Tibet House US Menla Conversations: Sharon Salzberg – Ep. 242
Reconnecting for the first time since the Covi-19 pandemic began Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman discuss the her book “Real Change” and how the tools of mindfulness skill training, Buddhist philosophy and the teachings of the Dalai Lama have influenced them over the years.
Opening with stories from the “Peacemaking: The Power of Nonviolence” Conference held in San Francisco, California, in 1997 Sharon details how her time with grassroots activists, front-line health care providers, students and labor organizers practicing meditation have inspired, informed and invigorated her.
Podcast includes discussions of: Bell Hook’s perspective on social action and the value of creativity and art in creating change, How mindfulness practice can lead one to the tools and the and the Buddhist Inner Sciences of mind transformation, and how individuals living the reality of the teachings of compassion and equanimity can be found all around us.
Tibet House US Menla Conversations: Sharon Salzberg – Ep. 243 of the Bob Thurman Podcast was recorded during the live online event “Real Change: Covid, Climate Reality, and the New Normal“, September, 7th, 2020.
To learn more about the work and teachings of Sharon Salzberg, please visit her website: www.sharonsalzberg.com.
This podcast is apart of the Tibet House US Conversations series of dialogues between Bob Thurman & the leading hearts, minds & personalities bringing the ancient wisdom of Buddhism and Tibet into the modern mindful and compassionate revolution. The Tibet House US Menla Online (THUS MO) Conversations are produced through the generous support of it’s membership community and are a part of the digital member archive made available as a part of becoming a monthly supporter.
The Bob Thurman podcast is produced under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial, No Derivatives License through the generous support of its listening audience and the Tibet House US Menla membership community. To learn about the benefits of membership please visit: www.tibethouse.us.
The songs “Trance Tibet” & ‘Dancing Ling’ by Tenzin Choegyal from the album ‘Heart Sutra‘ (2004) by Ethno Super Lounge are used on the Bob Thurman Podcast with artist’s permission, all rights reserved.
Bob Thurman 00:01:14 Now, I don't think anyone is here who doesn't know who you are and how wonderful you are. Sharon has been a wonderful contributor to the programs at Tibet House and at Menla and has been a staunch supporter with us. She also loves the Dalai Lama. He loves and he her, she really represents, uh, just a, a very great kindness, you know, and the idea Dalai Lama’s that,he has of the common human religion of kindness. I think Sharon very much exemplifies that in her life and in her writings. So with that introduction, Sharon, Meditation Master: Sharon!!!
Sharon Salzberg 00:01:57 Woo Hoo! Great. Well, thank you so much. It's so awesome to see you and be with you. Virtual space is such an odd thing because now I'm really missing Menla as a physical location and Tibet House, here we are, you know, and, what a triumph really that we managed to be together, and it feels so close and wonderful!
So, some of you who have tuned into anything that I've taught lately know that I came up here March 14th, thinking it was for a few weeks. I was in New York City and just feeling uneasy and I felt, well, I have a house in Massachusetts. I have a retreat center, of course, which is now closed - the Insight Meditation Society. And I came up here with my snow boots thinking, I'd be here for two weeks. I'm still here but I have connected a lot with people as, as best I can. So, so that's really great.
Something that I am really looking at a lot these days and talking about a lot these days, which is the quality of rest. Just resting our attention, not trying to block the maelstrom of thinking and feeling and everything that may be going on, but having some space. Well, don't you find that people are generally speaking kind of exhausted. Absolutely. They really are. It's just a good,
Bob Thurman 00:03:33 It’'s part of this time, especially people like the many people in your book who are really trying to do something about this, the pain and suffering that is going on all around us. And it's just seems so, huge to everyone. And they feel so gripped by doing it, and then they never could do enough as you, as you point out. And that's what I love about the book. I think really it's your best book yet? Really!
Bob Thurman 00:04:11 It's like, you know, it made me think, well, I thought of that. I hadn't thought in relation to the book until that moment of resy. I thought of the Power of Peace, the Power of nonviolence conference in San Francisco in 1997- where you were present and, um, where there was a collection. It was a, it was a conference with the Dalai Lama and, um, um, Jose Ramos.. the lady from Guatemala, the other Nobel is from Guatemala, her sister actually, and then lots of other activists from all over the country and you and Joseph.
And, uh, I think Joseph was also there and Jack, and all the, all the meditation coaches, also Zen coaches at other kinds, they were doing this great service of joining all the different activists meetings and trying to introduce into the, into the sort of atmosphere of the, of the activists, this notion of sort of inner peace and inner calm, and inner self care to try to help them with burnout and so forth.
