His Eminence started with the introduction that Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy of life for attaining happiness. The Buddha had only one wish and that was for all sentient beings to be happy, it was with that motivation that he taught Dharma to us. He never wished to establish a religion that would spread the world over and make him renowned. If his desire was to achieve fame then he could have easily achieved that because he was a prince and foretold to become the king of earth if he remained as a royalty.
He realized that all sentient beings aspire for happiness but people always search externally for happiness. But external happiness is very much conditional, therefore impermanent. Though you have all the external or material happiness, without some understanding of spiritual or mental happiness I truly doubt we can be really happy. After all happy or unhappy is decided by mind isn’t it? The Buddha realized that true happiness must come from within and not in the physical form or substance. If you have that inner happiness or wisdom the external or material happiness can compliment your inner joy. But if your mind is unhappy, I doubt that we can be happy no matter how rich the surrounding is!
We all experience or perceive world differently depending on our state of mind. For example when we are in angry state of mind everything can look very negative, likewise positive when in positive mood. Another E.g. is sometimes you might feel you are well-off as compared to some of the people in Africa. Yet sometimes you might feel very dissatisfied when you again look at some rich and Prosperous people. The world is as you perceive it! That is why when we change within or our mind the world outside too will begin to change. Thus, it is one’s own mind that needs to be tamed in order to achieve true happiness. The essence of Dharma or Nangpa (the insider) comes from the fact that Buddha always taught to look inside the mind for the solution to all external problems.
The five negative thoughts which are the source of suffering are; Anger, Pride, Jealousy, Attachment and Ignorance.
Anger destroys the state of mind. When one is angry, one loses the power to reason. If two people who are arguing become angry, soon they will forget what they have started arguing about in the first place. The antidote for anger is Compassion and Forbearance. It is impossible to kill all the people you hate or subdue all of one’s enemies but it is easier and possible to subdue that anger within one’s mind. You will not become ugly if someone tells you so nor will you become a thief if someone accuses you of stealing. One should practice compassion by understanding that the other person who is angry is not in a state of mind to reason and by adhering to what he says and does, you will also be doing the same to your own state of mind.
Pride leads to unhappiness due to the fact that there will always be someone who will be better than you. When you realize that there is someone who is richer than you, better-looking than you, more popular than you, etc. your pride is hurt and you become unhappy. You cannot become the best in everything so it is easier to be humble. Humbleness is the antidote for pride. In the long run, it is the humble person who gains more respect and recognition.
Jealousy is the thought which forbids us from enjoying what we have. We want more than the other person. In the process of worrying and trying to achieve what others have, we cannot relish what we already possess. Doing dharma or should I say positive actions out of jealousy turns the Dharma or the positive actions in negative thing. Because whether something is positive or negative depends not on how it looks but the good or bad Intention behind it!
So When we do something positive, especially In the name of Dharma, to do it with the motivation of benefiting others or at least with the thought of accumulating merit for oneself is important. And not for the sake of outdoing someone. To Rejoice in happiness and good qualities of others is the antidote to jealousy and doing so will allow our mind to relax and enjoy what we have!
Attachment comes from “Me and Mine” or egoistic state of mind. My house, my family, my friend, my lover, my this, my that. The false sense of permanence is very strong behind the feeling of attachment. Also, we are attached to the concept of how we want things to be. When a person or things depart from that ideal or personality which you have perceived as a friend/father/lover, Then suffering comes but one has to understand that all the compounded things are impermanent every second. Though it may appear as permanent. The rivers and waterfalls appear as if it is the same one as what we have seen a moment ago. But each second the water is flowing down and is different. So the river is also impermanent each second. Likewise, all the phenomena are impermanent and in constant flux. What seems unchanging is actually the continuation or the link. Reflect on your body, emotions, relationships, opinions, Status, weather, time, standards, you will realize that all are impermanent. By understanding the impermanent nature of everything, one can minimize the strong expectation from impermanent phenomena’s and develop a sense of contentment.
If you are never content with what you have, then you are like the king who was never satisfied, so Buddha referred to him as the poorest man in the kingdom! The antidotes we discussed can minimize the negative in us but if we want to root it out completely then we have to go little deeper.
Let’s ask our self why do we have the five poisons? Buddha taught that the main cause of all suffering is Ignorance. Because we are ignorant, We think that everything exists as they appear to be. Good and bad are reflections of our own perception. Rich and poor is also relative. Someone who is a good friend and good person to you will be a bad person and enemy to someone else. Understanding of nature devoid of our own perception will lead us away from ignorance.
Looking at a piece of shit in front of you without your projection of clean or unclean of good or bad, will lead you to understand that it is by itself. Neither good or clean nor bad and dirty. That shit is dirty and bad is your reality, from the point of view of dog or his reality it is a delicacy! Ignorance of this understanding leads to grasping all phenomena as truly existing, as long as you have that grasping, everything will be existing as real and solid for you! When you are dreaming, the things that you experience are real to you at that time, isn’t it?
