January 23, 2023


Dharma Is Simply Service | John Waite

Hosted by

Sol Hanna
Dharma Is Simply Service | John Waite
Treasure Mountain Podcast
Dharma Is Simply Service | John Waite

Jan 23 2023 | 00:59:48


Show Notes

Our guest today on Treasure Mountain is John Waite who was born in post WW2 United Kingdom and brought up to be fiercely independent. From a young age he was searching for a better way to live in the world and was influenced by the simultaneously political and spiritual principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Travelling to India in the 1970s he was touched by the kindness of the Indian people despite their modest means. A chance meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala was a turning point on his spiritual journey. Later Joh would go on a two-week meditation retreat in Queensland an was pleasantly surprised when every thorny question and challenge to the teacher was warmly received and returned with wise, well-considered answers. This led him to commit himself to the path of practice. He was influenced deeply by Lama Zopa’s emphasis and example of being of service to others. John put this philosophy into practice enthusiastically as a volunteer fire fighter, ambulance medic, trade union steward and later as the Director of Hayagriva Buddhist Centre in Perth for 17 years helping to bring many great Buddhist teachers to Australia and supporting his local community of practice.

John is an old friend of mine and we worked together to found the Buddhist Council of Western Australia around 2005, and we also participated in getting the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils off the ground around the same time. Not only did I appreciate his calm and steady presence in the work we were doing to bring the various Buddhist groups together for a common cause, but also his insistence that all the Buddhist traditions have the same heart of dharma at their core. I think his attitude was prescient as we enter into this post-sectarian Buddhist renaissance in the twenty-first century.

And that’s why I wanted to interview him on the podcast. In one sense this interview is John Waite’s Spirit Story, about his path into practice, but on the other it’s telling a broader story about Buddhism as it moves into the West, specifically into Australia, and where it may be heading in future. I’m so glad you’ve joined us as we seek for the Dharma within…

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Welcome to Treasure Mountain, the podcast that guides and inspires to find the treasure within human experience. Our guest today on Treasure Mountain is John Waite, who was born in post World War II United Kingdom and brought up to be fiercely independent from a young age. He was searching for a better way to live in the world and was influenced by the simultaneously political and spiritual principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Traveling to India in the 1970s, he was touched by the kindness of the Indian people despite their modest means. A chance meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala was a turning point on his spiritual journey. Later, John would go on a two week meditation retreat in Queensland and was pleasantly surprised when every thorny question and challenge to the teacher was warmly received and returned with wise, well considered answers. This led him to commit himself to the path of practice. He was influenced deeply by Lama Zopa's emphasis and example of being of service to others. John put this philosophy into practice enthusiastically as a volunteer firefighter, ambulance, medic, trade union steward, and later as director of the Higher Griever Buddha Center in Perth for 17 years, helping to bring many great Buddhist teachers to Australia and supporting his local community of practice. John is an old friend of mine and we worked together to found the Buddhist Council of Western Australia around 2005, and we also participated in getting the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils off the ground around the same time. Not only did I appreciate his calm and steady presence in the work we were doing to bring the various budhist groups together for a common cause, but also his insistence that all the Buddhist traditions have the same heart of Dharma at their core. I think this attitude is prescient as we enter into this post sectarian Buddhist renaissance in the 21st century, and that's why I wanted to interview him on the podcast. In one sense, this interview is John Waite's spirit story about his path of practice, but on the other, it's telling a broader story about Buddhism as it moves into the west, specifically into Australia, and where it may be heading in the future. I'm so glad you've joined us as we seek for the Dharma within. [00:02:30] Speaker B: Sam. [00:03:11] Speaker A: Welcome to Treasure Mountain. How are you doing, John? [00:03:14] Speaker B: Very well. Good to be talking to you. Sol. [00:03:18] Speaker A: I am really glad that you are. It nearly didn't happen because as a volunteer firefighter in the Australian summer, you were called out this morning. How was that? [00:03:29] Speaker B: Yes, we never quite know what the day's schedule is going to be, but some poor people had lost a house this morning. [00:03:39] Speaker A: Yes, true. [00:03:40] Speaker B: Very nice to be able to at least reduce the amount of damage that was inflicted in their life. [00:03:49] Speaker A: Yeah. And that is a volunteer role. And I think that's in one sense, all the effort and doing this in a hot summer's day, but then giving up your time at the drop of a hat, jeez, that would be difficult. I admire you. My hat's off to you. Well done. Look, let's get started from the beginning. How long have you been practicing Buddhism, and how did you first get interested and start practicing? [00:04:17] Speaker B: Okay, so I seriously committed