I had the privilege of listening to the Dalai Lama several weeks ago on the occasion of his visit to the University of Maryland. First off, I will say that he is the most spiritual individual that I have ever encountered. He possesses such a profound and at the same time childlike capacity to express his inner soul that it took my breath away. I felt honored to have experienced such a man before my own life runs its course.
I could not help but relate the Dalai Lama’s expression of Buddhism with my evolutionary conceptions of the spiritual that I express in my book and in this blog.
I will start with a glaring similarity: he stressed over and over again that “underneath” and “at our core” everyone is the same. I could not agree with him more. It is my conviction that every human being has two minds. The “old mind” evolved for over six million years at the level of the survival of small groups. The impulse of individual apes to dominate and submit to each other was evolved into the collective authority of and obedience to the survival of their groups. Because these groups were comprised of monogamous families (by far the most productive of all social systems), the foundation of this older mind was and is morality and a sense of justice. This collective mind is identical within all humans. I have described my conviction that we humans evolved a new “ego” mind starting 200,000 years ago. This “new mind” is driven to seek the pleasure elicited by the admiration by others of ourselves as individuals. The Dalai Lama gave many examples of what what I call the new mind, the central motivation of which could be summarized as vanity. He gently pointed out that pursuing a superficial life of vanity results in unhappiness.
The main difference in Buddhism and my religious ideas has to do with the concept of a single living God. I have written about how and why the monotheistic religions are so war-like here. I am also well aware that the idea of God has alienated many people for many complex reasons. I have come to believe that the intentional entity of group authority that was evolved over many millions of years within hundreds of thousands of small groups was singular simply because there is only one morality and only one justice, not two or three from which to choose. I have made the “leap” that this evolved spiritual entity of collective authority that integrates the motivations of our “old mind” was the result of a transcendental God “reaching down” through natural law to convert the Laws of the jungle to the rules of right and wrong. My experience of the Dalai Lama has set me to wondering why it is so important for me to consider that the singular inner spirit that we both recognize as breathing the same form of life into all of us was caused by something further than transcendent natural Law. For me, that which gave us divine life must also possess life.
Perhaps the Dalai Lama put his finger on the real difference when he said that his religion is simply not concerned with the issue of creation and it appears that, for whatever reason, I am hopelessly obsessed with it.
There was one more similarity: we both believe that history is moving toward world peace and that, someday, there will be no need for nations to possess military forces.