Mike Austin: We’re talking about many things at once, and I know you’re very tired at the end of the day. It’s OK?
Dalai Latma: I’m quite fresh.
Mike Austin: You’re quite fresh? Excellent. OK. Would you give a little detail from your personal experience so that people could identify with these abstract topics. For instance, you’ve spent much of your lifetime meditating; engaged in actual practice. What is your personal experience of the nature of the mind?
Dalai Latma: Its entity, or its nature, is that it is illuminating and knowing. Through the casting of an object’s image, it is generated into that into knowing that. The consciousness knows that object by way of being generated in its image, like a reflection. Now, for different Buddhist schools, there’s a disagreement over whether the object exists externally or not, In other words, whether the object exists as a different substantial entity from the consciousness that knows it.
Mike Austin: Does it?
Dalai Latma: Some say it does, and some say it doesn’t.
Mike Austin: To tie it all back to the beginning, again. On the one hand, we have this illuminating knowing thing called mind, which is beginningless, and on the other, we have matter. What’s the universal, cosmologic connection between these two?
Dalai Latma: There’s one kind of space that has the nature of lightness and darkness. This space is that of area - like what appears to our eyes. There’s another space which is just a mere negative; an absence of obstructive contact. The latter one is permanent and thus, unchanging. There are however, causes and conditions for the former type of space. Hence you have to posit its continuum as beginningless, since it must arise from concordant, or similar causes. The space that I was speaking about earlier - that which serves as the basis of wind - and this one, which is impermanent but the continuum of which is beginningless, are probably the same. I can’t explain this thoroughly. I think it would be impossible or difficult to say that consciousness arose from matter or that matter arose from consciousness.
Mike Austin: Why?
Dalai Latma: Though it is in dependence upon the mind’s being tamed or not tamed that actions are done which can have results in the material world of substances, when you talk about the continuation - the whole continuum of those substances - it is difficult to say that it’s produced from consciousness. Also, if consciousness were produced from matter, then at times when there is no matter - such as during the aeons of vacuity following the destruction of a world system there would be no sentient beings. This would contradict reason.
Mike Austin: Let me somehow try and make a bridge to the Western way of thought with this. Twenty-six years ago, scientists confirmed that one chemical, DNA, produces all types of life on this planet. By recombining four chemical bases in infinite length and variety, DNA produces living forms. What does this evoke for you? What, if any, significance do you see in it?
Dalai Latma: You are talking about very fine particles, right? These very fine, very minute particles, cannot be seen directly by the eye consciousness. Correct? But nowadays, in dependence upon technology, people are able to discover these very subtle things, and they are being found to be physical. They are very subtle, disintegrating moment by moment, but they can be found.
Mike Austin: But DNA itself - life - what is the life that is in the chemical? Is it consciousness; is that what life is, consciousness?
Dalai Latma: DNA is probably not consciousness. It doesn’t have to be that everything that moves about has consciousness. Trees have shape and movement and the particles inside rocks are moving about.
Mike Austin: But within DNA itself, it’s very apparent that there’s a certain organizing intelligence which is recombining these genes - these coded chemicals. Some mind is at work in DNA.
Dalai Latma: If DNA was necessary for consciousness, then the child’s consciousness would have to come from the parents, and there’s no way that could be true. That just isn’t the case.
Mike Austin: Well then, let’s not speak in terms of individual beings, but in larger dimensions. There is an inanimate planet, and upon it appears this chemical which begins to produce beings in many different forms. It continues to grow and change over many millions of years. What intelligence is organizing the course of this evolution? What is at work here? Would it be collective karma?
Dalai Latma: Oh, yes.
Mike Austin: Can you say more about that?