Beyond Religion-Dalai Lama-more on secular ethics

“In what you say of another, apply the test of kindness, necessity and truth, and let nothing pass your lips without a 2/3 majority.”

 -Liz Armbruster-

Moving deeper into the Dalai Lama’s book “Beyond Religion” reveals that the ultimate source of all destructive human behaviour is our own habitual tendency for harmful or afflictive emotions.  It is easily understood that the key to our well-being and our capacity to live a fulfilling life lies in our own frame of mind.  Scientists have identified that it is possible to retrain our emotional instincts by altering the physical patterns in our brain.  We humans actually have the capability of forming new synapses in the brain post-injury; therefore, it stands to reason that altering the brain’s physical patterns through conscious effort is a realistic goal.

The Dalai Lama defines our emotions thusly:

  • Destructive emotions are those states which undermine our well-being by creating inner turmoil, thereby undermining self-control and depriving us of mental freedom.
    • emotional states that are destructive in themselves, such as greed, hatred, or malice
    • emotional states that only become destructive when their intensity is disproportionate to the situation in which they arise such as attachment, anger or fear.

The Dalai Lama refers to the shared features of destructive emotions as:

  • A tendency to distort our perception of reality that causes us to narrow our perspective so that we fail to see a given situation in its wider context.
  • In one way or another, destructive emotions obscure our vision by clouding our capacity for discernment
  • Make us incapable of rational judgment
  • Characterized by an unrealistic or deluded perspective
  • Fundamentally undermine our capacity to put positive ethical values, such as compassion, into practice

In order to regulate our destructive emotions and thereby reduce the impact of their destructive potential we must actively cultivate our positive inner qualities.  In our inner or mental world positives will cancel out or neutralize negatives when approached with very strong enthusiasm and determination.

Recognizing and understanding that our own afflictive emotions recur over and over because they have become an emotional habit and are not just triggered externally is also an important step.  Developing and sustaining an inner peace of mind will improve our outlook, attitude, and our emotional habits.

The Dalai Lama suggests that we take an open and honest look at what triggers our destructive emotions, how they make us feel, and what kind of behaviour they provoke.  He further suggest that once we understand the cause and effects, the aim is to catch ourselves and bringing awareness into the process prior to physical or verbal reaction.

The Dalai Lama refers to several means of calming oneself once aware of the onset of strong emotion which will act to desensitize the triggers thereby enabling us to respond calmly and with discernment, such as:

  • taking several deep breaths
  • diverting the mind from the source of irritation
  • view a given situation in a more positive light

Success with this will not happen overnight, we all need a constant renewal of our effort to live by the values of secular ethics that we want to advocate.  These values include compassion, forgiveness in context of justice, patience, contentment, self-discipline, and generosity.

This is where the Dalai Lama begins a discourse on meditation as mental cultivation whereby one can develop familiarity with something, whether it is a habit, a way of seeing, or a way of being.  He postulates that this development of familiarity can further progress into a process of transformation through understanding derived by means of learning, reflection and contemplative experience.

Today’s “stone” Day 84  committment, enthusiasm, secular ethics, transformation

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One thought

  1. in yoga class, when my students are practising ‘legs up the wall’ i sometimes ask them to take a troublesome situation and look at it from upside down, or the opposite view … to change their perspective … and how surprising that new perspectives can bring resolution and peace 🙂 thanks eldy!

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