The spiritual master, an author of multiple commentaries and original texts, visits Vilnius every year to give teachings of the Buddhist philosophy. Geshe Tinley is a devote disciple of HH Dalai Lama XIV. He came to live to Russia in 1993, and Lithuania is the only foreign country where he publicly shares the traditional knowledge of the method of compassion and the wisdom of the theory of emptiness. His lectures are always free and open for everyone.
The conversation occurred in May, 2019 during the private audience in the hotel room.
So, I wanted to kindly ask you, how Buddhist philosophy can help us better understand and explain things. Buddhism has a logic similar to the science. How, in your view, it can help better understand the world and it’s phenomena?
In Buddhism, there are two main emphases: kindness and wisdom. These two are the pillars of world peace and are the pillars of human survival on this planet. People ignore kindness to achieve some material benefit, and that is why so many disasters come. There are so many conflicts happening in different parts of the world. The main thing comes from a lack of kindness — selfishness. They create this unnecessary war in different parts of the world so that they can sell what they gained from it. All of these come from a lack of kindness.
Another side is wisdom. When people have wisdom, they see things a little bit farther than their nose — they see things farther than the small advantage that they gain. A negative state of mind comes from a narrow way of thinking. They see one little thing they can eat. To achieve that they use some force, they use negative states. What can a negative state of mind do? It can force to grab, steal, rob, and cheat — all these things. It does not create something for human happiness. Negatives states want to break our creativity. In terms of the world economy, many professional people say that the most important word is “creative economy.” The most important thing is creating something. That’s why wisdom is fundamental to remove this narrow way of thinking: “When you gain something with no advantage in return, you lose many things.”
Buddhism emphasizes wisdom and kindness that is beneficial for individual development. It goes hand in hand with world development. That’s why our happiness will depend on a society. You will find what Buddha taught is very limited in the XXI century. If you investigate every problem we faced, there is a lack of kindness and a lack of wisdom, and if you think about it a little bit deeper, then we can achieve it.
Another crucial thing for our world is to have principles, ethics, and morality. It’s not a question of religion. Sometimes they say, it takes beyond religion. I don’t want to say this. There’s nothing wrong with religion. But what I’m saying is, it’s not only religious people who accept it, even non-religious people and atheists do. So what I mean by ethics is, that it is something that everybody can accept. That’s the most critical issue, because ethics is a principle. Even in business, everybody has an ethical tenet because nowadays, you can’t do business without a teamwork. Usually, one company can’t do big projects by themselves; they have to do it with a group. So if there is one main thing or principle — honesty, justice — everybody will profit and benefit. It’s like a tube magnet; if they are pressing on each other from both sides, it will take them very long. If only one side has the advantage while the other does not, it will not work. So those in a business field or any other area, it’s essential to support each other.
We talked about the principle of honesty and trust. These are very important in the XXI century. In the future, our problem will be mainly sickness and diseases, which will come out into our planet. That’s why all human beings must work together to fight diseases. Teamwork is essential. There are so many calamities and disasters in the area getting worse and worse. To survive in this world, all of us should come together to fight this national disaster.
We should respect each other because there are so many things we have to work together to fight. Otherwise, humans can’t survive. Our future children can’t survive. On top of this, in the future we have the technology — machines are progressing very fast. If we don’t use our knowledge, the computer will do anything. We will be under the control of computers. It will be a future problem. So we have to understand it beforehand. This is why we have to educate children in such a way that machines can’t compete with us. In terms of memory, we can’t compete with computers. They can memorize so many things.
So what can’t machines do? That is trust, honesty, justice, kindness, wisdom, creativity — we must keep these aspects of education for the future generation. Then our future generation will live peacefully and have the knowledge taught by Buddha. He is a revolutionary teacher in India; not a religious, he is a teacher of mental science. Buddha said everything that I talked about, not just in theory, but also based on my experience. That’s why we have to take care of our property, not only taking care of our physical or mental health. Those are very important. If we don’t take care of our mental health, our future generation will have a big problem. If we give Buddhism to the world as a science — how to achieve a healthy mind — more people will benefit from it. I don’t want Buddhism to spread. What I want is the knowledge taught by Buddha to be used by many people, so that they will have peace and harmony — so that a human being can become a better human being. That’s the main point.
