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Happiness is a state of mind, therefore the real source of happiness lies in the mind, not in external circumstances.
Happiness is a state of mind, therefore the real source of happiness lies in the mind, not in external circumstances.
If our mind is pure and peaceful we shall be happy, regardless of our external conditions, but if it is impure and unpeaceful we shall never find happiness, no matter how much we try to change our external circumstances.
Meditation enables us to cultivate those states of mind that are conducive to peace and well-being, and eradicate those that are not. Through study and meditation we strive to develop three types of wisdom – the wisdom arisen from listening, the wisdom arisen from contemplating, and the wisdom arisen from meditation.
When fully developed, these wisdoms completely eradicate all negativity and all confusion from the mind. Success in study and meditation depends upon creating the right inner conditions, specifically receiving inspiring blessings, purifying negative karma, and accumulating meritorious energy.
We achieve these through supporting practices such as relying upon a qualified Spiritual Guide, making offerings, reciting prayers, etc.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the mind.
Since we all have within us our own source of peace and happiness, we may wonder why it is so hard to maintain a continually peaceful and joyful mind. This is because of the delusions that so often crowd our mind. Delusions are distorted ways of looking at ourself, other people, and the world around us – like a distorted mirror they reflect a distorted world. The deluded mind of hatred, for example, views other people as intrinsically bad, but there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person. Desirous attachment, on the other hand, sees its object of desire as intrinsically good and as a true source of happiness. If we have a strong craving to eat chocolate, chocolate appears to be intrinsically desirable. However, once we have eaten too much of it and start to feel sick, it no longer seems so desirable and may even appear repulsive. This shows that in itself chocolate is neither desirable nor repulsive. It is the deluded mind of attachment that projects all kinds of pleasurable qualities onto its objects of desire and then relates to them as if they really did possess those qualities.
If we want to transform our life and be free from problems we must learn to transform our mind.
All delusions function like this, projecting onto the world their own distorted version of reality and then relating to this projection as if it were true. When our mind is under the influence of delusions we are out of touch with reality and are not seeing things as they really are. Since our mind is under the control of at least subtle forms of delusion all the time, it is not surprising that our lives are so often filled with frustration. It is as if we are continually chasing mirages, only to be disappointed when they do not give us the satisfaction for which we had hoped.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the mind. If we were to respond to difficulties with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to situations with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to transform our life and be free from problems we must learn to transform our mind. Sufferings, problems, worries, unhappiness, and pain all exist within our mind; they are all unpleasant feelings, which are part of the mind. Through controlling and purifying our mind we can stop them once and for all.
If we want to avoid suffering and find true happiness we need to understand how the mind works.
Although everyone has a mind, most of us have only a vague understanding of its nature and functions. For example, if we have not trained in Dharma we shall probably know very little about the different types of mind, how they are generated, and what effect they have on our lives. We shall not be able to distinguish virtuous minds from non-virtuous minds, and we shall not know how to cultivate the former and abandon the latter. Why is it necessary to understand all this? The reason is that all happiness and suffering depend upon the mind, and so if we want to avoid suffering and find true happiness we need to understand how the mind works and use that understanding to bring our mind under control. Only in this way can we improve the quality of our life, both now and in the future.
In reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind.
In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness. There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it might be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the cause of happiness and the solution to our problems do not lie in knowledge or control of the external world. Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering we must improve our understanding of the mind.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems we must learn to control our mind.
The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others.
Each and every living being has within them the seed or potential to become a fully enlightened being – this is our Buddha nature. In Buddha’s teachings we have found the best method to realize this potential. What we need to do now is to put these teachings into practice. This is something that only human beings can do. Animals can gather resources, defeat their enemies, and protect their families, but they can neither understand nor engage in the spiritual path. It would be a great shame if we were to use our human life only to achieve what animals can also achieve, and thereby waste this unique opportunity to become a source of benefit for all living beings.
The Object Of Cherishing
We are faced with a choice: either we can continue to squander our life in pursuing worldly enjoyments that give no real satisfaction and disappear when we die, or we can dedicate our life to realizing our full spiritual potential. If we make great effort to practise the instructions contained within this book we shall definitely attain enlightenment, but if we make no effort, enlightenment will never happen naturally, no matter how long we wait. To follow the path to enlightenment there is no need to change our external lifestyle. We do not need to abandon our family, friends, or enjoyments, and retire to a mountain cave. All we need to do is change the object of our cherishing.
We can gradually replace our ordinary self-cherishing attitude with the sublime attitude of cherishing all living beings.
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.
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. 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.
Buddha called the pleasurable feelings that result from worldly enjoyments ‘changing suffering’
Everyone wants to be happy, but no one in samsara experiences true happiness. In comparison with the amount of suffering they endure, the happiness of living beings is rare and fleeting, and even this is only a contaminated happiness that is in reality the nature of suffering. Buddha called the pleasurable feelings that result from worldly enjoyments ‘changing suffering’ because they are simply the experience of a temporary reduction of manifest suffering. In other words, we experience pleasure due to the relief of our previous pain. For example, the pleasure we derive from eating is really just a temporary reduction of our hunger, the pleasure we derive from drinking is merely a temporary reduction of our thirst, and the pleasure we derive from ordinary relationships is for the most part merely a temporary reduction of our underlying loneliness.
How can we understand this? If we increase the cause of our worldly happiness, our happiness will gradually change into suffering. When we eat our favourite food it tastes wonderful, but if we were to continue plateful after plateful our enjoyment would soon change into discomfort, disgust, and eventually pain. The reverse, however, does not happen with painful experiences. For instance, hitting our finger with a hammer again and again can never become pleasurable, because it is a true cause of suffering. Just as a true cause of suffering can never give rise to happiness, so a true cause of happiness can never give rise to pain.