to Dharma back in 1980. I was interested in there, but before that but it was on the periphery of Dharma rather than being an actual practitioner. Basically, some challenges in life led me to deciding in 1980 to go to a two week retreat in Chinrazic Institute in Queensland. At the time, that was the closest Mariana center I could find in the tradition I was interested in. And I was very pleased with the experience of being able to spend days in meditation and listening to the teaching. And what particularly pleased me is that questions were welcomed, that there was no subject that you weren't allowed to question as deeply as you felt like. And to me, this was very refreshing compared to some other traditions I'd talked to in the past. So I fairly quickly came to realize that I was in the presence of a very great teacher. [00:05:35] Speaker A: Who was that teacher, by the way? [00:05:38] Speaker B: Geshi Chinlay. So he was lama Ishi's half brother, the resident teacher of Chinrazic Institute at the okay. [00:05:46] Speaker A: Okay, and can you remember any of those thorny questions or any of the issues that you raised with Geshi Tinlay? [00:05:55] Speaker B: Some of them were funny. They were just cultural differences. For example, we were discussing good and evil at one stage, and I tried to raise the devil as an example of evil that couldn't be challenged in Western tradition. We tend to believe the devil is inherently evil, and that's it. And Geshi Tinley, after a while, he just burst into a smile and just said, but even the most evil person must have some beneficial redeeming factors, so we should actually investigate that. [00:06:37] Speaker A: Yeah, right. That's a really good answer too. And we're brought up in this Western tradition, and we do have certain assumptions, and then when you come in to cross a good Buddhist teacher, it is it's a totally fresh perspective. I did want to go back a little bit to I think it was 1974, you're on a personal quest, and you ended up in Durham Salah. Could you tell us a bit about that and the impact of that meeting? [00:07:08] Speaker B: Okay. To most people, I think it would be a very minor meeting. But first of all, I was delighted when I arrived in Doramsala to be amongst the Tibetan refugees who really at that time had only recently come out of Tibet. And I was impressed that they were handling the situation incredibly well and building with bigger a new life for themselves in a completely different country. The actual incident that impressed me so much, as I say, would sound quite trivial to people, but I was just sitting at a cafe in the street, because when I was traveling, I used to like to sit in different locations, just observe people. And I felt that gave me a bit of an understanding of the culture I was experiencing. Anyway, for some reason, a lot of people started running from behind the cafe out into the open space in front of the cafe, and I thought, oh, goodness, what's upsetting them? That they're running away from something? Then somehow I realized they weren't running away from something, they were running towards something. But I hadn't seen any indications that anything was happening. And then, quite unexpectedly, the gates of the Dalai Lama's palace opened, and the Dalai Lama came out in an open top Mercedes Benz car. And it wasn't a conversation that took place. It was just somehow just being in his presence. I knew I had experienced quite a profound moment in my life, and it made me think a great deal about what I had come across. And to cut a very long conversation short, basically led me to investigating Dharma to find out what made that event special. Another incident that actually was on a very similar line that happened later in Nepal was that I was stopped from swimming in Lake Pokhara because King of Nepal sent his navy out to ask me not to swim in front of his lake. And I went down to a river every day after that to swim and meditate. And one thing that struck me is on the way down to the river, on I think it was the left hand side, there was a Tibetan refugee camp, and on the right hand side there was a Nepalese traditional village. And my mind had really thought, well, the Nepalese village being established should have happy people in it, and the refugee camp should be full of suffering because they've actually lost everything they had. And I was actually delighted to see these Tibetan refugees were the happy people. They were optimistic, they were working towards the future. And again, that left me to work out what is the difference? And the only difference I could really come to was that they were practicing Dharma. [00:10:34] Speaker A: Thank you for telling those stories, because I do think that tells us I know in my own experience, some pretty trivial chance encounters were of huge significance to me. But I also think you've touched on with that latter story about the Tibetan refugees. You've hit on a point which is really, really profound, because I know in the west we so often get caught up in philosophizing, but the proof is in the pudding. And being in the presence of happy people who have a good basis in their spiritual lives for being happy is the thing that really changes one's heart. [00:11:16] Speaker B: I think, very much. And it's something I try to remind people over the years that all the great teachers I've come across have got a beautiful sense of humor and even the enormous pressure, they're quite happy, quite relaxed. And so I think we, as Westerners, we tend to get a little bit too uptight about practicing, and we really need to look at how they handle issues and learn from them. [00:11:55] Speaker A: Yeah, I totally agree. Now, on that topic of teachers, I did want to ask you because I've been a little bit close minded so far with the Treasure Mound podcast. I've only been talking to people from my own tradition, which is my comfort