Questions with Answers from Venerable
Posted on the 25th May 2020, Facilitated by Jennifer Coyne for Venerable Namgyel Question: If there are insects on plants, is it ok to remove insects, but not kill them? Otherwise the plants die. Answer: Yes that could be skillful. Then find somewhere wise for them to live. I find companion planting is helpful. I planted marigolds next to tomatoes. Seems to work well. Posted on the 21st May 2020, Facilitated by Jennifer Coyne for Venerable Namgyel >> Question: Will the people who create the unnecessary desires to others get some consequences (say Karma)? Answer: Desire is a delusion and every time there is delusion there is karma. So the short answer is yes! Posted on the 12th May 2020, Facilitated by Jennifer Coyne for Venerable Namgyel >> Question: What is the meaning of humility? Answer: To have a modest view of oneself, to put oneself lower, which is appropriate in accordance with the Lojong teachings. Question: Venerable has raised an example for the emptiness of flowers to explain the emptiness of self. But for the self, is it possible to separate it in parts? If yes, what the parts are? Answer: When you are negating the self, there is a conventionally acceptable self on the basis of the five aggregates, I walk, I talk, for instance, that is fine. But the ultimate truth is then looking for an inhwrently existent self within the five aggregates. If an inherently existent I actually exists, then it must be either inherently separate from the five aggregates or inherently one with the five aggregates, there is no third possibility. You search for the self within the aggregates and when you can’t find it, that’s the emptiness of the inherently existent self. Anyway, this is a huge subject, studied for many years in the monasteries, and this is just a short synopsis to point in the correct direction. I hope it helps not confuses! Posted on the 6th May 2020, Facilitated by Jennifer Coyne for Venerable Namgyel >> Question: Could Venerable elaborate on the question about the difference between guilt and regret in his next teaching sessions? Answer: I THOUGHT THE POINT WAS FOR THE STUDENTS TO THINK, MEDITATE AND DISCUSS AND DECIDE WHAT THEY THOUGHT WAS THE DIFFERENCE? I am not Buddha-google! Anyway, here we go. Guilt is the negative deed and the person being inseparable, so I do a negative deed, I am a bad person, yes in this case there is an “I”!! Then regret is separating the deed from the person, regretting the negative action, is thinking like this “If I knew better at the time, I would have done better, but I didn’t, therefore I couldn’t”. Therefore, I can practice forgiveness for the negativity and purify it, so as not to experience the habit and the consequence again in the future. Question: Is it correct to think that when we have the feeling of Guilt it doesn't give room to change something about it and when we have regret, then there is still room for improvement and to take action? Answer: Absolutely, yes. See the answer to question one. Question: What is the Buddhist definition of a sentient being? And karma - if we have to choose a 'lesser of two evils" - such as killing a bug infestation causing our family harm or allowing our family to suffer - what should we do? Answer: Cyclic existence is the five contaminated aggregates of an ordinary being arising due to contaminated karma and delusion. An "ordinary being" is one who has not attained the path of insight, whereas a sentient being is any being who has not attained buddhahood. Regarding difficult situations such as bug infestation, you have to weigh up options, using wisdom and compassion and then do the least harmful, most compassionate action. Remember, in samsara it is impossible to live here without causing any harm. So we aim for least harm. Ps. Could move house! Or use wooden floors instead of carpets, etc. There are alternatives that don't encourage bugs. HH says keeping a house clean is the secret to less bugs. Question: The eight freedoms names being free from physical and mental defects in order to comprehend and hear the dharma. The books I've read list deafness as a defect and says because they cannot hear the dharma. I understand that teaching involves direct contact and oral transmissions, but I think deaf people are more than capable of "hearing" the dharma, and wondered what your thoughts are on this and whether ASL or BSL could be provided for those practitioners who need it? Answer: Firstly regarding deafness, there is a limitation in that they can’t receive an oral transmission. They also can’t hear the refuge or bodhisattva or tantric vows in order to take them, so it appears from Buddha’s side that is an obstacle. But in our day and age we have made great strides to minimise the limitations for deaf and other handicapped people. I can’t say there is no limitation any more for deaf people = there is, but it would not stop them from becoming enlightened! Question: I'm loving this course and getting a lot out of it. This year I've done Meditation 101, Buddhism in a Nutshell and started Geshe Tashi's Foundations of Buddhist Thought. One of my main issues is keeping up with all these different meditations! There are so many I feel a bit paralyzed. Right