to help others end their
suffering. The Dalai Lama is the political as well as the religious
leader of the Tibetan nation, and for his struggle to hold a peaceful
dialogue with China, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He is
admired around the world and is sought out by Hollywood's top stars. For
his believers, who call him "Kundun," he is more than the pope for
Catholics: He is the king-god. He himself has said that he is "simply a
human being and, incidentally, a Tibetan who chooses to be a Buddhist
On the flight to Jordan, from where we will proceed to Delhi, are three
Israeli Buddhists who are going on a pilgrimage to Dharamsala, the city
in northern India where the Dalai Lama's temple is located. Rabbi Gafni
immediately invites them to a kabbalat Shabbat (the ceremony welcoming
the Sabbath) that he is planning to hold there. They recoil. It sounds
too Jewish. They don't need it. They are already very spiritual without
that; they have already done Vipassana and they have incense and everything.
"Rabbi, why the Dalai Lama? Why now?" I ask him.
"Today Tibetan Buddhism is flowering in the Western world," he replies,
"and therefore a Jerusalem-Tibet conversation is the spiritual dialogue
of the generation. Just as in the past there was the Greece-Jerusalem
conversation through Maimonides, who dialogued with Aristotle in his
And why Buddhism?
Gafni: "Tibetan Buddhism is, in certain dimensions, very close to some
forms of kabbala [Jewish mysticism]. Both kabbala and Buddhism share
some common language that speaks to the heart of the modern seeker."
But isn't it true that there is no god in Buddhism?
"It is true that the term `God' in Buddhism is different from our
understanding according to biblical Judaism. It is not the God of the
Bible who speaks in a thunderous voice and reprimands everyone. They do
not have an external God who is above nature. He is not external to
creation, but is interiorized. From this point of view, Buddhism is
close to Hasidism - in terms of the internal work, the work you do on
yourself, from which emerges your relationship to the world around you."
It's clear to you, is it not, that all the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox]
rabbis will assail you for meeting with idol worshipers?
"Anyone who says that simply does not understand Buddhism; he is
speaking from ignorance. The Buddha was a human being, he is not God,
and therefore it is clear that his statue is also not God, but only a
symbol. So there is no idol worship here."
Travel as thriller
Our hotel is situated in a good neighborhood of New Delhi, meaning that
people do not live on the street, but in grimy, neglected apartments.
Connaught Place, one of the most magnificent of the city's squares,
looks like Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv and more especially like "Bread
Square," the former protest site of the poor and homeless there. My
fastidiousness surges. My only nourishment is nuts and hermetically
At night we tour Old Delhi. It's not crowded here at night, only 7.3
Indians per square meter. All of whom are wandering the street in
groups. No one suffers from loneliness here. In the West people feel
alone in villas; here they sleep two-three to a porter's wagon and don't
look especially sad. It's hard to find an Indian depressive who is
hooked on Prozac or its ilk. They don't have the leisure for that.
Carpets of people are sleeping on the traffic islands. The drivers of
the three-wheeled cabs sleep in their vehicles. It's astonishing, the
balance that is needed to sleep on the seat of a bicycle.
The next day we set out in the most expensive taxi we could find; the
important thing is just to get out of here. Traveling on the roads of
India is like being in a thriller. You watch the developments on the
road with disbelief, waiting for the catharsis that will purge you of
your fear. It's a terrific movie. Anything can happen. Driving against
the traffic, veering out of the way a split second before a bicycle
holding an entire family splatters all over you.
To the drivers' credit, they obviously feel their car. They probably
live in it. The car is part of their body and they behave on the highway
as on the street, in a state of patient, moderate, smiling chaos. Not
that there are no accidents. Here and there we see overturned buses
along the road. But they, too, are accepted with equanimity.
Many of the vehicles sport a sign saying "Honk, please." In driving
there is nothing like the sense of hearing. In Israel every honk can
send the honkee out of his car and spark a blood-drenched incident. Here
it's a happy thing - people merrily honk at one another. You could
mistakenly think that driving here is an ear-splitting experience until
you realize that honking is like saying "hello."
At a "workers'" restaurant by the roadside we are careful not to enter
the stinking pit called a "lavatory." A large indifferent bull strides
in. Guess who's coming to dinner. They feed it fresh chapati and in
response it oozes a lot of spittle and strolls off, languidly escorted
by an entourage of 200 flies.
Our driver Pablo, an Indian hunk who looks like singer Eyal Golan,
travels this road every day for 13 straight hours. His favorite god, he
says, is Ganesh, the mischievous Hindu god with the head of an elephant.