zone. I wanted to go a little bit out of my comfort zone and learn something, and hopefully the audience will as well and talk about in the Tibetan tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, the role of guru devotion and how can we understand it better? So this is being devoted to one's teacher or teachers, and it's very important in Tibetan Buddhism, I'm not so sure that it's that different in Theravada. But what's your approach? How should we understand it? [00:12:41] Speaker B: So I think in Mayana Buddhism, it's set out a little bit more clearly than I've read in Theravadan. And probably at this point I should confess that I don't have a great depth of knowledge of Theravada. So if I do say something that people see me as putting down another tradition, it's certainly not meant that way. So please just give me in advance. So, getting back to the guru devotion, the first mistake I think many students make when we're thinking about taking on teachers, we take them on without investigating. And Nadama is clear on this, that we must investigate very clearly, because once we establish that relationship, we actually do have to carry out the advice of the teacher if we want to make progress. Of course, if something goes wrong, if we do make a mistake, there are ways of dealing with it, but it's not advantageous to get in those positions. So we do need to investigate the teacher clearly and make sure that they are the teacher that will lead us forward. [00:13:57] Speaker A: I think that's a really important point, and I think that's actually no difference between Terravada and Tibetan Buddhism, and perhaps there's none at all. But I do think that is there something there's some real benefit from, once you've done that investigation, to kind of trust in your teacher? Is that the way you describe it, to have a trust, or is it something else? How would you describe it? [00:14:21] Speaker B: It's a very deep trust that, of course, we build up over years. So I've been far from a perfect student for Lama Zopa Rimpoche, but he's been incredibly kind and generous. With all my different failings. I found his advice, if I have the courage to follow it, it always works out well, which has really surprised me, because some of the advice, when you first hear it, you go, that's a bit unusual, that's a bit different. But my personal experience is that if I do actually carry out that advice, quite unbelievable things can take place. Probably an example that everybody would relate to very well is that I was in retreat in Indonesia with Rinpoche when my center got in contact with me and said, you need to come out of your retreat to handle an opportunity that has arisen. The property next door to the center has become available for sale and we'd like your guidance on whether to start negotiating or not. And it was a perfect opportunity. I managed to secure an interview with Rimpoche, and in the past, when people have asked Rinpoche for advice on buying property, there have been all sorts of clauses and conditions they have to achieve before the purchase can go ahead. But this time Randy just laughed and said, Buy it. That was pretty clear advice, but it was interesting times. So I got back to the centre and said, look, we really need to buy this. And we started. Nothing actually really happened for some reason until I arrived back in Australia. But we started negotiating with the owners. It was the middle of the global financial crisis, which turned out to be to our benefit in some ways in that I managed to secure a very good price for the House. And then I had to go to an international meeting for the FBMT in France. I said to the rest of the committee, I gave a couple of people on committee a list of contacts to approach for finance and I was a bit puzzled while I was in France that no progress was being made. So when I came back from France, I basically said, what are the holdups? Can you explain this to me? And without being critical of the other people, I think they just felt that I'll put it this way there was at least some feeling that because it was the heart of a global financial cris, it wasn't a good time to put the center under enormous debt. On a logical aspect, I could understand it, but I said no. Rinpoche was actually clearer than he's ever been that we need to buy this property. So to cut a long story short, we applied to the sources that I thought would come to the party. It did require personal guarantee to get to actually push the loan over the edge. But we got the loan. But the point that I really want to make about Guru devotion is, yes, the subject center now had a very large mortgage, but within three years, very generous donors had actually paid off that mortgage. [00:18:17] Speaker A: I laughed when you first said that some of the advice can be a bit strange and you can question it, but when you do, often it's or usually it's almost in my experience, always turns out for the best that I've been in situations just like what you've described, and it's remarkable. And I think you do need that leap of faith sometimes. And I think our cultural conditioning as Westerners makes us so skeptical. And skepticism can be good and questioning is good, but there comes a time where you just kind of got to take that leap of faith. And so that's actually quite a nice story. I wanted to get back to the 19. I wanted to kind of ask you a little bit about your experience of being a Buddhist in Australia, in the west as well, because it sounds like you've traveled a fair bit back in the 1970s and 1980s. I mean, the idea of being a Buddhist was considered you were pretty weird. What was your experience back then when you told people that you were getting into Buddhism? [00:19:29] Speaker B: So, yes, it was certainly different. Just to compound on the was, when I was investigating most actively, I was now working on a farm in a small community