now I'm just doing the meditations on this course, but in particular I found the FBT really hard to follow every week. My question is this: what would my personal daily practice look like when I am not on a course or retreat? I am a single mother so when I have my son I have only a quick fifteen or twenty minutes a day, and a couple of days a week I have longer. What prayers should I be doing? What meditation? What puja? I just am a bit lost! Answer: Your personal practice, I can’t say exactly what you should be doing, that’s according to your interest and your enthusiasm, but the minimum is refuge, 7 limb prayer, four immeasurables and mandala. I would say for you, being very busy and having children, the absolute best is to motivate with one of the four immeasurables first thing, before you get out of bed and be aware through the day as much as you can, and at the end of the day, dedicate. When you have more time, do more! Question: Also, my practice is getting much deeper since this all started. So has my desire for alcohol. Any mantras or pujas or meditions for combating craving and addition to sensory pleasures? Answer: No mantra for addiction unfortunately, if there was, I could make a fortune out of it… I think you have to go deeper into why you would want alcohol when on the other hand you are studying emptiness, which is clarifying the mind and alcohol which is confusing the mind? Take a vow each day that you will not drink that day and make sure you keep the vow until the next day and then take the vow again… Slowly the accumulation of all those karmic imprints strengthens your resolve to be wise, clean clear for you and your children. Does that make sense? Shakyamuni Buddha said a person who takes one drop of alcohol is not my disciple! That shows you how much he thought there was a negative power in alcohol. I hope this helps you? I don’t usually reply to individuals, but I saw your letter and felt I should reply as I feel you are very sincere, but struggling a bit and when we are struggling we all need somebody to be kind and reassuring, so we can continue on the dharma path. Posted on the 30th April 2020, Facilitated by Jennifer Coyne for Venerable Namgyel >> Question: Venerable, you spoke about two physiological ways (running or fighting) that our body uses to face stress situations. You also spoke about a third way that would be analytical meditations (if I understood well). Could you explain more about this please? In which way can analytical meditations be a way of "replying" to stress in terms of physiology? Answer: The third option is to sit with the delusion and to allow it space, not to react and not to suppress, then if giving the delusion space is not enough, then we apply antidotes (I have given a few till now and more will come). Question: Can Ven. Namgyel please elaborate the concept of 365 negative emotions per second. How is it possible to generate that many? Answer: Karma was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha and is a hidden phenomenon that only a Buddha can realise and expound upon. Therefore, we need to rely on SB for the answer. Question: What if you are in a love relationship where you want the other to be happy, and they are, and they want you to be happy, and you are? The relationship is mutually beneficial. And the relationship, though romantic, is not romanticized, and the connection deepens and the excitement for each other is sustained? Essentially, the participants' projections are reflections. Does that kind of connection contain too much attachment or, perhaps, is it just the result of good karma coming to fruition for two people at the same time? Answer: It sounds like a good relationship to me! I guess the people involved would have to go deeper into whether there is attachment, but there doesn’t have to be. Question: Is it true that a person who has been sexually abused as a child comes from a previous life karmic pattern, where this person was the abuser? And how is it fair for a child to experience this kind of horrific abuse and suffer the traumatic effects for the rest of his/her life? Are we trying to say that karmic imprints in this life don't discriminate when it comes to age, gender? Answer: Because of the law of karma, whatever we have done in the past, we experience in a similar way sooner or later, unless we purify. I like Thich Nhat Hahn’s poem, that we have been the pirate and the robbed, etc etc. all the opposites. That’s the nature of samsara. In karma there is no fair or unfair, it just is. Question: In regards to the concept, it's not about them, it's about me (the disturbing emotion) and it is because of my mind which I need to take responsibility for and change, my question and confusion is thus: There is a person I care about and want them to act differently towards me because they don't seem to care about me the same way I care about them, and this is causing pain for me. I know this pain is in my mind and for me to let go, but I cannot figure out how, or what the antidote is. I know that if I had the relationship with this person that I desire, it is subject to change, and cannot be the cause of my happiness. I am a relatively happy person. But I am still stuck with this feeling