This reporter had the good fortune to attend a special event in May where renowned Tibetan lama Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche gave a talk titled, “Is an Enlightened Society Possible?” It was part of a weekend of teachings he held in the Bay Area and I wrote a feature on the Saturday night portion of the event for PopMatters. See the story here:
Mipham is a very interesting fellow who I’ve likened to a Gen-X version of the Dalai Lama. I first heard of him back in 2004 when I was living in Los Angeles and he was interviewed on KPFK. This was around the time he had released his first book, Turning the Mind Into an Ally, which is an accessible primer on meditation and Tibetan Buddhism.
“Growing up American with a Tibetan twist, Sakyong Mipham talks to Westerners as no one can: in idiomatic English with stories and wisdom from American culture and the great Buddhist teachers,” reads his site’s page for the book and it’s also a great description of that interview I heard. A friend had given me one of his famous father’s books to read a few years before that, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, but I wasn’t able to get into it at the time. But Turning the Mind Into an Ally drew me into the world of Tibetan Buddhism because I felt Mipham spoke to my generation. Then I started reading books by his dad and the Dalai Lama and have been into meditation and Buddhism ever since.
The Dalai Lama has suggested that if every 8-year-old was taught to meditate, we would eliminate violence from the world in one generation. That’s a bold claim, but the Dalai Lama is a bold person. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford mused further on this concept in another of his typically great columns last week, “The sheer terror of sitting still.”
I should also mention punk rock Buddhist Brad Warner here. He comes from the Zen school of Buddhism, which is different from the Tibetan, although they ultimately boil down to much of the same essence. Brad is someone I found appealing for similar reasons to Mipham – he is a Gen-Xer who clearly relates to modern times, as opposed to the esoterica of some of the more traditional Buddhist teachings/books that can be difficult to get into for the novice. He recently blogged a relevant post similat to Morford’s column with the title of ”Why Should We Meditate?“
And so, the big question — IS an enlightened society possible? It’s a great question to ask during these tumultuous times when corporate greed rules global politics and the Orwellian nightmare seems to be fully materializing (I’m working on another impending blog post about Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, Barrett Brown and Michael Hastings, stay tuned.) Many people seem to buy into the viewpoint that humanity is inherently selfish and greedy, and that a paradigm of conflict is therefore the way things have always been and always will be. Buddhist teachers like Mipham and the Dalai Lama flatly reject that notion, insisting that human nature is inherently good. This reporter agrees, despite ever mounting evidence that might seem to indicate otherwise. I wanted to write the feature story on the talk in order to try and turn some other folks onto Mipham’s wisdom, and so if you like it, please do pass it on.
There was also supposed to be a link for the Soundcloud page of DJ Dragonfly, who played the “Enlightened Dance Party” afterwards. He was spinning some pretty groovy sounds of “global bass and ecstatic whomp”, so check him out too if you’re into that kind of thing. This track is my favorite…