Ganesh is the most popular god in India. He is responsible for pranks
We crossed the rich state of Punjab and the poor state of Uttar Pradesh
and we arrive in the north, in the state of Hiamachal Pradesh, the
paradise of India. The weather is far more pleasant. Which is to say,
the air moves. In Delhi it's different: There the mosquitoes hold the
air between their teeth.
We start to climb the Himalayas. Pablo is very tired - he hasn't slept
in three days. Rabbi Gafni encourages him with sacred songs and some
tunes by Simon and Garfunkel, too. Pablo has never heard of them but he
wakes up, no doubt also aided by the light massage the rabbi applies to
The road bends sharply and the turns begin. Dharamsala is at an altitude
of 2,000 meters. High, but still only considered to be at the foothills
of the Himalayas. The turns are terribly sharp. Good thing it's been
dark for some time. That way we don't see the potholes or the abyss
alongside the road.
At 3 A.M. we reach upper Dharamsala. After the Dalai Lama fled from the
Chinese and made his way stealthily across the Himalayas on the back of
a yak, the Indian government granted him political asylum and this
village, Macleod Ganj, adjacent to Dharamsala. Here, like our Yohanan
Ben Zakkai, he reinvigorated the Tibetan people and its culture after
the terrible destruction.
The Chinese killed more than one million Tibetans and destroyed some
6,000 monasteries. Holocaust is something else we have in common with them.
Your original face
Already during the tour of Macleod Ganj in the morning I was ripped off
by shoe-shining Rajasthani kids. The rabbi hinted that I should upgrade
my appearance before going to see the Bodhisattva of compassion. So I
abandoned my shoes to the kids. They asked for 350 rupees, which is
about NIS 35. I paid them a month's salary without haggling and got a
serious scolding from the owner of a Tibetan store, who said I was
spoiling the young generation. Fortunately it's Rajasthani youth, not
Tibetan, so there isn't much to spoil.
There is tension between the different communities in the village. The
Tibetans are angry at the Indians and call them slothful, while the
Indians are vexed by the industrious Tibetans. They arrived only 50
years ago and already have developed the village and made it one of the
major tourist centers of India. It's a small village, with a population
of 6,000, of whom about 1,000 are Israelis.
There are three lanes in the village and they all lead upward. The homes
snake their way up the side of a green hill and on the rooftops are
cafes with a view that makes your heart go pitter-pat. In front of the
central house of worship are cylinders on which are drawn colorful
verses of prayer. When you turn them they create a kind of mantra, which
is delivered to the ears of the universe.
There are fine restaurants in Macleod Ganj. Italian, Japanese, Korean
and of course Tibetan and Israeli. True, the lanes are narrow and the
cows crap, but it is clean here, the air is clear and the water fresh,
direct from the Himalayas. It rains twice a day and the drops are heavy.
The Israelis are concentrated in the neighboring villages of Dharamkot
and Bhagsu, which are less crowded. The view is a lot better there, too,
but the monkeys are more impertinent. Surprisingly, most of the Israelis
here have a busy schedule. A meditation course in the morning, followed
immediately by a massage lesson, then cooking and drumming. They don't
have time for shanti (total tranquillity) here - that they reserve for
The next day it was pretty clear that the hawks were looking for food.
Because we are situated on the edge of an abyss, they fly pretty much at
eye level, just meters from me. Today we have a meeting with Tenzin
Geyche Tethong, the secretary of the Tibetan government, about the rules
of protocol and the content of the meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Rabbi Gafni wears his special Hasidic garb. The Tibetan government has a
special minister in charge of robes and they attribute great
significance to this. We don't want to foment a diplomatic scandal
because of mistaken fashion considerations.
In the government compound soldiers are playing badminton. There is a
great splash of flowers here and their aroma accompanies us to the
bureau. The secretary, formal but smiling, waxes enthusiastic over the
rabbi's Hasidic robe. "The Dalai Lama is in the middle of writing a
book," he says, "but he loves Rabbi Gafni and has specially made time
for him. He has an interest in being in contact with the Israeli
community. You are our neighbors here and we should get to know you."
He asks about the Israelis, why there are so many of them here. Rabbi
Gafni replies that they feel a deep connection to the spirit of the
place, perhaps because both the Tibetans and the Jews have suffered
oppression and sought to maintain their identity in difficult conditions
of exile. I ask why the Tibetans are always laughing. His eyes lighting
up, he replies: "The original face of people, beneath all the masks, is
a smiling face."
The Tsuglagkhang compound, the Dalai Lama's official residence, is a few
minutes' walk from the center of the village. The morning of the
meeting, a Friday, finds the rabbi in good spirits. He takes bills out
of his pocket and distributes them to the lepers of the neighborhood.
