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Roundtable Talk with the Dalai Lama

Vancouver BC, on April 20, 2004

By Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

At the Conference celebrating the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Vancouver BC. Reb Zalman was one of the guest visionaries along with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel, Professor Shirin Ebadi, Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, and moderator Bishop Michael Ingham.

Source of Time and SpaceAvinu Malkaynu!

From infinity draw down to us The great renewal

And attune us to Your intent,

So that Wisdom, Your daughter

Flow into our awareness,

To awaken us to see ahead,

So we help instead of harm.

May all the devices we make and use,

Be sparing and protecting of Your creation.

Help us to set right what we have debased,

To heal what we have made ill,

To care for and to restore what we have injured.

Bless our Earth, our home

And show us all

How to care for her,

So that we might live Your promise

Given, to our forebears

“To live heavenly days

Right here on this Earth.”

May all the beings,

You have fashioned,

Become aware that it is You

Who has given them being.

May we realize that You shaped our lives

And may each one, who breathes

Join with others who breathe,

In the delight of shared knowing

Of the great breath.

Assist us in learning

How to partner,

With family, neighbors,

And friends.

Aid us in dissolving old enmities.

May we come to honor,

Even in those whom we fear,

Your image and form,

Your light Dwelling in their hearts.

May we soon see the day, when

Your House will be indeed,

The House of prayer

For all peoples,

Named and celebrated

In every tongue and speech.

On that day You will be one

And one with all cosmic Life.


The problems we face at this time don’t seem to yield to the solutions our traditions and lineages have provided in the past. Each one of our traditions had built in a high degree of surface tension and saw itself as sharply separate from others. Often universalistic statements were made which in subtle and not so subtle ways were what people call inclusivistic; that is to say “if you come under our umbrella as a lesser adjunct, as a minor satellite, we will legitimate you” Still the attitude was basically triumphalistic; when the Mashiach – Christ – Mahdi – avatar – Maitreia – comes we will be proven right and you will end up to be on a lesser plane than we.

Then came Auschwitz- Hiroshima-Nagasaki – the moon walk – the internet – and now we can no longer afford any reality map that does not base itself on an organismic view of life on this planet. Our traditional theologians, in order to defend themselves against existential terror and high anxiety the spiritual vacuum in which they have to preach –have by and large, been co-opted by those haves, who have the deep pockets, to hold on to the status quo- or by the have-nots who want to return to implausible security of the old time religion.

More and more have deep thinking eco-theologians come to the conclusion that each religion is like a vital organ of the planet and that we for the planet’s sake need, each one of us, aim to stay alive and devout in the most healthy way we can manage. Hence for all my universalism I need to be the best and healthiest Jew I can be and urge my co-religionists to become the best and healthiest Jews they can be in order to contribute to the healing of the planet. While I have gained much help from our tradition which provided me with the sacred tools and means to higher consciousness many of them seem not to be immediately applicable to our current situation.

However, there is a revelation coming down to us from helpers above our ken as well as the result of a chthonic* push from below from our mother the Earth. This leads me not so much to offer answers as to raise questions. Therefore my contribution will be to raise questions and they are all intertwined.

As each generation comes it needs answers for the problems which the old answers have created. Example nuclear fuel, pesticides and herbicides, -soon we will have to deal with questions which genetic engineering is creating in bio-engineered plants and who knows how soon? Even with human genetic stock. The urge we experience to grow in awareness is often blocked and opposed by forces that want to cut us off from that urge and addict us to mind deadening distractions. Yet at a meetings like this one we want to amplify that urge that has the push of our earth’s need of healing as well as the pull of the vision of organismic health that wants to birth itself in us. Here, we want to wake up ourselves and wake others up to even more awakedness. We have been habituated to find the easiest and most immediate answers so that we not stay in the anxiety of holding on to the question. The answers, easily available, don’t work to stave off the impending disaster of our accelerating global dying. So what are some of the questions?

