by Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
When searching for spiritual values, many people look for something very fresh and new, and think that Buddhism, which has been around for about 2,500 years, is too old. But that is not true! Buddhism is the freshest thing you’ll ever come across, because our mind is constantly fresh, and the Buddha is talking about nothing other than our state of mind. He teaches that everything, whatever we experience, good or bad, happy or sad, all happens through states of mind. He’s talking about our own mind, so how could we ever get anything fresher than that?
Buddhism teaches about equality: that differences in race, culture, tradition and belief do not really matter. The fundamental teaching in Buddhism is that everybody has the opportunity and possibility to become a Buddha. Every human being has this potential. The only difference between a Buddha and ordinary beings is that a Buddha has fulfilled it, whereas we are still searching. The Buddha did not keep his discovery to himself but, out of his love and compassion, he wished that all sentient beings might discover this inherent potential within themselves. This realisation, this recognition of our Buddha nature, is very important for all of us. To recognise it is to fully free ourselves, and to achieve this we need to concentrate on what will really free us instead of running after mirages that will never bring us complete and lasting happiness.
As far as I am concerned, Buddhism is the simplest and most practical religion in the world, because our body is ours, our speech is ours, our mind is ours – and our time is ours. All we need to do is learn how to use these properly in order to change our habits and improve ourselves.
When people come to realise that this modern materialistic way of life is meaningless, I think that they will gradually accept the Buddhist teachings, but I am definitely not trying to make a Buddhist out of anyone. Buddhism is very open and teaches respect for all other beliefs. People who have other beliefs might think that Buddhism has nothing to do with them, nothing to offer them, but Buddhism could actually mean everything to them. It could be the missing piece they have been looking for all their lives.
Buddhism tells us about our potential. This potential does not belong only to Buddhists, or only to Christians: it belongs to each and every human being with no distinction of faith, race or culture. We have to learn how to search for it, not out there but right within ourselves. We don’t need to go to any other person or believe in any other thing, the only important step is to believe in ourselves, in the potential we have within ourselves. When we talk about Buddhism, we are actually talking about the mind. If you do not want to hear about Buddhism, the Buddha or enlightenment, we can leave out such words and talk only about the mind.
The most important thing is to learn to appreciate what we have. We really seem to forget how fortunate, how lucky we are. To be able to appreciate our lives, who and what we are, allows us to trust other people and also to have faith and devotion. It makes us wholesome human beings. If we don’t appreciate what we have, then even if we have everything, we are still unhappy. We don’t have peace of mind and it is impossible for us to trust anybody, not to mention having faith and devotion. Some people get so paranoid and lose self-confidence to the point that they cannot even trust themselves. This is why all the religions in the world first teach us to be humble, decent and honest. When we have those qualities, then everything becomes so simple, so easy! I think that we should not get carried away with words like nirvana and realisation. All this means nothing to people like us. What is nirvana? What is enlightenment? If we have found inner peace, then satisfaction comes, happiness comes, joy, generosity, the ability to trust, everything comes! It is all part of this inner peace. I always remind people that the religion they follow makes no difference. If their practice helps them become more humble, better human beings who are able to appreciate themselves and others, then I think they have achieved their goal!
Of course, we are all trying to find happiness. The problem is that we get so fooled by appearances. This 21st century is so ‘visual’. Whatever has a physical form has such an impact on everybody. People want to see and enjoy beautiful things, yet they fail to see that these things are hollow inside. They want a good job, money and relationships, and they are able to change them like changing paper napkins, yet they are not happy. They are in fact looking for a direction that would give meaning to their lives but they fail to recognise that they are actually using poison in their search for happiness. It is impossible to obtain happiness through envy, jealousy, pride, anger and selfishness. If we plant poisonous seeds, the result will be inedible fruits.
This is why I think it is so important to learn to tame our mind. In a way, we have been fully tamed and trained by our own culture, by our traditions and family values, but these values are worldly values that are all about how to survive in this world. Nowadays, people are on the whole more educated and have more knowledge than ever in the past, but if we look at the world situation, we have to admit that all this education and knowledge is no good without inner wisdom as the guide.
We are living in a civilisation where people are brought up like sheep and instead of training their own minds, they either follow others or force others to go along with their ideas. We see it every day. There are many decent young people, even grown-up people, struggling to make their voices heard in order to improve the world situation but they lack the proper training and knowledge and so somehow use the wrong methods to try to get the right result. They stubbornly try to force their own solutions on others. Like these young people with good heart and motivation, who go through so many hardships just to end up in jail, whereas the multinational companies they are fighting usually seem to win, thanks to all the money and clever lawyers they have.
The Buddha who was wise and enlightened saw that it is impossible to change things in this way. He said we need more wisdom than that; it is no use trying to change everybody else, we need to change ourselves.