All of us without exception do not want to suffer and want to be happy, and, whether we accept a religious system or not, everyone in the world tries to develop different methods in order to find happiness and avoid suffering. This is our natural aspiration. It is in the nature of our physical existence that we have to experience different sensations of suffering and pleasure.
And because it’s natural, we can’t help it, it just happens. When we try to look at why this happens, we can see that it doesn’t happen without any reason, just out of the blue — everything comes from a cause, and not only one but many causes gathered together. Many causes and conditions have to come together to produce such result.
When we are looking for and striving to develop a good mind of wisdom and compassion, it is important to be able to distinguish between the causes that create negative results and the causes that create positive results. If you want to achieve happiness — which is kind of logic — you need to cultivate the concordant causes. You have to be able to identify the causes of suffering and see that there is a relationship of dependence between them.
We can notice that the world we are living in is afflicted with all these different kinds of suffering that are limitless because of our desires, conceptions, and doubts. That is why it is very important to start with the analysis. If we want happiness, why we still always end up in suffering?
If we want to develop good qualities, wisdom and a good mind, we have to realize the importance and the preciousness of our physical human body which is endowed with very high intelligence compared to other sentient beings, enabling us to think and act based on reflection. We can see that even though it’s precious and useful in this way, if we decide or if we let ourselves go in bad or negative directions, we can also accumulate huge negative potential. That would cause us to have to face immeasurable suffering in the future.
On the other hand, if we use this human potential, we can achieve enlightenment in this very life, on a basis of this human body. So what is crucial here to understand is that we have to be very careful and have some kind of self-discipline about all the different actions we do with the three doors of body, speech, and mind in terms of motivation, practice, and everything we do in our daily lives.
We can see that our mind is full of desires and wishes. We have dreams that we want to achieve. Sometimes we achieve these goals and sometimes we don’t. And in this case we get really unhappy and disappointed. Even if we do actually get this object, but because the object of our desire is in the nature of impermanence, of destruction, of something that’s going to be wasted or changed, we always end up being disappointed and unhappy. If we put all our hopes and beliefs in this object, it becomes a great cause of suffering and dissatisfaction.
It even causes that some of us want to commit suicide or try to escape from that place, and go from one place to another, like escaping every time another problem, or take drugs or trying to find all kinds of entertainment.
So first of all it’s important to be able to see that the object of your trust or belief is correct, not deceiving because if it’s a deceiving, like some of these objects or activities that will disappoint you in the end, you will always end up facing suffering. I’m not saying that all these objects like food, clothes, work, and money are 100% negative and you should not rely on them at all. Of course, in order to live, on a relative level, all these things are good and you can put some kind of trust, believe and strive for them.
If we grasp too much at these things, believing they are permanent, being ‘mine’, ‘my possession’, ‘forever’, and also if we grasp at ‘me’ very strongly, it causes dissatisfaction. These are great mistakes that one shouldn’t do.
We usually feel that our body and mind are combined, like our body is a house for our self. In the same way if we extended this feeling to the whole world, seeing it as a house for ourselves, it would be very good. Just like we want to take care of our body and mind because we feel we live in these dimensions, for the very same reason we would want to care for the whole world surrounding us.
If we take a step behind and try to look at what we’re doing, we’re not so different from a kid finding pleasure in eating a candy. We can see that the candy has no essence but when a child grasping to get this candy, he feels very excited and feels like he’s happy. His happiness depends on the candy, and we’re just exactly like this. It’s quite obvious that if we get so attached to these objects, in the end they will disappoint us.
So, if we are able to find a correct object of desire — perfect wisdom, love, and compassion — that would be a correct object to long for. But if we think ‘okay I want these good qualities but just for this life I’m living right now’, this is a very short-sighted and quite narrow-minded attitude. For example, in one family who have six children, each of these six children will have a different behavior, tendencies, and characteristics. We can see that the physical cause of these six children is the same — they have the same parents — but they all have different tendencies and attitudes. So it’s quite obvious that all these come from previous habits that they must have developed before. So we can see that there are different existences that were before, and thinking only of this life and the happiness of only this life is really a narrow-minded attitude.
Actually, the mind doesn’t end when we die. It goes on until enlightenment. It will always be there, it has no beginning and no end. At the end of this life the mind and the aggregates separate and the mind goes its own way and the body stays there. The mind is the basis for all the different imprints and tendencies that you have accumulated throughout your life, so this is what goes into the future, into the next life. So, what really matters is whether you’ve developed a kind mind or a negative mind.
If you have pleasant feelings, you naturally feel ‘this is what I want to develop, I want more of that’, so you try to discard abundant negative causes leading to something that you don’t want and to accumulate positive causes that ripen into things that you wish.
We can see that this planet we live in is greatly changed and influenced by the activities of human beings. Animals have some impact too but not as much as human beings. We human beings really have a very strong impact on what’s going on in the world and how this planet earth is transforming. Because of different activities of human beings, who are doing basically everything wrong, the elements get totally disturbed and unbalanced and there are many different catastrophes like earthquakes, etc. We can say this planet is sick now because of the attitudes and the activities of human beings.
Of course, from one point of view, you can argue that we have riches, a really high level of progress, and we can do things very quickly. Things look quite shiny and nice and, if we think of it superficially, we believe that we have good conditions. But if we really look at what’s going on, if you look into the mind of people living on this earth, it seems that we have reached a really disastrous state of being. It seems that we have a degenerate way of thinking. It’s quite frightening actually.
So if you want to develop a kind mind, the basis of that is to be honest, and the basis of honesty is to have great extensive knowledge in as many fields as possible. Because if you want to relate in a good way with many different sentient beings, who all have different habits, tendencies, likes and dislikes, you have to be able to adapt to them, that’s why you need honesty. If you want to give advice and help them to develop the qualities I mentioned, it needs to be based on studies and knowledge.
