What just happened?!

I was woken at 4am this morning by my mom in London: “Oh sorry darling, I didn’t mean to wake you.” (Funny how a loud ringing noise in your ear can do that). “It’s just that I was watching the royal wedding and I wished you were here.”

Today something is happening. No one can deny that. Two billion people have tuned into watch this happening, both live and recorded, and plenty more are trying to ignore it. But what is it exactly?!

In the last article I explained that when we wake from a dream it is clear to us that our dream objects do not exist independent of the mind… we don’t go searching for them as we know we will not find them. But it is the same when we are awake! Where was that wedding? What was it?! If it existed as it appeared to, out there, independent of our minds, then we should be able to find it, either within its parts or somewhere else. So was the wedding in the milling swarms of people? In Kate’s ring? In the vows? In the buildings of Westminster Cathedral or Buckingham Palace? No, none of those things were the wedding either individually or collectively – they were just parts of the wedding. But if we take the swarms, the ring, the vows, the buildings etc away, the wedding vanishes, proving it does not exist other than its parts. So it is not in its parts nor anywhere else, meaning we cannot find it anywhere, we cannot point to a “royal wedding”. It therefore does not exist as it appeared to, independent of our minds.

In dependence upon various parts appearing to our mind, we imputed or labeled “royal wedding”, and voila it existed for us. The royal wedding was therefore no more than mere label or mere name, imputed by our conceptual thought. [For a perfect explanation of all this, consult the teachings on emptiness given in Heart of Wisdom or Modern Buddhism.]

Due to our collective karma we experienced moreorless a similar appearance, and shared a conceptual label. We can say that from this point of view there was only one royal wedding – it took place in London, not Beijing for example, the main protagonists were Will and Kate, and the Queen wore a canary yellow dress. But we can also say that everyone experienced their own royal wedding — I reckon that if you were to interview every one of the two billion people they’d be telling different stories, let alone if you interviewed all those who boycotted it! And the stories they’d be telling would depend entirely upon their own individual karmic appearances and their minds. Yet they’d probably all agree that it really did happen, they really saw it or missed it.

I alone watched three royal weddings simultaneously – I don’t have a TV so I watched one on the YouTube Royal Channel to get some commentary, one on CNN to get it live (the Royal Channel was 20 seconds behind), and one on CNN mobile on my iphone as my computer kept crashing due to a virus, and in fact has now died altogether [that’s another story – I originally wrote this article on there and it was better, but its lost…You have only my word for it 😉 ] Which of the three was the real wedding?

I decided to write this article partly as I was wondering how Kate felt at having two billion people watching her every dimple. Did she feel like a fairytale princess arriving in Cinderella’s glass car and leaving in a horse-drawn carriage with her Prince Charming, with loads of black horses and marching men wearing black fuzzy hats all just for her?! Planes flying over, and her mouth could be seen saying “Perfect formation!”, and yes, all for her! People practically swooning in anticipation of that first blissful kiss, camping out all night for this?!

I know there are a lot of republicans reading this and I have no trouble respecting your point of view. Also, in a casual chit chat about the wedding, someone who shall remain nameless was heard to say “Who are Charles and Diana?”, proving conclusively I think that we live in parallel universes! But whether you’re a royalty lover, a royalty hater, or a couldn’t care lesser, there is no real wedding happening out there today. Our dreams show the power of our mind to create a whole world, with temporal and spatial coordinates all intact; and then to mistakenly believe that it has nothing to do with us. Due to our ignorance we project a wedding out there within its parts, which we believe is real, and feel annoyed, in love, or blasé about it. But to live in a pure world, and experience happiness, we need to purify our mind, whether republican or royalist. As Buddha Maitreya puts it:

Because living beings minds are impure, their worlds are impure.
When living beings purify their minds, they will inhabit a Pure Land.

To fully purify our mind we need to realize the part we are playing in creating everything so we can create something better. It is hard to over-emphasize how important this is.

I was wondering however why people the world over do like adulating other people? It is not just the royals – just think of the magazines devoted to movie stars, or have you been to rock concert or a football match recently?! And do you remember President Obama’s inauguration?! He wasn’t just waved to his oval-shaped office and told to get on with it. We love all that pomp and circumstance, don’t we, even republicans, come on admit it, even just a little?! The question is why?

