Finding Ourselves Through Buddhism

The following article is from the Spring, 1998 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


by Lama Thubten Yeshe

Edited by Dr. Nicholas Ribush

When we study Buddhism, we are studying ourselves, the nature of our own minds. Instead of focusing on some supreme being, Buddhism emphasizes more practical matters, such as how to lead our lives, how to integrate our minds and how to keep our everyday lives peaceful and healthy. In other words, Buddhism always accentuates experiential knowledgewisdom rather than some dogmatic view. In fact, we don't even consider Buddhism to be a religion in the usual sense of the term. From the lamas' point of view, Buddhist teachings are more in the realm of philosophy, science or psychology.

The human mind instinctively seeks happiness. East, Westthere's no difference; everybody's doing the same thing. But if your search for happiness is causing you to grasp emotionally at the sense world, it can be veiy dangerous. You have no control.

Now, don't think that control is an Eastern thing, a Buddhist thing. We all need control, especially those of us caught up in the materialistic life; psychologically, emotionally, we're too involved in objects of attachment . From the Buddhist point of view, that's an unhealthy mind; the person is mentally ill.

Actually, you already know that scientific technological development alone cannot satisfy your desires or solve your other emotional problems. But what Lord Buddha's teaching shows you is the characteristic nature of human potential, the capacity of the human mind. When you study Buddhism, you learn what you are and how to develop ftuther. Buddhist methods teach you to develop a deep understanding of yourself and all other phenomena.

However, whether you are religious or a materialist, a believer or an atheist, it is crucial that you know how your own mind works. If you don't, you'll go around thinking you're healthy, when in reality, the deep root of afflictive emotions, the true cause of all psychological disease is there growing within you. Because of that, all it takes is some tiny external thing changing, something insignificant going wrong, and within a few seconds you're completely upset. To me, that shows you're mentally ill. Why? Because you're obsessed with the sense world, blinded by attachment, and under the control of the fundamental cause of all problems, not knowing the nature of your own mind.

When Lord Buddha spoke about suffering, he wasn't refening simply to superficial problems like illness and injury, but to the fact that the dissatisfied nature of the mind itself is suffering. No matter how much of something you get, it never satisfies your desire for better or more. This unceasing desire is suffering; its nature is emotional frustration.

Buddhist psychology describes six basic emotions that frustrate the human mind, making it restless and disturbing its peace: ignorance, attachment, anger, pride, deluded doubt and distorted views. These are mental attitudesnot external phenomena. Buddhism emphasizes that to overcome these delusions which are the root of all your suffering, belief and faith are not much help. You have to understand their nature.

If you do not investigate your own mind with introspective knowledge-wisdom, you will never see what's in there. Without checking, no matter how much you talk about your mind and your emotions, you'll never really understand that your basic emotion is egocentricity and that this is what's making you restless.

Now, to overcome your ego you don't have to give up all your possessions. Keep your possessions; they're not. what's making your life difficult. You're restless because you are clinging to your possessions with attachment; ego and attachment pollute your mind, making it unclear, ignorant and agitated, and prevent the light of wisdom from growing. The solution to this problem is meditation.


The nature of conscious awareness and wisdom is peace and joy. You don't need to grasp at some future resultant joy. As long as you follow the path of right understanding and right action to the best of your ability, the result will be immediate, simultaneous with the action.

Meditation does not imply only the development of single-pointed concentration, sitting in some corner doing nothing. Meditation is an alert state of mind, the opposite of sluggishness; meditation is wisdom. You should remain aware every moment of your daily life, fully conscious of what you are doing, and why and how you are doing it.

We do almost everything unconsciously. We eat unconsciously; we drink unconsciously; we talk unconsciously. Although we claim to be conscious, we are completely unaware of the afflictions rampaging through our minds, influencing everything we do.

Check up for yourselves; experiment. I'm not being judgmental or putting you down. This is how Buddhism works. It gives you ideas that you can check out in your own experience to see if they're true or not. It's very down-to-earth; I'm not talking about something way up there in the sky. It's actually a very simple thing.

These days, people study and train to become psychologists. Lord Buddha's idea is that everybody should become a psychologist. Each of us should know our own mind; you should become your own psychologist. This is definitely possible. Every human being has the ability to understand his or her own mind. When you understand your own mind, control follows naturally.

