Click/Touch on the “+” boxes below to expand and read !
Happiness is a state of mind, so the real source of happiness must lie within the mind, not in external conditions.
Everyone wants to be happy and no one wants to suffer, but very few people understand the real causes of happiness and suffering. We tend to look for happiness outside ourself, thinking that if we had the right house, the right car, the right job, and the right friends we would be truly happy. We spend almost all our time adjusting the external world, trying to make it conform to our wishes. All our life we have tried to surround ourself with people and things that make us feel comfortable, secure, or stimulated, yet still we have not found pure and lasting happiness.
It is time we sought happiness from a different source. Happiness is a state of mind, so the real source of happiness must lie within the mind, not in external conditions. If our mind is pure and peaceful we shall be happy, regardless of our external circumstances, but if it is impure and unpeaceful we can never be truly happy, no matter how hard we try to change our external conditions. We could change our home or our partner countless times, but until we change our restless, discontented mind we shall never find true happiness.
“Dharma” means “protection”. By practising Buddha’s teachings we protect ourself from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practise Dharma.
All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practise Dharma.
Practising Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness. For example, in the past many Buddhists lived in poor and underdeveloped countries, but they were able to find pure, lasting happiness by practising what Buddha had taught.
If we integrate Buddha’s teachings into our daily life, we will be able to solve all our inner problems and attain a truly peaceful mind. Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. If we first establish peace within our minds by training in spiritual paths, outer peace will come naturally; but if we do not, world peace will never be achieved, no matter how many people campaign for it.
The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others.
Until now we have cherished ourself above all others, and for as long as we continue to do this our suffering will never end. However, if we learn to cherish all beings more than ourself we shall soon enjoy the bliss of enlightenment. The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realizations will naturally follow from this.
What is Self-cherishing?
Our instinctive view is that we are more important than everyone else, whereas the view of all enlightened beings is that it is others who are more important. Which of these views is more beneficial? In life after life, since beginningless time, we have been slaves to our self-cherishing mind. We have trusted it implicitly and obeyed its every command, believing that the way to solve our problems and find happiness is to put ourself before everyone else. We have worked so hard and for so long for our own sake, but what do we have to show for it? Have we solved all our problems and found the lasting happiness we desire? No. It is clear that pursuing our own selfish interests has deceived us. After having indulged our self-cherishing for so many lives, now is the time to realize that it simply does not work. Now is the time to switch the object of our cherishing from ourself to all living beings.
Countless enlightened beings have discovered that by abandoning self-cherishing and cherishing only others they came to experience true peace and happiness.
Countless enlightened beings have discovered that by abandoning self-cherishing and cherishing only others they came to experience true peace and happiness. If we practise the methods they taught, there is no reason why we should not be able to do the same. We cannot expect to change our mind overnight, but through patiently and consistently practising the instructions on cherishing others, while at the same time accumulating merit, purifying negativity, and receiving blessings, we can gradually replace our ordinary self-cherishing attitude with the sublime attitude of cherishing all living beings.
To achieve this we do not need to change our lifestyle, but we do need to change our views and intentions. Our ordinary view is that we are the centre of the universe and that other people and things derive their significance principally from the way in which they affect us. Our car, for example, is important simply because it is ours, and our friends are important because they make us happy. Strangers, on the other hand, do not seem so important because they do not directly affect our happiness, and if a stranger’s car is damaged or stolen we are not that concerned. As we shall see in later chapters, this self-centred view of the world is based on ignorance and does not correspond to reality. This view is the source of all our ordinary, selfish intentions. It is precisely because we think ‘I am important, I need this, I deserve that’ that we engage in negative actions, which result in an endless stream of problems for ourself and others.
Once we view each and every living being as important we shall naturally develop good intentions towards them.
By practising these instructions we can develop a realistic view of the world, based on an understanding of the equality and interdependence of all living beings. Once we view each and every living being as important we shall naturally develop good intentions towards them. Whereas the mind that cherishes only ourself is the basis for all impure, samsaric experience, the mind that cherishes others is the basis for all the good qualities of enlightenment.
Cherishing others is not so difficult – all we need to do is to understand why we should cherish others and then make a firm decision to do so. Through meditating on this decision we shall develop a deep and powerful feeling of cherishing for all beings. We then carry this special feeling into our daily life.
Having gained some experience of cherishing all living beings, we can now extend and deepen our compassion, and the method for doing so is revealed in this chapter. In general everyone already has some compassion. We all feel compassion when we see our family or friends in distress, and even animals feel compassion when they see their offspring in pain. Our compassion is our Buddha seed or Buddha nature, our potential to become a Buddha. It is because all living beings possess this seed that they will all eventually become Buddhas.
Our compassion is our Buddha seed or Buddha nature, our potential to become a Buddha. It is because all living beings possess this seed that they will all eventually become Buddhas.