of desirous longing of a projection I have created that is not a reality, and I keep hanging on with the hope and belief that the projection can become a reality. Is there any advice you can give on how to figure out the antidote and to lessen the focus I am putting on this one person and the impact they have to my emotions? Answer: This really sounds like attachment! How from self grasping, wanting the self to be happy, we have self cherishing, then we project onto the desire object that that person will give me happiness, if only they behave this way or that… So we start projecting on to them how they should be. Of course it is ridiculous because then we are looking for a trained monkey? Remember the song: I can’t get no satisfaction, but I try and try!! I think important to meditate on the good qualities of the other person, rather than meditating on what they don’t do. So you build a greater appreciation of them as they are, not how you want them to be. It will take time, but it is do-able. Question: Even though, "May you be happy" should be our first thought when considering others, what if a human derives happiness from causing pain to others?" If someone has been raised with the causes and conditions to hate and hurt entire groups of people and truly feels gleeful when harming those groups through speech and actions, would it be better to wish them peace (which might allow them to heal whatever delusion they "unknowingly" possess) than happiness? Answer: You should stop focusing on others and focus more on yourself and your way of thinking and your behaviour. Focusing on others can be a subterfuge, a way of stopping yourself developing. Anyway, if they were happy they wouldn’t have hatred or anger would they? Question: I find it extremely difficult to focus during the single-point focus meditations on breath, yet I can focus much more easily during analytical meditations. And for both, I really benefit from a leader or a recorded meditation. Although you encouraged us to find a meditation style that works for us, should we try to develop our abilities in the types of meditation we are weak at? Answer: It is important to do both types of meditation, as the analytical is only to lead us to single pointed. Question: What is the karmic explanation for entire groups of people being enslaved or oppressed? Did their bad karma lead to these unfortunate circumstances? Or, is it possible that the enslavers and oppressors are simply creating bad karma for themselves as they abuse masses of people with a variety of karma types (good, neutral, and bad)? Answer: This is similar to a previous question. There is nothing that we experience that has not been caused. Remember some years ago, Ben Laden, and the hunt for him and how governments wanted to execute him? That hunt involved millions of people through the news, TV radio, newspapers, internet etc. the minute the news came out that Ben Laden was shot and killed, there could have been millions around the world rejoicing in his murder. That means they created a collective karma. It is a small karma at the time, but then karma continues to grow and develop (like an acorn planted in good conditions)… Therefore, in a future life, collectively all those people could come together to experience a terrible situation and wonder why them! Do you understand? Maybe not. But you need to meditate on how even our thoughts create future happiness or suffering. Question: Is homosexuality a sexual misconduct? Answer: Homosexuality, it depends on the person you take the vow from… It also depends on the activity done… Same for heterosexual lay people there are exactly the same limitations for them, and when you get to the tantric level, you are even more limited, because the practice is all about becoming more aware of the subtle energies and using them to gain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Posted on the 20th April 2020, Facilitated by Jennifer Coyne for Venerable Namgyel >>
Question: I'm working for an environmental NGO and every day I'm confronted to this "relative reality" that is the decreasing of biodiversity, of living species and the threat of climate change and all the direct and indirect conflicts coming from that which cause enormous suffering. How can one accept this difficult reality which makes my mind sad and deluded?
Answer: Study karma and delusion…All that we experience individually and collectively comes from karma and delusion. It is wonderful to be engaged in working for the environment. As we have seen with Greta there is huge pushback from the existing companies and governments, but on the other hand, the virus has shown us that the environment can bounce back given a bit of TLC. Keep going with unconditional love and compassion. You do it because it is the right thing to do, not because of the result.
Question: In present situation with COVID , my partner is still going out for work related issues. I want to put in place several strict rules to try to keep us both safe, but he thinks he is already doing enough and I am magnifying the situation. We both could be correct, but I think he needs to be more careful and adhere to my “rules” ..., what is the best way for me to handle something like this?
