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Aug 22
Dharma Teachings, Sakyong and Family
Moving Out of the Dark Age

Abundant Light Amidst Darkness. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Holder.

Abundant Light Amidst Darkness. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Holder.

By Sakyong Mipham

According to many wisdom traditions, we are in a dark age. Over a thousand years ago, Padmasambhava, the great teacher who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet, predicted that this particular dark age would be distinguished by our increasing cleverness. We would create myriad ways to keep ourselves entertained, becoming experts in how to spend free time. We would use our intellect not for betterment but for hanging out in one form of distraction or another, constantly on holiday. Our discursive minds would run rampant. Padmasambhava predicted that as we became more shrewd and clever, compassion would seem increasingly futile, and we would forget how to bring meaning to our lives.

In the Shambhala teachings, we call this dark age the setting sun. The Tibetan word for “setting sun” literally means the dregs, the remains of the day. “Remains” is referring to the last remnants of virtue, in Tibetan gewa, which is positive activity that takes us forward, opening our hearts and minds rather than shutting them down. Actions like compassion and loving-kindness lead to happiness because they uplift our being. In a time when virtue is not valued, turmoil and negativity thicken our minds, causing confusion and unhappiness. We don’t have a clear understanding of our purpose or potential. When the activity that enables us to move forward to enlightenment is on the wane, our life-force energy is low. If we do not really understand where things are going or what the journey is—if we do not have a map, so to speak—we lose energy by spinning in circles, not practicing properly in the right direction.

What keeps us from moving forward? What is it that we need to overcome?

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