Bob Thurman 00:05:27 And all of you already, by that time, we were sort of big stars and y your own right in the Dharma world, at least, and more, and yet you, you were there serving the activists in this selfless and wonderful way. I really remember that.
And I just thought of it now, in relationship to the book where you were bringing along this new generation,maybe a few from the old time, but kind of new generations of activists and you so much gotten to know so many of the many that I don't, I don't know. And, and you are learning from them while teaching them. And so you're, you, you are like a whole movement, really!
You're like a whole movement and yet you're, you're making the movement practical and sustainable and I think that's really wonderful. I really do. I was surprised when I first read it.
Bob Thurman 00:06:22 It was so much bringing others with you. And then at that time, I know I Thought of the Hillary's book. “It takes a Village”. You know, the book is a village of a lot of creative and wonderful people, and you're serving them by helping them bring along their heart in a way and nurturing and nourishing their heart. I think that's really wonderful.
Meanwhile also like any great teacher you're learning from them and, and sharing your to learn with us. It's outstanding. Really. So how did, so I'm not saying you're started on it at that conference. You've been so active before that and after that, so how, what was your motive in the book? Cause it was sort of the open leading question that I told her, what are you trying to accomplish? And what, how, how did it come out for you and where is it going and all of that, please...
Sharon Salzberg 00:07:16 Okay. Why first I want to say, I think that was the best conference I've Ever been to after a lifetime of going to conferences, I will say, I think it was actually the best one. It was amazing. It really was. And I mean, you couldn't have, you know, I mean, you obviously planned it because you worked so hard to create it and keep it organized, but there were just moments there that were, they just happened. They were so extraordinary. And, I remember so many different things like, um, being backstage and walking by, uh, Alice Walker, who was just having a conversation with some people. And, and I overheard her say, uh,as I get older as the thing that matters to me more than anything is goodness, it's good heartedness. And I walked on by and it's been like such an important message. You know, for me, I get older and that was just like casually over hearing something backstage.
Sharon Salzberg 00:08:17 And at one point there were a number of gang members there. And, uh,at one point they were standing in the aisles and I remember, uh, whoever had, you know,brought some sort of organizing that said, I want you to raise your hand. If you know, someone who's been killed by gun violence and all these hands went up and you know, and this was before in America, we sort of got used to, you know, you go to the movies if you've got a churchor you going in a school that might happen to you, but it was like, it was so amazing to see the world that had been created with violence. Um, so, and that they were coming through the otherside, you know, it was just the most amazing thing. And of course his holiness, the Dalai Lama,it was, uh, almost took the role of a Supreme student, you know, and, you know, it was, was learning and absorbing. It was an amazing, amazing conference.
Sharon Salzberg 00:09:19 So I really thank you for that conference. It's stayed with me for all these years. It was very important. And I think I, you know, I had a lot of different motives and trying to think about writing this book. Um, one was, I realized I've done a lot of work lately, uh, with caregivers, you know, first, uh, domestic violence, shelter workers, then international humanitarian aid workers. And these days, a lot of frontline medical personnel. And, uh, the things that they go through reminds me so much of what activists go through, really being on the front lines of suffering and dealing with a system that can seem intractable and needing to findsome balance and burning out, you know, the grief and so many things. And so that was part of what motivated me. And part of it was like my world of, um, you know, um, meditation people,you know, I've been teaching now since 1974.
Sharon Salzberg 00:10:20 And so, uh, I just know so many people for whom practicing some form of meditation really opens their hearts and they feel a different kind of compassion, but they also may not feel they can do much, you know, that whatever they can contribute to so insufficient orso little or, or whatever. And, um, you know, and, uh, the example I keep using, cause I've seen it so many times is somebody. And so many people have come to me and said, as an example, Iwas, I started meditating and then I was taking a walk on the street and this person came up tome and asked me for a dollar. And I gave him a dollar ---- because that's my, my habit. And it's the first time I ever looked this person in the eye and realized he was a human being. You know, I've heard that over and over and over again, but what that person doesn't necessarily then do is think, well, what's the housing policy in the city that so many people are on the street.
Sharon Salzberg 00:11:31 You know, we're not necessarily trained to look for causes and conditions in that realm, the way we might be in internal, um, exploration. And so, uh, I've known so many meditators who want to contribute something or make some kind of difference. And, uh,they don't feel they have the agency or something. So I wanted to address that as well. And thenI think the third thing which became really important to me was born out of this conversation Ihad with bell hooks and who's an iconic feminist writer and friend of mine. And she was telling me, um, actually whenever I describe bell, I usually say I'm used to the, I'm used to Buddhistscholars, like parsing a word and like picking it apart and getting precise and she's even worse,which is why I think she's such a good writer. And she said to me, and I really liked the term social action much. Cause I think it makes you feel like you have to March, you have to protest.That's the only expression she said, what about art? You know, what about creativity that dissolves boundaries and breaks through you like others? Another sense of possibility, youknow, so I'm looking at an absolutely gorgeous painting behind you, you know, in that light. And,and so that became an important thing for me to try to include in the book as well. It was just the notion of creative endeavor as something that brings about social change.