I don’t really know! But I will hazard a guess. We like to worship something we consider bigger than ourselves, larger than life, to get out of ourselves. (The sermon seemed to be somewhat about that, about cultivating a love and devotion that is bigger than ourselves and bigger than just the two of them/us as a way of transcending self and becoming a better human being.) Focusing on others in this all-absorbing way gives us a temporary respite from being stuck in self.

And it is interesting how in Buddha’s teachings (and other religions) a lot of worshipful royal symbolism is used – today is also Protector Day, for example, and I recited a prayer to Manjushri “Your princely body is…” Dorje Shugden is the “Great King”.

And what, I was also musing, are the statistical chances of a “commoner”, like Kate, marrying into a royal family in a rare ceremony that only takes place once or twice in most people’s lifetimes? (My mother has reminded me more than once that Kate and I went to the same high school – though at somewhat different times!) By developing bodhichitta we become a son or daughter of the Conquerors, a princely or princessly Bodhisattva. This is rare. And the odds of a “commoner” or ordinary being encountering the Tantric empowerments and entering the mandala palace are even rarer.

Kate and Will could have gotten married in a small church followed by fish ‘n’ chips, and still be just as married. But two billion people wanted to buy into this elegant ceremony and feel the noble tradition and lineage of the ages, even if time also is imputed by mind. People were happy to feel part of this BIG thing. Perhaps this is a promising sign that we seek transcendence? And it doesn’t have to be escapist, especially if we understand our role in creating this reality.

After all, who knows who anyone is really?! In Tantra we train in pure view, trying to see everyone as a pure holy being. Even in Sutra we try to focus on the pure potential of others, and their kind natures rather than their faults. Why?! One main reason is that mind and its objects are dependent related. If we train in viewing pure objects, our mind becomes pure by relation because our mind depends upon its objects. And as our mind becomes purer, objects appear more purely to it, because objects likewise depend upon our mind – like clear reflections will appear in a pristine mountain lake. And on it goes. According to Buddhism, this is the spiritual path leading to liberation and enlightenment.

The Queen

I want to tell a short story that has a lot of meaning… I don’t even pretend to understand its full meaning, but it has made me think over these years about the nature of reality, of pure view, of what things are really. It has helped me loosen up. Things are clearly not as fixed or ordinary as they appear! Buddhas have delusion-free and obstruction-free minds so they see pure worlds full of pure beings – and this is not to discount our suffering (or they wouldn’t be trying to help us of course), but also not to buy into it so that we are forever stuck. Only our delusions deserve the name “enemy” for they deceive us grievously into thinking that what we see is what we get, that we live in a concrete and impure world independent of our mind: Enter Stage Left! Suffer a Bit or a Lot. Exit Stage Right! We don’t though. And as Geshe Kelsang has often said, “Anything can appear to mind.”

When my teacher Geshe Kelsang gave a course in London back in the early nineties, he invited the students and teachers of the new London and Bath centres for tea.

I am sitting next to Geshe-la on his left, all of us in a circle daintily sipping tea. Geshe-la suddenly asks out of the blue: “Why is London so important?” He looks at me for the answer and I think, “Well, that’s an easy one!”, and reply “Because it is the capital of England, Geshe-la.” Not the answer he wants at all. So I try again, a bit more tentatively: “Because it is one of the financial centres of the world?” Again, he shakes his head. Me, more desperately: “Because it has so many people?” Now he is looking almost disappointed. Pause. Then Geshe-la says something that I don’t think anyone was expecting:

“London is important because it was emanated for the Queen.”

“Ah” we all nod knowingly. Another pause. What?!!

“The Queen is not an ordinary woman” he continues and, casting his eyes heavenward, “She comes from higher realms.”

I’ll leave you to ponder the levels of meaning Geshe-la was trying to teach us in that moment. I will just say that it was no ordinary tea party.

(On other occasions he has also praised the Queen, saying that she works every day for other people.)

What do you think about all this? Is all the hype best ignored? Or is it possible to transform even a royal wedding into the spiritual path?!

Was it in fact Disney who imagined the Royal Wedding into existence?!

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

30 thoughts on “What just happened?!”

  1. I loved this article and how you articulate what I was having trouble expressing. I don’t know why I watched, but I loved that so many tuned in. I love that my 87-year-old aunt and her daughter had a sleep over together, got up early and watched with curlers in their hair and big hats on. They prayed for their happiness.

