The Pen Story & The Four Steps: Emptiness & Karma were the two key highlights of the business seminar I attended in July 2015, Singapore.
That was the first time I encountered a Diamond Cutter Institute (DCI) Public Talk.
I can’t remember the exact dates but I remember my critical and judgemental self queuing up outside a relatively old and rundown theatre—you see, I am trained in Theatre Studies and I have been a Stage Manager since 2009 so I am particularly tuned in to theatres, auditoriums and an organization’s choice of a venue.
Call it occupational hazard, but really if you had met me then, you’d probably identify me as a snob.
Despite my constant criticism the moment I stepped into the theatre, I was all ears as to what this event was about.
After all, I don’t usually attend talks or events, it was only because my then-business partner who had migrated to Australia, urged me and my other business partners to attend this talk.
It was out of respect, trust, curiosity—okay fine I felt a little obliged too—that compelled me to attend this talk.
To begin with, as I sat in the auditorium, I didn’t have a clue what this talk was going to be about!
So the talk commenced and frankly, I was taken aback when it finally dawned on me that the old man standing next to a young translator (It felt like a huge age difference as they stood side by side), was the main speaker for the evening.
Immediately, my judgemental self jumped into action—let’s see what this old guy has to say.
During the first half of the talk, honestly, I didn’t really get the point of the entire talk. What did he mean when he said that mobile phones do not help with communication? They don’t touch? What?
I was taking notes now and then because I really wanted to decipher whatever he said.
And so, the first half ended with me totally confused and intrigued because I felt that he hasn’t delivered the gist of his presentation yet.
And during the break, all 4 other business partners left, while my brother and I decided to stay behind because I wanted to know what was he trying to get at.
The second half started.
Introducing… the Pen Story.
If you watch his TEDx talk video from the 15m 13s mark, DCI founder and president, Geshe Michael Roach talks about The Pen Story.
The 2 ideas he presents in this “Pen Story” are emptiness and karma.
1. Emptiness OR Hidden Potential
Specifically, when everyone; humans and dog leave the room, and there’s no one in the room to “see” the pen, at that moment, he says, it’s almost like nothing.
And this nothing is not the usual understanding of nothing, but what Buddhism terms as emptiness.
From my understanding then, emptiness, in from a secular understanding, is simply a hidden and infinite potential.
Things are empty of existing independently, or “from their own side.” Things are empty of existing independently of karma.
In other words, things have the hidden and infinite potential to “become,” depending on the mental seeds we plant (have planted and will plant).
Which explains why when the human re-enters the room, the “reality” of the object surfaces as a pen, because the human’s mental seeds forces one to perceive or experience a pen.
But when a dog enters the room, the “reality” of the object surfaces as a chew toy for the dog, because the dog’s mental seeds forces it to perceive or experience a chew toy.
In other words, one object, there’s a hidden and infinite potential for two different realities to exist.
2. Karma OR Mental Seeds
Okay, so according to this logical train of thought, there’s a seed in my mind, and when I look at an object, the seed opens in my mind and it forces me to see a pen.
Usually, the next question that comes along is who put a seed in my mind? How did those mental seeds get imprinted on my mind?
According to this “Pen Story,” it says that only you can put a seed in your own mind.
How is it done?
You have to go to another person, give a pen, for example, to another person. And when you release the pen and open your hand, this “series of images” goes into your mind and creates a seed in your mind.
Apparently, when you give something to someone else with the intention to helping them with love, this creates the record in your mind of that opening of your hand, creates an image and that image comes into your mind it presses on your mind and it creates a seed.
And then when someone holds up an object, the seed opens and you see a pen.
After hearing the “Pen Story” for the first time, I was blown away. Or mostly intrigued with the idea.
Was he talking about perspectives? Psychology? I mean, I have studied enough philosophy and theories in my university years as a theatre student.
Was he referring to structuralism? Post structuralism? Post-modernism? Performativity? Semiotics?
I was hooked and determined to find out exactly what he was talking about.
The Four Steps: Creating Mental Imprints, or Planting (Mental Seeds)
So in his TEDx talk, Geshe Michael Roach also talks about 5 goals in life that people would like to have, and from my deduction, it’s the popular 5 goals that most of the audience in DCI events ask over and over again.
5 Goals in life that people would like to have
- Financial independence
- I would like to have enough money to do anything I want to do
- I would like to have enough money to really help the refugees in Europe and around the world
- I would like to have a lot of money and be independent
- I want to have so much money I don’t have to think about money
- Beautiful relationships: partner / family
- Good health: Strong, young and healthy
- Peaceful (Inner goal)
- I would like to share what I have with the rest of the world
I guess the purpose of bringing up these 5 goals is get us thinking about the goals that we would like to achieve in our life so that we can do the Four Steps to plant the seeds.
But of course, with every goal, we have to do a separate set of Four Steps for more precise seed planting.
Four Steps to plant a seed
- Decide what you want (If you don’t know what you want: I want to know what I want)
- Choose another someone who wants something similar
- Meet them once a week for one hour and help them get what they want
- Coffee Meditation: Make those seeds open quickly and powerfully—think about the good things you’ve done for someone else, put water on the karma. And being happy about it
As I mentioned in my post on why I am focused on Buddhist philosophy, by the time the talk ended, I had already gone online and bought
- The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life
- Karmic Management: What Goes Around Comes Around in Your Business and Your Life
- The Karma of Love: 100 Answers for Your Relationship, from the Ancient Wisdom of Tibet
And I left that talk filled with my scribbled notes and burning questions that I wanted answers to.
When the books finally arrived, I read them, attended book clubs, attended trainings and began applying the ideas to my life.
A few weeks later, the business partner who urged us to attend the talk came back to Singapore and followed up with me and my brother on how we felt about the talk, and of course, she brought us to a study group.
It was the 98th question of Karma of Love—which made me more confused, curious and intrigued.
I returned for the last 2 sessions of question 99 and 100, and wondered, why are these people always “rejoicing”?
Are they crazy?
Then lucky for me, they announced that 2 new study groups would be starting soon, with Karma of Love on Monday evenings and The Diamond Cutter on Thursday evenings.
And that’s when I met teacher Kelly, my first DCI trainer, and now my mentor, partner (as you can see us teaching in pairs almost everywhere we go), and best friend for life.
Conclusion: Next Steps
Instead of taking someone’s word for it, the only way to know if the ideas work is to experiment with them. I started seeing changes in my life and became more into the Diamond Cutter Institute (DCI) training system, which is called the DCI Method, Diamond Cutter System, OR more commonly known as DCI Seed System.
Even though I am now a DCI trainer and DiamondX speaker, I don’t believe in blind faith.
The reason why I am even training others to USE the DCI Seed System is because I have tried it out for myself and have seen results.
But as a person who is always questioning and constantly curious, I learn, investigate and then attempt to put theory into practical use.
Hence, my quest to find out what and how things really work: What it takes for us to live happy, fulfilled and successful lives, but with a catch: a focus on—but not limited to—Buddhist philosophy.
What next? In the context of my quest, I’m gonna do some digging into the concepts of emptiness and karma.