When a dog sees her puppies in pain she develops the wish to protect them and free them from pain, and this compassionate wish is her Buddha seed. Unfortunately, however, animals have no ability to train in compassion, and so their Buddha seed cannot ripen. Human beings, though, have a great opportunity to develop their Buddha nature. Through meditation we can extend and deepen our compassion until it transforms into the mind of great compassion – the wish to protect all living beings without exception from their suffering. Through improving this mind of great, or universal, compassion it will eventually transform into the compassion of a Buddha, which actually has the power to protect all living beings. Therefore the way to become a Buddha is to awaken our compassionate Buddha nature and complete the training in universal compassion. Only human beings can do this.
Compassion is the very essence of a spiritual life, and the main practice of those who have devoted their lives to attaining enlightenment. It is the root of the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. It is the root of Buddha because all Buddhas are born from compassion. It is the root of Dharma because Buddhas give Dharma teachings motivated solely by compassion for others. It is the root of Sangha, because it is by listening to and practising Dharma teachings given out of compassion that we become Sangha, or Superior beings.
What is Compassion?
What exactly is compassion? Compassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering. Sometimes out of selfish intention we can wish for another person to be free from their suffering; this is quite common in relationships that are based principally on attachment. If our friend is ill or depressed, for example, we may wish him to recover quickly so that we can enjoy his company again; but this wish is basically self-cen- tred and is not true compassion. True compassion is necessarily based on cherishing others.
Compassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering.
Although we already have some degree of compassion, at present it is very biased and limited. When our family and friends are suffering we easily develop compassion for them, but we find it far more difficult to feel sympathy for people we find unpleasant or for strangers. Furthermore, we feel compassion for those who are experiencing manifest pain, but not for those who are enjoying good conditions, and especially not for those who are engaging in harmful actions. If we genuinely want to realize our potential by attaining full enlightenment we need to increase the scope of our compassion until it embraces all living beings without exception, just as a loving mother feels compassion for all her children irrespective of whether they are behaving well or badly. This universal compassion is the heart of Mahayana Buddhism. Unlike our present, limited compassion, which already arises naturally from time to time, universal compassion must first be cultivated through training over a long period of time.
The main reason we do not cherish all living beings is that we are so preoccupied with ourself, and this leaves very little room in our mind to appreciate others.
Why do we not cherish others?
The main reason we do not cherish all living beings is that we are so preoccupied with ourself, and this leaves very little room in our mind to appreciate others. If we wish to cherish others sincerely we have to reduce our obsessive self-concern. Why is it that we regard ourself as so precious, but not others? It is because we are so familiar with self-cherishing. Since beginningless time we have grasped at a truly existent I. This grasping at I automatically gives rise to self-cherishing, which instinctively feels ‘I am more important than others.’ For ordinary beings, grasping at one’s own I and self-cherishing are like two sides of the same coin: I-grasping grasps at a truly existent I, whereas self-cherishing feels this I to be precious and cherishes it. The fundamental reason for this is our constant familiarity with our self-cherishing, day and night, even during our sleep.
Since we regard our self or I as so very precious and important, we exaggerate our own good qualities and develop an inflated view of ourself
Since we regard our self or I as so very precious and important, we exaggerate our own good qualities and develop an inflated view of ourself. Almost anything can serve as a basis for this arrogant mind, such as our looks, possessions, knowledge, experiences, or status. If we make a witty remark we think ‘I’m so clever!’, or if we have traveled round the world we feel that this automatically makes us a fascinating person. We can even develop pride on the basis of things we ought to be ashamed of, such as our ability to deceive others, or on qualities that we merely imagine we possess. On the other hand we find it very hard to accept our mistakes and shortcomings. We spend so much time contemplating our real or imagined good qualities that we become oblivious to our faults. In reality our mind is full of gross delusions but we ignore them and may even fool ourself into thinking that we do not have such repulsive minds. This is like pretending that there is no dirt in our house after sweeping it under the carpet.
Admiting Our Faults
It is often so painful to admit that we have faults that we make all manner of excuses rather than alter our exalted view of ourself. One of the most common ways of not facing up to our faults is to blame others. For instance, if we have a difficult relationship with someone we naturally conclude that it is entirely their fault – we are unable to accept that it is at least partly ours. Instead of taking responsibility for our actions and making an effort to change our behaviour, we argue with them and insist that it is they who must change. An exaggerated sense of our own importance thus leads to a critical attitude towards other people and makes it almost impossible to avoid conflict. The fact that we are oblivious to our faults does not prevent other people from noticing them and pointing them out, but when they do we feel that they are being unfair. Instead of looking honestly at our own behaviour to see whether or not the criticism is justified, our self-cherishing mind becomes defensive and retaliates by finding faults with them.
Do Not Look for Faults in Others
An exaggerated sense of our own importance thus leads to a critical attitude towards other people and makes it almost impossible to avoid conflict.