    Princes and Princesses run deep in our psyche, as do the rituals and celebration.

    Kate was so beautiful and graceful and while my eyes saw a worldly royal wedding, I also felt there was something not ordinary going on. Of course I love the Geshe-la comment and all comments that shake any ordinary conception.

    Thank you for your insightful and thought provoking articles.

  2. Hi Luna,

    Thanks for the reply. Food for thought indeed.

    Regarding the Stress article, after initially reading it I thought I had a good grasp of what you meant. Then, during the Northern Dharma celebration (which was fantastic), it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t really know what you meant by identifying with our potential rather than our limitations. The parts of this article which I picked up which helped me to at least partially answer this question were your comments on pure view and identifying with pure nature and compassion in others. I guess that means that we can do the same with ourselves. I am beginning to understand on an experiential level how important it is to meditate on these things, because just reading doesn’t go very deep. It is easy for confusion or doubts to remain. For example it might be very easy to misunderstand the verse of Atisha’s Advice, “Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others…” It would be possible to interpret this as, “Do not think that you have any good qualities”.

    Might I be right in saying that applying any Dharma practice that is appropriate to the situation is identifying with our potential? Or is this too broad? Or completely wrong?

    1. Hi Mike,

      I think that is right, we can identify with our own pure nature and compassion. How? By thinking “This is me, this is who I am, the other stuff is just clouds in the sky.” Yes, we need to meditate on it to build the habit, but actually, as the habit grows, it ends up being far far less hard work than constantly trying to keep apace with our delusions and taking them so seriously!

      I thnk if you apply the right Dharma to the right delusion, you are on the right tracks as you’re identifying the problem and targeting the solution as opposed to shooting in the dark. But while you’re doing that, remember you’re on the side of the Dharma practice, not the delusion you’re zapping.

  3. If i told you that GKG told me a while ago that he gave me a personal teaching and said that the queen was actually in a hell realm you probably wouldn’t believe me. That isn’t important.

    What is most beneficial to believe is more important than what is true.

    Geshe-la could actually say anything to you all because you have faith. He could of course say that she was in a hell realm and you would all find reasons to believe this to be true. You would equally be amazed at the story and say oh yeah she has no ordinary life like you or me etc etc.

    Fact is none of you know for sure. So what is most beneficial to believe for you? What teaching is the best. Well, it’s what motivates your mind the most at the present time. You wont always see things in the same way. This is the nature of a karmically arising world.

    Big deal if GKG said that. Each London is different. Your London has been emanated for you as has the queens. That isn’t important at all. What is important is that you use the teachings to come to conclusions based upon your own reasons and understandings by looking deeply into your own mind.

    1. Nothing is inherently a big deal, it is true, and it may not do much for you; but Geshe-la’s teaching had the effect of galvanizing all the quite new Dharma practitioners in the room 😉

      I wonder if my London is as important as the Queen’s London!?!

  4. Isn’t it just lovely that when we think something really good is happening, even though we’re completely sucked in by the apparent reality – we just want to share it with others! Just shows that our real nature is loving kindness 🙂

  5. Enjoyed the article – thank you!

    I just saw a note about a book called “The Science of What Bugs Us” – all about the (external) things that annoy us – with seemingly no understanding of the role of the person who is annoyed, no hint that what annoys me might not annoy you. It reminded me of how fortunate we are to have Geshela’s clear explanations of emptiness and how our mind “appears” objects. We have the key to NOT being annoyed! Its not the object, its our mind!

  6. i can’t believe you watched 3 royal weddings! Talk about th extreme of plurality, LoL.
    It didn’t really happen for me, but that’s amazing what GKG said.

