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March 12, 2015

Inner Peace Through a Balanced Mind.

Lama meditating, California, 1974

Those who practice meditation or religion should not cling with attachment to any idea.

Fixed ideas are not external phenomena. Our minds often grasp at things that sound good, but this can be extremely dangerous. We too easily accept things we hear as good: “Oh, meditation is very good.” Of course, meditation is good if you understand what it is and practice it correctly; you can definitely find answers to life’s questions. What I’m saying is that whatever you do in the realm of philosophy, doctrine or religion, don’t cling to the ideas; don’t be attached to your path.

Again, I’m not talking about external objects; I’m talking about inner, psychological phenomena. I’m talking about developing a healthy mind, developing what Buddhism calls indestructible understanding-wisdom.

Some people enjoy their meditation and the satisfaction it brings but at the same time cling strongly to the intellectual idea of it: “Oh, meditation is so perfect for me. It’s the best thing in the world. I’m getting results. I’m so happy!” But how do they react if somebody puts their practice down? If they don’t get upset, that’s fantastic. It shows that they are doing their religious or meditation practice properly.

Similarly, you might have tremendous devotion to God or Buddha or something based on deep understanding and great experience and be one hundred percent sure of what you’re doing, but if you have even slight attachment to your ideas, if someone says, “You’re devoted to Buddha? Buddha’s a pig!” or “You believe in God? God’s worse than a dog!” you’re going to completely freak out. Words can’t make Buddha a pig or God a dog, but still, your attachment, your idealistic mind totally freaks: “Oh, I’m so hurt! How dare you say things like that?”

Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa on the veranda at Tushita , 1973

No matter what anybody says—Buddha is good, Buddha is bad—the absolutely indestructible characteristic nature of the Buddha remains untouched. Nobody can enhance or decrease its value. It’s exactly the same when people tell you you’re good or bad; irrespective of what they say, you remain the same. Others’ words can’t change your reality. Therefore, why do you go up and down when people praise or criticize you? It’s because of your attachment; your clinging mind; your fixed ideas. Make sure you’re clear about this.

Check up. It’s very interesting. Check your psychology. How do you respond if somebody tells you your whole path is wrong? If you truly understand the nature of your mind, you will never react to that kind of thing, but if you don’t understand your own psychology, if you hallucinate and are easily hurt, you will quickly find your peace of mind disturbed. They’re only words, ideas, but you’re so easily upset.

Our minds are incredible. Our ups and downs have nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with the truth. It’s very important to understand the psychology of this.

It’s common for us to think that our own path and ideas are good, worthwhile and perfect, but by focusing excessively on this, we subconsciously put other paths and ideas down.

Perhaps I think, “Yellow is a fantastic color,” and explain to you in great detail how yellow is good. Then, because of all my logical reasons, you too start think, “Yellow is good; yellow is the perfect color.” But this automatically causes contradictory beliefs, “Blue is not so good; red is not so good,” to arise in your mind.

There are two things in conflict with one another. This is common, but it’s a mistake, especially when it comes to religion. We should not allow such contradictions in our mind where, by accepting one thing, we automatically reject another. If you check, you’ll see it’s not that you’re blindly following something external but that your mind is too extreme in one direction. This automatically sets up the other extreme in opposition, and conflict between the two unbalances your mind and disturbs your inner peace.

This is how religious partisanship arises. You say, “I belong to this religion,” and when you meet someone belonging to another, you feel insecure. This means your knowledge-wisdom is weak. You don’t understand your mind’s true nature and cling to an extreme point of view. Don’t allow your mind to be polluted in this way; make sure you’re mentally healthy. After all, the purpose of the practice of religion, Buddhism, Dharma, meditation or whatever else you want to call it is for you to take your mind completely beyond unhealthy, contradictory mental attitudes.

Lord Buddha himself exhorted the students he was teaching to practice without attachment. Although he taught a precise, incredible universal method, he made his students promise not to be attached to his teachings or to realizations, inner freedom, nirvana or enlightenment itself.

To achieve freedom from attachment is a very difficult thing, especially in a materialistic society. It’s almost impossible for you to deal with material things without attachment and this causes you to bring a grasping attitude to spiritual matters. But even though it’s difficult, you need to check how Lord Buddha’s psychology offers you perfect mental health, free of extremes of this or that.

In our ordinary, samsaric, worldly life, we so easily get attached to and grasp at things we like, and nobody ever tells us to avoid attachment. But Lord Buddha, even though he offered his students the highest method to reach the highest goal, always admonished his students never to be attached to any of it. He said, “If you have the slightest attachment to me or my teachings, you’re not only psychologically ill but you’ll also destroy any chance you have of attaining complete and perfect enlightenment.”

Lama Yeshe, Kopan, 1981

Also, he never told people to be biased towards his path or that following his path was good and following others was bad. In fact, one of the bodhisattva vows he made his followers take is the promise not to criticize the teachings of any other religion. Check why he did this; it shows how perfectly he understood human psychology. If it had been us, we’d have been saying, “I’m teaching you the highest, most perfect method. All the others are nothing.”

We treat the spiritual path in exactly the same competitive way that we do material pursuits, and if we keep acting this way, we’ll never be mentally healthy or discover nirvana or everlasting, peaceful enlightenment. What, then, is the point of our spiritual practice?

Check up. Even in your samsaric, worldly activities and relationships, the moment you get one idea or choose one thing, “This is so good,” a contradiction automatically comes into your mind. When you’re in love in the worldly, selfish way, check to see if your mind is too extreme or not; you’ll find that it is.

Our minds are incredible. Our ups and downs have nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with the truth. It’s very important to understand the psychology of this.

It’s common for us to think that our own path and ideas are good, worthwhile and perfect, but by focusing excessively on this, we subconsciously put other paths and ideas down.

Read more from Lama Yeshe’s The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind, a series of lectures given in Australia in 1975. Edited by Nicholas Ribush. Freely available from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

 

Relephant:

Curing the Dissatisfied Mind.

 

Author: Lama Thubten Yeshe

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Author’s Own

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Lama Yeshe

Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in Tibet in 1935. At the age of six, he entered the great Sera Monastic University, Lhasa, where he studied until 1959, when the Chinese invasion of Tibet forced him into exile in India. Lama Yeshe continued to study and meditate in India until 1967, when, with his chief disciple, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, he went to Nepal. Two years later he established Kopan Monastery, near Kathmandu, in order to teach Buddhism to Westerners. In 1974, the Lamas began making annual teaching tours to the West, and as a result of these travels a worldwide network of Buddhist teaching and meditation centers—the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT)—began to develop. In 1984, after an intense decade of imparting a wide variety of incredible teachings and establishing one FPMT activity after another, at the age of forty-nine, Lama Yeshe passed away. You can read more of Lama Yeshe’s teachings here and read excerpts from Adele Hulse’s forthcoming biography of Lama, Big Love.