Bob Thurman 00:13:09 Wonderful. I think it very much comes through and your, your,you know, His Holiness has that slogan. Uh, which is, I mean, it was, you means heartfelt, you know, world peace through inner peace and our, he always says, you know, and I think you, you are presenting a very useful inspiration or a guidebook on that, along that line. How to keep the balance. I think. You, know, you're very focused on equanimity toward the end. That's when I why little late joining the online because I was caught up reading toward the end, you know,and your focused on balance and equanimity, I think it's so valuable. Is there a passage or something you'd like to read from the book?
Sharon Salzberg 00:14:10 You know, I didn't, I didn't prepare anything like that. So I don't really know, but I'll tell you a story about the book and then I'll think of something else comes to mind.Um, you know, I did include, uh, a lot of other people in the book in a sense of, you know, they were interviewed, I have quotes from them. I have their stories. Yeah. Thank you. And some of the people, um, or people from this is about equanimity, some of the people were people from the Parkland community, uh, where of course there was a school shooting and, uh, 17 people died and were killed. And, um, I went there a few years ago, not too much after the shooting and I taught, and there was a young woman there named Samantha who's in the book and who I just did a reading for the other day..
Sharon Salzberg 00:15:03 And, um, her mother was a teacher as a school. She was there that day.She said she was safe, but it was hours and hours and hours before they knew. And, andSamantha being very involved in the community in general, got very involved in like organizing marches and things like that. And so when I was down there teaching the first time, uh, she raised her hand and she said, you know, I feel really weird because this is like an amazing experience. It's like such an incredible thing to be here. And I know the only reason that happened was because that horrible thing happened. And I don't know how to get over that to really appreciate this. And I said, I don't know if you ever get over it. I think we learned to hold both. We learned to have both. So the other day I was interviewing her, it was sort of part of my book launch.
Sharon Salzberg 00:15:58 My virtual book launch was, was these different, um, interviews that I didon video and said, do you remember that? And she said, not only you, I remember that. I think of that every day, she said, that's equanimity. Right. You know, so she was using that word. And,uh, you know, so I saw through the lives of a lot of people. So living reality of the te ---- achings, you know, having compassion and, and having a sense of honoring one's innate dignity, the book almost starts with the story of this woman, Chantelle, who's a, uh, one of the leaders of the striking fast food worker movement, um, in New York city striking for $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to unionize. And, and I met a number of people, you know, in the community. And, and, uh, they had often say, you know, first of all, they have nothing.
Sharon Salzberg 00:17:02 They worked very hard and, and they were often living like in homeless shelters because they couldn't afford the rent and things like that. But they'd often say, youknow, my parents, even my family sits, we don't do anything that might rock the boat. You have almost nothing. You're going to have nothing. If you lose your job, you know, and just like, don't,don't make waves. And yeah. And she said, basically, you come to a place where you realize inside you're worth something and you can't just like take it anymore. And that sense of innate worth, since she said, and I look at these young, younger kids, and I think what's, they're going to be for them. You know, she said, I didn't do it just for me. I do it for them. And I think, well, you couldn't get a more beautiful example of the teachings, you know, like yeah, the dignity of everybody and everybody has worth, and, you know, we should respect one another in that lightand so on.
Sharon Salzberg 00:18:03 So I really, I did learn a lot. I mean, so much of our culture here in theStates tells us not to look at suffering, not to admit it, to feel ashamed of it, if it's around to hide it somewhere else. But the idea is not to open, to suffering and crumble, you know, and just fall apart. We need some sense of inner resources. We need some ability to meet it and have some equanimity, have some compassion and so on. And so a part of that whole process is being able to take in the joy and you can feel so guilty and it's wrong to somehow admit it. And that was the story about a friend of mine who wouldn't let himself eat a banana. And he was also very depressed. I think about it. Those were not totally unrelated things, you know? So, uh,
Bob Thurman 00:18:55 Yeah, you were implying, you're implying that when he, when he would take him in there and then peel it, he would then think of all the farm workers who harvested the bananas, who were suffering so bad. And the feudal likes Guatemala or wherever it was the overseer and all that hadn't show that she couldn't eat the banana. You know, they had suffered so much, but he didn't want to eat it because he would be guilty. You know?