called Merida, just west of Kojanut. And you can imagine the local library had absolutely nothing on Buddhism in the library, but they were very good and they applied to the University of Western Australia and after some time, a lot of books were coming down from the university. But one of the issues I found is that they were often very intellectually written, so it was hard to grasp the fundamentals of what they were talking about. And I think, in hindsight, that they were actually probably some of them were probably not the best translations around. So I think today we have such a wealth of good translated, original texts or clear commentaries by teachers that understand those texts, it's actually much easier to come to understand what Dharma is teaching. So finally I made contact with the very early Buddhist society, Western Australia, and started getting some better texts. And then from my personal Karmic connection, I managed to make contact with a nun at Chenresi who was very passionate about overcoming the obstacles of getting material. To me in this remote corner of. [00:21:22] Speaker A: Australia, did you find that it was a little bit of a struggle to get into to find good teachers and to get into Buddhism at that time, in the 1980s, or did you find it actually, people were very open minded and it was not so difficult. [00:21:40] Speaker B: So that would depend on which particular people you were talking to. For example, the farmers around me thought that I'd probably had too much of a good thing out in a paddock somewhere and they wondered what was happening. But other people, of course, were also experimenting with different ideas for society themselves. So these sort of people were very supportive. But having said that, there wasn't very much clarity around as to what was a genuine path, a genuine practice. There were many people being drawn into some of the teachers that we've since found might not have been on a genuine path. I'm not talking about in Buddhism particularly. There were some people that were set themselves up as spiritual teachers that were saying they were something different from traditional practices. [00:22:45] Speaker A: Yes, I remember like the Rajanishis or the Orange people back in the they turned out to be pretty suspicious in terms of what they were up to. You've been around Buddhism for well over 40 years now. How do you think social attitudes have changed since then? I mean, in a time now when every man and his dog is getting into mindfulness and mindfulness based cognitive therapy is a mainstream practice, do you think Buddhism has become mainstream? [00:23:25] Speaker B: I think it needs to become mainstream. I think a lot of people resist actually going into a temple. I think they find it quite a challenge to step into a building where they've got no idea what's going to happen to them once they actually step through that front door. So mindfulness, of course, it depends on the teacher. There are some very good people teaching mindfulness, but the thing that disturbs me a little bit, I guess, is that a lot of these teachers, because they haven't studied the Dharma, I think they're actually missing some very critical parts of the teaching that would benefit people enormously if they could be taught those teachings. I think this applies to all of us. I think it's very easy to get into a practice without investigating enough, and it's very easy to rely too much on faith without doing the study to appreciate just how fortunate we are to have this material available to us. So I think we really do need to study, and not just study, but actually then sit on the cushion and really examine our. [00:24:46] Speaker A: Mean. I think that comment you made about how people in the west might still be a bit afraid of coming through the front door of a temple, like they're going to get mugged and converted or something like this, and that's not how it works at all. Do you think, though, mindfulness, I mean, some of the original progenitors of mindfulness who were Buddhists, who were in the field of psychology, academic psychology, and they decided to let's bring this one bit of the eightfold path mindfulness and teach it to others. What are your overall perceptions of that? Is that a good thing or is there something that's missing in terms of there's much more that we could be offering in terms of the Buddhist tradition. [00:25:37] Speaker B: So, again, it's a very complex position to debate. I would say that we, all of us, need to encourage scientific investigation of all the different principles put forward in Dharma, because Dharma really does have the answer to just about every fundamental question that's plaguing a problem for current civilization. Just the other day, I was listening to the ABC, and I was actually quite delighted when a scientist started talking. He didn't use this language, but he was basically talking about how individuals see the world through their individual karma. And I thought this is really interesting that we're actually getting scientists explaining karma on television. Now, this is quite a leap forward. So we need that investigation. We need people to understand the teachings properly. So, yeah, any investigation is helpful. Mindfulness is just trying to present in a different way, and it will benefit some people more than others. But getting back to one of your pith questions was that I think we are mentally missing something at the moment with just talking about Mindfulness. For example, we miss some of the teachings on Guru devotion, which actually, we believe very strongly that we can't make clear progress without a sense of Guru devotion. Because I think life is like trying to explore a big river system with a whole series of creeks that we could get stuck up if we haven't got some guidance. And I think the teachers just help us say, hey, John, I don't think that creek you're