First: What ideas of cosmology do we have to have in order to approach the healing of the planet. Apparently the reality map we have at this time is not correct. Our sense of the direction to which the possible harmonious life matrix points demands that we change that map. Creativity does not reside in the way we are imprisoned to repeat precedent. It is in daring – to be outrageous, to play with the least probable possibilities, the ones more weird and spiritual where we may find answers. These possibility forms dance before the mind’s eye and from that vision there emerges an unexpected form with its creative proposal and therefore new way to understand and map reality. We need to learn this process of questing in order to discover – and this is urgent – to co-create with the integral -planetary mind -the cosmology we have to have in order to approach the healing of the planet.

Secondly: What is the basic health ethos arising from that new cosmology? The cosmology of the industrial revolution gave us an ethos to productivity at any cost. The cosmology of corporate capitalism pushes an ethos to consumption at any cost. The cosmology we seek to find should produce first and foremost an ethos that honors harmonious biological health in the individual and in the matrix of the most harmonious biological health of the environment. In order to co-create this cosmology we can no longer rely on a single mind. The complexity and with it the responsibility of what we have to mind in the world and life is too great to bear for only one person. The only way to get it together is together. I plead for research that would, discover what it takes to enable us to operate in webs of consciousness in mind networks. At least for a small group of prepared minds to seek to merge dreams and behold visions. These people would serve as our psychonauts and contact minds on other regions. We are quite underdeveloped in this area. We have very low ideas of how groups really work. While there is immense sophistication in the technological area of military systems and lethal Weapons of Mass Destruction we are very low in our understanding how we need to handle conflict resolution. Much research needs to be done to help us to optimal social and political harmony and this cannot wait. What do we need to do in order that there be that cultural revolution that is now urgently needed? I have often challenged educators to plan the curricula for handling information with ecological wisdom,For the formation of character,For education of the heart,For raising the emotional IQ for teaching skills of cooperation that would produce the Adepts, saints, Zaddikim, rishis, Bodhisattvas and shamans which we will need at this time.

Thirdly: What are the upaya, the skillful means, needed to lift cultural trance and launch the awareness of the emerging cosmology. Current consensus mind leads us to ever greater crises. We must do the miraculous work of altering millions of people’s awareness. We must go deeper and deeper in to regions where we cannot use muscle effort , where only awareness can shift awareness which is as one of my friends remarked changing the tires while the car is moving – moving fast. We need so to update the inner resources of our spiritual traditions that once worked well but which were associated with flesh rejecting monastic asceticism. If your suggestions for my spiritual practice exceeds 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening I will not do them and the old traditions demand more time than I can afford.

So we need to look at what works of the old techniques and enhance their yield by learning to attune our consciousness to optimal transformational power. These actions take place in other regions than the mind of the shopping mall. When I think of the turbulent mind space we inhabit at this time I get close to schizophrenia. I can’t hear the choral – symphonic music of a sacred common dream. Just as some people once lamented the twilight of the gods so it seems that we now experience the twilight of the life affirming archetypes! How can we access them? How can we empower them? How can they empower us?

We have come to realize that we are not on the top of the chain of being. What do we, as spiritual people, have as means to access the waiting helpers from higher planes? What do we need to do to address the matrix of the life process on the subtle plane to gain understanding of the deep life process. Only then can we embark on designing the needed education of heart and spirit. Last:What adjustments in psychology, anthropology, biology, physics, medicine philosophy, political science, theology, spiritual technologies, economics, the arts, communications and most of all, the ethics we need in order to heal the planet.?

So the big questions remain. The current state of the disciplines of Transpersonal Psychology and Transpersonal Sociology is too primitive to handle our crisis. You who are here, my colleagues on the dais, as well as you in the audience I invite you to help find the answers to the questions we raised. We need to relearn the technology of blessings.

May the people who organized this event,the people who contributed with effort and finances may we who spoke and you how listened be blessed energy, vigor, resourcefulness,joy, health and well-being, harmony in your family and work life to actualize our renewed hope. May the words of my mouth and the concerns in our hearts be received and responded to by the One in whom we find refuge and redemption. Amen.

*This adjective means “from deep earth.” One dictionary entry describes it as “…of or relating to

the underworld (I.e. chthonic deities). Reb Zalman notes that “in this sense that there is energy from the lightheaven as well as energy from the dark earth.”