An Introduction to Buddhism

We all wish for happiness and do not want to suffer. So what is the source of happiness and how can we cultivate it within ourselves? And what is the origin of suffering? It is necessary to answer these questions. Pervasive suffering is the unavoidable suffering of birth in the six realms. We wish to be freed from these sufferings. On top this is the upheaval and turmoil of daily life. There are so many kinds of unhappiness we could talk about. So where does this come from? We need to analyze that. If we do not, we will attribute our unhappiness to something outside ourselves. If we investigate carefully we will see our suffering comes from our own minds. For example, someone may provoke your anger and you may attribute your unhappiness to them. But that person does not cause your anger, they are only the trigger for it. Your mind is the cause of your anger. So we say, "He made me angry or she made me angry" in our daily lives. But we need to understand our mind causes our anger.

If someone says I have no suffering at all, they must be a genuine dharma practitioner. They can say that because they are free of the five afflictive emotions of ignorance, desire, anger, pride, and jealousy. If an individual does not practice the dharma, they will see this world as filled with suffering. But the genuine dharma practitioner will not see the world this way. Internally they will have a tamed mind and be calm and relaxed. We are not saying that they are financially secure or free of enemies. But because their practice is so strong, their mind is content and relaxed.

One cannot achieve that level overnight. But we can reduce our afflictive emotions day by day. If you practice regularly, you will reduce them. There are many methods to do this, but the main method is meditative concentration. One form of meditation is yidam meditation, where we visualize ourselves as the extraordinary form of the yidam. Sometimes our afflictive emotions are so strong our minds are tangled up in them. But as we practice, our minds becomes stronger and stronger so that the afflictive emotions cannot overcome them.

Sometimes we consider ourselves as a religious person, but we don't know the teachings of that religion. This is wrong. The Buddha said all my teachings are for you to judge if they are beneficial or not. But you must investigate them. Buddha said that your enemy is your anger. You need to look at your anger and see if it is causing you unhappiness or not. So Buddha said that you should eliminate your anger. At the same time Buddha you should try to benefit others and develop love and compassion. You should investigate this as well and see if it brings happiness or not. You will see that helping others without ego brings tremendous happiness and joy. Then you will be inspire you to practice this more.

So we need to develop the noble mind of love and compassion. We need to examine our mind and recognize our inherent nature. You will have genuine happiness. Your happiness will not be a pretense.

Q: is this the state of nirvana?

A: Yes. When I was young I thought the Pure Land was in the sky. But if you are free of afflictive emotions, the Pure Lands are here. Beginners should practice by seeing the faults of afflictive emotions and eliminating them. As long as you don't follow them, you will be in good shape. The first thought of anger is not such a big problem. But when you think about it repeatedly, the anger gets stronger and stronger. It is like a small spark that gets fanned into a big flame.

We need to think this life is precious and we can achieve so many things. You need to think that I will use this life for the benefit of so many beings. This life is the result of many past positive causes in our previous lives. We should use it for a meaningful cause. If we waste this life for no good purpose, it will be difficult to attain a similar good chance again after we have wasted this one. So if we use our life properly, our lives will be happy as well as the lives of everyone close to us and everyone we are able to benefit.

Sometimes we say we will practice dharma tomorrow or the next day. But we should practice it right away. Our schedule may be tight, but we should still set time aside for our practice and tell others to not bother us during that time. Our practice is a preparation for our next life. Some advanced practitioners in Tibet looked on death with anticipation, without fear, because they had prepared for death. By freeing ourselves from deluded thoughts and afflictive emotions we free ourselves from the cause of rebirth in the lower realms.

Q: I worry about the problems of my loved ones. What's the best way to deal with this?

A: When you worry, how does that benefit them? So don't worry. Practice and it will benefit yourself and them. If you can be of practical help, then that's good, but worry doesn't help.

Q: How do I deal with old resentments, like for my father who has passed away? I want to forgive him, how can I do this?

A: Whatever your dad did to you, he will have to pay the karmic consequences for. Whenever these thoughts come up, you can say prayers for his sake that his consequences be eliminated. Focus on the positive emotions and not the negative. Then you will make a habit of it. Dedicate your merits to all beings but especially your father.

Q: So it's okay to dedicate your merit especially for one person?

A: Right. Prayer works no matter what your religion. Sooner or later you will see the effect as long as it's not being done from a selfish motive.

Q: Is it a good practice to be thankful to your enemies for the challenges they present you?

A: If someone wants to achieve enlightenment they must have loving kindness and compassion. And not just for your loved ones and your friends, but also for your enemies. So without enemies, you could not become enlightened.

Q: Is there a difference between loving kindness and just plain kindness? Is their kindness without love?

A: That's the English translation of the Sanskrit. We're talking about kindness with no expectations in return, not out of a selfish motive or sense of obligation. You need to distinguish between love and attachment and know what needs to be accepted and rejected. Whoever asks for your help, you should do what you can to help them. You need to release your attachment. It will not benefit either of you, it will only cause suffering. For example, a watch is useful because it can tell the time. But if you cry when it get's broken, that's attachment.

Q: Are the lower realms similar to the Pure Realms, something we experience now?

A: No, it's where you are reborn after death, for example like an animal in the jungle. There's also the hungry ghost and hell realms. Advanced practitioners can see these realms, but you and I cannot. But they are not physical locations, they are born of mind.

Q: Can't it be said that some human beings are dwelling in the lower realms?

A: You can see that to a degree that's true.

Drupon Thinley Nyingpo
Breathe Books
April 12 2008