paddling up is a particularly healthy one. I think you should actually come up this creek here. So they just help if nothing else, they help us reduce the amount of investigation exploration needed to reach the goal we're aiming. [00:28:05] Speaker A: No, no. And I think it's also kind of a beautiful frame of mind to be like the devoted frame of mind is conceit, melts away. And of course, conceit is such an obstacle to practice for all of us at some point. So I think it can be really helpful. But I wanted to also kind of draw our discussion to the topic of service, and this episode is titled Dharma Is Simply Service. And that's one thing which I don't think many Westerners would think about as being a very important part of the path when they first approach it. But for those of us who've been doing it for a while, we really come to appreciate how important it is. So I'd like to ask you about your service to the FPMT, which is, for those who don't know, the foundation for the preservation of the Mahayana tradition, and perhaps also about the Buddhist Asana more generally, because you were director of the Hayagriva Buddhist Center for 17 years. So from your point of view, why was this service so important to you and what kept you going? [00:29:24] Speaker B: Okay, so just before we get into answering that question, I think we do need to, again, be clear what the teachings of the Buddha are saying here. I'd refer to the two purposes of life, the two purposes of practice. So everything we do, it should be an offering to the Buddhas. And also everything we do should be done in order to benefit all sentient beings. Not just ourselves, but all sentient beings. And this leads us into a much broader vision of life. When we're not just concerned with our own immediate happiness, we can experience a very great depth of relaxation and growth that allows us to reach states that previously we probably wouldn't have acknowledged existed, or if we'd read about them, we probably had some doubt about their existence. So the actual service, basically, having met Lama Zopa Rinpoche, he's such an incredible example in his own life, in that how many of us really meet somebody, that their whole life, every living moment, is devoted to doing something to benefit other people, other animals, to try and create the opportunity. For example, Lama Zopa talks very much about blessing animals so that we can actually free them from their negative activities, so that even if in this life they're still in that lifestyle, in their next reincarnation, they do actually have the opportunity to have a higher rebirth. So many stories about him. His attendant, Roger, who served him for many years, has always had quite a challenge on his hands. He wouldn't express it like that. He delights in serving Rimpoche and being around him. But an example is that, according to the story, that one day roger was driving with Rinpoche to get to the airport in Gaia, coming from Bodhgaia, and suddenly Rinpoche saw somebody in the street and he just said, Stop the car, stop the car. And he felt that he really needed to talk to this person right then and there, and he did so, and he was blessing the person. And Roger is in the background saying, rimboshe, the aeroplane leaves in an hour. Can we please bring this to a conclusion and get to the airport anyway? So I think there'd be many occasions when Roger's finally got Rinpochet to the airport only just in time to get on the plane, because all along the way, there's people at Rimpoche who's trying to help in many different ways. [00:32:36] Speaker A: Do you think that's been a guiding philosophy for you? Because when you take on a role like being the director of a Buddhist center, sometimes everything is going to go smoothly, but there are going to be times when everything just goes wrong and you have to deal with conflict or problems. Must surely try your patience. So what guides you through all those difficulties? [00:33:02] Speaker B: Again, this is where Guru devotion really becomes a very powerful tool, that when I look at the example of Rimpoche and I think, what he's doing every moment of the day, then I think, surely I can handle this. If he can handle all that, surely I can handle this. And that is the reality of it, that when things are going upside down or sideways or totally disappearing from under your feet, it's temporary. And we're actually taught by the Buddhas, there are ways of creating the karma that will bring it all back together again. And that is the solution that we harmony, for example, in a center, is critical. And that's the most important role of a director, is to maintain that harmony. And it can be challenging because humans, being humans, always like to find a difference between them and somebody else. We can't let that stop us. We need to find a way around it, remind people of the teachings and move ahead. Of course, it helps having really good teachers at the center because you can actually say, could you focus on this subject today? I think people actually need to hear that. So that really helps. [00:34:29] Speaker A: Yeah. And I really love the way that you said that when you are devoted to serving others rather than yourself, you said it makes you much more relaxed. I thought that's a really great way to look at it. Do you find, though, also you get a sense of joy from serving others? [00:34:51] Speaker B: I think it's the most profound sense, and sometimes it takes a long time to realize that something you've done has had a big effect on somebody. Sometimes you do think, what am I achieving? And then I've been very fortunate that over the time, people come up to you and say, oh, thanks for what you did five years ago. That actually totally transformed my life. And you go, oh, really? And it sort of makes you realize that there's a lot of benefit to what we're trying to do in the centers. And again, if we