One of the most influential people in my life passed away recently. Today is the 7thday that Lama Marut (aka Brian Smith) passed away and, according to Buddhist practice, is a significant day on which to reflect on all the good he has done for so many.
Lama Marut was somebody that had a significant impact on the world, with students across the USA, Singapore and Australia. And probably a few in places as far off as South Africa.
He was perhaps one of the most driven and intelligent individuals I have met. He could, had he wanted to, reached the top of any major corporation. But he had found greater meaning in his life, that of trying to improve the lives of others. Some do so through good works, like Mother Teresa, some through good leadership, such as Gandhi. In Marut’s case it was through changing the mindset and awareness of his many students.
What made him such a great teacher, was the fact that he himself had gone through the career mill and was a student of life. Real life. Like the rest of us, ‘poor shmucks’, he had had his ups and downs and so had a deep understanding of what it is like to live and work and have a career, desire, loss etc.
And, like most of us starting off and starting a career, he had desires of achieving success, status, financial freedom, tenure-ship etc. And then, as he attained these goals, as a Professor of Comparative Religion and achieved tenure, he realized that, like many of us do later in life, that they didn’t complete him.
“I can’t get no satisfaction’
He found that achieving his various goals didn’t make him feel fulfilled or content longer term and there was always the next thing to achieve. Like most of us that have got that promotion, or hit the bonus, or bought that new car/house etc, these ‘attainments’ only provided temporary satisfaction. So, he asked himself – life, what the hell’s it all about? And then went off to figure it out.
His search led him to Buddism. He didn’t just stop there though, like most of us would. He spent many years studying and became an ordained Monk, being taught by Geshe Michael Roach, and then went on to teach.
Core to Marut’s teachings of the ancient texts, is in essence the mastery of a good life – guidance on how to deal with what life throws at us.
‘The meaning of life is to be happy, so you can help other people be happy
Lama Marut – 2011
Unlike most ‘life coaches’ who focus on the desire and attainment of ‘more stuff’, and charge a fee for doing so, the focus on the Middle Way that Lama Marut speaks to, is to reach a higher level of self-realisation. One where desire falls away. For, as he would say, it’s only when we stop desiring, that we can find contentedness and happiness.
‘Desire…. to be free of desire’
Marut often spoke about the ‘mental afflictions’. Buddhism identifies five key mental afflictions –
- Anger (aversion)
- Desire (attachment) – we all desire stuff, but it’s a desire that can never be satisfied. At the macro level, it’s the economists all desiring growth. To what avail? Growth for its own sake creates a lot of issues (bubbles and busts being one of them). Growth/more doesn’t equate to better/happiness.
- Envy (Jealousy)– were has that got us? The ‘I want what you’ve got’ syndrome. That’s led to lots of wars and unhappiness.
- Pride (arrogance) – the ‘I’m better than you’, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong‘ syndrome. We are seeing pride destroy the core fabric of parts of the USA, as Republics and Democrats can’t identify with the other side.
- Ignorance (incorrect knowledge or wrong view) – there are many ‘wrong views’, but perhaps the most pertinent is that we are ‘separate’ from each other, when in reality we are all interconnected.
Suffer from any of the above, or is it only me?
Marut spent years teaching on these and other topics and what makes his teachings so powerful, is the way he blends in the wisdom with life experiences and humour. Lots of humour. Making their delivery so perfectly aligned with what we deal with in our day to day lives.
On dealing with desire:
‘ohm…. I have enough…. ahum’
“That feeling that you don’t have enough….
….put a moratorium on that already ……
…..Stop the consumerism already”
How to get out of Pride:
‘with a good healthy disaster….
…you get clear on the concept of what life is”
The art of a great teacher is to take the unfathomable and make it intuitive, real, meaningful and addictive to the student. Marut was that kind of teacher.
If you ponder on the issues facing the world today, how many do you think are caused by the ‘mental afflictions’ mentioned above. Probably most, if not all. That’s why his, and teachings like those of Geshe Micheal Roach, are so incredibly important.
Marut also had a great tag line on how we should deal with what impacts us daily, both good and bad:
‘It’s like this now’ and ‘this too shall pass’
Meaning the cards have been dealt so, rather than worry about what you’re holding and complaining about it, figure out how best to work with what you have. Another interpretation is ‘it’s like this now, but things will change’ – so hang in there as ‘this too shall pass’; or enjoy it ‘as it will soon be over’.
Every single one of us deals with the ups and downs of what life throws at us. The saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is well known phrase. His teachings would often revolve around how to deal with the punches life throws at you, but more importantly on why one’s getting ‘punched’ and to look for the lesson being thrown at you.
‘Never let a good disaster go to waste’
He also demystifies karma. A topic which usually gets a packed attendance – as everybody wants good karma. Marut probably disappointed many though, his view being it’s not about getting or receiving more, it’s about giving. He would refer to the old saying ‘what goes around comes around’.
His teachings expose karma to be more related to memory, rather than something physical. His audience numbers may have suffered on the back of that, but for Marut it was far more important to get away from the physical that we desire and look more inward.
His later book, Be Nobody, and related teachings were also very attuned to the current age of Facebook and Youtube. And the need and desire for fame and glamour, that seems to have become an epidemic.
………it’s when that little voice inside, the somebody self, shuts up that we are happiest’
As he writes, it is when our little internal voice, that somebody self, shuts up, that we can really perform and achieve what it is we are after. It’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.
It’s an interpretation of how to get aware of the present moment, the now, and be in that state of complete awareness. Doing things without attention on the fruits, or result, but with absolute focus on the doing. This applies to F1 drivers, just as much as it applies to everything we do in life.
‘Action….for the sake of action’
Looking at the world today, there seems to be a vacuum of ‘wise’ leadership, both at the corporate and government level. The voice of consumerism and growth at any cost drowns out that of good governance. Indeed, many world leaders, use our ‘mental afflictions’ against us to separate, conquer and profit.
That makes it that much more important that we re-establish some sort of balance. Shifting away from a world driven by the ‘mental afflictions’, to one which is more considerate of the environment, future generations and to other humans in general.
‘Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.’
‘Wake up already’
Lama Marut spent a large part of his life looking for answers and found and shared many. So, take a look at the linked videos and share this far and wide and hopefully we can spread his message.
Books by Lama Marut:
A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the good Life
Lama Marut website: