When We Study Buddhism We Study Ourselves
by Lama Thubten Yeshe

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 aeroplanes 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.
Modern, 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.
Buddhist 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 behaviour 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.