all work together, we can achieve it. [00:35:35] Speaker A: Right. I did want to take you up on that topic because I want to ask you something I've not asked you before, and I guess I always assumed that your motivations were the same as mine. I want you to cast your mind back to the period when we were working to establish the Buddhist Council of WA, and also we're working to get the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils together with our colleagues over in the Eastern States. You remember we visited Melbourne and we went to Bendigo. What was your guiding motivation at the time to get everyone working together? Because it was a bit of a tricky task to do that as well. [00:36:17] Speaker B: A tricky task. But first of all, I'd like to say that working with you and Man Wong from different traditions was just a pure joy that we could come together and have many hours of debating the best way to establish a constitution. And I hadn't talked to Man Wong for years, but I still hold both of you in such high regard that those times were very precious. I've probably had some slightly unorthodox views in that at one stage I was thinking that to establish Dharma in the west, we should actually have one Buddhist centre that taught all the different traditions. Having learnt a bit more about some of the traditions, I think that could be quite an interesting challenge. So basically I was like a university where you well, we have managed it in the past, like Nalanda did manage it, that we had many traditions working together in Nalanda that did thrive. And it's actually a fundamental part of our teaching, for example, that we cannot thrive in the Mayana unless we have a fundamental respect for Hinayana and. When we go to Vadriana. Can't progress in Vajriana unless we have a fundamental respect for Mayana bringing them together. I think it's something we need to do. It's also something that I think society gives Buddhism a lot of credit for the fact that we don't have major rifts between the different groups, that we do come together on fundamental issues, and we don't have any religious wars between us or some of these other problems that you see elsewhere. For example, the Dalai Lama, when he's teaching, he always invites a different tradition to recite the hard sutra before the teaching. And I find a great delight in seeing people from different traditions getting so much joy. And it was a surprise to me many, many years ago seeing some Theravadan monks rejoicing in the Dalai Lama's teachings on the emptiness. And I'd always had somewhere I'd picked up the view that they didn't actually believe in emptiness, certainly not in the way we were taught to believe in it. So it was quite an educational moment for me to see these monks on stage with the Dalai Lama rejoicing in his teaching on emptiness. And it made me realize that John Wait had to pick up his socks and learn a bit more. So it's by coming together that we learn, basically. [00:39:27] Speaker A: I have to concur on that. Yeah, I'd really concur on that. And I have to say it's a shame in some ways we don't have Man Wong here because he was a very good presence when we were working on that, the Buddhist Council of WA. But the thing I went in, I was quite young at the time. I was still in my late twenty s, and I was a bit defensive, I think. I didn't really know much about the other Buddhist traditions, and I guess I was a little bit kind of in my own bubble. But I was immediately put at ease by both yourself and also Man Wong. And did immediately found that we had so much in common. And I think your expression of saying that we have that common heart of dharma, I think that was a very poignant way of phrasing. You know, in some ways I think that your idea, ambitious as it might be, to have one Buddhist center, or perhaps like a Buddhist university where all the traditions are. I don't think that's a silly idea at all. Maybe that's exactly the kind of thing we should be focusing on here in the west, is to bring those traditions together. Because I feel like when I hear from you or other Tibetan Buddhist teachers, I always get a fresh perspective and it kind of just charges me up a little bit. And that's really good. So I don't know. What are your thoughts on do you think we should do this? Should we start a Buddhist university? [00:41:08] Speaker B: I think we've been shown this example at several different times in history, and really we need to spend a bit more time looking at what we have in common rather than trying to find what we have as a slight difference of ideas. Having said that, we do need to study, we do need to understand very clearly what the traditions are saying so that we can progress along the path. So I'm not saying there's no differences, but we have to be clear about them and not see them as impediment, just differences. So, for example, the thing I delight about going to the monasteries in India is that debate is actively encouraged. So you see monks becoming so passionate about what they're debating, they're actually leaping out of their meditational posture and clapping their hands. And in one case, I remember, very light heartedly, two monks trying to push another monk off the stage because he was saying that something they fundamentally disagreed with. But it was very light hearted, it wasn't violent. But I just felt a great delight in seeing that passion, in discussing different ideas. And I think we can have the same in a university setting where, okay, we've got different ideas. Let's actually talk about it and let's work through it. Let. The end result being that everybody achieves a benefit. [00:42:42] Speaker A: Absolutely. Yeah. No. [00:42:46] Speaker B: Lander I've mentioned, and also the Rigpa tradition in Tibet, which was formed on the basis of trying to get different traditions coming. Examples. [00:43:01] Speaker A: Yeah, there are. And I