Indeed. So, as you mentioned, a wisdom and kindness are two pillars in Buddhism. Let’s talk about a kindness first. I have heard from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that Buddhists treat all sentient beings as equal. In contrast, other beliefs and religions only treat humans as worth the same kindness. Do you see that difference to be important?
Well, I think if you focus on non human beings, it is not that important. Some groups of people can’t think of kindness beyond human beings. So at least this kindness, which includes only human beings, is also enough. I think that’s enough, because we don’t have such kindness. If you can extend it to all sentient beings, that’s excellent. But at least - to all humans regardless of caste, nation, religion, what they follow — that’s very important.
To generate a kindness, there should be a philosophy behind it. Without philosophy, you can’t create a kindness. So that’s why in philosophy, Buddhists believe that if you help others, you are indirectly helping yourself. People should understand that philosophy: if you’re kind to another, in return you will get more benefits. If you love others, you will benefit.
Many people don’t realize that. They think that if other people love me, that is very important. If I love them — not very important. So they try their whole life to make other people love them. They post on Facebook so many things, that when they get liked, they will be delighted. However, it is impossible for everybody to love you. Even if they like you, you won’t get much benefit from it. Maybe Facebook, if you get a million likes, will pay you some money, but you won’t get much benefit from it.
Buddhist philosophy is saying, that it is not very important if others like you. Buddha and Bodhisattvas will always love us, our parents will always love us, but we don’t get much benefit. If we love them, that is to our advantage. That’s what we have to understand. Firstly, we are supposed to love all human beings and all sentient beings. When you love them, you don’t lose anything. You gain benefits. By loving others, doing some good for them; in reality, you get benefits. Hating and harming others is harming yourself. This is a very important explanation of philosophy. So when someone says, “Don’t love others,” I would say, “Where are my human rights? I have the right to love others.” That is an excellent philosophy behind it. That’s important.
It’s interesting, because many people believe that love is irrational. Love is something, what you feel, and something you don’t need to think about. You kindly remind, that a philosophy is a love for wisdom, so must be rational.
Yeah. See, when many people love without a good reasoning, then this love disappears right away. For example, you help somebody who has been in an accident. On the way to the hospital, you helped him, but after one year this person comes in with a new expensive car and an expensive watch. You might think about why you helped him at that time. On one occasion, you’d love him, but when you see him more successful, you will feel jealousy. This emotion, this love is not based on a good reasoning. That’s why the Buddhists are saying that the most significant thing is love. It’s essential to base it on a reasoning. Not just for the reason that they are temporarily suffering. The main thing is, Shantideva says, for a living thing, for a human being, for one to achieve happiness, that everybody should be happy. They don’t want to suffer. They shouldn’t suffer. That’s the underlying philosophy to explain it.
Okay, let’s investigate this, because it’s not so easy to understand. For somebody, it’s easier to feel this rather than understand and explain. "I" give something to others and that’s a good feeling. It’s impossible to argue. “I” feel good. “I” help people, and “I” feel good. But it’s challenging to find a rational reasoning, that if I am helping that person, it becomes a benefit for me. One would say, “There’s no benefit. It’s pure philanthropy. I give something, and I don’t expect anything back. It’s fine for me.” But you’re saying, even if one doesn’t expect, one will still benefit from helping others.
For the beginner who doesn’t understand, it is essential to explain “benefits.” They say there are two ways of helping others. One is understanding that if you help others, you’re helping yourself. The second level is out of pure compassion. You know that you will benefit from it, but that’s not important.
Nobody wants to suffer. I have some power, so I should help him as a human being. There is a compassion — this is the highest one. The sympathy for helping others doesn’t come easily at the beginning. From the start, you need to understand: if you help others, you’re also indirectly helping yourself, so that you can push yourself. When your compassion becomes stronger and stronger, you don’t have to think about the benefits, because you know that the benefit will come by itself.