This is a real job, one doesn’t become kind and transforms one’s mind into a kind mind by doing praise like ‘oh, please, may I become a very kind person, may my mind becomes kind’. If you are a very good businessman, you don’t become kind because of that. It doesn’t make you kinder, if you wear all kinds of jewels, if you try to look as pretty as possible, even if you have a very pretty house, beautiful looks, if you have the best food on earth, this doesn’t make you kind.
The starting point in development of a kind mind is to try to be as honest as possible, and this is based on wisdom, understanding the reality of things, how things exist and function. You can start with some kind of superficial understanding and grow it into a more profound wisdom and understanding until you reach what we call ‘great wisdom’, understanding the real state of how things exist. This wisdom is the basis for developing a kind mind. When you grow this kind mind based on this understanding, you will be able to understand how you depend on others and in this way your love and compassion will grow very naturally and based on a very firm basis.
When we talk of this most precious mind of bodhichitta, mind of enlightenment, it is based on understanding how oneself depends on others and the interaction between these two. We can see, for example, how even our food just comes from so many different sentient beings. We just depend on all these different beings, and based on this understanding we can grow this mind of bodhichitta, bigger and bigger. So cultivating this kind of attitude we will be able to develop a really true kindness based on the recognition that all sentient beings are so precious.
If we don’t do that, and we think only of ourselves, when the opposite result happens, we will get very easily angry. Whatever activities we will try to engage in, we will only find problems and many obstacles. If we reach some kind of success, we will never be happy inside. Outside we can look like a very good businessman, we can have money and everything, but if you look inside your mind, it actually feels so unhappy. If you have so many problems and dissatisfaction, you’re like in a prison even if outside you look successful. There is no real success to be achieved with this attitude of thinking — of only oneself.
On the other hand, someone who thinks only of others, try to benefit others as much as they can, and if they are successful externally, this is not a bad thing. In this case this is great. They can make very good business, make a lot of money, and they can reinvest this money, and this success will only benefit others. It becomes like the opposite of vicious circle, it only grows into more and more benefit for other people, other living beings, and if you practice like this, when the death comes, there is nothing to regret and you can only feel happy and satisfied.
You can think ‘I did the best what I could, I did the most positive actions that I could do.’ If you’re a religious person, whether you’re Christian or Muslim or whatever, you can think that a higher being that you believe in will be pleased with you and accept you in heaven. Or if you’re a Buddhist, you can think ‘I’ve lived my life in the most positive way and now I’ve done a step closer to liberation from samsara, to enlightenment. I have accumulated many tendencies, seeds that will ripen in the future, so I can get a precious human rebirth that will allow me to continue to progress on the path towards enlightenment.’ This way of life and this way of thinking are always based on the understanding that the causes and the results are dependent on one another in some kind of concurrent or harmonious relationship.
If you live your life being guided by attachment and doubt, attached to food, reputation, clothes, etc., you will live every day of your life looking at people who have a better situation than yourself with envy, with jealousy. We will look at people who have fewer qualities, less status than yourselves with disdain, and towards people who are of the same level in society or have same level of qualities you will always have competitive attitude wanting to be slightly better than them. Due to this attitude you will spend every day of your life accumulating great amount of negativity. Then at the end of your life you will be unable to trust your neighbors. Your family will leave you alone, no one will try to help you and you will have to die all alone. So, you will just end up wasting your time trying to make time go quicker because you have nothing interesting to do.
Leading such a way of life is worse than behaving like an animal, so remember that at the basis of a kind mind and a healthy life is wisdom and remember that one’s mind is one’s own responsibility. Other people cannot wash or clean your mind, you have to do it yourself. I think every one of us has great responsibility. We can see that all living beings and particularly this planet are afflicted by the three main poisons, the main delusions of attachment, anger, and ignorance because of having an untamed mind. To change that and to correct that is our responsibility.
If we take a look at the state of the world, our planet Earth today, it is our common responsibility to preserve it and to actually put into practice all the beautiful talks. We can see that the state of the world today is quite frightening and actually very scary and this is all due to what we have done so far. It is very important for the humankind to try to see things from a broader perspective and not to see one’s own little country or to have some kind of patriotic attitude and make distinctions between my country, your country, my religion, your religion, or my race etc. Because really we all want to be happy, and we all want to avoid suffering.
We talk a lot about security in the world these days, and we can see there is a lot of terroristic activity. People make very huge bombs which are able to kill many people. It really looks very stupid and silly, it’s just because of the clinging and grasping at ‘my own little country where I belong.’ It is really narrow-minded if we just want to blow up the country and the people next door because they are different. As a result, the neighboring countries which we try to blow up will become our enemy.
We don’t see that this comes from a very short-sighted attitude. We all live in one house, some of us live on one side of the wall and these guys live on the other side of the wall but it is the same house. If we want to blow up their wall, what happens? The roof will just fall down on our heads and we all just end up destroying ourselves. So it is important to have a very broader, universal point of view and not to cling to ‘my race, my people, my tradition, or my religion.’ Of course, there are different races, religions, habits, and countries. We are not trying to negate. What I am saying is that fundamentally we are all the same, and whatever we do in our life, we do everything just to be happy. So it is important to try to develop a kind mind based on the understanding of the true way things exist and relate with one another trying to see the bigger picture. This is not a matter of being religious.
To cultivate this broad-minded attitude is the best way we can use our brains. Developing a kind mind is the most precious thing we could ever dedicate ourselves to, and this is something that will always benefit ourselves and others.
Source: Khandro-la’s teaching in France, 2011. Transcribed and edited by The Yogini Project.