When you have this mirror of grasping everything as existing, then reflections or experiences of like or attachment and dislike or anger,jealousy etc arise. It is like seeing a rope in the dark and believing that it is a snake so you will experience fear, anxiety, even though it is just a rope!
By understanding everything to be a reflection of one's own mind and becoming less fanatic about everything is one of the key points. Right now we are all fanatics, we are fanatics about our concept of beauty and ugliness, good and bad, long and short, happiness and suffering, rich and poor, religion etc. So to change the five negatives in our mind, the first step is to take refuge in the Triple gem.
Buddha simply means awakened from ignorance and therefore free from the Five Poisons. It can also mean someone in particular like Buddha Shakyamuni who has realized the universal truth and has an unlimited compassion to all the ignorant beings.
But Buddha by itself means not a person with a saffron robe or a radiating face or a statue, but a state of mind which is free from the ignorance therefore free from the five poisons. The Dharma is a process of developing one’s mind towards the Buddha. Thus Dharma also is within oneself.
The Sangha or Gendun is the wish to do positive things or the wish to develop one’s own mind.
The external Buddha is like Buddha Shakyamuni, Guru Rinpoche, Lama, Buddha statues and external Dharma is like a textbook, recitation, prostrations, meditation and external Sangha is like monks, nuns, group of practitioners, all three are the method or ways to support a development of the three inner refuge-objects.
Buddha can also be understood as The Universal Truth because what he realized is the state of things as they are, as they have been, as they will always be! So as long as our minds are controlled by five poisons, we can never attain true happiness. We’ve to at least minimize our negative thoughts and actions so that we can clear our minds to have a greater understanding of life or the reality without our fabrications. To act as an antidote to negative thoughts we need to develop positive thoughts, one of the strongest positive thought is love and compassion for all sentient beings. This can be an antidote to all the negative thoughts, the Ego or Self-attachment will also be minimized.
As negative thoughts and action can be a cause of the suffering so can the positive thoughts and the positive actions that be the cause of happiness. That is Why Buddha said (1) refraining from Digpa or negative, (2) accomplishing positive, (3) Then subduing this untamed mind is the essence of my Dharma and my path. Anything done with the genuine thought of selflessness will always make you happy emotionally and will also be an accumulation of positive karma.
For example, when you love someone, you think less of yourself and you become a little selfless as you wish to give happiness to the other person. And as long as that thought last one does feel happy!
If you can extend the same love to all sentient beings then your negative thoughts and feelings will be easily lessened. We have to appreciate our parents for the love and kindness of bearing us and bringing us up in this world and develop a strong wish to give them inner and external happiness. This same understanding can be applied to all sentient beings who have been our parents in one life or the other. When we respect our parents, elders, and teachers we are creating a society where we will also be respected and loved in return, now and in future.
In conclusion, developing your mind towards the practice of joy, love and compassion etc and Minimizing five poisons will enable you to see that life is truly beautiful if you are! That is the essence of Buddha’s teaching.
Q1. If Buddhism is not a religion, why the notion/concept of Hell, which is pessimistic?
H.E.: Firstly there is no such thing as God or creator in Buddha’s teachings He taught that we are the creator or should I say our actions or Karmas of body speech and mind, create the reactions of so called Heaven or Hell, happiness, and unhappiness. Buddha did not say “if you follow me, I’ll send you to heaven and if you don’t I’ll send you to hell” he just taught the universal truth that he realized. Even if you are a very bad person Buddha will never get angry with you or judge you! Buddha is beyond all that. Secondly, negative Karmas can be purified. Thirdly the hell or suffering is also impermanent! When the force of our action is spent the experience will end.
Q2. In Buddhism, when does the world start? Is there a Beginning?
H.E.: Buddha taught that this world doesn’t exist as it appears to be! It is like an illusion. How can one say the beginning of illusion or end of the illusion as it is not real! When you get enlightened or awakened to the nature of illusion that is the end.
Q3. Buddhism teaches selflessness, compassion and tolerance. Why does the Dalai Lama fight against China to Free Tibet?
H.E.: Firstly I always look to him as a spiritual master and not a political leader. As a compassionate spiritual person, I don’t think he differentiates between Chinese and Tibetans, it is just that at present the Tibetan people are going through difficulties and he is in a position to help them in a non-violent way. If tomorrow the Chinese or any other nationalities are going through difficulties and if he is in a position to benefit, I am sure that he will definitely help them too.
Q4. Many young generations of Buddhist look at Buddhism as a culture and tradition and do not understand its true essence. This is compounded by the fact that most scriptures are in Choekey and hard to understand. How do the younger generation’s needs for understanding Buddhism be met?
H.E.: His Holiness the Je Khenpo is doing a lot in this area to make lay people understand the Dharma. For modern educated youth, many renowned Masters are residing in Bhutan who can be approached to give sermons and discourses of today’s’ kind. Books in English are also available which can be accessed from libraries.