think the Naropa University in the United States is trying to do that as well. So I think this is something it's an opportunity, I think, if we can kind of see any differences that we have, not as an obstacle, but rather as something that could actually be really useful, because there is that debate. We can sharpen up our own ideas, even if we don't always agree, that can really benefit. Having these different kinds, having that pluralism, I think, is really beneficial. But I do want to ask you a question about something which affects obviously, I'm going to ask from your perspective, but it does affect both our traditions and of course, sometimes we both of us, I think, value our traditions a great deal because they give us stability and continuity, but in other ways they can hold us back from making important changes. And I don't just mean in the political sense, but in the ethical and spiritual sense. And one of the issues that both your tradition and my tradition and budhism in general is grappling with in the 21st century is the role and status of women. What are your views on what the role should be and how Buddhism needs to change in the 21st century? [00:44:20] Speaker B: Okay, first of all, there have been many people working on this question and really wanting to produce a result. I would have to start separately from Buddhism here in that I believe society as a whole, until we allow women to be truly equal, we cannot overcome the issues we have in society. We have to give them the ability to live a life. We have to give them the freedom to work within the problems they have. And we've come a long way in some senses, but we still got a long way to come. For example, I was talking to some friends in Nepal the other day and they were mentioning just how difficult it could be for a woman if her husband left her and there was no support. So we have improved that. But there are other areas where we've had equal opportunity laws in Australia for I think it's 30 years now. But we still don't have equal opportunity in the workforce, so we need to overcome those. Coming back to Dharma, there are obvious stories about discrimination in different cultures that we really need to work to overcome. For example, I know some of the reasons behind full ordination not being offered in every tradition. But somehow or another, we need to overcome those obstacles. And instead of just seeing them as immovable, we need to find a way through. Because Buddha was very clear that women do have just as much ability to become enlightened as men. So why are we creating obstacles on the path for those people? [00:46:27] Speaker A: Yeah, I have to say, from my own point of view, there is the issue of equal opportunity. But if you look at the broader issue, why wouldn't we want women to become enlightened? That's ridiculous. If we would all benefit from that. What do you think? Is there anything that you're doing or people you know are doing to make changes within Tibetan Buddhism right now? In terms of. [00:46:59] Speaker B: I can't say that I'm doing anything other than supporting people that I agree with. But we do have many examples. One of my main teachers, Kandala, is an enlightened being in female form in this life. And the experiences, although they're very minor experiences, any experience I have had with her has just really left me with a feeling of wanting to achieve the levels of mine that she's achieved. So, very inspirational teacher and again, beautiful sense of humor. So she can teach with that humor there. So it doesn't have to be all serious, but we do hold people back. We make it difficult for people to have the freedom to get visas and passports. [00:48:02] Speaker A: Do you think that presently there is a movement within Tibetan Buddhism to make change? [00:48:10] Speaker B: And I think most of the great teachers want that change to take place. They're just finding it very challenging to actually get to an agreed position as to how that will take place. For example, the Dalai Lama has been very clear sometimes that it should happen. I believe the Kamarpa has been very clear that it should happen. So these are people, the heads of their traditions or very high up in their traditions. There just seems to be too much debate on how to achieve it. And sooner or later we have to say, well, let's set all that aside and actually deal with the fundamental teaching that Buddha gave, that women are just as capable of becoming enlightened as men. And the women in this world need to see that. And so we need to come to a position where we can allow them to achieve that, to see that so they can achieve that. [00:49:22] Speaker A: That obviously is one of the big issues in Buddhism today. But I also wanted to ask your thoughts. We are in the process, and I would personally say very early in the process, of seeing the Dharma move from Asian countries and spreading into Western countries. Where do you see Buddhism is going in contemporary Australia? Where do you think it's headed at the moment? And are there any weaknesses that need to be addressed as we continue to grow? [00:50:03] Speaker B: That certainly requires a great depth, so at times I feel very inspired and that we're going forward, but also I think we are often not presenting the teachings clearly in a way that can benefit the general population. I think we managed to attract some particular groups in society, but I think we've actually got to look at different ways of presenting, particularly, for example, if you go back 20 years ago, I'd say, yes, we're doing very well how we're presenting. But now I think there are challenges arising in society that we have to allow for in the way the workforce is changing, that people don't have as much spare time as I was fortunate enough to have when I was younger. I'm sure some people do have that time. So we need to think of ways we can present the