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Facts, Biases, and Opinions: Let's Shed Some Light

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

It took me some time to write this post because it’s about a sensitive topic. It’s a post with no pretenses, just a way to share some thoughts.

When I started seeing posts and articles about the video showing the Dalai Lama asking a kid to “suck his tongue”, I also immediately noticed how the people commenting started taking sides: one side very indignant because of the sexual implications of this gesture, and another side very defensive because “it was only a joke” and “showing one’s tongue has been considered a sign of respect in Tibet”.

This makes me immediately think about what is called ‘cognitive bias’ - meaning our brain’s tendency to simplify the processing of information through a ‘filter’ of personal experience, preference, or belief. We ‘see”’ what is familiar to us, culturally and personally speaking, something that reflects our experience of the world.

My knowledge of psychophysiology and neurology and my experience in the field made me immediately think about dementia, or anyway a brain issue, because of his age and because it happened during a public event (you can say that this is my bias - my background).

I would have thought of dementia, or brain damage, independently from the name of the religion he represents. Not to justify him, but to understand what happens behind his behavior.

When certain specific areas of the brain are compromised because of temporary or permanent damage, that individual’s behavioral ‘filters' can't work properly. So, if an individual used to inhibit inappropriate behaviors, in the presence of certain brain issues the inhibition system would not work anymore, and the inappropriate behavior would show up. In some cases, brain damage can even completely alter the behavior of an individual, and we couldn’t say if the dysfunctional behavior that individual starts showing belonged to them and was just ‘under control’, or if it is due to the damage.

So, in the case of the Dalai Lama, I would think that if an individual in his position and role shows this kind of behavior, might be experiencing symptoms of dementia or other brain issues.

We all host a ‘monster’, or a ‘beast’, inside. We all host a ‘dark side’ and part of our work on ourselves is to understand what it looks like.

It can be a different ‘beast' for each one of us. For some people, the beast might show the nuances of greed, for others lust, for others wrath, or thirst for power, or who knows what… For sure, there are beasts more disgusting than others. Spiritual paths are designed to help individuals to tame their ego and to turn their dark side, or monster, into something manageable, and possibly useful to their personal growth.

There are areas in our brain designed to keep these ‘beasts’ at bay.

These areas can keep the beasts at bay so well that some people don't even suspect that the beasts within exists.

And sometimes the beast is a joker, someone who enjoys mocking others.

Was the request the Dalai Lama made to the kid just a ‘joke’, was it an invitation to do something inappropriate? We will never know.

We can't say for sure. But I would expect the Dalai Lama’s staff to take him immediately to see a neurologist. Because it's not about justifying him. It's about understanding what is going on with and inside his brain.

Personally, I don’t think the ‘joke’ explanation works. The Dalai Lama has always been well aware of what 'the West’ might think looking at this kind of interaction. In my opinion, without passing judgment, a neurological examination would be in order. Because even the ‘playfulness' of such a gesture, if the 'responses' and 'reactions' of the mass have not been calculated, could be the result of a lapse in judgment. And to anyone with a minimum knowledge of neurology, a mistake like this (lapse in judgment) immediately suggests a problem in certain areas of his brain, considering his age. He has always known very well who he is dealing with, and what the media is capable of.

Moreover, in my opinion, the kid involved and his family need more than just apologies and feeble explanations. An event like this can be traumatic for a kid, for his family, and also for all the followers.

And I think that understanding what happened would be helpful for them - the kid, his family, and the followers too.

And for all of us.

A wave of hatred and ill-tempered criticism, as well as blind acceptance of the gesture in the name of ‘tradition’, is for sure not helpful to anybody.

We can discuss years about how much is healthy to impose celibate and chastity in the name of a religion, but this would not help anybody either right now.

We need a bit more knowledge of human nature and brain functioning before judging anything, and even before taking sides.

We can discuss for years what kind of conditioning and training the man behind the ‘saint’ had gone through.

We can wonder if this kind of spiritual training works or not because we would expect that a man trained in spiritual practices should be ‘beyond’ these kinds of drive - if we want to interpret the gesture as something related to sexual implications.

Maybe it was his nature, a nature he fought successfully for all his life, so far.

Maybe it was something he wasn't even aware of.

Or maybe it was the outcome of a dysfunctional neural network in his brain at that very moment.

We can keep discussing and judging and making guesses, and this would not help anyway.

I am reading an enlightening book titled "The Man Who Wasn't There - Tales from the Edge of the Self" by Anil Ananthaswamy, which is about different neurological cases but narrated in such a way that makes it understandable for anybody. We are not in a position, scientifically speaking, to understand what happens to our consciousness when our brain functions in a different-than-usual way.

We don't even know what is ‘consciousness’ and ‘where’ it is.

I believe that the brain is the physical organ that allows us to manifest our consciousness through our physical body and life. But we don't have answers yet, not even about why certain people can suddenly change and become ‘someone else’ when the brain changes its way of functioning.

So, in case of events like this, I would suggest becoming a bit more curious about how such a thing can happen - because unfortunately, things like this can happen - instead of just being biased by common sense.

And, above all, I would suggest starting to ask ourselves: if my inner beast would be suddenly unlashed… what it would look like?

What I did so far to recognize it, and tame it?

Our dark side is always there, waiting to be seen, recognized, acknowledged, understood, embraced, tamed, and integrated. Much of our strength could come from the integration of our dark side. The issues start when we deny it, neglect it, and reject it.

We forget that it's a part of us. Being a part of us, it has to be integrated to make us whole. We cannot just pretend that it doesn’t exist.

I know, it’s shocking to see that our models of perfection are nothing but human beings, with flaws and faults.

Maybe this is why a spiritual master said, a long time ago, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Because we need to remember that it can be very helpful and useful to look at models, masters, and teachers, and to follow them. But we cannot delegate to them the work that belongs to us.

Their role is to show us a path. They do their best to walk on that path, and they can even fail.

This doesn’t mean that the path is useless.

It means that every one of us is responsible for our own actions.

It's not about what is right or wrong.

It's not about disgust and shame, or justifications and blind acceptance.

It’s not about taking sides.

It's about shedding some light.

It's about finding the reasons why this happened and calling things by their appropriate name.

This would bring clarity and peace.

Otherwise, we would just keep arguing about mere opinions. #clarity #spirituality #darkness #light #awareness #bias #facts

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