Sharon Salzberg 00:19:21 I mean, he's not wrong and his vision wasn't wrong in his vision, but nonetheless, you know, uh, there's a certain place in which you need to replenish, you know,and you need to have some joy and otherwise you're not going to be able to be with the suffering and have any energy, you know, try to do anything. You're just going to collapse because it's hard. It's very hard.
Bob Thurman 00:19:44 Yeah. But also actually they did finally get the banana harvested and he got to him, a lot of people were abused along the way, but at least they got him a banana.
Sharon Salzberg 00:19:55 Yeah. And so somewhere in there Bob Thurman 00:19:58 And be thankful, you know, that's another,
Sharon Salzberg 00:20:00 Yeah. I mean, I was upstairs in this house, reading the book for the audio version, cause it wasn't a studio to go to. And, uh, at some point I say, well, you just seethe damn banana, which I though it was very funny line, you know, the damn banana, you know,maybe you need the potassium, maybe you cheer up. Maybe you could work harder, you know,if you weren't. So because it is, it is a difficult balance for us because we do need to admit the suffering, which doesn't come readily for most of us because we're taught to avoid it and, or be ashamed of it. And on the other side, uh, it's something that always intrigued me about theBuddhist teaching was that suffering is not the point. You know, like it's not redemptive and ofitself to be broken by suffering, to be embittered by suffering, to feel it's only me, you know, tofeel isolated by suffering.
Sharon Salzberg 00:20:56 Um, it's not the point. It's not, what's going to free us. It's having a whole other relationship to the suffering and to joy as well. And so, uh, what are the ingredients of that other relationship and ---- has to do like for that woman, um, Shantelle, it has to do with self respect and the best possible sense of understanding RNA potential. It has to do with being able to take in the joyand, and be, uh, kind of metaphorically fed by that, not just the banana, you know, and, and to kind of see more deeply into the nature of things. So that's what, um, this practice is, uh, Israelibased on that. So this is another, another practice we can do together. So the passage starts outwith, uh, in order to have the resiliency to face difficulties, for example, a friend or clients who can't be helped or a day full of sudden changes outside of our control, we need to find and nurture the positive parts of ourselves.
Sharon Salzberg 00:22:06 Make a point of paying attention to experiences that give us pleasure too often, we focus pretty much only on what's wrong with us or a negative unpleasant experiences. We need to make a conscious effort to include the positive. This doesn't have to be a phony effort or one that denies real problems. We just want to pay attention to aspects of ourday. We usually overlook or ignore. If we stopped to notice moments of pleasure, flower poking up through the sidewalk, a puppy, experiencing snow for the first time, the kind of interchange between strangers. We have a resource for more joy, this capacity to notice the positive might be somewhat untrained, but that's okay. We practice meditation for just this kind of training. Andthen, uh, what follows is a practice. And I just want to say a little bit more about that before maybe we do that practice if you like.
Sharon Salzberg 00:23:10 So, yes. Um, it's really, uh, you know, it feels like maybe it's the most selfish thing in the world. Um, and yet it's really essential to be able to take in the joy. Um, um,again, when I did this evening, uh, with the other night as part of the book lunch with this community from, uh, Parkland, one of the people on the panel was Fred Gutenberg. Who's avery active gun safety person. His daughter was killed in a school shooting and he has a book coming out called look for the helpers that famous Mr. Rogers quotation, you know, when he was a young child and very disturbed by the world, his mother told him, look for the helpers there or helping. So part of it is being inspired, being boiled up by the people who are trying to do goodin this really difficult situation. There was some story in the news about a school in Minnesota. Ithink it was, which was a place that was distributing food to hungry people in the community.And, and they put out a call for literally seven bags of food, so they could give it away and theygot 20,000, you know, so I think of that and I think maybe it will be okay, you know, look at that,you know, there is goodness there's care in this world.
