Erik Pema Kunsang - Interview


Erik Pema Kunsang – Buddhist teacher, author, experienced translator for some of the greatest teachers of Tibetan Buddhism.

There is something we all need – especially young people in our time. It is the ability to steer oneself, be more in charge of one’s life, or at least to be able to make conscious decisions about the direction one aims to go with it. This ability to make sensible and realistic decisions includes the ability to follow up on them, rather than just being pushed along by impulses from yourself and others.

Fortunately, Buddha’s teachings contain practical instructions on exactly this – how to go about it. Whether you call it Buddhism or become a Buddhist – you can learn the methods and apply them in practice, to become – more and more – the one who holds the steering wheel in your own life. And you can do that more adequately and freely, if you know bit about their origin and the ways they are shaped by contemporary contexts.

Often we regret it afterwards, if we discover that we have just gone along with some superficial impulse, perhaps from insecurity, habits or group pressure, rather than caring for something that really matters for us. But rather than having to hold back all impulses, as if in a constant cramp-like effort – like children forced to be quiet – you can cultivate ease, natural wakefulness and open-mindedness from within.

Freedom to explore and express, and openness of the mind – these are the famous basic values of the Nordic folk high school movement as well – and they are absolutely important and necessary steps in a contemplative or meditative development. Without such a foundation it makes very little sense, in fact, to import Buddhism and meditation from the East. It becomes awkward – as a goat’s head on a sheep’s body.

…Whether you call it Buddhism or become a Buddhist – you can learn the methods and apply them – to become the one who holds the steering wheel in your life...

It is an exiting and important project to run these new seminars that we might call “the contemplative Nordic high school” or “the free contemplative summer institute”. I will be happy to contribute by making a simple direct meditation practice available for everyone there – an introductory course in the essence of “buddhist mindfulness”. This can then function as a shared reference and resonance for morning meditations as well as the many kinds of discussions and exploration during the seminar weeks – explorations of how contemplative and active life can be connected, hopefully in a hundred fruitful ways.