By Lama Thubten
When we study Buddhism we are studying ourselves-learning about
the nature of our own minds. The emphasis is not on something supreme; it is on
practical things like how to live the daily life and how to integrate it with
the mind so that the mind remains peaceful and healthy. In other words, the emphasis
is on experiential knowledge-wisdom, not dogmatic views. Actually, in Western
terminology we would not say that Buddhism is religion, but rather philosophy,
science or psychology.
An instinctive tendency of the human mind is to search
for happiness; in this respect Eastern and Western people are no different. But
if your life-style overemphasizes the sense world and you grasp at it emotionally,
it is very dangerous-you have no control. Now control is not an Eastern custom
or a Buddhist trip; we all need control. Especially those who live a materialistic
life and psychologically are too attached to objects. From the point of view of
Buddhist philosophy such a mind is not healthy, is mentally sick. You already
know that external scientific technological advances alone cannot satisfy the
desires of your attachment or stop your emotional problems.
Thus the method
of Lord Buddha's teachings is to show you the nature of the human mind, your human
potential and how you can develop further. Moreover, this method does not emphasize
blind belief in, rather than understanding of, metaphysical processes. However,
whether you are religious or non-religious, or a believer or a non-believer, the
important thing is to know the nature of your own mind. If you don't, it is so
easy to think that you are healthy and functioning well in your daily life while
in fact the root of disturbing emotions is growing firmer and deeper within your
mind. With this fundamental cause of psychological disease within you, a tiny
change of conditions can precipitate mental illness. As long as you are totally
immersed in blind attachment to the sense world, not knowing the nature of your
mind, this can happen. You can't reject this: "I don't believe it."
You can't reject your nose: "I don't believe I have a nose." Whether
you believe you have a nose or not, it's there!
Many Western people say, "I
don't believe in anything"; they are so proud of being non-believers. But
check this-it's very important to know. In the West there are so many contradictions:
scientists think they are non-believers; religious people think they are believers.
However, whether you think you are a believer or a non-believer, you have to know
the nature of your own mind.
You always talk about attachment, but you don't
know how to control it. To say the word is easy, but to know the nature of attachment
is very difficult. A simple example: cars and airplanes were invented to allow
people to do things more quickly, leaving them more time for leisure; but the
result is that people's minds are more restless than ever. I'm not complaining,
but you examine your daily life. What I'm saying is that when the whole country
is involved in the sense world under the control of attachment, you don't have
the chance or time to see the reality of your mind. I call that kind of life-style
difficult. There is no way you can really enjoy yourself and experience satisfaction,
because true enjoyment comes from the mind, not from external phenomena.
intelligently skeptical young people do have some understanding of what is worthwhile
in life, and know that enjoyment does not come from temporal-or, in Buddhist terminology,
"samsaric"-objects alone. Thus they are searching for that which truly
satisfies. When Lord Buddha talked so much about suffering he was not referring
primarily to physical illness and pain but to dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction
is the real suffering. No matter how much you get, your desires do not abate;
you always want more. That is suffering; that is deluded frustration.
psychology enumerates six fundamental delusions, which frustrate and disturb the
peace of the human mind and cause it to become restless: attachment, anger, ignorance,
pride, deluded doubt and holding distorted views. These are mental, not external
phenomena. So, when Lord Buddha taught people how to overcome these delusions,
he emphasized the necessity of understanding their nature, not simply belief and
faith. Without investigating your mind and developing introspective knowledge-wisdom
it is not possible to develop such understanding. Even though we talk a lot about
delusions, we don't really know anything. Those fundamental delusions come from
the ego, they make the mind restless. To be free you don't have to give up your
possessions. You can keep your possessions, but if you do so with attachment you
will make yourself restless and your life difficult; you will keep your mind foggy
and polluted. The unclear mind is by nature ignorant and agitated; the light of
wisdom cannot grow in such a mind. The solution to this problem is meditation.