Bob Thurman 00:24:49 <inaudible>, you know, what I love is, you know, they put it as teaching has the four immeasurables, right? There's love, compassion, joy, and equanimity until you have been in vibe that pattern, of course, hers house. So thoroughly in your product is what is unique about you is you bring it into sort of the simple things and the daily lives of people who are not involved in time and practice and whatever, but they're just involved in, good heartedness had you provide sort of a handle into those zones for those people without phrasing it with a lot of Dharma sort of thing, you know, and that is so helpful and so kind and so effective. It's really,really, really great. I really like,
Sharon Salzberg 00:25:42 Thank you. I want to, I mean, there's of course a quote from you in the very early on in the book, because the underlying theme, uh, in a way is interconnection and how, one of the reasons something like loving kindness or compassion is actually a superpower. It's not a weakness or something saccharin and gooey is because it's closely aligned with the truth of how things actually are. So there's a shout out to Larry who wrote, uh, something inthe chat. Um, I, um, it's so good to see you here. And, uh, I, uh, somebody sent me a quote from like 10 years ago or something, which is always an interesting experience. And Because something I, I have been saying all along is, uh, or since then anyway, is that, uh,interconnection is the way things actually are, right? It doesn't take a spiritual understanding to come to that. Science shows us this economic shows is this environmental consciousnesscertainly sh ---- ows us this. Even epidemiologist shows us this. So because of Larry and friends, I've beenusing the term epidemiology all these years and people used to say to me, what's that, youknow, what does that mean? I don't know what that means.
Bob Thurman 00:27:00 Oh, you mean Larry Brilliant. You mean?
Sharon Salzberg 00:27:03 Right, right. You know, say here we are like, you know, uh, this is, this is the truth of things. Look at this time that, and the illusion we had that what happens over there will nicely stay where there and what we do, doesn't matter. It's just dissolved. And so that's why loving kindness is so powerful. It's because it's the most natural response to seeing things as they actually are.
Bob Thurman 00:27:32 Yeah. That's true. Yeah. Have you seen Larry on CNN? He's on a lot.Yeah.
Sharon Salzberg 00:27:37 I see. I follow them everywhere. Um, you know, and the quotation from you is one of my favorite things to quote, which I'm sure I use more often than you do, which is,imagine you're on a subway. Right, right, right. These Martians come and they zap the subway cars so that those of you who are in there are going to be together forever. So what do you do if somebody is hungry, you feed them. If somebody freaking out, you try to come and down, not because you necessarily like them or approve of them, but because you're going to be together forever. Because our lives are interlocking. And that is so much the truth of how things are. Guess What our lives really are that way and is alone and isolated. And apart, as we may feel, it's just not the truth of things that we really do live in interdependent universe. And everything followsfrom that. Bob Thurman 00:28:50 Hello, mama, come in there tells a story about in some inter-religious conference, he was talking with someone who was sort of putting down a Theravada Buddhism by translating equanimity, as land Landy heroines and French indifference. You know, we'll pick shot. I will pick high, you know, and they were, they were saying, well, you have loved their yes.And then compassion and then joy measurable joy. And then yeah. Then indifference and you don't care. I was afraid. And he was saying, he used to say how, how he corrected him in thatconference by saying that, uh, in the, in the, in the rising, through the four stages, love,compassion, joy. And that the next stage SAGIA up carries the full energy of the stage below. Sothey're not, it's not an all indifference. Equanimity doesn't mean you're a different or anybody. It Means you're a totally loving, compassionate, joyful about everybody. So sometimes I'm tempted or some context when translated. It does impartiality equanimity because of the danger of thinking. That means you don't care about anybody.
Bob Thurman 00:30:12 The adjective is, is terrible. You know, economist looks bad on pageacquaint, a mouse, you know, equanimity is okay. Anyway, I think that's really wonderful. And Iwas looking at that. I'm looking a lot at, I'd be Dharma nowadays. And I was looking at the different factors of the different, um, the different measurable. So the factors of the ones you have are kind of joy and they're kind of rapture and delight that lifts you into the first one and two, and these, these drop away and the upper ones, but that's because their goal has been reached and you have the love and the compassion and the joy, and it's all embedded in the state. So you don't need any more factor. You only have the balancing add the balancing factors.And there wouldn't be that dropping away. If, if in fact you are, you are just believing the whole lower state, but I don't see that because they don't care if they're meditating. And they're realizing that they don't emphasize that. Usually in the, my book, they don't.
Sharon Salzberg 00:31:21 Well, you're I also quote you in that, uh, you're the, you're the person,when I say, even, even scholars and translators, meaning you, uh, have come to me and said,well, you don't really need to say loving kindness, stepping. So cutesy just say low. Bob Thurman 00:31:37 I like that. You do. I, on the other hand, I, I liked that. And I, and I write, Isay where it comes from my at least I believe I know her. It comes from, from the reaction of missionaries who came to bringing the Bible and saying, love, love, love, and did horrible things to them. So they wanted to add like Asian people say, yeah, I love me kindness. Right? They w---- anted to add because they were treated growing, you know, with, with the waving you, Jesusis a book, the book, the good book about love. So they just wanted to make sure kindness was in there. And I think therefore it still has a role on take. It's still very good. I, I mean, you can fuss about it in, in the translating time, but in the long term, but in the short term, it's very, very useful.
