The prince who became Buddha felt shocked and sad when he realized the suffering of ordinary life. He determined to understand the problem of suffering. With great effort, Buddha came to understand how we suffer, why we suffer, concluded that it is possible to be free from suffering, and found that this path to freedom can be taught.
Advertisements tell us that happiness is having what we want and avoiding what we don’t want. But that’s not so. As soon as we get what we want, we start worrying about losing it. If we avoid a painful experience, we worry we won’t be so lucky next time. Even when things are going well, most of the time we experience a stream of worry, sadness, and irritation. Getting what we want and avoiding what we don’t want — this doesn’t really bring stable happiness.
We do experience times of stable happiness. When we let go of our concerns about ourselves and think of others, such as in moments of unconditional love and generosity, we can experience stable happiness.
Namnang Mingjo Dorje Rinpoche, a guru in Tibetan-style Buddhism, came for a visit to our area several years ago, and a group of students developed here. Using online forums, webcasts, classes, and group practices, Rinpoche helps us improve themselves, removing the causes of suffering and building the causes of happiness. Our local group supports the students in deepening understanding of the teachings.
Before meeting Rinpoche, I had explored many means to improve myself, but these only changed me on the surface, so when troubles came, I still reacted badly. As Einstein said, “No problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it.” The problem of suffering, as Buddhism teaches, arises from mistakes in the way we perceive “self.”
Usually when we study methods of improvement, we study them from the perspective of “self.” From my unquestioned assumptions about “self,” I used what I learned to build up my pre-existing beliefs about “self.” I could accumulate amazing experiences and make myself temporarily more comfortable. Still, I only made the basic long-term problem of suffering, which is rooted in wrong ideas about “self,” less accessible to change.
This is why Buddhism puts so much value on the teacher. The teacher has ventured outside of the normal point of view of “self.” A teacher who has accomplished that shift in view is able to see where we are stuck and help move us out of our ultimately uncomfortable comfort zone.
Rinpoche has the clarity, ability, and determination to see where we are stuck in our wrong views and help us get unstuck. Unlike any other teacher I have met or heard of, he engages with his students almost every day, watching the progress of every student and intervening to break our harmful habits. With Rinpoche’s encouragement and correction, students learn to correct the thinking errors that cause harmful mind states, and move to the real causes of happiness.
All the problems of the world arise from a selfish orientation, and all the happiness arises from the efforts of miraculous beings who are able to transcend “self.”. May we all make strong efforts to find this stable and pure happiness for our own sake, and for the sake of the world.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes;
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes;
May all sentient beings never be separated from happiness that is beyond all sorrow;
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of attachment and aversion that hold some close and others distant.