Don't think that control is just some Himalayan trip or that it must be easier for people who don't have many possessions. That's not necessarily true. Next time you are emotionally upset, check for yourself. Instead of busily doing something to distract yourself, relax and try to become aware of what you're doing. Ask yourself, Why am I doing this? How am I doing it? What's the cause? You will find this to be a wonderful experience. Your main problem is a lack of intensive knowledge-wisdom, awareness, or consciousness, therefore, you will discover that through deepening your understanding, you can easily solve your problems.

To become your own psychologist, you don't have to leant some big philosophy. All you have to do is examine your own mind every day. You already examine material things every dayevery morning you check out the food in your kitchenbut you never investigate your mind. Checking your mind is much more important.

Nevertheless, most people seem to believe the opposite. They seem to think that they can simply buy the solution to whatever problem they're facing. The materialistic attitude that money can buy whatever you need to be happy, that you can purchase a peaceful mind, is obviously not true, but even though you may not say the words, this is what you're thinking. It's a complete misconception.

Even people who consider themselves religious need to understand their own minds. Faith alone never stops problems; understanding knowledge-wisdom always does. Lord Buddha himself said that belief in Buddha was dangerous; that instead of just believing in something, people should use their minds to try to discover their own true nature. Belief based on understanding is fine; once you realize or are intellectually clear about something, belief follows automatically. However, if your faith is based on misconceptions it can easily be destroyed by what others say.

It is important to be conscious in your everyday life. The nature of conscious awareness and wisdom is peace and joy. You don't need to grasp at some future resultant joy. As long as you follow the path of right understanding and right action to the best of your ability, the result will be immediate, simultaneous with the action. You don't have to think, If I spend my lifetime acting right, perhaps I'll get some good result in my next life. You don't, need to obsess over the attainment of future realizations. As long as you act in the present with as much understanding as you possibly can, you'll realize everlasting peace in no time at all.

[This talk has been exceipted from a booklet, Becoming Your Own Therapist, by Lama Yeshe, distributed free by the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. Please contact the Archive if you would like a copy.]

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 he went to Nepal with his chief disciple, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. Two years later he established Kopan Monasteiy, 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 centersthe Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Traditionbegan to develop. In 1984, after an intense decade of imparting a wide variety of incredible teachings and establishing one FPMT center after another, at the age of forty-nine, Lama Yeshe passed away. He was reborn as Osel Hita Torres in Spain in 1985, recognized as the incarnation of Lama Yeshe by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1986. Now, as the monk Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche, he is studying for his geshe degree at the reconstituted Sera Monastery in South India. He is thirteen years old. Lama's remarkable story is told in Vicki Mackenzie's book, Reincarnation: The Boy Lama (Wisdom Publications, 1996).

Some of Lama Yeshe's teachings have also been published by Wisdom. Books include Wisdom Energy; Introduction to Tantra; The Tantric Path of Purification; and The Bliss of Inner Fire. Transcripts in print are Light of Dharma; Life, Death and After Death; and Transference of Consciousness at the Time of Death. These titles are available from this Snow Lion catalog.

Lama Yeshe on videotape: Introduction to Tantra, The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, and Offering Tsok to Heruka Vajrasattva. Available from the LAMA YESHE WISDOM ARCHIVE.

Dr. Nicholas Ribush, MB, BS, is a graduate of Melbourne University Medical School (1964) who first encountered Buddhism at Kopan Monastery in 1972. Since then he has been a student of Luuas Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche and a full-time worker for the FPMT. He was a monk from 1974 to 1986. He established FPMT archiving and publishing activities at Kopan in 1973, and with Lama Yeshe founded Wisdom Publications in 1975. Between 1981 and 1996 he served as Wisdom's director, editorial director and director of development. Over the years he has edited and published many teachings by Lama Yeshe and Lima Zopa Rinpoche, and established and/or directed several other FPMT activities, including the International Mahayana Institute, Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre, the Enlightened Experience Celebration, Mahayana Publications, Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies and now the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. He has been a member of the FPMT board of directors since its inception in 1983. ä_æ

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