LAMA YESHE’S WISDOM
Tonight I’m going to give a brief introduction to the Buddhist view of human reality, focusing on death, the intermediate state and so forth.
Buddhism explains human beings’ higher qualities of intuition, intellect and intelligence; we maintain that human growth is very different from that of vegetables. Each of us has a long history; we’ve been developing a long time, especially our consciousness.
Buddhism also explains that the fundamental nature of human consciousness is pure and clear; that the nuclear essence of the human being is the mind, not this body of flesh and blood. Furthermore, we believe that recognizing our lives as pleasurable or miserable depends largely on how our mind interprets them. If you think your life is miserable, it becomes miserable.
Therefore, at their root, human problems are created by each individual’s mind, not by God or Buddha. But since we have the capability of messing our lives up, we are also capable of solving our own problems.
It’s a mistake to think that our mental problems are as vast as the universe, embracing space and sky and therefore, “Until I destroy the sun and the moon, I’ll never be able to solve my problems.” That’s just wrong. We should all recognize that we’re responsible for solving our own problems; we’re responsible for the actions of our body, speech and mind. We can’t blame others.
With respect to human problems, most are intellectually generated. Of course, there are problems at the deeper intuitive level, but most problems, such as emotional disturbance and anxiety, come from the way we think.
When we were babies, we didn’t have political problems, did we? When we were babies, we didn’t have economic or societal problems. This is because we were too immature for ego conflict or intellectualization. When we were babies we didn’t have religious conflict, religious dissatisfaction or philosophical or racial conflict; we didn’t have that kind of intellectual problem.
But as we grow, we begin to intellectualize: “What is society? Who am I? How should I identify myself? What is my significant archetype?” Our ego wants some kind of identity, something to hold on to in a grasping way. It can’t be natural. That’s why we’re completely artificial and how we become confused and dissatisfied.
You can see in the modern world that most human problems come from conflicted relationships with each other. Men have trouble with women; women have trouble with men. All this comes from intellectual games, not intuition.
Our intellectual concepts build up: “This object is the best for me to grasp. If I can’t have it, I’ll kill myself. Other things are not reality for me; this object is my only reality.” In this way, we fix our intellectual concepts and finish up committing suicide.
You can see how human intellectual problems are so unnatural, so unrealistic and have nothing to do with reality.
With your deluded mind you describe an apple, “It’s fantastic. It has a beautiful red color, I like it so much.” That’s the exaggerated way you describe anything you’re attached to, and that’s how you finish up with a sick mind. Fundamentally, it’s all fantasy; you project your fantasy onto objects and finish up miserable and dissatisfied. You don’t relate to the way an object exists, only to your fantasized projection of it.
However, from the Buddhist point of view, this gives you the capability of examining your own mind to see if your thinking is positive or negative, is your projection a fantasy or not. You are capable of this.
Buddha is one who is totally developed. Each of us has the potential to develop in the same way; we can develop ourselves to the fullest and eradicate all polluted thought.
When we think how to cope as a member of society, when we try to be intelligent, when we figure out how to take advantage of society, of the country and each other, all such thinking is basically intellectual, artificial, grasping want. And as a result of this way of thinking, we end up miserable.
This is especially true of modern society, where everybody’s trying to cope by intellectualizing and trying to be intelligent as best they can, but still, most people become extreme, miserable and out of control.
If you build up this huge fantasy of yourself and how things should be, you reach the point where you cannot cope with that situation. You drown in the ocean of your personal fantasy world. You make it very difficult for yourself.
My suggestion is, therefore, before you reach that state of tremendous confusion, you slowly, slowly try to eliminate the causes and conditions of your confusion. If you do, things will just get better and better.
Question whether your intellectual life is good or bad. The Buddhist point of view is that you should question the way you think. Instead of allowing your intellect to rule you, use your discriminating wisdom to analyze whether what you think and do is worthwhile or not.
The reason that I say that our problems – global, societal and personal – are not natural is that they’ve been built up by our ego’s intellectualization. We can see this because when we were babies we didn’t have those problems. And when we die, we don’t have them either.
As you know, Tibetan Buddhism places a lot of emphasis on meditation. What meditation does is see clean clear what’s going on in your mind; through it you can see your conventional, superficial ego conflict. That’s the purpose of meditation. The moment you meditate, you gain access to states of mind beyond your emotional ego conflict. In that way, you’re able to view your mind as if you were looking at an external object, except here you’re seeing what’s going on within your mind.