Bob Thurman 00:32:33 And, um, you know, that was the funny thing, you know, about Mary Trump's book. And I read the book. I don't know if you looked at it, maybe you spared yourself down, but what's surprising about it is cause she, she kind of wants to guard the world against this rather difficult bully bully that she's experienced in a family, you know, and her father experienced rather badly. But actually when she analyzes his upbringing and the whole thing, it ends up building great sympathy for him because he was so he was so had such a harsher, it was such an abusive childhood and too, and he was so neglected and, and, and abusive in the sense of, of, um, absence of the affection and did genuine, you know, what the psychologist calls the mothers, uh, more healthy mothers, active mirroring of positive emotions to the infant,you know, the two year old, a one year old, you know, and they're cuddling and the hugging, youknow, he was utterly deprived of that.
Bob Thurman 00:33:39 And she, she, she analyzes that very well. And I think, I think somewhat unintentionally ends up where you feel even more sorry for the poor, maybe everybody doesn't,but I did, I've always felt sorry for the guy, you know, what a disservice to him, you know, the Russians and the various people to put him in a position where a guy who has trouble caring for others, because he feels so uncared for himself has to be in a position where the job day one isto care for everybody. You know, that's a service of a, someone with that kind of responsibility. Really people talk about power, but it's really what it is, is responsibility when they can't, they can't even imagine what it is to take responsibility. They're in a terrible situation. It's really, really suffering. Actually. I personally think it's amazing. It hasn't collapsed actually to me all this time,he has, you know, eats bad food. You know, it has weird flattery weirdos around him, who areyou exploiting the situation because of his craziness. And he still gets into, he doesn't get enough feedback. You know, I can't get enough a picture from anybody that's really good for poor thing.
Sharon Salzberg 00:34:55 See, that's what I mean, you're, you're exhibiting kind of the fact that compassion doesn't have to be a weakness, that it can be a strength, which is a big mystery forcoral. You know, they, there's a lot of fear. I think that we're wanting to have a kind of empathy or compassion either one or both, you know, for somebody whose agenda you feel is incredibly damaging, that you will stop fighting. You know, that you will stop. You'll just kind of give in because your passion is, is giving in, but it's really not at all
Bob Thurman 00:35:30 On real compassion. And that's another thing that you addressed the whole issue of empathy, fatigue versus compassion, fatigue. I taught very well. And, uh, and very practically, you know, I do tend to a little to the bodhisattva, invalid empathy, compassion,you know, which, which of course we normally are really not capable of. So what you are dealing with dealing with the reality of the people and that's good, but in a way it's also not bad. You Have to have that template as ideal somewhere, lurking there a lot about, you know, I love what he says, you know, where the way he explains you can, you can feel it when he explains it. But He's in that position. Where are you in what you described so well of where you feel all alone in some misery and something is really overwhelming you and nobody ever had it as bad as you had it.
Bob Thurman 00:36:24 And it's still awful. What happened to <inaudible> or someone, someone that you hear about or even anyone. And he says, when he gets that, and then the way he helps himself, he gets out of the being completely crushed by it by empathy is to open to more empathy and more compassion in the sense of seeking about what's happening to other people,sort of like people do for shad and Freud of at least that's not happening to me, but he doesn't do it for shadowed Freud or in a way maybe it's ---- a, like a shot him for it, but it's a positive purpose. And that as you see, is there's so much suffering by broadening his openness, that then he realized where there's no nothing for it, but together positive energy. And what is that? And that's, that's what you touch on in your practice.Cultivating joy in a way that if, if the gap between measurable compassion and equanimity,which has all compassion and love and joy is to find the joy.
Bob Thurman 00:37:32 It's like looking at the really sick or the suffering person and seeing something good in them where they kind of have a little, maybe they're not showing it then,cause they're an agony, but there are things in them like where they see it flower or where they temporarily see some redeeming silver lining some aspect of something. And so then the wish for their joy them to enjoy the joy that they actually have is what, that, that becomes the source of your measurable joy, which, which gives you the energy to cope with what you discover through compassion, without the joy, without some power of joy as the most powerful. And so,because that's what reality is, you know, is, is a kind of a joy maybe, you know, Buddha said, so anyway, that's right. He says, Oh, that's so great. Wonderful. So, so, um, isn't it fun that you can meet all these people you were in Parkland and where else are you going on your trip? Where Else can we find you online?
Sharon Salzberg 00:38:42 Well, I'm not going anywhere.
Bob Thurman 00:38:46 Virtual trip. Those things are coming up. Where else are you going? Are You going to go to the West Coast podcast? Or what are you going to be present in that? You were, you worry and, Oh, hi, you and I were just, we weren't anywhere where say there were 10,000 people online.