They smile, happy with their lot.
In the Namgyal temple, Tibetan monks are conducting a lively argument.
They clap their hands vigorously to emphasize a solid point and snort
mockingly to disparage their adversary's argument. Just like the
hair-splitting debates that took place in the plaza of our Temple.
The conference room contains luxurious low sofas and silkscreen prints
on the wall. Even though this is supposed to be an intimate encounter, a
few Israelis who were born again in Indian ashrams have managed to
infiltrate the gathering. They are on the verge of a mild orgasm at the
meeting with their God.
The Dalai Lama enters. He has nice eyes, his presence is pleasant, that
is clear. He and Rabbi Gafni embrace, bow to each other and place cheek
by cheek, showing more affection than what is customary. Both the rabbi
and the Dalai Lama laugh heartily; indeed, they seem to share a great
love for laughter.
After the greetings the rabbi reminds the Dalai Lama that he gave His
Holiness his skullcap in Rome. "I hope you still have it," he says. The
Dalai Lama nods in affirmation. "I hope that one day it will be useful
to me when I visit Jerusalem or Jewish institutions," he says in
English, and laughs.
Following are some excerpts from the conversation.
"I represent not only Gafni, but the Jewish tradition," the rabbi said,
"and I want to thank you for receiving us in your home. The subject we
want to talk to you about is how the world of the spirit can have a
practical influence and change the very real world of politics and
Dalai Lama: "That is a good subject. It is very important."
Gafni, with a smile: "That is why I brought Gil with me - he's the
Richard Gere of Israel [Gere is active in the movement to free Tibet],
because he gets better ratings than I do."
"Your Holiness," I said, "I have a few questions that are bothering me.
My first question is what love is, actually. And how do we teach people
to love in a practical way?"
Dalai Lama: "I cannot say what the exact meaning of love is. But when I
use that word, it means that something is very precious to me. I feel
not only closeness, but also caring and respect. For example, I love my
watch but there are no relations of closeness between us, we do not
share the same experiences. Love is for people who have the same
experience as mine - feelings, pain, pleasure. That is why we should
respect others, because they are part of myself.
"We learn our first experience of love from our mother," he continued.
"The infant wants to be close to its mother. Sometimes, unfortunately,
there are unwanted children, but in general the mother sees the baby as
part of her body. That is the height of closeness. This feeling is
essential in reality for survival. This feeling becomes an important
part of our life and it continues until our death. All the spiritual
concepts speak about this being the most important feeling."
Gafni: "I want to offer from the kabbala a comment on the words of
wisdom of His Holiness."
Dalai Lama: "So I can learn, very good!"
Gafni: "To learn from the tradition of our forefathers. The kabbala says
that love, at its core, is not an emotion, but a perception, a way of
seeing the world. The emotion then wells up from the perception. Once we
understand that, we can train a perception, and we can also train
ourselves to be lovers. Love is to see with the eyes of God. To love
someone is to see them in their highest, most beautiful place. To love
someone is to perceive their infinite specialness, with that divinity.
The model for love in this sense is the way the mother sees her child.
Even if the baby grows up and falls, the mother will always hold that at
his core, he is beautiful and holy, and divine. This is why in Hebrew
mysticism we call God `shaddai' - it is the divine breast of the mother
who nourishes us all. And because we are all part of God. We are all
divine miniatures. So we all have the ability to be lovers, that is, to
access our divine perception and see others with the eyes of God."
The Dalai Lama was impressed: "Beautiful! The idea that love is a type
of seeing, that it is possible to train it, is a good idea. It is hard
to train a feeling, but sight is easier. We are all creatures of God.
God is everlasting love. If I love God, I have to maintain a loving
feeling toward all creatures, who are part of God. These feelings should
be cultivated by logic, by meditation - there are methods for doing
that. What is certain is that even people who do not have an interest in
religion need a warm heart. A warm heart leads to inner quiet and to a
tranquil and meaningful life. If the parents grow up in this atmosphere,
they will educate their children accordingly. And that is the right way
to change humanity."
"If all the religions talk about love of mankind and compassion," I
asked, "how is it that so much hatred and wars are the fruit of
The Dalai Lama laughed. "Religion has a big umbrella and under it you
can do what you want," he said. "The spiritual tradition represents good
values for the long range. When people are in a desperate situation,
their emotions become more negative. When anger is strong, the
long-range considerations are forgotten. Therefore it is easier to
believe in the values of the spirit when you have a comfortable life,
but the wisdom is to do that during hardships.
"There are people who use religion for political or financial purposes
and manipulate human belief. In Northern Ireland, for example. The naive
people have stronger feelings and it is easier to work them up. That is
why certain conflicts in history happened because of religion. But if
you look closely you will see that the real considerations were different.