No matter how hard we try to find happiness in worldly pleasures we shall never succeed.
Since the pleasurable feelings resulting from worldly enjoyments do turn into pain, it follows that they cannot be real happiness. Prolonged indulgence in eating, sport, sex, or any other ordinary enjoyment invariably leads to suffering. No matter how hard we try to find happiness in worldly pleasures we shall never succeed. As mentioned earlier, indulging in samsaric pleasures is like drinking salt water; rather than satiating our thirst, the more we drink the more thirsty we become. In samsara we never reach a point when we can say: ‘Now I am completely satisfied, I need nothing more.’
Not only is worldly pleasure not true happiness, but it also does not last. People devote their lives to acquiring possessions and social standing, and building up a home, a family, and a circle of friends; but when they die they lose everything. All they have worked for suddenly disappears, and they enter their next life alone and empty-handed. They long to form deep and lasting friendships with others, but in samsara this is impossible. The dearest lovers will eventually be torn apart, and when they meet again in a future life they will not recognize each other. We may feel that those who have good relationships and have fulfilled their ambitions in life are truly happy, but in reality their happiness is as fragile as a water bubble. Impermanence spares nothing and no one; in samsara all our dreams are broken in the end.
As Buddha says in the Vinaya Sutras:
The end of collection is dispersion.
The end of rising is falling.
The end of meeting is parting.
The end of birth is death.
The nature of samsara is suffering, so for as long as living beings are reborn in samsara they can never experience true happiness. Buddha compared living in samsara to sitting on top of a pin – no matter how much we try to adjust our position it is always painful, and no matter how hard we try to adjust and improve our samsaric situation it will always irri- tate us and give rise to pain. True happiness can be found only by attaining liberation from samsara. Through contemplating this we shall develop a heartfelt desire for all living beings to experience pure happiness by attaining liberation.
Since cherishing myself is the door to all faults
And cherishing mother beings is the foundation of all good qualities,
I seek your blessings to take as my essential practice
The yoga of exchanging self with others.
These two verses summarize the actual practice of exchanging self with others. Buddhas have attained enlightenment by abandoning self-cherishing and cherishing only others, and so they are able to work continuously for others. Samsaric beings on the other hand are like children because they are concerned only with their own welfare, and as a result they remain trapped within samsara. Since beginningless time we have taken countless rebirths in samsara because of our self-cherishing, but the Buddhas have given up self-cherishing and attained enlightenment. The only difference between us and them is that we cling to self-cherishing whereas they have abandoned it.
Buddhas have not always been Buddhas. At one time they were just like us, but they took on the responsibility of working for others and freed themselves from samsara whereas we remain trapped by our self-concern. As Shantideva says:
But what need is there to say more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them!
At one time a Yogi called Drugpa Kunleg went to Lhasa to pay homage to a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. Upon arriv-ing in front of the statue he prostrated to it, exclaiming:
O Buddha, to begin with you and I were exactly the same,
But later you attained Buddhahood through the force of your effort,Whereas due to my laziness I remain in samsara;
So now I must prostrate to you.
Again and again we need to contemplate how selfcherishing is the door to all faults, and generate a determination to abandon it; and again and again we need to contemplate how cherishing others is the source of all good qualities, and generate a determination to practise it. By meditating on these two determinations for a long time and carrying them in our heart throughout the meditation break, we will naturally come to cherish others more than ourself.
Our own happiness and suffering are insignificant compared to that of other living beings.
From the depths of our heart we want to be happy all the time, but we are not usually very concerned with the happiness and freedom of others. In reality, however, our own happiness and suffering are insignificant compared to that of other living beings. Others are countless, whereas we ourself are just one single person. Understanding this, we must learn to cherish others and accomplish the ultimate, supreme goal of human life.
What is the ultimate, supreme goal of human life?
We should ask ourself what we consider to be most important – what do we wish for, strive for, or daydream about? For some people it is material possessions, such as a large house with all the latest luxuries, a fast car, or a well-paid job. For others it is reputation, good looks, power, excitement, or adventure. Many try to find the meaning of their life in relationships with their family and circle of friends. All these things can make us happy for a short while, but they can also cause us much worry and suffering. They can never give us the perfect lasting happiness that all of us, in our heart of hearts, long for. Since we cannot take them with us when we die, if we have made them the principal meaning of our life they will eventually let us down. As an end in themselves worldly attainments are hollow; they are not the real essence of human life.
The only thing that will never deceive us is the attainment of full enlightenment.
Of all worldly possessions the most precious is said to be the legendary wish-granting jewel. It is impossible to find such a jewel in these degenerate times, but in the past, when human beings had abundant merit, there used to be magical jewels that had the power to grant wishes. These jewels, however, could only fulfil wishes for contaminated happiness – they could never bestow the pure happiness that comes from a pure mind. Furthermore, a wish-granting jewel only had the power to grant wishes in one life – it could not protect its owner in his or her future lives. Thus, ultimately even a wish-granting jewel is deceptive.
The only thing that will never deceive us is the attainment of full enlightenment. What is enlightenment? It is omniscient wisdom free from all mistaken appearances. A person who possesses this wisdom is an enlightened being. According to Buddhism, ‘enlightened being’ and ‘Buddha’ are synonymous. With the exception of enlightened beings, all beings experience mistaken appearances all the time, day and night, even during sleep.