Friday, January 16, 2009

Emotiional Awareness, Ekman, Dalai Lama

I finished the book I just wrote about, Emotional Awareness, and learned very little for a lot of slow reading and struggle. I very much admire the Dalai Lama for his willingness to engage in dialogues such as the nearly 40 hours, over 3 or 4 years of visits. He is trying to understand Western thinking and quite a few Westerners are trying to learn from him. But finally I have a feeling that Kipling had it right: East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. I don't want to believe that. But this book does not disprove it.

Many Westerners now call themselves Buddhists and practice various sorts of Buddhism. This is a very new phenomenon. In the late 1930s when Theos Bernard [about whom I've done much research] lectured across the country about his visit to Tibet and what he had learned of their religion it was an exotic performance [in his silk robes he had had made for himself] and seems to have been forgotten very rapidly when the country was plunged soon thereafter into WWII. But then we became so prosperous and complacent the hippies rebelled and the more serious among them began looking for not only alternative hair and clothes but religions. If one reads the publications, Tricycle, Shambala Sun, etc. they reflect many takes on Buddhism. Also there are many Buddhisms, the Dalai Lama's being only one of several ... which historically in Tibet was also true but those variations were Tibetan and different, of course, in background and language and concept from American.

I began trying to understand the concepts to get a feel for what Theos Bernard had brought back; but that is beyond me, especially since I cannot read the Tibetan texts he chose to study. So I'm very much a dilletante on the subject and look at it as an outsider with my own Western background -- I wind up confused. I finished the book and am still confused; I don't think they resolved anything although Ekman seems to think they did.

In the final chapter Ekman writes of the effect his meetings with the D.L. had on him personally, very profound effects on his emotional life. It is easy to say, "ah, yes. The scientist has been affected by meeting holiness." That seems to be true statement but I really don't know what it means. It is finally the only solid information I take away from the whole difficult book. Is the Dalai Lama holy? It seems he would not say so. But he was trained in holiness from childhood and he is a very intelligent man who learned profound lessons from brilliant tutors and within the Tibetan debating/questioning formula of study and has practiced intense meditations for years. Others too have been trained in this way, and perhaps they too are holy. Unfortunately once again I'm confronted by a word whose meaning I actually do not understand.

These are things I ponder; I feel a need to ponder even though I have little hope of finding answers. Who is quoted, "What is the answer? What is the question?"

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