Sharon Salzberg 00:39:16 Yeah.
Bob Thurman 00:39:19 You met 10,000 people and you talked to them, have you shared with them? And I hope that they heard about, I'm sure they heard about your book. I hope so.They're, you know what I'm saying? It's wonderful that you can do what you have tirelessly. Andeveryone is always like carrot. How could you do it everywhere? See everyone going and going everywhere, where people are suffering, where people aren't, where needed encouragement and Sharon is there, you know, you're like, you've, you've been like, you know, you've been like that bunny in the ed for the battery,
Sharon Salzberg 00:39:55 The Energizer bunny. Why I talk about rest all the time. Cause I'm like,
Bob Thurman 00:39:59 That's right. And now you can do that point is now your home in peaceful setting across the building from Joseph's like porch. Then you can still go there and meet the people in Hawaii or overseas without having to get on the plane. I listened to the person,angrily shutting up somebody's house. All of the things that we have from your different anecdotes. That's wonderful. I'm really happy for you.
Sharon Salzberg 00:40:32 Thank you. Well, I do have a lot of events. We'll do them all from here and that's just on my website, Sharon salzberg.com. So yes, every week I'm like going to, so to speak to Cambridge, to Berkeley, it's all over the place. And so my, uh, intention, my hope is to work really, really hard until the election. And, you know, cause part of, uh, what I'm trying to do is encourage people to vote and make sure that happens. And then I'll take a break after that.
Bob Thurman 00:41:10 Yes. I like this real series.
Sharon Salzberg 00:41:14 No, it's funny. What I mean
Bob Thurman 00:41:17 Next book. Real reality.
Sharon Salzberg 00:41:19 Well, somebody, well, this title's honestly a joke cause we didn't know what to call it and it stuck. So someone said how about real life for the next one? So that's close to real.
Bob Thurman 00:41:31 Yeah, it is. Life would be good if you're, if you're wanting to stick with the real thing. Yeah. It's hard to conceptualize another buck. Are you working on paper right now? Oh yeah. You know, everything. I am a, my own popular writing is stuck in a certain way. I don't know why it's in my own weird false karma and I'm, I have a book in the press, you know, but it's not going out. You'll see that the whole topic is of course how to generate the inner joy that Wellsup from within the sun and nervous system, you know, Tundra area of Tundra, but in the subtle nervous system. So as to have the energy to cope with the, with the world, you know, like theseda ---- ns did, which I'm not a sitter. So I can't really do, but maybe someone will read it and be able to do it in the future is the reason to bring this knowledge out of Tibetan and Sanskrit into the modern world.
Bob Thurman 00:42:28 And you know, I've discovered what I would, what I've come to call tantric Abhidharma, which is a huge body of literature actually, but they just don't call Abhidharma in respect for the old individual vehicle. When I call it like to call the individual vehicle, you know,the foundation vehicle to call it. So that's done that, right. You know, and there was one or two Mahayana I'll be done. My books that they use, but even Nagarjuna, this book is not called Abby,but it is, of course that'd be, you know, all the great masters of Shanti Deva. That's how I bedone. And they don't use the term. And even the, no one would ever think to use the term tantric Abhidharma. But, uh, I was, I was telling students today in my class that I'm doing kind of teacher training thing that I've decided that Tibetans are understanding of the, the three vehicles,you know, the foundation vehicle to universal vehicle, you could say, and then the esotericFaydra on a vehicle.
Bob Thurman 00:43:30 They talk about the coordination of the three vehicles. And what they mean is it's all fulfilled in finding Ohio's fluctuate. But I got into terrible arguments with some ofthem by saying you were wrong because they didn't do it. If you say that you were accusinggood up, not having shared the knowledge of the Tundra, even, even in a, in the foundation, but maybe not pushing it on people, it's always kind of hinted there in a certain way. And so what I'm Saying is, you know, in their creation Sage, you know, is before that like final stage for perfection stage, which I'm translating nowadays. But, uh, but I'm saying that from a tantric point of view, the Theravata is creation stage practice. It's your creation stage, you know, and I, and I it's very, I can put it very clear. This is just for fun. I way more or less finished, everybody's fine.
