Happiness is a state of mind, therefore the real source of happiness lies in the mind, not in external circumstances.
If our mind is pure and peaceful we shall be happy, regardless of our external conditions, but if it is impure and unpeaceful we shall never find happiness, no matter how much we try to change our external circumstances.
Meditation enables us to cultivate those states of mind that are conducive to peace and well-being, and eradicate those that are not. Through study and meditation we strive to develop three types of wisdom – the wisdom arisen from listening, the wisdom arisen from contemplating, and the wisdom arisen from meditation.
When fully developed, these wisdoms completely eradicate all negativity and all confusion from the mind. Success in study and meditation depends upon creating the right inner conditions, specifically receiving inspiring blessings, purifying negative karma, and accumulating meritorious energy.
We achieve these through supporting practices such as relying upon a qualified Spiritual Guide, making offerings, reciting prayers, etc.
Obstacles to Happiness
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the mind.
Since we all have within us our own source of peace and happiness, we may wonder why it is so hard to maintain a continually peaceful and joyful mind. This is because of the delusions that so often crowd our mind. Delusions are distorted ways of looking at ourself, other people, and the world around us – like a distorted mirror they reflect a distorted world. The deluded mind of hatred, for example, views other people as intrinsically bad, but there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person. Desirous attachment, on the other hand, sees its object of desire as intrinsically good and as a true source of happiness. If we have a strong craving to eat chocolate, chocolate appears to be intrinsically desirable. However, once we have eaten too much of it and start to feel sick, it no longer seems so desirable and may even appear repulsive. This shows that in itself chocolate is neither desirable nor repulsive. It is the deluded mind of attachment that projects all kinds of pleasurable qualities onto its objects of desire and then relates to them as if they really did possess those qualities.
If we want to transform our life and be free from problems we must learn to transform our mind.
All delusions function like this, projecting onto the world their own distorted version of reality and then relating to this projection as if it were true. When our mind is under the influence of delusions we are out of touch with reality and are not seeing things as they really are. Since our mind is under the control of at least subtle forms of delusion all the time, it is not surprising that our lives are so often filled with frustration. It is as if we are continually chasing mirages, only to be disappointed when they do not give us the satisfaction for which we had hoped.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the mind. If we were to respond to difficulties with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to situations with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to transform our life and be free from problems we must learn to transform our mind. Sufferings, problems, worries, unhappiness, and pain all exist within our mind; they are all unpleasant feelings, which are part of the mind. Through controlling and purifying our mind we can stop them once and for all.
Key to Happiness
If we want to avoid suffering and find true happiness we need to understand how the mind works.
Although everyone has a mind, most of us have only a vague understanding of its nature and functions. For example, if we have not trained in Dharma we shall probably know very little about the different types of mind, how they are generated, and what effect they have on our lives. We shall not be able to distinguish virtuous minds from non-virtuous minds, and we shall not know how to cultivate the former and abandon the latter. Why is it necessary to understand all this? The reason is that all happiness and suffering depend upon the mind, and so if we want to avoid suffering and find true happiness we need to understand how the mind works and use that understanding to bring our mind under control. Only in this way can we improve the quality of our life, both now and in the future.
In reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind.
In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness. There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it might be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the cause of happiness and the solution to our problems do not lie in knowledge or control of the external world. Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering we must improve our understanding of the mind.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems we must learn to control our mind.
The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others.
Each and every living being has within them the seed or potential to become a fully enlightened being – this is our Buddha nature. In Buddha’s teachings we have found the best method to realize this potential. What we need to do now is to put these teachings into practice. This is something that only human beings can do. Animals can gather resources, defeat their enemies, and protect their families, but they can neither understand nor engage in the spiritual path. It would be a great shame if we were to use our human life only to achieve what animals can also achieve, and thereby waste this unique opportunity to become a source of benefit for all living beings.
The Object Of Cherishing
We are faced with a choice: either we can continue to squander our life in pursuing worldly enjoyments that give no real satisfaction and disappear when we die, or we can dedicate our life to realizing our full spiritual potential. If we make great effort to practise the instructions contained within this book we shall definitely attain enlightenment, but if we make no effort, enlightenment will never happen naturally, no matter how long we wait. To follow the path to enlightenment there is no need to change our external lifestyle. We do not need to abandon our family, friends, or enjoyments, and retire to a mountain cave. All we need to do is change the object of our cherishing.
We can gradually replace our ordinary self-cherishing attitude with the sublime attitude of cherishing all living beings.
Until now we have cherished ourself above all others, and for as long as we continue to do this our suffering will never end. However, if we learn to cherish all beings more than ourself we shall soon enjoy the bliss of enlightenment. The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realizations will naturally follow from this.
Our instinctive view is that we are more important than everyone else, whereas the view of all enlightened beings is that it is others who are more important. Which of these views is more beneficial? In life after life, since beginningless time, we have been slaves to our self-cherishing mind. We have trusted it implicitly and obeyed its every command, believing that the way to solve our problems and find happiness is to put ourself before everyone else. We have worked so hard and for so long for our own sake, but what do we have to show for it? Have we solved all our problems and found the lasting happiness we desire? No. It is clear that pursuing our own selfish interests has deceived us. After having indulged our self-cherishing for so many lives, now is the time to realize that it simply does not work. Now is the time to switch the object of our cherishing from ourself to all living beings.
Countless enlightened beings have discovered that by abandoning self-cherishing and cherishing only others they came to experience true peace and happiness. If we practise the methods they taught, there is no reason why we should not be able to do the same. We cannot expect to change our mind overnight, but through patiently and consistently practising the instructions on cherishing others, while at the same time accumulating merit, purifying negativity, and receiving blessings, we can gradually replace our ordinary self-cherishing attitude with the sublime attitude of cherishing all living beings.