"The fundamentalist believes only in his religion and is afflicted with
lack of knowledge and lack of esteem for the other traditions. He feels
sincerely that he is serving God - and destroys and lays waste. The
method to dissolve this is by means of talks between the traditions.
Knowledge should be increased. Harmony should be created between the
faiths. I was in Jerusalem twice, not only as a tourist but as a
pilgrim, and I spoke with Jews and Muslims and Christians. Despite the
different philosophy, they all carry the same idea. A message of love,
compassion, forgiveness and self-meaning. That is why I feel more
contact is needed. More dialogue. I have friends from all religions. If
I am ever exiled from here, I will have somewhere to go."
Gafni: "The most important idea I want to share with you is about why
people who are deeply religious can behave in a terrible way. In what I
call integral kabbala, and in modern integral thought, we say there are
stages and states. States mean that which I achieve and lose - like an
altered state or mystical state. A stage is a permanent achievement; I
have developed to a particular stage of achievement and I do not lose
it. In moral development, there are four major stages: egocentric,
ethnocentric, worldcentric (feeling care and compassion for all people),
and also the stage of being compassionate for all living beings and not
only human beings.
"Now here is the deep idea. All states, mystical ones included, are
interpreted through the prism of stages. If I am at one level - let's
say, egocentric - and I have a mystical experience, I might think I am
Jesus. If I am at the ethnocentric stage, then I might think that only
my people is holy ... The secret is that all states are interpreted
through the prism of stages, one's moral stage of development.
Therefore, even people who reach genuine mystical states can behave in
morally reprehensible ways."
The Dalai Lama listened carefully, nodding, seemingly excited to hear
this new wisdom.
Gil: "Politicians and businessmen only want to be in control all the
time, whereas one of the principles of the spirit is precisely to give
up control. How is it possible to combine the two?"
Dalai Lama: "The success of the modern economy depends on other
elements, such as clients. A good politician is usually voted into
office in elections, so he depends on people. Therefore, they are not
actually in control. Politics and the economy need a great many people.
Religion, in the end, is the business of one person. Religion depends on
"If your belief is clean, if you have a healthy and true motivation, all
your actions can be constructive, filled with compassion and beneficial
to the world. It does not matter what your profession is - politician,
scientist or teacher. If your motivation is to be self-centered, then
every religion becomes dirty and destructive. All human activity depends
on the individual who does it. Therefore, religion has an important
role. To instill values in those who make the economy and the politics,
to change the way of thinking toward compassion and love.
"Not long ago we had a state meeting with the government of India. And
one of the country's most important ministers was there, too. Humbly he
said that he is a politician and therefore does not have enough
spiritual knowledge. I said to him that a person who is a public figure
needs religion more than someone who lives alone in a remote place.
Someone like that does not cause much harm even if he goes crazy [laughs
loudly]. But the leaders, if they are not mentally balanced, if their
brain is complicated and sophisticated, but their heart is poor and
wretched, that has serious implications" (laughs in satisfaction).
Sexuality and divinity
Gil: "Let's talk about sexuality in Buddhism and kabbala."
Gafni: "I want to offer from Jerusalem a scientific method of how
religion can teach the individual change. Because I do not have the
courage to speak in my name, I ask all the angels and sages to speak
through me and they will do it better than I can by myself."
The Dalai Lama listens attentively. Gafni concentrates silently for a
few seconds and continues:
"In the Temple in Jerusalem, above the Holy Ark, were pictures of two
angels. They were embracing in a kind of sexual tantric yoga posture. In
the kabbala we call this `the secret of the Cherubim.' The secret is
that one of the ways to teach personal transformation and love is
through using the principles of sexuality as a spiritual model. Why?
Because sexuality illustrates all the principles of religion.
"For example, giving up control, which Gil asked about. In sex it is not
good to be always in control. Sex works only if we are willing at times
to give up control. So sexuality exemplifies a spiritual principle.
There is also another element in kabbala, which is called `the secret of
the kisses.' Let's say I go to the bank and ask the teller to record
that I as though deposited money. He will look at me as though I am
crazy. In this world, after all, either you take or you receive. But in
sexuality, giving and receiving are collapsed into one. So the sexual
models the holy, the holy way of living."
The Dalai Lama was a bit surprised by what seemed to be a new approach,
but listened carefully.