In some circumstances, if you’ve only been thinking about other people, eventually, you might think, “What about me?” Then say to yourself, “No. Compassion is good.” You will benefit from it. It’s not about you, but you will also benefit from this. Deep down, when we do something good for others, we say, “Okay, I helped them, then what about me?” Then you say to yourself, “No, don’t worry. You will benefit.” These are all Buddhist philosophies, so analyze it like a chess game. If you move this one, then in another situation, you might think of another thing. It is called a strategic move.
If you don’t have a philosophy, then if you do something good, there seems to be a danger to your wealth. On one level, you say, “No, I don’t want to be kind.” There’s no defensive move, when you don’t become a kind person. This strategy looks like “it’s about me”, but is it defensive? No. Then you never say, “I don’t want to be a kind person.”
It is limitless. Think about yourself, and you know that when you do something for others, you will gain your benefit. Buddhist doesn’t think, that if I don’t help others, I won’t get benefits. So even the excellent results that I obtained, I dedicate to their happiness. Life after life my joy is to help them. We do not go for self-concern. It is a very pure type of love.
There should always be wisdom behind it. Wisdom is a conclusion. Even Bodhisattvas experience horrible situations and are in danger of losing their love and compassion. That’s why they have to cultivate wisdom, so that this circumstance won’t happen.
Even Bodhisattvas experience such cases. One story is about this. Some emanation of the devil comes to Bodhisattva to bring a discord to kindness. So he would ask, “Give me your right hand.” The Bodhisattva with a strong compassion cut his right hand and gave it to him. Then the devil says, “This is very disrespectful. Why are you giving it with your left hand?” The Bodhisattva will think, “No, I can’t be a kind person, because I can’t prove it to this vicious being. It is unbelievably negative. I am giving my right hand, but he is specially blaming me to provoke me.” So he decided to give up the Bodhisattva part. He threw up his sutra up in the sky, but it did not fall. When he looked up, he saw holding it. Manjushri says, “Don’t be discouraged. There are so many objects for compassion. Why would you give up your kindness? Just because you meet some bad people, why would you give up? Because of these people, you should have stronger love and compassion. They need care, they are not normal.”
In this way, wisdom is essential. Even strong people, when they meet a terrible situation, are in danger of losing compassion. So that’s why wisdom is fundamental.
Buddhist wisdom that we are talking about is . When we speak about dependent arising as a conventional truth, it is cause and effect. When we talk about the different causes of dependent arising, the most subtle cause is a law of karma. What we do with the body, speech and at the mental level is an action leaving an imprint on our mind. If this imprint is in good condition, then it will affect our future: happiness or suffering - where will we be reborn. All of our activities determine it. That’s why they say everything in our future is a result or an outcome of our actions. This is just one aspect of wisdom that Buddha taught.
There are three types of dependent arising. Cause and effect — from it, we understand the law of karma. Because everything is a cause and effect, from it, you can realize also the theory of emptiness. Everything is based on a cause and effect condition, it can’t be sorted in heaven.
The second type of dependent arising is depending on a part, which is for all non-product objects. There are two types of phenomena. One’s called functional phenomena which come from the cause condition. The second phenomenon is called non-product — product and non-product.
Non-product doesn’t depend on cause and condition, but they exist like space. Space is a type of dependent arising that depends on the part. Space doesn’t come from the cause and effect condition, but it’s dependent on the part so it can’t be truly inherently existent. This level touches the non-products.
The third level of dependent arising Buddhism talks about is a label by thought, a subjective thought. In any field we can’t talk about anything without a subjective nomination. Now we have quantum physics, they say that without a subjective mind you can’t talk about anything. That’s why we can’t talk about outer, inner or any object without a subjective nomination. The object looks like its solid, but in reality, they are all nominally existent. Other than their name, you can’t find anything. No partless particle. The third level of dependent arising is being leveled by thought.
As Lama Tsongkapa says, dependent arising and emptiness are one entity but two different aspects. There is a saying, “The rule of is ignorance. To free yourself from it, you have to cultivate the view of dependent arising.” Not emptiness, because with dependent arising on one side, you’ll remove the root of Samsara. It doesn’t say nothing exists at all. That’s why understanding of dependent arising will save you from extremes.
