There are many different kinds of emotions and these are actually projections of our mind. Emotions are not something separate from our own mind but, of course, we see them as being very different and separate because we do not really recognise the mind right now. Sometimes we get angry and jealous or feel very happy and excited – all kinds of ups and downs. Actually, we do not understand what we are going through, who we are, who is really angry or happy, who is feeling down or excited: what is really happening. In fact, we do not have an idea of ‘ourselves’ even thought we say ‘we’ or ‘I’ and use these different labels. I think that even up to right now we don’t really know ourselves well. So we now want to know ourselves, which is quite funny.
Buddha himself said, “Samsara has no beginning”, so from beginningless samsara until today, we have been living with and yet do not recognise ourselves. Isn’t this funny? It is also quite an interesting topic to talk about: how this came about and what has to be done from this point forwards.
Everything depends mainly on the mind
The Buddha said that our common mind is very wild, which refers to the present situation we are in. Right now, our mind cannot be controlled and this makes the entire situation very wild. The activities of good and bad are actually projections of our mind. The key message of the Theravada school of Buddhism is ‘avoid harmful activities’ and ‘benefit all beings’ is the main one of the Mahayana school. Both schools bear the same message: everything depends mainly on the mind because the mind is the only force that creates all positive and negative actions. Although the body performs the act it is only a tool: the mind is the main controller. If the mind does not want to do a certain thing in a certain way, then the body or the speech will not be able to do it. Even if the body or speech tries to do it, it won’t work because the mind is not really willing. Many of the other non-Buddhist beliefs also very strongly emphasize the message of ‘non-violence’. The only difference between these beliefs and Buddhism is that the Buddhist motivation is a little bit more extended. This is very tiny difference. All spiritual beliefs equally say that one should not harm and they encourage people to do good and not bad things to others. However, none of us, including many spiritual practitioners, can implement or really practice this because we do not recognise or realise our mind. Realisation of the mind is what we are lacking so far.
So now followers of Buddhism, or even non – Buddhists, have an enormous responsibility to think about how to deal with the mind, which is bothering everyone from beginningless time until today. Many of us have been doing all sorts of things to put our mind into shape, but we have not been able to manage this successfully. Although there are many ways of training the mind, the mind has to be trained only by itself. It cannot be trained any other way. Sometimes, we try to understand our mind, sometimes we want to block our mind. I don’t think our mind appreciates either of these treatments. If the mind does not appreciate the method you are using, whatever this might be, then this is considered to be unskillful.
Most of the skills of our mind training cannot successfully be implemented because our mind is as complex as ourselves. If distributed, our mind can lead us to samsara and, if happy, it can lead us to nirvana. Therefore, our mind is very powerful and tricky thing. This is why the Buddha said that our mind has to be tamed.
The mind needs to be paid attention to consistently
Bodhicitta practice is the most practical way of training and expanding the mind. Right now, our mind is so narrow that it has no room for anyone else or room for any exceptions. We are only able to think about ourselves and about others who are attached to us, such as our family, children and friends. But this is also for a limited time and with a lot of conditions. I often think that we don’t want people to follow us and expect us to do things the way they want us to; we want somehow to be loved and paid attention to and yet, at the same time, we want people to leave us alone, don’t we? If these demands are met, we feel somewhat relaxed. Well, it’s true for me at least! Don’t you feel the same way? Maybe none of you have thought about this yet. The mind woks exactly the same way. I don’t think the mind likes to be controlled and forced to be the way we want it to be. But the mind needs to be paid attention to consistently and it would like us to leave it alone without even the slightest fabrication! Only then will the mind lead you in its own natural way (nirvana) because it feels relaxed and has more room to stretch.
I think I have spoken a lot about what mind prefers us to be doing. In addition to this, we literally have no room in our mind. So we are obliged to develop the so-called Bodhicitta or ‘Mind of Enlightenment’. By practicing loving – kindness and compassion, and not hatred, jealousy or anger, you will be able to extend your own mind. There should also be some logic behind the method and reason of Bodhicitta practice. You must have heard many times form teachers and masters that we are all brothers and sisters; there is logic behind why we really have to take care of each other. It is because all of us are suffering equally due to the lack of realisation of ourselves. We are all crazy, all equally mad, so why not serve and help other beings who are also suffering very badly? This is a kind of theoretical or external logic that we can think of and is one of the main types of logic that we all can commonly consider.
Everything is illusion
The uncommon logic or internal logic that is linked with the philosophical view is that everything does not exist as it appears to be: everything is illusion. The illusory world is very solid to us and yet it does not really exist. But still we are very attracted by the world and, somehow, we are really driven to madness by it. So we are almost crazy due to the attractions that provoke us continuously and yet nothing at the end is a fruit of this world because nothing exists. We are simply running after things which are actually like a rainbow. Naturally, we ought to be exhausted by now. You could say that this is one of the essential sufferings that we are going through.
This is the reason why we should be compassionate to all sentient beings, because now we are some of the people in this world who at least realise or know this intellectual. There are millions of beings or people who do not know anything about this, not even slightly. So we are among the very few people who are lucky enough to be closer to the reality state of the world. Therefore, it is right to help all sentient beings. This is also a kind of deeper logic. This also can be a very good reason for you to practice because there are millions of beings who are trapped by and attached to the illusory world and yet have no idea of impermanence being the cause of suffering. So you are someone who has the rare opportunity to do something about this. This should encourage you to practice and think , “I must practice sincerely without wasting any time in this life in order to save those beings who are really suffering unconsciously.” This kind of motivation should always be present. This is the so- called altruistic motivation or the ‘Mind of Enlightenment’.
