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Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 14:37 UK
'On the road' to enlightenment

Lama Jampa Thaye: photo courtesy of Dechen
Lama Jampa Thaye taught religion at the University of Manchester

Dr David Stott is on a very long journey. His goal, to lead British Buddhists down the path to enlightenment.

For three decades, the 57-year-old studied with some of the world's leading Tibetan lamas before finally being entrusted as a guide to the teachings of Buddha in the UK.

After teaching theology for 20 years in Manchester and also founding the Kagyu Ling Buddhist Centre in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Lama Jampa Thaye (his Buddhist name) is now, arguably, Britain's most important Buddhist.

In a recent BBC interview, he revealed that his own faith journey took an unusual turn reading the cult novels of America's 'Beat Generation':

How did you get involved in Buddhism?

"It goes back to my teenage years... at that time, I'd been brought up a Catholic but, without losing respect for the great teachings of Catholicism, I found my way to Buddhism by reading the works of great American authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

But it wasn't until the early 1970s that I actually met any of my Buddhist teachers and Tibetan lamas. So I'd been a Buddhist in spirit for a few years and then I began properly training in 1972."

Was it a difficult transition from Catholicism to Buddhism?

Meditation is a way of cultivating a correct perception of what it is to be alive... to come to appreciate each moment as it really is.
Lama Jampa Thaye, Buddhist teacher

"In some ways, no, because Catholicism deals with the moral seriousness of life and takes seriously the questions about how should we live and how should we conduct ourselves. And those questions, I think, were very valuable for me and led me to find that Buddhism was the first philosophic religion that best answered them for me."

With all the religions in the world, it very often leads to conflict than love..?

"I think that's the way we human beings are. We can opt for goodness or opt for hatred. And the same goes for religious institutions. But of course we can subvert that. We can turn that into a kind of game for our ego, to advance our power. And with that, once we start turning religion into a basis for power, then comes hatred and division and jealousy. But it's not in the religious teachings themselves."

What is meditation for you?

"Meditation is a way of cultivating a correct perception of what it is to be alive. From the Buddhist point of view, suffering originates in our mistaking what is the nature of our mind, what is the nature of the world. So, to meditate is, in a sense, to clarify things. To come to appreciate each moment as it really is."

Buddha statue
Siddhartha Gautama, the original Buddha was born in Nepal 400 BC

How can we apply meditate in a busy modern world?

"You should start to pay attention to your day, as soon as you wake up. If you can take a few minutes before rushing into the day: sit on your sofa, go and sit by the window, sit somewhere where quiet. Don't turn the radio on immediately, certainly don't put on daytime TV, don't plunge into the morning papers: take some time out just to check where you are and how you feel about things before anything else. Build in pauses at the beginning of the day and pauses throughout your day. Do this and be present in your life."

How can we get into the right frame of mind for meditation?

"The most simple thing about us, as human beings, is that we breathe. So therefore paying attention to the quality of our breathing, going in and out, brings us back into the present moment. You'll find that your thoughts slow down, that you develop a sense of alertness and stillness just by tuning into the breathing. And if nothing to else, do that."

Based on an interview with Diana Luke for BBC Radio Manchester's Sunday Breakfast (06 September 2009)




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