Another reason why we do not regard others as precious is that we pay attention to their faults whilst ignoring their good qualities. Unfortunately we have become very skilled in recognizing the faults of others, and we devote a great deal of mental energy to listing them, analyzing them, and even meditating on them! With this critical attitude, if we disagree with our partner or colleagues about something, instead of trying to understand their point of view we repeatedly think of many reasons why we are right and they are wrong. By focusing exclusively on their faults and limitations we become angry and resentful, and rather than cherishing them we develop the wish to harm or discredit them. In this way small disagreements can easily turn into conflicts that simmer for months.
In Advice from Atisha’s Heart it says:
Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.
Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.
For as long as our good feelings for others are conditional upon their treating us well, our love will be weak and unstable and we shall not be able to transform it into universal love.
When Things Go Well
When things are going well, and people are kind and treating us with respect, it is not so difficult to wish for them to be happy. However, if our love for others diminishes as soon as they cause us problems or fail to appreciate us, this indicates that our love is not pure. For as long as our good feelings for others are conditional upon their treating us well, our love will be weak and unstable and we shall not be able to transform it into universal love. It is inevitable that people will sometimes respond to our kindness in ungrateful and negative ways, and so it is essential that we find a way of transforming this experience into the spiritual path.
Instead of Anger
Whenever anyone harms us, instead of getting angry we should try to see that person as a Spiritual Teacher and generate a mind of gratitude towards him or her. There are various lines of reasoning we can use to develop this special recognition. We can think:
The only reason people harm me is because I have created the cause for them to do so through my previous negative actions. These people are teaching me about the law of karma. By deceiving me and repaying my help with harm they are reminding me that in the past I deceived and harmed others. They are betraying me only because I betrayed them or others in previous lives. They are encouraging me to purify my negative karma and to refrain from harmful actions in the future. How kind they are! They must be my Spiritual Guide, emanated by Buddha.
By thinking in this way we transform a situation that would normally give rise to anger or self-pity into a powerful lesson in the need for purification and moral discipline.
Another Line of Reasoning
We can also think:
This person who is harming or disturbing me is in reality encouraging me to practise patience; and since it is impossible to make progress on the spiritual path without developing the strong mind of patience, he or she is of great benefit to me.
Patience is a mind motivated by a virtuous intention that happily accepts difficulties and harm from others. A person with no patience has no stability of mind, and is upset by the slightest obstacle or criticism. In contrast, when we develop real patience our mind will be as stable as a mountain and as calm as the depths of an ocean. With such a calm, strong mind it will not be difficult to perfect the spiritual realizations of universal love, great compassion, and bodhichitta.
Patience is a mind motivated by a virtuous intention that happily accepts difficulties and harm from others.
By thinking skilfully in these ways, we can regard even those who harm or deceive us as our Spiritual Teachers. This is a very important point because it means that everyone can be our Teacher. Whether someone is our Spiritual Teacher or an obstacle to our spiritual progress depends entirely upon our mind. In many ways, those who harm us are the kindest of all because they shatter our complacent view that sees samsara as a pleasure garden, and, like a powerful Spiritual Guide, they inspire us to engage more strongly in spiritual practice. By thinking in this way we can transform the harm we receive into the spiritual path, and instead of being discouraged we can learn to cherish even those who harm us. It is especially important to have this attitude towards our close friends and family. Since we spend so much time with them it would be very beneficial if we were to regard them as pure Spiritual Teachers!
Buddhism, or Buddhadharma, is Buddha’s teachings and the inner experiences or realizations of these teachings.
Buddhism, or Buddhadharma, is Buddha’s teachings and the inner experiences or realizations of these teachings. Buddha gave eighty-four thousand teachings. All these teachings and the inner realizations of them constitute Buddhadharma.
Buddhadharma does not stay in one place but moves from one country to another. Just as gold is precious and rare, so Buddhadharma is precious and very hard to find. Buddha taught how to examine our mind and see which states produce misery and confusion and which states produce health and happiness. He taught how to overcome the compulsively non-virtuous minds that confine us to states of discontent and misery, and how to cultivate the virtuous minds that liberate us from pain and lead us to the bliss of full enlightenment. By learning Buddhadharma, we will have the opportunity to gain the happiness we seek and to fulfil all our temporary and ultimate wishes.
Buddha’s teachings are said to be like a precious wheel because, wherever they spread, the people in that area have the opportunity to control their minds by putting them into practice.
After he had attained enlightenment, as a result of requests Buddha rose from meditation and taught the so-called first “Wheel of Dharma.” These teachings, which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism. Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention, respectively. These teachings are the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism. In the Hinayana teachings, Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone. In the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in the West.
Buddha’s teachings, which are known as “Dharma”, are likened to a wheel that moves from country to country in accordance with changing conditions and people’s karmic inclinations. The external forms of presenting Buddhism may change as it meets with different cultures and societies, but its essential authenticity is ensured through the continuation of an unbroken lineage of realized practitioners. Buddha’s teachings are said to be like a precious wheel because, wherever they spread, the people in that area have the opportunity to control their minds by putting them into practice.