I have had the thought of late that I don’t think I’ll ever be completely, utterly happy until I realize I am everywhere. We all are, as there is no world outside our mind.
I suppose what has partly bought on this cosmic rather pleasing thought is the amount of times I’ve been asked in the last few months since I came to Liverpool from Florida:
“Really? That is a BIG change?!”
Whereas it is a surprisingly un-big change.
Plus, give me a dollar or a quid for the amount of solicitous comments I’ve received along the lines of whether I am feeling at home yet? (I am, thank you.) But the truth is I don’t feel I left home. Home is where the heart is, as they say. My home is in my heart. Luckily, my heart goes with me everywhere.
Florida was only ever dreamlike appearance to my mind, and I can still “be” there when I want to in my heart-mind. Same for everywhere. As Geshe-la points out, the mind can go anywhere – it’d take considerable effort and expense to lug my body to the moon, but my mind can go there in an instant just by thinking about it.
Florida is empty of inherent existence and can be anything depending on my thoughts, so I like to imagine it as a Pure Land — I still enjoy offering it up to all enlightened beings and living beings, with all its pterodactyl pelicans, lapping turquoise seas, and gorgeous gargantuan tropical undergrowth. My hairdresser yesterday spent 10 minutes marveling aloud at the Armadillo she had once seen in Florida – I offer him up too, along with, now, the swans in Sefton Park, the miniature chirpy birds, and the timeless and Tara-green English countryside.
Be here, now. Be everywhere now.
It was EM Forster who said:
Love is the great connector. With equanimity, we reduce our sticky attachment Velcro-ing us to our only (bring out the violins) loved ones, and love the ones we’re with as well as the ones we’re not currently with. (An anonymous flower fairy just left the first daffodils of spring outside my door with a message wishing me a joy-filled day — what’s not to love about Liverpudlians?!) [Remembering how everyone is our kind mother and that we depend on others for every atom of our being, we can feel at home anywhere. Love makes us feel entirely connected, settled, and supported – it stops loneliness and homesickness in their tracks.
I just this moment received this gracious reply from an old friend I wrote to in Florida, who is going through a hard time:
“You are so kind to have me on your mind with all the new frontiers you are forever moving through.”
That’s what I mean! Why wouldn’t I have her on my mind? Why would I be concerned for her over there but not over here?! To prove it, I’m now going to dedicate this article to her and Chuck.
One of the six general sufferings of samsara, according to Buddha, is Uncertainty. Impermanence means that everything is unstable – our relationships, our locations, our enjoyments, our bodies. Unless we find a way to transform change, we are in for trouble – and not just in this life but in all our future lives.
As a child, we travelled, my parents and I. We lived in New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Turkey, Ghana, and Singapore, and visited many other countries too. Though my parents adapted remarkably well to change on almost every continent, for them travel was rooted in, I think, a sense of Britishness. They were happy to come back and retire here; England is home for them. My older brother who started in England and was packed off to boarding school aged 7 told me at Christmas that if he could choose where on earth he would live, he too would live in England, just where he does live. For me, though, starting my life in New Zealand, paying occasional visits to the motherland, England never felt like my roots. My parents were my roots, and that was fine, as I never doubted that they’d look after me (I was lucky!) Every two or three years I’d be going to a new continent and meeting new people. One day, on the school bus waiting to drive off to another first day at another new school (nine in all), I felt an existential ennui at having to start all over again making new friends, and doubted that I’d have the energy or ability to do it. Just before the bus rolled away, my mother gave me this parting shot:
“If you want people to like you, like them first.”
When I asked how I could possibly like a whole bunch of strangers, she said:
“Get them to talk about themselves. And remember that everyone is beautiful when they smile.”
She doesn’t remember saying these things, but I do.
As an adult, I have continued to go from place to place – apart from a 14-year stint at Madhyamaka Centre, by far and away the longest period I’ve spent in one place, a veritable exception to the rule. (And on three separate occasions, months apart, after we all moved into Madhyamaka Centre in 1986, my teacher Geshe-la asked me the curious koan-like question: “Have you moved into Madhyamaka Centre yet?” knowing full well that I had [or thought I had!] Make of that what you will.)
Why am I telling you all this? Partly as I’m feeling chatty, and partly because it has been my karma so far in this life to move around a great deal, and this uncertainty has given me ample opportunities to contemplate the truth of Dharma. So, hopefully, if you’re perhaps in the midst of some big move or change, reading this might help a bit.
All this moving is nothing, obviously, not to mention luxury compared to the amount and type of upheaval experienced by refugees all over the world. It is also nothing compared to our constant travels from life to life. Other general sufferings of samsara are having to leave our body over and over again and having to take rebirth over and over again.
Change is inevitable so if we can find a way to feel at home and to feel happy wherever we go — place to place and life to life — we are free. We have mental freedom. That’s what I want. Geshe Kelsang left Tibet with just his robes and 2 texts in the late 1950s, and then he had to leave India to come over to an alien West to try and bring peace to a bunch of materialistic, self-indulgent (speaking for myself) barbarians. Not only did he remain perfectly happy through all of these upheavals, but I am quite sure he has mastered the art of being everywhere at the same time, as well as never leaving home.
“You can only have 130 friends!”
That modern-day phenomenon, Facebook, is a connector too, in its own way. At its best, it helps people feel close across continents, in that locationless cyberspace that could be anything really, so make of it what you will. I was recently talking to a young teenage boy about Facebook in the World Peace Café downstairs, and he told me that Facebook doesn’t work because you can only really have 130 friends. I knew what he meant, but I still told him it wasn’t true – we can love as many people as we want, it is up to us, not up to them. A Bodhisattva is known as a friend of the world. Karmically a Bodhisattva may spend more time with some people than with others in any given day or year, but mentally they remember their deep connection to everyone in the universe. If we emulate this, then when we physically encounter old and/or new friends in this and future lives, on Facebook or anywhere else, we are ready for them!
The mandala of bliss and emptiness
Just to get a bit Tantric for a moment, the mandala universe is everywhere. The union of bliss and emptiness pervades all phenomena, is the “stuff” of all phenomena. As it says in The Root Tantra of Heruka and Vajrayogini:
“In the supreme secret of great bliss
Always gather the nature of all.”
The mandala and Deities are this bliss and emptiness appearing as completely pure form, pervading time and space. Bliss and emptiness are in our heart and they are simultaneously everywhere. Heruka and Vajrayogini are everywhere. Compassion and wisdom are everywhere. (At the least, I like to be in 24 places at a time …) You can find out more about Tantra in Geshe Kelsang’s books.
Buddhism does nothing if not expand our horizons. We think about limitless past and future lives, limitless worlds, beginningless and endless consciousness and time, how every single living being is our mother, how there is nothing really “out there” as everything is mere appearance to our mind… We can break out of our poky prison, so dingy we can hardly see past the end of our nose, with its bars of self-grasping ignorance and self-cherishing. If I check my problems, I can see that they all stem from grasping at things as fixed and real and/or thinking my own happiness and problems are far more important than everyone else’s. Dharma expands us in space, time, awareness… til we feel connected to everything and everyone in a non-dual experience where prison walls have no place. Then we spring everyone else from this crushing prison as well, bringing them to an absurdly welcome and serene state, bringing them home.
Hello Luna, I loved this article. It hit me at exactly the right moment. I would love to chat with you someday.
So glad you liked it 🙂 And look forward to meeting you.
Hi. Do you live in the Liverpool Kadampa centre? xx
I did a few years ago. It’s a great place 🙂
really beautiful, Luna! so glad I found your writing.
Your preamble… (I have had the thought of late that I don’t think I’ll ever be completely, utterly happy until I realize I am everywhere. We all are, as there is no world outside our mind.)…. resonated with my recent contemplations. It is in a way “The Big Picture”. I remember Gen Tharchin’s saying (which I chewed on and which took me a while to understand, and which I have not heard from anyone else yet) … “There is no ‘out there’ out there”. There are a few tremors in my mind from this awareness. There is a teasing vacilation between feeling isolated and one-with-all. The mind of Buddha being everywhere also becomes more understandable, less mysterious, more obvious. I think there is a little fear, possibly related to the well-described possible reaction to emptiness, ‘curling up on the floor in the foetal position’. I also become a little nervous because my nihilistic imprints begin flexing themselves. BUT I know it is a very important view/understanding and I am very happy it is manifesting. It feels really good to hear someone else give expression to the experience! Thank you, this is a wonderful place, in cyberspace!