Answer: Hmmmm, this sounds like two egos clashing, as opposed to two people who love each other, caring for each other. You love him and you want him to be safe, so you do whatever you can to bring that about. Same with him, he needs to be aware that when coming home, unless he is very careful he could be contaminated by the virus and bring it into the house. Buddha never gave rules, he gave guidelines. Perhaps defining them as rules makes your partner resistant?! Sit down, when both of you are relaxed and have agreed to talk with respect to each other and then discuss what is plain good sense? Wishing you all the best.
Question: Can Venerable Namgyel please describe the difference between contemplation and meditation?
Answer: Thinking is studying, listening to teachings etc. Then once we have done that, we have an idea what the subject pertains to, we contemplate, which is thinking in a deeper way: could I do that, how does it feel in my mind, what is the resistance etc. Then meditation, which has much less resistance and goes deeper into the subconscious.
Question: While I understand the effects of karma on future lives, what triggers each of them in present/past lives? what causes completion karma to manifest and what causes propelling karma to manifest?
Answer: PROPELLING KARMA manifests at the time of death. So don’t worry about that today, unless you are dying! Delusions are the watering system for previous karmas to manifest. Completion karma is the incomplete karmas that are a potential to create the conditions around us. For instance born as a dog, bad propelling karma, but the dog of HH Dalai Lama good completion. Born as a dog on the street, bad propelling, and because the dog lives on the street, bad completion. Question: Is negative Karma accumulative does positive Karma cancel all negative Karma out, also does the negative / positive Karma go with us into the next rebirth?
Answer: Hmmm, tricky question: negative karma and positive karma accumulate. They don’t cancel each other out, in that both are a potential. What we are looking for is to have more positive potential, than negative, then our goto becomes something wholesome, not harmful. They both go with us to the next rebirth. The karma that comes strongly into the mind at the time of death will propel us into the next life.
Question: Please can you give some guidance on not expecting more than we are capable of experiencing in meditation, or day to day dharmic actions. Sometimes my wanting to get on in my understanding gets in the way. Thank you.
Answer: I think you need to keep the diary. A small book in which you write the time on the left side of the page, starting with two hours after you get up. For instance 8am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm etc. fold the page in half, left side positive right side negative, and stop at that time every two hours and monitor what is happening in your mind, what actions you have done in the last two hours. This will give you information as to how you are really doing in Dharma. Make sure you motivate when you wake up and dedicate when you finish the day, and in between live in accordance with that motivation. Dharma is to actualise your true nature, sometimes we become dharma university professors but don’t know how to put the dharma into practice?
Question: The chat group were asking for confirmation of the 5 main Delusions, including Anger, pride, ignorance, Deluded View.
Answer: Doubt, deluded views five types, desirous attachment, anger, pride and ignorance.
Question: When we meditate on a problem to try and see clearer, how do we know that our mind is not over thinking and in the end instead of taking distance with the problem we make it more complicated?
Answer: We need awareness to apply the analytical meditation and we apply the meditation to the negative state of mind until we reach a light bulb moment where we “get” the new positive state of mind and then we stop analysing.
Question: Isn't love creating attachment?
Answer: There can be love without attachment and attachment without love. Does that make sense? In Buddhism, the definition of love is wanting the other to be happy. Not I want you to be happy in order for me to be happy! Attachment is the ego looking out for itself, isn't it? I am giving so I receive! This is a difficult subject for western students, as I have seen and heard many times in Tushita and other centres... Meditate on it!
Question: How to be free from doubt ? To have self confidence and to be sure we are on the right track? How to know if we are for example doing the prostrations to the 35 Buddhas with joy and not fearing our karma or because we have to, wouldn't it create a karma that is not really positive if we do it out of fear of because we feel we have to?
Doubt: the opposite is faith and for that you need to believe in an enlightened being, as opposed to a sentient being, born from karma and delusion. When Nadia mentions self confidence, we are also unenlightened, so we could be making mistakes, which is why we need a perfect reference point: The BUDDHAS. There is a positive fear, I don’t want to be reborn in the hell realms or any of the lower realms, and then a negative disempowering fear, which is the one Nadia mentioned. Positive fear is ok. Negative fear is not.