One extreme is an absolute eternalism. That is how we believe that something exists. It looks like it’s something that exists from the object side. We can touch it, but in reality, we are not touching anything, like a rainbow. To a small child, when they see a rainbow, they think it is solid. In reality, you can’t touch it. In the same way, any matter in quantum physics, when they investigate, it’s like a rainbow. When you go deeper, you won’t find anything there. How can we say something exists? That’s an eternalism.
On another side, if you search for it, you can’t find it. That’s why quantum physicists think it doesn’t exist. They deny it because they can’t prove it. It may lead to another extreme of nihilism.
Others say that everything only exists in the mind, that is more like a Chittamatrian view. The Chittamatra doesn’t completely deny the entire phenomenon. They say it doesn’t exist separate from the mind. Quantum physicists don’t know this because they don’t know anything related to the mind. That’s why some people say quantum physicists are similar to Chittamatra. Still, they aren’t even close to Chittamatra because Chittamatra says all these phenomena don’t exist separate from the mind, but they exist as a projection of the brain. Quantum physicists don’t even know what Chittamatra is.
That’s the dependent arising theory. It’s vital.
It doesn’t have any direction. It’s a theory. When you investigate this theory on a different level, then you understand the reality of the phenomena.
Something doesn’t go anywhere. They don’t go to evil, and they don’t go to “good”. Because of ignorance, we have so many wrong thoughts, so many misunderstandings. Then we exaggerate, we don’t see the reality. We amplify our friends and enemies, put an attachment to that enemy, anger, and jealousy, and all these things. However, if others are not happy, we are also not happy. When our minds understand these phenomena, we know that everything doesn’t exist in such a way. But it is not nonexistent. It exists as a name, and it’s functioning. This is not easy to comprehend. So in our mind, when something exists, it must be a solid existence, because we are not used to understanding that something exists as just a name. Everything is visible. Our minds are not used to this. There is a saying that understanding the subtle function is more complicated than understanding emptiness.
First, we have emptiness. After that — a normal existence, cause and effect, everything is visible. The phenomenon of “I” and everything else exist only nominally. This comes after understanding emptiness. So that’s why appearance due to dependent arising will free you from extreme of nihilism. Emptiness will free you from extreme absolutism. They are not contradicting, they are supporting each other. During meditation, it’s even more difficult. That’s why we have to study for long periods.
If one asks, “What is the purpose of the universe?” If everything arises, what’s behind it? There are different stories of world creation, and Buddhism says that there’s no beginning and no end to the world. Is there any direction? It is a continuous process, without beginning and end. Is there any purpose, any meaning, any direction of it?
Buddhism says that our world’s system arose from the collective karma of the beings who lived before it. Before, there was one universe, which was destroyed with the Big Bang and became a space particle. Then this cosmic collective karma created by people who are going to live on this planet in the future moved in such a way that matter will gather together slowly and then become a universe. There is water and everything, so that humans and animals can survive. So the purpose comes from the collective karma. There is no such thing as karma, creating a purpose. There is no such thing as supernormal particles. These are the collective people who have created karma. This planet is for those who created karma. Once karma is finished, then this world system disappears, because it’s purpose is finished. The primary objective is for those people who will live in this world. That’s the purpose.
When karma is finished, then this world system disappears and becomes a space particle. Then another collective karma will come to live in this world, gather particles together, and become another universe. That’s why from the beginning of time until today, the future will continue like that. When all negative karma is purified, there will be no samsaric world; it will be a completely different dimension. This matter will be something different, so that it will become some matter of a Pure land. Every matter changes, because the force behind this is karma, a karmic force. There are so many different kinds of forces. Many scientists know magnetic force, nuclear force, but in Buddhism we talk about karmic force. Why we gather together is because of this force. In the future, the non negative karma will have unbelievable force. There will be no matter like this, totally new dimension. This force we can’t see with eyes, it is an unimaginable karmic force.
In our body, there is a force of energy. Because of this force, energy circulates, so that we can experience this. And then there is also a mental force, some people get it from their concentration. They can bend a spoon. This force is not an outer force. It’s a mental force. It can bend a spoon and make it move. So many different types of force exist.