    1. I watched 3, all the while my computer interrupting loudly every few minutes: “Alert! Virus has been averted”. Need one of those in my mind for the delusions 😉

  7. Thank you. The Geshla is amazing. I had heard this story many years ago and was just telling someone about it at LPP tsog party on Friday. I had heard this from a nun at our center who has since passed away. Very nice to hear it again…

  8. Great post. Lots to contemplate in this wedding clearly. Thank you for the original story of Geshe-la making the comment about London being eminated for the Queen, it reminds me of the book Heart of Wisdom which I thoroughly enjoyed studing many years ago in Madhyamaka Centre. For 130 golden pages, Geshe-la expounds on the profound path, giving the clearest guidance to developing initmacy with the Perfection of Wisdom, using analogies, scriptural references and, most appealingly to me as a scientist, logical reasoning. Then on page 131 he tells the story of how all the water in the world developed through the power of the naga king. When I first read this, I was taken aback thinking, what a shame to spoil a great book with this fairy-tale nonsence. But then I realised Geshe-la is giving his most profound teaching of all, that everyithing is mere appearance, exisiting in dependence upn imputation by mind, Where is the water? Where is the world? Who created our reality? Despite studying and memorising Heart of Wisdom, my rejection of a version of reality as being nonsensical, highlighted the sad fact that I was still grasping as tighly as ever to my view of what was real, holding proudly to my material view of this universe. Geshe-la is saying – loosen your hold, let go of grasping, experience reality for what it is, nothing but a mere appearance to mind arising from karma. Transform your world by imputing a new reality, one born from pure view and divine pride, see the places and people who surround you as heroes and heroines in a dance of bliss and emptiness. After that, anything becomes possible.

    1. Fantastic reply Jon!!

      (You should write a blog 😉

      Its so true about the wild stories Geshe-la includes in the midst of his most devastatingly logical explanations — the story of the pigeon in Introduction to Buddhism, Milarepa transforming himself into a flower, the magically emanated palace that was not then re-absorbed, statues coming to life …

      But at the same time I find it interesting that Ven Geshe-la has also relinquished some of the earlier Buddhist explanations of our universe being flat and revolving around Mount Meru, perhaps as he sees that we don’t need that particular world view to gain realizations. We can believe it if we want, or we can believe in our round world.

  9. we all like big events! and happy faces!

    i remember the day when my family went out to the sea. there were three of us – mum, dad, and me.

    we needed toilet, so we went to a public toilet. when we all came out. i remarked that it was nice and clean. dad remarked that it was dirty. mum said “your view is pure.”


  10. Thank you Luna for this article. I was one of the ones who wasn’t really bothered about the wedding, not exactly a rejector. But then I was very surprised how moved I was when I saw the highlights (over and over). I was particularly impressed with how poised and confident and happy Kate appeared to be (so are these positive qualities projections of my mind, or possessed by Kate??). Was I moved because I want my samsara to be perfect and this seemed to indicate it could be? Is this one of the reasons you wrote this article, to shake our attachment with a reminder of emptiness & dependent relationship?

    I absolutely love these personal stories of Geshe-la, because as you point out they are so meaningful and really make us think, and shake our normal view of the World. It is like he is giving us koans and appealing to our minds which always want something that is new and interesting to dwell on.

    You also partially answered a question that I had from your post on Stress & burn-out at work, which is, “How do we identify with our potential rather than our limitations, from a Sutra point of view?”

    I am very pleased that more of my online-time is becoming meaningful due to your efforts. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Mike. Geshe-la has told us to go to where people are and not wait for them to come to us, and as we all seem to be spending a bunch of time online these days, we may as well talk Dharma 🙂

      How did I partially answer that question from the Stress article?

      As for Kate, she did seem poised and confident, but sometimes we see things in others that we’d like to possess ourselves — and in fact we do possess them, but we don’t think we do and so we project them outward. People are often attached to a partner whom they feel possesses all the qualities they’d like to have, not really realizing that they already do have those qualities. Well, I didn’t necessarily explain that very clearly, but its food for thought!

  11. Thanks for the Geshe-la story it makes the whole hype meaningful. As a non-Brit I don’t really get it, but thinking that the union of two royals is not an ordinary event seems fitting. After all Will was in red and Kate in white…

  12. It is funny intellectually we had learned that all phenomena, of course ,Weddings,… Olympic games,…Oscar´s Awards,…Foot ball World Cup,..are mere labels or mere names, imputed by our conceptual thought…and your post make this more clear… Thanks Luna…. i will keep all this in my mind to remember how lucky we are …to be experimenting some times; Budhas Empowerments, Pujas and Dharma Teachings …..instead of all that…!
    (Even we can seat, and take a tea with Gueshe-la) 🙂

    1. Yes, sometimes it is easier to see with the bigger things, the ones that obviously have parts, that they are empty. But everything has parts.

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