Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

Venerable Thupten Rinpoche's First Sunday Teaching

A teaching given by Venerable Thupten Rinpoche at the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre, 24 March 1996.
© Copyright Dhargyey Buddhist Centre.

Because Gen Rinpoche used to lead Sunday meditation class and give a general teaching on Buddhist practice, I would like to do the same and keep his tradition alive. Today's talk will be not just about "Dharma" but about our day-to-day life.

We are all humans and, as you know, we are lucky to have been born humans. We should realize the importance and the significance of this human life and also come to understand that now is a crucial time. It is a time when, if we decide properly, we will go up, and if we don't decide properly we will misuse this life and go down.

When we are born we humans seem to have three different kinds of perspective about things and people. We find that there are things and people (including animals) that we like, things and people we don't like, and things and people that arouse neither liking nor dislike in us. Because there seem to be these three different types of things and people and so on that activate the different responses in us, we need constantly to keep an eye on our attitude, our mind. If our mind is not controlled it will produce negative responses towards these three different external appearances. Our minds and us are similar to the driver and the vehicle. If the driver is a careful and con-scientious person he or she will drive carefully, and within a given time will take himself and his passengers to their destination; if the driver abuses alcohol and drives while his mind is under its influence, he may lead himself and his passengers to a disastrous end before the destination is reached. Just as when people set out on a journey their intention is to get to the destination safely, in the same way all beings including animals wish to be happy in the journey of their respective lives. There is hardly any being who would wish otherwise. Whether the vehicle and passengers reach the destination is dependent on the driver. In the same way, whether we are going to be happy as we wish is entirely dependent on our own attitude and mind. Therefore it is very important that we try to gain the upper hand over our mind. Rather than giving free reign to the processes of mind it is very important to shape the mind, to shape our mental processes - in other words, to have control of our minds.

"...it is very important to shape the mind, to shape our mental processes - in other words, to have control of our minds."

Most people in the world believe that what we seek, which is happiness, can somehow come from external circumstances and material resources. They don't realize that happiness has to do with mind, so in their search for happiness people have recourse to external, material things. They like seeing beautiful objects, they like hearing beautiful sounds, they like smelling beautiful fragrances. Of course these external beautiful things do bring some kind of pleasure, but not only pleasure - along with them comes some degree of suffering. To give an example: People go to the cinema. The result of going to the cinema is that it will have an impact on one's mind. Going to the cinema and seeing it as a pleasure conditions the mind to want to go to the cinema more and more. Thus it conditions the mind to seek external pleasure more.

Similarly, people drink alcohol - wine and beer etc. When people first have them it is the nature of such substances to delude people's minds into think-ing that they are enjoying them-selves. People don't realize that indirectly, im-perceptably, substances like these are conditioning their minds to seek them more and more so that if they don't get them they become agitated and restless. The same goes for smoking. When you smoke a cigarette, what happens in the beginning is that a new sensation arises in the mind, you enjoy that new sensation and get attached to it. But as I said before, indulgence in such things conditions the mind to seek more and more of such substances and, as a result, if you can't find them later, you become unhappy, restless and agitated.

If we fail to find happiness from within the mind by shaping the mind itself, then no matter what kind of happiness we may try to find from without, from external resources, in the beginning some kind of pleasures will be induced through experiencing them but that pleasure will delude us and condition us to seek them more and more, and this will be the starting point of problems.

In order to make one's mind a reservoir of happiness from which nothing but happiness comes we need to shape and control the mind. There are many types and levels of teachings that help us do this. Here I will tell you the simplest and best.

The best way to help the mind bring happiness from within itself is to consider others more important and more helpful than we have been used to do. We need to recognize how others contribute to our welfare and well-being, indeed to our very existence. Realizing this, we come to appreciate the kindness of others and their importance to our lives.

How can we develop an attitude that perceives others as kind? First of all we need to relate well within our immediate circle - the people with whom we have daily contact. We need to come to understand how they are kind. When we say they are `kind' it is not that in reality they are unkind and we are trying to force a different kind of attitude that decrees `You must think of others as kind.' It is not that. We are trying to understand kind beings as kind.

When we come into this world we don't come with our present grown-up, matured physical body: we come very small and dependent. If others aren't around to support us at that time it is very unlikely that we will grow to this present size. As we grow bigger and bigger, we need food, clothing and shelter to sustain our life. Then, as we grow older and interacted with other people we seem to want some kind of recognition from others. None of these comes from within ourselves, they all come from other people. There is no hope that we can have them independent of the work done and contributions made by others.

Although in helping us others may also be earning a living for themselves, in the process they contribute a great deal to our survival. When we look at the clothes we wear and think of how much effort would have been put in by how many people in designing and making them, we simply cannot help realizing how really kind others are in producing things that help us stay alive. I understand that when humans, the Cave People, first appeared on this planet they wore leaves and the bark of trees. That is slightly different. But for modern people, fashionable people who like very complicated clothes with complex designs, their clothes are made by other people. Very few are able to provide for themselves. Similarly we eat and drink a lot. When we consider the number of foods we eat and the different types of ingredients that go into making the foods of our choice we again realize that each ingredient has been produced by others. It is the same with the houses that we live in - it is obvious that many others have contribut-ed to making these. Similar-ly with the vehicles that we drive. It could be reasoned by some that vehicles are made by machine, not by people, so we are not dependent on other people for them. But if you look carefully, it is people's minds that produce the designs for the cars. There is no way that cars could be made completely by machine.

"The best way to help the mind bring happiness from within itself is to consider others more important and more helpful ..."

Again, the recognition and acclaim that we seek - that one is a great person, that one is a learned person, that one is expert in a certain field, and so on - comes from other people. Independent of other people, who would there be to acclaim one's knowledge and expertise? Suppose there is somebody who is really good at a certain sport. If there were no fans watching and cheering the skill of the player, that skilful sports person would not be called a star. There would be nobody to acclaim his or her skills.

When we take these things into consideration (and of course there will be many more things in our lives that are contributed by others), it begins to dawn on us that others have contributed immensely towards our survival, and that therefore our survival itself is in a way dependent on them. If one has integrity one will begin to realize that others are truly important and kind and helpful.

Meditation: Please recollect what I've said and think about how others have been extremely kind in providing us with all the things that we need to live. Please meditate on the kindness of others, the importance of others.

[Back]Back to Teachings page.
This page is designed and maintained by Sönam Tenzin.
Enquiries, suggestions for improvements, and any comments are welcome: E-mail me!