Wonderful blog as always! Funny i think it works the other way way as well. Been in the same place for a while- but it keeps changing like a kaleidascope. Thanks again, please keep them coming
Kaleidascope, great analogy 🙂 Seemingly the same ingredients but appearing so very different.
… as long as your comments are variations of “oh. Luna, you’re so wonderful, so inspiring”.
Thanks Rosemary, keep me real 😉
In any event, if i get a compliment, i do offer it up to the Buddhas straightaway, i don’t take it personally if i can possibly help it. I’m aware that they are just the other side of the coin from insults, and I get those too 🙂 In samsara we get built up and knocked down all the time.
ps, what about that walk then?
I love your articles they are really inspiring… I live at Monterrey, Mexico and I received a job offer from Northern California… I am still thinking about it… and this article appeared in a perfect moment… Thank you!
Wishing you inner happiness, whatever you decide…
My family and I will be moving from Southern California to upstate New York this summer.Your wise and inspiring post comes at just the right time. Thank you! I know my greatest challenge will be leaving our beloved sangha at KMC Los Angeles for a city that has no Kadampa Center or presence. I realize I am taking them with me in my heart, but I wonder how I will sustain my practice without all my Kadampa friends and great teachers, especially Gen Rigpa and Kelsang Rakma, Have you ever experienced living in a place without access to a center, sangha, and live transmissions of precious dharma? Any advice?
Hi Pam, yes, I have. To keep your practice strong while you’re on your own you will need inner discipline that comes from a real wish to go deeper, so every day it’s good to leave time to remember what you love about Dharma and connect with that. This is a good opportunity to practice Dharma as if no one is watching you, to make your meditations real for you, to make them work. Spending some time alone can make you stronger, if you let it, and you’ll have more to share when you rejoin your Sangha. Meanwhile, you can also see everyone you meet as Sangha, reminding you to practice daily kindness, love, and wisdom.
Other ideas: you can join the KMC correspondence course to keep receiving teachings, and over time you might even consider starting a branch?
Thank you, Luna, for taking the time to offer such meaningful advice. I’ve thought of possibly offering some meditation classes in my new town to start with. Gen Rigpa has kindly given me some opportunities to teach here in LA and it’s been invaluable. I hope to get more experience before I move. I’m currently an FP student and will either continue it as a correspondence class or drive over the border to Toronto and take the course there (about a 1 1/2 hr. drive). Either way, I’ll find a way to keep my practice strong and alive. Thanks for your encouragement and reminding all of us that every situation can be transformed into something positive.
just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog.
You seem to have captured the true essence of Geshe La’s teacnings, yet communicate them in such an accessible, contemporary, wise and enjoyable way
lots of love
That is the best compliment I could receive, Paul! Thank you.
Loved reading this! Thank you. 🙂
I’m glad. Hope you’re doing really well, Martha Shaptavajra 🙂
Thank you Luna xx
Lovely to hear you chatting away, Luna 🙂 Your mother gave some great advice to you, didn’t she. And I love that analogy with samsara being a poky little prison, “with its bars of self-grasping ignorance and self-cherishing.”
She did. It is!
Thank you Luna. I am about to go through a big change in the next six months so your words have come to me at the perfect time – only just this week I have made a big life changing decision. Kind of self imposed as I feel my practice is stagnating. Life has become a bit too ‘easy’. Nothing better than a change for improving your Lojong practice!! Thanks for such a great blog!! Xx
Thanks Kate. And it’s true about Lojong! I’ve had a few cool opportunities to practice it myself since I got here.
Thanks for this very profound article. I am wondering about your comment ™ at the least I like to be in 24 places at a time”…..are you referring to the 24 special places in this world? X
My pleasure. Glad you like your article.
Luna thanks, this is pure nectar !
Thank you for what you share with us. Your articles are always inspirational, helpful and entertaining. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Very kind of you to say so. Thank you for reading.
really enjoyed this post, thank-you! looking forward to being everywhere…..