CHIEF RABBI LORD JONATHAN SACKS
We do degrees in misery, post-graduate angst, and advanced guilt, and we do all this stuff, you know. And yet somehow or other when all of that is at an end, we get together and we celebrate. And where I love what His Holiness has just said, how he himself has lived a story that I resonate with, the story of suffering and exile, and yet he has come through it still smiling. And that to me is how I have always defined my faith as a Jew. The definition of a Jew, Israel is at it says in Genesis 34, one who struggles, wrestles, with God and with humanity and prevails. And Jacob says something very profound to the angel. He says, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” And that I feel about suffering. When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.
When you lose ____________, you suddenly realize what a slender thing life is, how easily you can lose those you love. Then out of that comes a new simplicity and that is why sometimes all the pain and the tears lift you to a much higher and deeper joy when you say to the bad times, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Thank you.
Obviously, in Judaism, as in all the religious traditions, there are elite forms of meditation. What really interests me, as interests you, is just the simple basic act of prayer. And prayer for me, daily prayer — three times daily. We’re not quite up to five times daily [laugh] — but we’re impressed. Three things happen when I pray. The first thing is thanks. You know, the first prayer we pray, “Thank you, God, for giving me back my life.” The second thing is confession. You feel the ability to acknowledge your mistakes, then you grow, you learn by this. So that is the second thing. And the third thing is simply the basic experience of prayer altogether standing in the presence of a deeper form of being, knowing that this universe is not indifferent to my existence, deaf to my prayers, blind to my hopes. And when I feel in that presence of the being at the heart of being, then we experience the greatest line of all in the life of faith from Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” We can face the future without fear if we know we do not face it alone.
THE DALAI LAMA: And also, I already mentioned in the beginning, two different kinds of satisfaction. One satisfaction, of course, of comfortable shelter, sufficient food, and also sufficient sleep provides certain degree of satisfaction. That also we have to acquire. Nothing wrong. And comfort will sustain your body fit, then your mind, mental function, become more effective. Physically, too much tire and then mental function also difficult. So in a way, there’s some happiness, certain degree of happiness or satisfaction related with sensory types of body. And a level of happiness or satisfaction is a mental state. Between these two, mental state is more important. I think, obviously, mentally happy even as you see some purpose, even your physical sort of difficulties now Ramadan is in daytime, whole day fasting. You may feel a little hungry or some sort of even tiredness, but mentally you voluntarily take that, that hardship, so that gives you satisfaction mentally. So mental satisfaction can subdue physical difficulties. Other hand, mental unhappiness, mental sort of pain, cannot subdue by physical comfort. So mental state is more superior, more important.
LORD SACKS: There’s a line to me — in the 23rd chapter of Deuteronomy — so unexpected. I think we all have to hear it. Here it is: Moses is talking about the experience of the Israelites in Egypt. We read about it in the Book of Exodus, an age of oppression, of slavery, of almost genocide, attempted genocide. And eventually the Israelites leave. They go through the desert, and as they’re about to cross the Jordan and enter the land, Moses says these words: “Do not hate an Egyptian for you are a stranger in his land.” Now that language is very odd. You’re a stranger in his land sounds as if the Egyptians gave them hospitality, as if they put up the Israelites in the Cairo Hilton [laugh], and it wasn’t like that.
So what is Moses saying, “Do not hate an Egyptian for you are strangers in your land”? He is telling the Israelites that you have left the physical Egypt. Now you must leave the mental experience of Egypt. You have to let go of hate. Because if you do not let go of hate, you will never be free. If the Israelites had continued to hate their enemies, Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but he would not have taken Egypt out of the Israelites. They would be slaves to their past, slaves to their feeling of pain and injustice and grievance. This is the line he taught them and the line we have to repeat day after day in this difficult and dangerous 21st century. You have to let go of hate if you want to be free.
THE DALAI LAMA: One of my Muslim friend explained to me one interpretation of Jihad, not only sort of attack on other, but real meaning is combative attack your own wrongdoing or negativities.
DR. NASR: The greater Jihad, the bigger Jihad, is to combat your own negative forces within you. Yes, yes.
THE DALAI LAMA: So in that sentence, the whole Buddhist practice is practice of Jihad.