Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das is one of the most learned and highly trained American-born lamas in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. For over 30 years, he has studied with the great spiritual masters of Tibet, India, and Asia. Born Jeffrey Allen Miller, he left home for college in the 1960s; went to Woodstock; marched in anti-war rallies in Washington; graduated Phi Beta Kappa from SUNY, Buffalo; then went to India and Asia on a spiritual quest. Lama Surya Das is the founder of the Dzogchen Foundation and the author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within and Awakening to the Sacred.

Author photo © PaigeGilbert2017

Also By Author

Taking the Small Stuff in Stride

Especially during the holidays, it’s helpful to have a good perspective and take things in stride. Here, Lama Surya Das shares some of his favorite remindfulness practices for keeping the big picture in focus:

My own practice for not sweating the small stuff entails utilizing a few homemade quotes and potent slogans that speak to me. I keep yellow sticky notes and index cards on my desk, bathroom mirror, dashboard, wallet, and computer. I practice what I call remindfulness by remembering to look at these handwritten adages; they help me recall what is important in the bigger picture and in the long run — my values, principles, vows, practices, and goals. I let the wisdom of these maxims sink in, inevitably defusing the situation before it gets anywhere near out of hand.

Among these potent pointers, here are my favorite:

  • “This too shall pass.”
    • This slogan reminds me to practice patience, acceptance, and forbearance in the face of irritation and disappointment. I also remember to stay in touch with the long view, because things are cyclic and nothing happens without causes, even if not immediately apparent to me.
  • “How much will this matter to me a year or two from now?”
  • I also like to echo the Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest printed book, which quotes Buddha saying: “See things as like a dream, a fantasy, a mirage.”
    • I usually add the word sitcom or movie, just for fun. This traditional Dharma teaching helps me remember to regard everything as like rainbows or the divine dance of illusion. It helps me take things a lot less seriously and leave room for my inner child and little Buddha within to stand up, play, dance, and sing.

Probably the most effective, practical yoga and meditation-related maxim is this:

  • “Breathe, relax, center, and smile. Nothing is as important as it seems at this moment.”
    • That really cools my jets, and allows for more intelligent decision-making and clear-headed thinking to proceed.

I’ve gotten my friend Amelia into the habit of singing (often in her head) the great nursery-rhyme mantra guaranteed to defuse any difficult situation:

  • “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.  Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

If I have a good amount of time and feel inspired to co-meditate with the Masters for further spiritual relief and sustenance — perhaps when I’m sitting in a waiting room at the airport or somewhere — I either close my eyes and chant Tibetan mantras and prayers to myself, so only my collar can hear it (as Dudjom Rinpoche once advised), or I recite Buddha’s Metta Sutra (Maitri or Loving- Kindness Sermon) which includes the line:

  • “May all beings be happy and at ease!”

Or I might take St. Francis of Assisi’s Peace Prayer out of my wallet and read:

  • “Make me an instrument of your peace . . .”

 

I invite you to try my small-stuff slogans out, one at a time, and see how they work for you. Or find other one-liners and make up your own.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Excerpted from Make Me One with Everything by Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das is one of the most learned and highly trained American-born lamas in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. He is the founder of the Dzogchen Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas, and the author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within. For more, visit surya.org.

Making ‘We’ the New ‘I’

Lama Surya Das is one of the foremost Western scholars of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the founder of the Dzogchen Foundation and the author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within. In this episode of Insights at the Edge the good lama and Tami Simon discuss his newest book, Make Me One with Everything: Buddhist Meditations to Awaken from the Illusion of Separation, focusing on the concept of “inter-meditation.” They talk about inter-meditating in nature, inter-meditating with difficult emotional experiences, and even inter-meditating with people we could call our enemies. Finally, Lama Surya Das expounds on some of the book’s potent aphorisms for leading an enlightened life. (68 minutes)

Pith Instructions

Tami Simon speaks with Lama Surya Das, one of the best-known American-born lamas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He’s the author of the books Awakening the Buddha Within and The Mind is Mightier than the Sword. With Sounds True, he’s created seven programs, including the audio learning programs Tibetan Dream Yoga and Buddha Is As Buddha Does, as well as a book/CD package called Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Lama Surya Das discusses recognizing our buddha nature, waking up to the nature of mind, and leads us in a Tibetan dream yoga practice. (57 minutes)

You Might Also Enjoy

Bruce Tift: Already Free

Have you ever wondered how to hold the following two seemingly contradictory experiences? On the one hand, you feel in touch with the vast expanse of being. You sense that your true nature is infinite, boundless, unconditionally loving, and outside of time. And on the other hand, you know that in certain situations (usually involving other people!), you are avoidant, dismissive, reactive, and shut down, and—truth be told—you have a lot of healing and personal growth work to do.