All people have daily problems: ego conflict problems, emotional problems, various obsessions and so forth. We all have problems. But we’re also capable of seeing what lies in our mind beyond them.
You shouldn’t think, “I’m pretty confused. My whole nature must be confusion. I have no hope of releasing my confusion or clearing it up.” That’s a wrong attitude; you’re devaluing your fundamental human quality.
Buddhist psychology is sort of humanistic. Buddhism is essentially a scientific religion. It focuses on human problems and how to stop them. The emphasis is not on Buddha or God. Therefore, it’s worthwhile for all of us to investigate the reality of our own consciousness rather than ignoring our mind and placing all our attention on our body. That’s unhealthy and unbalanced. True satisfaction does not come from the flesh and blood body but from the mind. Also, the nature of the mind is completely different than that of the brain.
The reality of our human life is that we have the capacity to solve our own problems. We should understand very strongly that “My problems are my baby; I have to solve them for myself.” By thinking in this way you develop deep self-confidence. How do we come to that understanding? It’s because all human beings have wisdom and intelligence. Don’t think that human nature is total ignorance. We all have wisdom, love and compassion.
Don’t think, “I am a completely angry person; I’m full of hatred. I have no love, no wisdom, no compassion.” That’s a completely nihilistic view of your reality.
When you trust yourself and feel confident, when you’ve had some experience of your own wisdom and compassion, you become more natural and allow your intuition to develop.
When you’re too intellectual and egotistic, you damage your intuition. You’re born with intuition intact; your original intuition is uninfluenced by philosophy, religion, teachers or the environment. It’s there, but it has to be protected in such a way that it’s allowed to function without being shut down and suppressed.
We should recognize that all human problems have been created by ourselves. We cannot blame society, our parents or friends. We created all our own problems; we’re the creator of all our suffering and we’re the creator of our own liberation
If we die a natural death, during the process, all our concepts – political, economic, societal, racial, capitalist, communist – naturally go into space and disappear. Anything you think about, any selfish attitude with which you take advantage of other people by thinking that you’re intelligent and they’re foolish, dissolves into space. And not only at the time of death; the process of going to sleep is similar to that of a natural death with respect to the absorption of the elements and concepts. In other words, every time we go to sleep, even then, all our ego conflicts, as well as the various concepts I just mentioned, dissolve.
That’s why it’s better to sleep than to get all emotional, stressed, agitated and angry. In sleep we go into a natural, fundamental state of consciousness in which our intellect no longer functions.
Therefore, in the Buddhist tradition we prefer to meditate early in the morning, because during the night all our polluted concepts have disappeared and our mind is a little clearer than it is later in the day. During the day, the energy of polluted concepts builds up, and during sleep, they subside. When we awaken, they return slowly, but usually hidden from our view. So when we meditate early, our mind is more neutral than extreme, and our concentration tends to be better than at later times, when it’s more sluggish and distracted.
Actually, this doesn’t apply only to meditation. Even if you’re not a meditator, when you have something you want to think about clearly, you’re better off doing it early in the morning.
Also, Buddhist meditation doesn’t mean only single-pointed concentration; we have analytical meditation on reality as well.
However, no matter who you are, it’s very important to know how your mind works in daily life, while you’re asleep and during the death process. It’s essential that you educate yourself in this. If you do, you’ll have no fear that dying is horrible, like falling into a black hole; that’s death’s a black hole that’s going to suck you in and eat you up.
From the moment we were born, we’ve been destined for death. We think dying is a big deal, worse than losing a job, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, husband or wife. That’s the wrong attitude. We think that dying is negative; that’s just our projection.
Dying is better than this flower. This flower cannot give you tremendous peace and bliss. It can give you something, but not that. Death, however, can give you both: tremendous peace and tremendous bliss. Death is better than a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife because they give you very little bliss. They cannot truly solve your problems. They can alleviate emotional anxiety momentarily, perhaps, but not for long. At the moment of death, however, all anxiety and other emotional problems are totally cut off for a long period of time.
The process of a natural death is actually quite slow. Each of the four elements – earth, water, fire and air – deteriorates, or absorbs; the five aggregates – form, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness – also absorb; and the dying person gradually goes through the experience of a series of internal hallucinatory visions.