Some scientists think that humans discover not only new things, but also new laws in science. There are and Einstein’s . We believe that we might find new laws, and maybe one day, scientists will discover the law of karma. Other scientists believe that the laws of physics evolve; they change with time. Recently, I read a book that sounds very revolutionary in the field of physics. It says that we don’t just discover new laws, but new laws also emerge. A collection of fixed laws does not govern the universe. Those laws also tend to evolve and change. It corresponds to what you said. If we believe that there is a law of karma, according to which the world will disappear and arise again based on collective karma of some sentient beings, then we would have new laws of physics, new forms of matter — light, energy, etc.
It’s also possible for new laws to arise because things are changing. As they change, the old law doesn’t work, so there should be new laws. Everything depends on the situation as the changes come.
Going to psychology and daily matters of people in our society, and cohabitation — in your lectures you use many examples from science and technology. I find them very useful in helping to understand the world better. Some people say that nowadays there is the fourth industrial revolution — due to the Internet and all of these new technologies. It’s difficult for some people to adapt. For an older person, it’s challenging to adjust to mobile banking, and it’ll take the time to realize that he can use Wi-Fi and the Internet everywhere. You lived before the Internet, and you’ve been teaching before the Internet. You started teaching long before the Internet, and continued when the Internet appeared with Facebook and mobile banking. Did you observe changes in the abilities of your students to understand the world better?
This technology is an outer example. There should be real and natural mechanisms going on. So what are they creating? They are all artificial mechanisms. What they discovered are all-natural mechanisms of our mind. Internet banking, internet, Wi-Fi — these are natural abilities that a human brain has. Technology creates artificial versions. Television and all these things resemble natural mechanisms of our mind. I find it easier to give an analogy for the brain. Because of technical development, I can explain something in two minutes. Before, I had to explain something in two hours. It corresponds to the teaching of Buddha. It doesn’t contradict.
That’s what Einstein said, that in the future religion will go together with scientific development. That is Buddhism. That’s true. It’s talking about the philosophy, the reality, the dependent arising, about the real nature of the phenomenon. Through investigating, through finding evidence, science will prove it. At the end it will come to the same reality.
It does not manifest. New technology is an example to illustrate. From that point of view, I’m saying that it’s useful. But technology will not help us to develop our minds.
On the contrary. Because there is so much potential hidden in the human mind, it has the potential to become a Buddha, to get rid of all delusion. The parallel process is maybe not a direct manifestation of that potential, but a side effect, so humans are capable of developing technologies that are complex and amazing. They go in line with the same laws and help illustrate laws. I find this beautiful because, as you say, a particular seed can only grow into a specific type of tree or a plant or a flower. There is a potential hidden in every human to grow into a clear mind — purified and not polluted.
What I’m trying to say is, how did people create technology? They can’t create something like a human hand. Moving a finger is something technology can’t create. So, in the same way, they can create many things, but what nature would they have? They can’t create the same thing. We don’t need to create the best technology, the best machine because we already have it — that’s our mind. We don’t know how to utilize it. It is like a very advanced computer — if you don’t know how to use it, it doesn’t have many functions. If you know how to utilize it, then it’s useful. This advanced computer is our mind. However, the mind is far more sophisticated. Even animals have this mind. It’s such a high technology, high machine, but we don’t know how to use it. So that’s why the teaching of Buddha is an instruction how to use this machine of your mind effectively, so that it can be a hundred percent functioning? That is called a state of mind.
I find this truly amazing. As you said, these new technologies do different things. They help people in their daily life, but it also helps you to teach and illustrate. It is also like a dependent circle like wisdom and kindness. If a person invents something like mobile banking or Wi-Fi and then it corresponds to some other structure hidden in his mind about laws of karma and the or any other Buddhist statements. They’re supporting each other.
We can use the technology that we have now wisely, or we can misuse it. So we use it wisely to gain knowledge, like from the Internet. If you have a pure source of information, then you can get knowledge. But there’s also much of wrong information there. You get benefits, but you also get the disadvantage.