Dharma in very meaningful but short ways, rather than making it too difficult for somebody to pick up an interest. But surely I think once they've picked up that interest, they will then really follow it through. But we have to do the work first so they can pick it up. [00:51:37] Speaker A: Do you think perhaps there are several major threats to create a human welfare at the moment, notably climate change, and then there's other issues like, for instance, artificial intelligence and could that get out of control, and various other things at the moment. Do you think that Buddhism should be trying to address or present ideas on how to deal with that which may be of interest to the broader society? [00:52:16] Speaker B: We certainly need to be considering every challenge that arises in everyday life, but I think sometimes we fail to just go back to the roots of the teaching, which is, as the Dalai Lama said at one stage, my religion is kindness. And we need to remind people that it's as simple as being kind to each other, and from that, everything can grow. So coming back to what we mentioned earlier on about service, if we're actually I think one of the fundamental problems in Buddhism is it's often seen that we're sitting on our meditation cushions, not interacting with society. And I think meditation has a very strong position in helping people, but in the minds of a lot of westerns, it's seen as an escapism. And this is where we need to be actually a bit more on the forefront. And we actually need to be taking example out of some of the great religions that are helping society actively in so many different ways. For example, if there's a group that we know are struggling, why don't we help them in some way? Environment at the moment is very important. We need to be active in environmental care because environment is fundamental to Buddhism. If we don't care about every individual in our environment then we're missing the point. I think there are some directions we actually need to put some emphasis on that maybe aren't given that emphasis at the moment. [00:54:07] Speaker A: Okay, well, I wanted to wrap up this interview with a question because you've been involved with practice for such a long time and I think experience and time gives us a sense of perspective. So I'd like to ask a question which hopefully draws out your sense of perspective based on your many years of experience. What advice would you give to your younger self and perhaps also to someone else starting out on their journey with the Eightfold Path? [00:54:46] Speaker B: I think it comes back into some things we've said already but I think the big one is to make sure you start on some firm foundations. So do investigate the teacher you're relying on to introduce you, to make the effort to actually find out what is really being said rather than thinking you've understood it. Because I think it's because we're dealing with ideas that might be quite different from what we've heard in the past. I think it's easy to pick up the wrong end of the sticks, just to take the time to be patient with yourself, to be patient with the people around us and give credit to a philosophy that has been robustly existent for quite a few centuries now. And we actually have examples that we can go back on. But of course, that doesn't come at the initial stage. But I think this is something we also forget is that we are living in a tradition that has historically for centuries produced the great leaders that that tradition needed at that point in time. And so it is a progression that we keep moving forward and to be open to the idea that aspects of dharma that were focal at one point might not be the focus right now to try and get a deep understanding of what is available in Dime as possible. [00:56:38] Speaker A: Oh gosh, I wish I'd got some of that advice when I started out because patient I was not. Anyway, look, John, I really am grateful for taking the time to come on the Treasure Mound podcast and sharing your story. May all the merit you've made lead you to complete freedom. [00:56:59] Speaker B: Thank you very much, Sol, and thank you very much for what you're doing. I think this communication amongst traditions and amongst groups in society is actually very important to the health of society. So thank you very much and I. [00:57:14] Speaker A: Do want to do more of that. So stick around because I want to get your advice on who I can interview next. I want to thank all of our listeners for joining us for this insightful episode of Treasure Mountain, which John Wait, a long time, follower, member and servant of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama's Foundation for the Preservation of the Maha Yana Tradition, or FPMT for short. If you'd like to find out more about the Haya Grieva Buddhist Centre or about the FPMT, please check the links in the description below. This podcast Episode if you enjoy this podcast, I'd appreciate if you could share this episode with your friends or other people who could benefit from its wise advice. Treasure Mountain podcast is part of the Everyday Dharma Network. You can find out more about the Treasure Mountain Podcast by going to the link in the description below. Or you can do a web search for Everyday Dharma Network. You can also find out on the Treasure Mountain Podcast website information about the previous episodes and guests, as well as transcriptions of our interviews. And if you go to everydaydama. Net, go to that page. You can discover more about three other podcasts on the network and links to subscribe to any and all of them. I think you might like them, but tell me what you think by contacting me via the Contact page because I really would appreciate your feedback. I hope you'll join us again for the next episode of Treasure Mountain Podcast as we seek for the Dharma within.

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