Normally, we think that looking at visual objects is a fantastic pleasure, a necessary sensation. We think it’s important and grasp at such objects as much as we can. But the Buddhist idea is that we be as detached as possible from sense objects. I’m sure you’ve heard of renunciation. Actually, it’s a most natural thing. Why? When you were a baby you didn’t have the kinds of problems that you do now; you didn’t have the societal attachment that you’ve now built up within yourself; you didn’t have all the sensory objects that you do now. When you were in your mother’s womb you’d already renounced everything; you had no external objects to grasp at. You didn’t have even one grape! You were naturally renounced.
Not being renounced means, for example, you have one car; that’s not enough. You have two cars, that’s not enough either; you need a boat. You have a boat but that’s not enough; you need a bigger one. Your wants are infinite; that’s the nature of dissatisfaction. But when you’re born, you’re born with renunciation. What I mean is that, at that time, you don’t have much grasping, you don’t have so much to worry about. You arrive in the world relatively free. But then you build up your attachments and with them your worries. Then you die and again naturally renounce. So, be natural. Don’t think that the renunciation and detachment of Eastern philosophy are some kind of polluted Oriental ideas.
Satisfaction does not depend on material objects; satisfaction comes from simplicity. I’m not saying this because I’m jealous of people from rich economies; I’m not saying wealthy people are bad. Nevertheless, rich or poor, we all need simplicity to experience inner satisfaction. I’m not jealous of Westerners’ pleasures or wealth.
The question is: why are you dissatisfied? You always lay the blame outside: “This is not enough; that’s not sufficient.” That’s not true. Something’s missing inside of you –that’s what you have to recognize.
When I say “detach,” I don’t mean you need to totally renounce. Being detached means being more easy-going, not hanging on too tightly. It means making yourself a little bit loose instead of always being uptight. Loosen up.
When I say that Swiss people should renounce, I don’t mean you need to give away all your money. You can lead a happy life with money as long as you enjoy it in a reasonable way with some kind of appreciation for life by looking at the lives of people in the Third World. If you just hoard your Swiss francs, you’ll become very unhappy with your objects of pleasure. Instead, you should appreciate your Swiss money and pleasures in a relaxed kind of way: “I should enjoy what I have and be satisfied.” Think like that. Otherwise, even if you have all the money in Switzerland, you won’t be happy; all it will do is make you miserable.
According to Buddhist psychology, whether or not an object satisfies you depends on the decision made by your mind. If you’ve already decided, “This is nice; it makes me happy,” then when your eye contacts whatever it is, you think, “Oh, that’s nice.” If your mind has decided, “This is a very bad guy,” then when you see him you think, “Oh, he’s bad.”
The reason Tibetan Buddhism educates people to understand the death process and trains them to deal with it is so that when the time of crisis arrives and the various illusory visions arise, instead of being confused, we know what’s going on and can recognize illusions as illusions, projections as projections and fantasies as fantasies.
After the four elements have dissolved and disappeared and the breathing has stopped, the subtle consciousness still remains. At this point, Western doctors will say that the patient is dead and put him in the freezer. But from the Buddhist point of view, even though the person’s not breathing, he’s still alive, with four visions yet to come: the white, the red, the black and the clear light. These visions arise after the breathing has completely stopped. Accomplished meditators recognize these visions as they come and go and can remain for many days or even months in the blissful clear light state, in direct contact with universal reality, free of any polluted view.
Skeptical Westerners will say, “This is just the Buddhist faith; this monk’s just talking about what he believes. It has nothing to do with us.” But that’s not true. This is human experience, although it may not be yours.
Did you hear about the French man who was pronounced dead by his doctors but two hours later woke up and wrote about his experience of death? He wasn’t a religious man, not a believer, he knew nothing about Buddhism, but still, he was thought to be dead for two hours and after that time awoke.
However, whether or not you believe what Buddhism says about the death process, an easy way to understand it is to become familiar with the process of going to sleep. That’s a good example of what happens at the time of death. I believe that there’s now scientific equipment that can monitor the sleep process and the dissolution of concepts at that time, so by conducting this kind of analysis, you can become familiar with the process without having to rely on the Buddhist explanation. So by understanding this you can easily relate it to the death process.
From Lama Yeshe’s last teaching given in the West, Geneva, Switzerland, September 1983. Excerpted from Life, Death and After Death, edited by Nicholas Ribush and published by the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.Tags: death and dying, lama yeshe