On the Internet, there is more wrong than the right information. If people get false information, then removing it from the mind is very difficult. Our mind is strange. What information you get first, immediately your mind is fixed on it. To remove it from the mind is very difficult, because they get attached to it. It’s better not to have any knowledge than have the wrong knowledge. Nowadays, technology improved access to knowledge so much, but getting false knowledge is very dangerous. But there are also good things there.
The Internet is quite neutral in terms of good or bad. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s neutral. It reflects a potential, and corresponds to a possibility — it’s already there. Even if people use it for any wrong purpose, they might suffer for a while, but then after a while, they may get an idea to use it for a useful purpose.
But you have said that it is impossible to recreate mind artificially. Why? What prevents this?
The mind is not a substance. It comes from its previous continuity. In terms of subtle matter, you can’t create anything. It is the . You can’t create a new matter, and this latest matter will continue, and you can’t make it non-existent. You can create the mind from a previous continuity in the same way. In this world, we think everything is a new matter, but everything continues from the former world. You can’t create anything — even matter. Mass and energy have no end in it. So, in the same way with consciousness, a new consciousness is not possible to be created. It should continue from a previous consciousness. That’s the way Buddhism and science look the same.
Science talks about evolution; there is no beginning or end. From this same theory, Buddhism says that the mind comes from the previous continuity; this also applies to the previous life. It has a beginning in an earlier life. As with matter, you can smash it, and it becomes invisible, but it’s meant to continue. The same with consciousness — there is no way to stop it from continuing. Our minds will advance to the next life because no force can stop that continuity. That’s the logic. Science and theory explain it.
It is science that describes the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy in the present form. Buddhism talks about it differently. Nobody talked about the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy 2500 years ago. Now, there is also a consensus in a scientific society, but physics and other related fields have developed much faster than biology and other sciences, which tried to analyze consciousness. We assume that the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy is compatible with a Buddhist view. Now, scientists focus very much on the object of mind, consciousness, brain imaging, and then we apply all these technologies. We find chemicals and electricity inside the brain, and then we measure it, and we put a lot of effort. Practically, we could expect that they discover and describe some laws that talk about consciousness in the same way as physicists speak of matter and energy. Do you see any assumption for that, or do you think it would be right to expect?
I didn’t say we can find consciousness.
It is impossible to create a new mind. The mind continues from a previous source, and it’s impossible to destroy it or recreate it. From that understanding, as a consequence, there is no reason to be afraid of an artificial intellect to overcome a human mind. Technologies may harm, but it can’t directly hack a human mind, because it’s a different nature. It’s impossible.
In the future, if people don’t use their mind potential, then we become a slave of technology. That’s the danger.
It’s different. When we develop our mind, there is a chance that technology could dominate, and then humans will become slaves of this technology. That’s the danger that could happen, but I’m not saying that such things will happen. There is a big chance that humans will become wiser and use their creativity. We can use this technology for our mental development also. Everything is possible. If we are not careful, if you don’t teach our younger generation, how do you utilize the potentials of the mind? We can go farther than technology, and slowly we can understand that there is something more important than technology — that’s our mind. We can start constructively using our minds so that we will be happy, and others can be happy. It is crucial. There’s a potential in mind, which, if used, is more critical than using matter.
Using the potential of our minds is more sophisticated. Everybody should be busy using their minds, nobody will use your mind, so there’s no conflict. Nobody can steal your good qualities. As we use matter like oil, everybody’s like a dog that goes over there to fight for it. But if we use our mind more, which can create so many unbelievable things, there would be no dog that fights for one’s mind. In such a way, peace will come by itself. Oil is not very valuable, but we are all act like a dog fighting to eat. You may think this is good, but there’s nothing more important than starting to use your own mind, develop , , achieve high realization. They’re all very peaceful. That’s the dream of Buddha. If we use the potential of our minds, everybody will live peacefully. Nobody will steal from each other. Mechanism of karma — if we will use carefully, life after life will be happy, and we will share what we have. It is our official dream. I think that such a thing is possible. We can do it if we work with the future generation.
OK, let’s go for lunch.