We’ve Got It All Completely Wrong

Everyone wants to be happy. But why do our constant struggles to make ourselves happy so often lead to frustration, or even depression? In seeking happiness for ourselves alone we become self-centred, caught up in a claustrophobic state of mind, where we not only end up not being happy but there’s no end to problems, we shirk our responsibilities and blame others. Cherishing ourselves is supposed to make us happy, but it actually makes things worse. On the other hand, by thinking of others, cherishing others and working for the benefit of others, our own welfare is taken care of as a matter of course.

Cherishing others doesn’t mean that we should care for others at the exclusion of ourselves. We also need to love ourselves. This is very important. The Buddha said, ‘Whoever loves himself will never harm another.’ It is when we don’t love ourselves that we harm others. By moving beyond self-cherishing we can begin to truly love ourselves, in an enlightened way, and bring benefit to the world.

Bringing Meditation Into Everyday Life

As long as you’re not distracted, whatever you do becomes meditation. If you meditate while you eat, relax or talk, you’ll experience a greater degree of peace. You become more mindful and aware, more conscientious and ethical.

Rather than judge or comment on what you see when you walk down the street, simply allow your mind to be purely aware of the objects you encounter. If you manage to do that, your distraction and worry will gradually dissolve, and your mind will calm down.

When you are less emotionally entangled in what you perceive, you become less defensive with other people. And when you are less defensive, it’s easier to listen to and understand them. People respect you when they feel heard and understood.

Cultivating mindfulness and awareness allows you to accomplish more with less stress and helps you to avoid getting burnt out. It brings you the confidence and stability to lead your life with carefree dignity, ease and humour.


If You Work With Your Mind, Happiness is Yours

Perhaps the greatest contribution the Tibetan Buddhist teachings make to the modern world is that they show us how to understand and alleviate the suffering of our mind.

When we are unable to conquer our mind, we become the victim of our own thoughts and emotions. If we have good thoughts, we think we are good; if we have bad thoughts, we think we are bad.

But when we see beyond our thoughts and understand the essence of mind, then we are the masters of our own minds. We also find the confidence and courage to face our difficulties. Mind is the root of everything; so if we work with our mind, happiness is ours.

The Essence of Meditation

Amidst the tremendous uncertainty of our lives, we all need to find a way to overcome the difficulties we encounter and so discover the peace of mind, stability and happiness that we need to face the challenges of the world today.

Happiness depends entirely upon our mind and how it perceives, so it is vital to take care of our mind. If we do not want suffering, then we must abandon the harmful actions that are the cause of suffering. And if we want happiness, then we must cultivate the wisdom and positive emotions and actions that are the causes of happiness. Most importantly, we need to understand and transform our mind. The method for realizing the nature of mind is meditation. First, we allow all thoughts and emotions to settle. From this deep peace dawns the clear insight of wisdom that can reveal the nature of reality.

The Secret of How to Work with Your Mind

In one moment mind can be very discursive, neurotic or argumentative, but if you know how to transform it, in the very next moment it can become peaceful and wonderfully flexible.

Mind is not so difficult if you know how to work with it; the main point is to know the secret of how to transform your mind.

Meditation on the nature of mind is a very powerful way of transforming the mind. It’s a bit like a vacuum cleaner that sucks up all your negative thoughts and emotions. Once they have been removed, your true nature is revealed, shining like the sun.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety by Working with the Mind

The Buddha said, “All fear and anxiety comes from a mind that is untamed”, and, “There’s nothing to fear except your untamed mind.”

If you know how to transform the mind, you can transform fear and anxiety. Once you’ve done that, you can tackle any problem with greater composure, wisdom and insight.

A great Indian master once said:

'If you can do something to solve a problem, then there is no need to worry about it. But if you cannot do anything to solve a problem, then it doesn’t help to worry about it either.'

In both cases, worry is unnecessary. If you are too nervous, too anxious about your problem, then you won’t be able to do anything about it. So the main point is to work with the mind in order to become clear, to understand our emotions better and gain more control. Once mind is transformed, we no longer need to be so deeply influenced by our thoughts and emotions. We realize that our situation is not impossible. In fact, we see it is workable.

Finding Your Balance with the Sky-like Nature of Mind

What happens when you transform your mind through meditation? In an instant, mind ceases being neurotic and argumentative. It becomes totally peaceful. You’re in control, remaining in a simple way of being.

Training in meditation is like learning how to ride a bicycle. Once you know how to keep your balance on a bike, you don’t have to think about your balance any more, because the balance is in you. Likewise, once you have trained in meditation, your mind is in balance. There is a way to find that balance and go beyond thoughts into the nature of mind.