Bob Thurman 00:44:25 And they're all happy. And then this is, but I'd be happy to share this with you. Like the five, right? The fun just kinda, you know, and if, if someone hasn't identified inside themselves, the aggregate of feelings and of creation, mental functions and conceptualizations and matter, and then consciousness, and then all the elaborateness within consciousness, if they haven't identified these things internally, then they go and say, they're old eighties. What Does that mean? They don't even know what they are, you know, how can you, who can differentiate really between conceptualization and they don't know which I still want them to contact us sensations rather than feelings because feelings being emotions, you know, in English, but they can't really tell the difference. So then it goes on to say, one is running to some JuBuh and one is a Metabo. What does that mean? It means nothing. So to really learn about yourself, that's the foundational thing. And if you haven't learned, what's the content of your mind is with these brilliant, marvelous, amazing things. And the visualizations like of the <inaudible>,you know, where you see everything as earth or everything has skeletons or everything is water.You know, which area like visualizations actually really in Theravada, they have everything and they're developing new, tremendous Samati power and concentration and everything, right?
Sharon Salzberg 00:45:54 The realization of impermanence is an essential realization. And it also,uh, is concurrent with realizations about conditionality and interconnection. And, you know, impermanence doesn't mean there's no cause and effect isn't, everything is just kind of haphazard. Uh, and I think we can easily take it to mean that, you know, but, um, there is in fact kind of cause and effect there's conditionality there's relationship. There's a relatedness in this universe. And so, uh, if I do nothing to try to make a difference, that registers is nothing, youknow, rather than a seed that gets planted, that may go through various iterations and obstacles and, you know, alterations and, and whatever, but it's actually a seed planted. And so I think it's,there's some much that, uh, kind of, um, awakened mind might be holding or, or referencing in,in activism, in permanence as one. And part of that is that things aren't necessarily going to change on our ---- timetable.
Sharon Salzberg 00:47:14 You know, that, I mean, several people have said things to me lately about. Um, and I, this is also in my book that some things are not a one generation fix that, uh, a friend of mine who's, uh, maybe my oldest friend, you know, would say, um, it may not be in mylifetime that I see the results of this, but nonetheless, it's essential that I do whatever. Uh, and,and many people have said to me that they've learned to refer to their sense of purpose and the fulfillment of that sense of purpose rather than the result. Cause sometimes you don't get to see the results or you don't get to see it right away. And so, uh, I think it's, it's a mix of impermanence and conditionality, um, recognizing that our acts are still powerful. They're still impactful even while we don't have that great, wonderful satisfaction of seeing it make a difference right away.
Bob Thurman 00:48:24 Sharon, do you want me to say something too? So I, I, cause I think it will come back to the same thing. What I want to say is that actually activism comes real activism effective comes from knowledge of impermanence in the Abhidharma, uh,compassion can own, it has to always be it, which is kind of a feeling like emotional commitment to finding based on empathy of finding the durability of someone else's suffering or compassion for yourself is recognizing that you should try to get rid of your suffering and trying to give yourself a break. So Sharon is very good on that one. So, without the wisdom of compassion of every impermanent, according to the abdomen, then there can be no valid compassion because although there can be sympathy, the condition of the suffering person seems to be unchangeable to the person and then they wouldn't have activism.
Bob Thurman 00:49:28 So therefore, what, what, what, uh, what compassion, what, uh, what,what knowledge of impermanence makes you realize that this person is now suffering, but they can change. So then you want to make them have real change. And that means you are an activist to him to help cause that change, whether you succeed or not, you feel compelled to do it. And you have a power because you can visualize them in a free state from this change, from their suffering. If you, without the knowledge of impermanence, you kind of think everything we weighted appears to immediately is this the way it is always going to be. So you feel stuck incapable of doing anything and then no compassion. And the sympathy will be almost a kind of ratifying the other person, you know, patronizing rap, ratifying the other person in that bad state,that there can't be changed. Nothing I can do about it. So you feel powerless and that's not compassion.
Bob Thurman 00:50:15 Compassion is power. And so compassion is Making change into real change.
Sharon Salzberg 00:50:28 Nice. Yes, I do believe we can heal the polarization, but in all honesty, the main thrust of my energy or my dedication is, more toward trying to make sure everybody votes and that people are engaged because it's one thing to heal polarization and it's another thing to not do everything one can. One can see that policies enacted, for example, sort of take care of people and look what's happening,you know, and, and, uh, you know, I think we, we have a responsibility if we are American Citizens, if we have the ability to vote, um, to actually do that. And, uh, you know, what happens in terms of reconciliation or the end of polarization, I think there's going to be a time for that,but it's going to be a different time, you know, because I think it's just so essential.
You can have enormous compassion for somebody and decide, you know what? I don't want you legislating choices for me, you know, like with your particular value system or whatever, you know,everybody is around here. It's a Leo that Michelle and I are both Leos that I know you're gonnaget it done. So, so, and Sharon, I just reminded me talking with you how much I do enjoy teaching with you. And I hope we soon get a chance, you know, all my love and the big air hug air hug,
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