Meditation does not imply sitting in a corner doing nothing, trying to develop
single-pointed concentration. It is a type of wisdom free from sluggishness whose
function is awareness of the state of mind. In your daily life you should be aware
of everything you do and why and how you do it. Usually we do everything unconsciously:
we eat unconsciously, drink unconsciously, talk unconsciously. We have no idea
of what is happening in our minds, even though we say we are conscious. I'm not
judging you, putting you down, but you look for yourself. The way of Buddhism
is to put forward ideas for you to examine and experience. I'm not talking about
something way up in the sky. This is very simple.
If you do not know the nature
of attachment and its object it's impossible for you to have loving kindness for
your friends, parents and country. Since your mind is unconscious you hurt those
close to you. Similarly, someone who is angry completely forgets himself; he has
no idea what's going on in his mind. You know how it is; these are just examples
of what we do. Many times we hurt others through being unconscious: we are not
aware of our own behavior or mental attitude and have no respect for others.
In the West there are people who have specialist education in psychology. But
Lord Buddha wants us all to become psychologists; you should know your own mind.
Lord Buddha feels that it is definitely possible, that every human being has the
potential ability to understand, and thereby to control, his own mind. When you
understand your mind, control comes naturally. Don't think that investigating
the mind is just a Himalayan trip, something only for those who have no material
possessions. Just check; whenever you are emotionally involved with something,
instead of acting, relax; try to be aware of what you are doing. Ask yourself,
"What am I doing? How? What is making me do this?" It is really wonderful
if you can analyze yourself like this. With understanding you can stop your problems
so easily. Our problem is that we lack intensive knowledge-wisdom, or awareness,
or consciousness...it doesn't matter what you call it.
Therefore, to show
others loving kindness you have to know the nature of the object. If you don't
you will get caught up in yet another arrogant ego trip. "I love him,"
"I love her." Make sure you know how and why-it is so important that
you become your own psychologist. Then you can treat yourself with your own wisdom,
and enjoy your material possessions with a relaxed mind instead of a restless
and berserk one, which ruins your life.
To become a psychologist you don't
have to learn some big philosophy; all you have to do is examine your own mind
every day. You examine material things every day-the food in your kitchen, for
example-so why can't you check your mind? This is far more important. Life in
the West is based on an "I can always buy the solution to my problems down
at the supermarket" mentality. You think that you can always go to the pharmacy
and pick up some pills, that whenever you are emotionally frustrated you can get
some drug from your doctor. Do you think remedies like those are really helpful?
Of course they are not. Although they seem to help, they are so transitory. They
don't even destroy the symptoms of deluded emotions; they only make you sluggish
and more ignorant.
Your materialistic mind thinks that pleasure and happiness
can be bought, but they can't. In its depths lies the idea that you can buy a
peaceful mind in the supermarket. That's a total misconception. Religious people
should also try to understand their own minds instead of just trying to believe
in something. That is far more practical. Belief alone cannot solve your problems;
only understanding knowledge-wisdom can do that. Lord Buddha even said that it
is dangerous to believe in Buddha and exhorted us to understand our own nature
instead. When you have discovered something with your own mind, then it is all
right to believe in it. Belief based on realizations or clear intellectual understanding
is perfectly acceptable. But if you are not clear why you believe what you do,
your faith can easily be destroyed by others. Many spiritually inclined people
are weak because they don't understand the true nature of their spirit, or mind.
Understanding is a form of mental energy: it supports your mind and keeps it healthy.
When you understand your mind's view, or perception of things, you realize that
all along you have been grasping at the sense world-and at an imaginary, idealistic
future that is simply a projection of your mind and has not the slightest physical
reality-you have been completely unconscious of the present. You must agree that
this is an unhealthy state of mind.
It is very important to maintain awareness
throughout your day. The nature of wisdom and awareness is peace and joy. You
don't have to grasp for the experience of joy or at anything that might bring
it-you simply have to act correctly with right understanding. Thus the result
of joy arises spontaneously. You don't have to think, "If I spend my life
acting in this way, next life I'll experience the good result." You don't
have to be obsessed with attaining some realization or other. As long as you act
with as much understanding as you can, you will quickly attain the realization
of everlasting peace.