Buddhist psychotherapist Bruce Tift is a master at holding these two seemingly contradictory views, and—ready for this?—he does so “without any hope of resolution.” In this podcast, Tami Simon and Bruce Tift talk about how, in his work with clients, he skillfully embraces both the developmental view of psychotherapy and the fruitional view of Vajrayana Buddhism, the blind spots that come with each approach, and how combining them can help people avoid these pitfalls. 

Tune in as they discuss unconditional openness, and how it is important to be “open to being closed”; how neurosis requires disembodiment, and further, how our neurosis is fundamentally an avoidance strategy—“a substitute for experiential intensity”; our complaints about other people (especially our relationship partners) as opportunities to take responsibility for our own feelings of disturbance (instead of blaming other people for upsetting us); how to engage in “unconditional practices,” such as the practice of unconditional openness, unconditional embodiment, and unconditional kindness; and more.

Pain as the Path

The wounds, scars, and pain we carry as men have a place in our lives. A function that can lead us directly to the core of deep meaning and fulfillment and provide a positive path forward. This is what initiation was supposed to teach us as men—how to descend into the depths of our own darkness and return a more complete and contributive participant in society.

However, this is where a man’s real problem resides: He has not been taught the skill or alchemy of initiation. He has not learned how to deal with his pain, or the pain of the world, and so he bucks against it.

I realized over the years of grappling with how to heal that not only was I ill-equipped to deal with the hurt I’d been given, but I also seemed to be woefully ill-equipped to reconcile with, and put a halt to, the perpetual hurt I passed on to others. Like many men, I was good at inflicting pain—and men who are good at something tend to do that thing a lot.

Not only was I undereducated in the alchemical craft of turning pain into purpose, but almost every man I knew was in relatively the same situation. Most men simply haven’t been taught how to deal with their pain and use it to become something better.

And this aspect of the journey is the missing link in male initiation, which has historically played the role of guiding a man through the transitory period between adolescence and adulthood, teaching him the skills of discipline, sovereignty, and the ability to face some of the most challenging aspects of his own life.

In fact, I began to see that not only have most men not been given the tools or resources to deal with the pain and suffering in their lives, but we as men are actively taught the opposite—the idiotic tactic of constant emotional avoidance. Not only this, but our emotional avoidance is seen as a theoretical and rational strength in certain circles.

Seeing this brings about a multitude of questions that both illuminate the foundational cracks within current masculine culture and also highlight the work we must embark on if we are to do our individual and collective parts as men in building a thriving society.

There’s more: I began to see the direct correlation between a man’s ability and willingness to face his own darkness and having a clear purpose, deep fulfillment, and clarity of contribution to the things that matter most to him.

But how can we as men give our pain a purpose in a culture where we are largely devoid of emotional permissions? Where the archetype of man, in order to be classified or quantified as a man, must do the impossible task of being brave and courageous without being vulnerable?

This is one of the biggest masculine myths—the false idea that you can be courageous without being inherently vulnerable. When we are rewarded for giving our lives, our hearts, and our emotional bodies up for sacrifice to maintain the illusion of invulnerable strength, we prioritize victory over connection. We praise ourselves for performance in the boardroom, bedroom, and bars, but we lack recognition for our performance in reconciliation, repair, and reparation.

There’s another way. A way where victory is found within the work, and part of that work is facing our own darkness.

Excerpted from Men’s Work: A Practical Guide to Face Your Darkness, End Self-Sabotage, and Find Freedom by Connor Beaton.

CONNOR BEATON is the founder of ManTalks, an international organization dedicated to the personal growth of men. He is a facilitator dedicated to building better men, an entrepreneur, a writer, and a keynote speaker. Connor has spoken to large corporate brands, nonprofits, schools, and international organizations such as the United Nations, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Apple, TED, and Entrepreneurs' Organization. For more, visit mantalks.com.

Caverly Morgan: The Heart of Who We Are

When Caverly Morgan reentered society after eight years as a Zen monk, she was confronted with a question many of us are asking these days: Considering the enormity of the problems before us, how can one individual’s spiritual practice make a tangible difference in our world? 

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Caverly about her new book, The Heart of Who We Are, and the connection between self-realization and collective transformation. Tune in as they explore these topics and more: the difference between the absolute and the relative; introducing teens to inquiry practice; self-improvement vs. self-realization; the core experience of who we are in our depths; the power of community; meeting our deepest needs; “changing costumes within the dance of suffering”; connecting with others “essence to essence”; broadening public access to contemplative practices; escaping the trap of perfectionism; letting go of our conditioning, individually and collectively; egoic behaviors versus “acts of being.”

This episode first aired live and on video on Sounds True One. To watch Insights at the Edge episodes live and on video, and to access additional bonus Q&A, please visit join.soundstrue.com to learn more.

>