Gafni: "Another spiritual thing that is illustrated by the sexual: to do
something for its own sake, not in order to gain some other advantage
extraneous to itself. Sex according to the kabbala is meditation of the
ordinary person. Because sexuality is for the thing itself. These are
but examples of a core kabbalistic idea. The kabbala says that
sexuality, which the whole world is afraid of, actually incorporates
astounding spiritual principles that should be applied as the model for
living in all the nonsexual areas of life."
The Dalai Lama laughs appreciatively. He bursts with laughter. It takes
him time to calm down. Sex is something that Tibetan monks of his level
are not supposed to take an interest in.
Dalai Lama: "It's complicated. Sex is mainly a matter of culture. That
is its main role in nature. We cannot say that there is any religious
meaning in it. Animals do it and we cannot say that they are religious."
Gafni: "But animals have a soul, too. You see? I am a good Buddhist."
Dalai Lama (laughing): "In the Indian tradition there may be something
similar to what you are saying. But in Buddhism it is different. All the
internal feelings and the sexual feelings are related to `internal air,'
and we have to control this internal air, the movement of this internal
energy. We use the sexual organs to create movement, to make the energy
flow, not for the purpose of culture, but to achieve a deeper experience
of consciousness. And then the sexual energy melts away. Only trained
people are capable of this.
"Good and proper sexual relations are a way to get close to one
another," he adds. "but they are also the source of a problem. You are
happy for a few months and then the problems come up."
"There seems to be a lot of energy in envy, in ego and in violence," I
ask, "and the energy to do well by others is far less powerful. Is it
possible to learn how to channel the energy of evil toward the doing of
Dalai Lama: "That is very clear. A negative feeling creates energy
immediately. So negative feelings are stronger than positive ones.
Through training, positive feelings can also give energy. Compassion,
for example, by training one's thinking, can give endless energy. But it
is not easy. You need a sharp mind and a developed consciousness to make
Gafni: "There is the story about the founder of Hasidism who was
approached because an infant had fallen ill, and instead of going to 10
righteous men, he asked 10 thieves to pray for him. All the Jews were
angry with him, and he said, `The gates of heaven are locked and only a
thief knows how to pick the locks of heaven.' Maybe that means that we
need the highest level of consciousness to access the energy of the
thief in us in order to storm heaven."
The Dalai Lama laughs and stamps his feet. "God is nice," he says, "and
he may be especially nice to the sinners. That is very true."
The rabbi takes out the fabric he bought in the market the day before,
orange silk cloth such as the Tibetan monks use. He asked an Israeli
woman named Idit to sew tzitzit (ritual fringes) in each corner and then
he had a totally kosher tallit (prayer shawl). With much grace and
decorum, he presents it to the Dalai Lama.
"Ho!" the Dalai Lama calls out, moved. "This is wonderful Jewish-Tibetan
merger. How wonderful." After the rabbi explains its kabbalistic meaning
to a very attentive Dalai Lama, he wraps himself in it, chortling
delightedly. Then he gives us white silk scarves, as is the custom when
parting - and gets a skullcap. He and the rabbi embrace and their love
for each other is felt by everyone. Everyone bows to the Dalai Lama; he
bows in return and leaves.
I was caught in the garden. Suddenly the Dalai Lama emerged from behind
me, wearing the skullcap and prayer shawl, on the way to his next
meeting. "I am a Tibetan Jew! A Tibetan Jew!" Pleased as punch he was.
The rumor of the visit spread through the foothills of the Himalayas.
Dozens of Israelis, young people in search of serenity, arrive for the
kabbalat Shabbat at the Hotel OM (symbol of the presence of the
universal in the individual). On the porch, which seemed to be suspended
in mid-air between the tops of green pine trees, Rabbi Gafni - warmly
greeted by many travelers who knew him from Israel - succeeds in
creating a moving experience for them, in part thanks to India, which
has milked the Zionism out of them. During "Shir Lama'alot" (Song of
Degrees), they all lift their eyes to the snowcapped peaks, knowing
whence their help shall come.
In our last conversation en route to the airport, I talk with the rabbi
again about the differences. Buddha said: Elimination of suffering is
all. Suffering is my identification with this world. And this world
perishes. The more I am attached to this world, the more I suffer. It is
better to sit under the tree, concentrate on one's breathing, do
stretching exercises and not identify too much.
Moses, in contrast, foments a political and cultural revolution that is
called the Exodus from Egypt. He is a political activist. He operates in
this world, influences history, repairs reality and not just one's
And there is another difference: What a beautiful land it turned out to
be for Moses here. Only when you get back from India do you see it. The
streets here are so clean. I feel like getting out of the car and
licking the road. Allenby Street never looked so polished. The houses
are so white. The dogs are so sated and the flies are so lonely. More
power to a sense of perspective. More power to Moses. More power to the
Israel Defense Forces.