Any kind of worldly activities we are involved in are always linked with our own strong attachment
As long as we are attached to this world, we cannot liberate ourselves. We are attached to a beautiful thing, an ugly thing, our enemy, our friends. Any kind of worldly activities we are involved in are always liked with our own strong attachment. We say.” This is it. That has to be this way and this has to be that way.” You are making all these demands according to your own attachment. This is really the starting point of the mistake and from there onwards we go through a lot of things which are full of suffering.
For example, you project someone as an enemy and you stick with that perception, and then you feel very uncomfortable and unhappy to see that person or even to hear his name or voice. This is as I have mentioned earlier the actual non-existence of the things that we run after. Sometimes you make a friend and you confirm this and say.” This is a wonderful friend”, and then you want that person to be our friend selfishly – this friend is just yours forever and nobody else can even touch or smile at him or her. This is the typical kind of language of your attachment that you have been following. Later, when you find out your friend has been touched and ‘enjoyed’ by others, just imagine how painful this will be for you. This is pain of your own creation. So, this kind of attachment brings you lots of pain. This kind of pain is created by yourself, by your attachment, and not by anybody else. We do not want this kind of pain at all. Therefore, attachment has to be minimised and, in order to do this, one has to know or realise the reality of things. Likes and dislikes do not exist by themselves: they are creations or projections of your own mind, meaning that the world is created by our mind and it is illusory.
For example, your friend may be very attractive to you, but this may not be true to another person, so this attraction is just an illusion. The attraction does not exist by itself. You have not realised that it is illusory or that it is your projection and so you go crazy about your friend. Then, when you begin to feel something wrong and that meeting this friend was actually a mistake, usually you will have lots of things to scream about and of course the blame always goes to that friend who gave you the ‘bad’ taste. But who agreed to the ‘good’ taste in the first place? It was your attachment that gave you the confirmation of this taste being so sweet and made you feel so sure about it. So part of the blame should always go to your attachment.
For the time being, the illusion and attachment get along very well seem to work together very creatively. But, in reality, it is not quite so. So, through your understanding of Madhyamika or Mahamudra, or from a little bit of instruction on the two truths – relative and ultimate – you will know the illusory nature of the world and you will be able to minimise the pain created by attachment.
You have to practice loving-kindness and compassion
In brief, I would say that one should not cling to one’s thoughts, whether negative or positive. You should not cling to these emotions. The clinging thought or attitude is actually the attachment. I am not saying that we should not love that we should not love each other or be compassionate and that instead we should be like a piece or rock without feeling. So please don’t misunderstand when I say, “Don’t cling to your emotions.” Many people may ask, “How can I love somebody without attachment?” The point is that love with attachment simply means love full of misunderstanding and love without attachment means love with wisdom. As I said at the beginning, you have to practice loving-kindness and compassion. Loving–kindness is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings, as well as of other religions. There is nothing wrong with love and compassion, caring and affection. But the fact is that authentic love can only be practiced when we have no more misunderstanding, meaning no more clinging attitude (attachment). How can one follow the supreme path of great Bodhicitta if one is full of misunderstanding about the world one lives in?
The thing we should avoid is attachment or a clinging attitude. Take friendship as an example. Too much clinging thought towards your friend will cause you pain afterwards. I guess we all have had a good deal of experience of this and I do not need to speak very much about it. So, when you are attached, you will end up in a fight with your friend instead of having fun. Perhaps sometimes the fight is also a fun but most of the time it is painful and it is this pain that we do not want. This kind of clinging attitude makes your heart ache, brings you heart problems and makes you feel broken-hearted. If you do not have the initial clinging attitude when facing family and all other problems, you will have plenty of solutions to solve these issues; you will be able to avoid painful experiences as a Dharma practitioner and easily take way you improve your mind.
Some changes should visibly take place after years of practicing if we are able to approach the mind-training path correctly and genuinely.
If we cannot improve our own mind, we cannot improve our lifestyle. There are many people who say,” I like to mediate. I meditate for so many hours, so many months and so many years.” But still they cannot improve their own lifestyle. They continue to argue constantly with their boyfriend or girlfriend, fighting with each other, screaming at each other, because they do not know the reality – what is happening in life and what should be accepted. Despite doing practice and meditation for so many years, somehow they are not able to change their lifestyle, make progress and bring some peace into their lives. This means that they are not really working with their own mind and are not able to approach the path that would enable them to improve their mind. Some changes should visibly take place after years of practicing if we are able to approach the mind-training path correctly and genuinely.
Inner change will bring out outer change. We should be able to see from the outside when transformation has occurred. We should look for visible indications of change that show a person is really improving. Then even neighbours, friends and everyone else will notice and say,” He has been doing practice. Before doing spiritual practice he was a terrible person but now he is really peaceful and never argues with anybody. He is really kind and understanding. He has become a very gentle and good person through practicing.” people will understand that. We are not practicing for the purpose of propaganda but still that kind of external indication should be there eventually.
In the Sutra, it is said that the Bodhisattvas have characteristic signs through which we can recognise them. Similarly, it can be judged by indicative changes that can be seen externally as to whether we are practitioners or not.
My sincere hope and prayer is that all sentient beings, and especially those who are connected with me and my lineage, will be able to bring some positive change into their lives, live harmoniously with others and be happy forever.
— His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigme Pema Wangchen