Thoughts are like clouds. Even though the clouds sometimes seem to cover the entire sky, if you take a plane you can go beyond them into a vast space that is never even touched by the clouds. The clouds of our ordinary thoughts are just temporary and changing, whilst the deeper nature of our mind is unchanging, like the infinite space of the sky.

Realizing Our Ultimate Nature

The most important point is for us to realize our ultimate nature—to purify our perception and realize the essence of our mind.

How exactly can we do this? There are three ways: through meditation, through compassion and through devotion.

As the great masters often say, the essence of all of the Buddha’s teachings is to tame or transform this mind of ours. When we transform our minds though meditation, compassion or devotion, then what is amazing is that our perception begins to transform. When our perception is transformed, then even outer appearances and circumstances begin to change.


Why Bodhisattvas Don’t Defend Themselves

All of us, no matter who we are, have compassion to at least some extent. For example, whenever we think of someone hit by tragedy or suffering, we are naturally moved by a feeling of compassion. All of us seem to have a natural capacity for love as well.

Through training the mind, or lojong in Tibetan, we take these qualities of compassion and love and infuse them with a limitless motivation, vision and determination that we can and will free all beings from suffering and guide them toward enlightenment. This is called great compassion. From the depth of our hearts, our only wish is for beings to be free from suffering and to have happiness—the ultimate happiness of enlightenment.

This compassion, when developed to its deepest extent, and linked with wisdom, is embodied in what is called bodhichitta. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says:

“Bodhichitta is considered in Mahayana Buddhism to be the spirit, the source and the root of the entire spiritual path. It is the very highest form of altruism and the highest form of courage, the source of all spiritual qualities and the essence of all the teachings of the Buddha.”

Someone who has genuinely given rise to bodhichitta is called a bodhisattva. The word for bodhisattva in Tibetan—changchup sempa—carries the meaning of someone who is courageous and brave, like a warrior. Bodhisattvas are warriors because they live and act solely for the sake of others, free from worry or concern for themselves. Since their main objective or task is working for the benefit of others, they are neither attached to the pleasures and comforts of the world, nor afraid of its suffering and difficulties.

Ordinarily we try to keep good things such as happiness, success and prosperity for ourselves, while we prefer to give to others all the things we don’t want such as suffering, misfortune and difficulties.

But the bodhisattva attitude is the complete opposite of how we normally operate. With compassion, bodhisattvas are willing to take on the suffering of others, and with love, they wholeheartedly give away their own well-being and happiness. They have tremendous vision, capacity of mind and courage. Whatever happens to them, whether they are attacked, mistreated or criticized, they never lose heart and never respond to others with anger or aggression, only love and compassion.

As Gyalse Thogme Zangpo wrote in The Thirty Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas:

“Even if others should declare before the world
All manner of unpleasant things about me,
To speak only of their qualities in return,
With a mind that’s filled with love—this is the practice of all the bodhisattvas.”

This attitude of fearless concern for others is captured in this verse from the famous text the Eight Verses of Training the Mind, by Geshe Langri Tangpa:

“Whenever someone out of envy
Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
I will take defeat upon myself,
And give the victory to others.”

In fact, these two lines, “I will take the defeat upon myself, and give the victory to others”, are the heart of the teachings of training the mind in compassion, and the basis for tonglen, the practice of giving happiness and receiving suffering. To have this attitude is the way of a bodhisattva, a true practitioner of compassion.

Who Are We?

Who are we really? What is really ‘us’, that is constant and unchanging?

From this morning when you woke up, now while you are reading this page, and tonight until you go to bed, you will have lived with an awareness, a clear, knowing kind of consciousness.

This clear awareness or cognizance—the knowing quality of mind—dwells in our fundamental mind- stream. It is our mind at its purest and most fundamental. This awareness is not only connected with our mind, but also with our heart. It is not only that which knows, but that which feels and understands. It is pure feeling, pure heart. Even amidst the turmoil of our changing thoughts, emotions and fantasies, our fundamental consciousness, this pure awareness, this basic continuum or mind-stream is always with us, constant and unchanging.

This awareness has always been with us, and will always be with us throughout our lifetime. It was there when we were young, and it will be there when we are old. It is there when we are happy, and it is there when we are sad. It is there when things are going well, and it is there when we are in trouble. It is there when we are lonely. It is always there. It is said that this fundamental pure consciousness, this pure awareness of ours, will continue until enlightenment.