Friday, January 08, 2010

Tibetan wisdom we all can practice . . .

Sometimes the seed of an idea makes itself known and then slips away. A little bit later, perhaps a day or two, it pops up again, feeling a little familiar now, a sensibility or a thought, not yet quite strong enough to be a real idea. And then it happens again, and at some point you realize that abiding is an idea that stands on its own, and deserves some attention . . .


As many know, the methods of Tibetan Buddhist practice have roots that extend deeply into the astrophysics and medical systems that developed and have emerged from Tibet. These systems are among the greatest legacies of Tibetan Buddhist civilization. Many travelers to the Tibetan settlements of India have, upon falling ill, been treated by Tibetan doctors and treated their illness with Tibetan medicines. This includes me.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend regular time teaching conversational English to a student/scientist at the Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astrophysical College in Dharamsala (the first Men-Tsee-Khang, or Lhasa Tibetan Medical Institute, was established by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1916).

I provide this background not to go into a discussion of Tibetan medicine or science, for which I am sorely under-qualified, but to speak about a quality called “delight.”

I’d like to quote the writing of Thubten Gyatso, a once Australian doctor now Buddhist monk:

“In the mid-1970’s, before I became a Buddhist, my interest in Tibetan medicine took me to Northern India, where I met Dr. Drolma, a Tibetan woman practicing traditional medicine in Dharamsala. . . . Dr. Drolma accepted my request to accompany her as an observer, and as she was seeing patients I could not help but compare her office with the outpatients department at the hospital in Australia where I recently worked.

“There was no comparison. Her diagnostic method of simply reading the pulse and observing the bubbles in urine was one thing, but the great difference was in her relationship with her patients. She loved them, and they loved her.

“The clinic was filled with the warmth of loving-kindness, so different than the impersonal atmosphere in Australia. Whatever the merits of her diagnostic method and her fascinating herbal remedies, I became convinced that the renowned therapeutic efficiency of Dr. Drolma was due to the power of her loving-kindness.”


We’ll now hear from Dr. Tsewang Tamding, the pharmaceutical director at the Men-Tse-Khang, from a journal article I was reading while eating breakfast:

“Tibetan doctors are respected because of their unique system of diagnosis and their gentle way of speaking. The way one speaks to a patient is very important. During conversation, your speech should touch a patient’s heart, which will definitely make them feel happy and hearty.”


And the last of the “dots” in this picture comes from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in a quote I mentioned a few days ago: “If we wish to help people we should delight them, so they become receptive to what we have to offer.”

This is the one that I’ve been thinking about, that keeps popping to the surface. Please read it again, and allow it to take root: “If we wish to help people we should delight them, so they become receptive to what we have to offer.”

This is exactly what the Tibetan doctors are doing with their patients, creating “delight” in their minds, so they are best able to be helped. This is what the Dalai Lama does, in the ways he talks and interacts with people.

“Delighting others” is such a wonderful way of summarizing what the Buddhist path is all about. It doesn’t imply fooling or tricking or being false, but having present and using those qualities that truly are delightful: joy, honesty, patience, kindness, wisdom, skillful means, etc.

And why should it only be Tibetan doctors who “delight” others in the fulfilling of their duties? Why not all of us?

Why not office workers, and bank tellers, and Western doctors and dentists and nurses, why not real estate people, or teachers, or librarians, or consultants, or accountants, or landscapers?

Why not husbands and wives and neighbors and congregants, bowling buddies and fellow PTA members, acquaintances and lovers and once-lovers? Why not “delight” the man who bags your groceries at Publix or the clerk at the drivers’ license bureau?

The benefits of doing this are enormous. You'll see straight-out that in delighting them, you'll also be delighting yourself, this is guaranteed. And what you do, and how you do it, and with whom you do it, when done with an intention of “delighting other” will, in His Holiness’ words, enable them to be “more receptive to what we have to offer.”

And Mahayana Buddhism teaches and shows us that we have so much to offer.

So think about this, mull it over, and then, if the inclination rises, act. Don’t leave it to others to change the world, do it yourself, as you can. "Delighting others" would be a fantastic way to start.

Stopping the finger now, thanks for reading.