"Joyful Living" Talk given by Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche in Norwich, 1 May 2006
Transcribed by Hilary Hawker June 2006
I am fortunate to be here with you in such a lovely place. You should be joyful. As you seem interested in this I will say a few words about how we as Tibetan Buddhists are able to find a joyful lifestyle. This is what I would like to share here.
According to our belief system which goes back more than 2500 years, according to Buddhaís teaching, not only human beings but all life forms have an opportunity Ė as Buddhists we deal in many aspects of life Ė we think about the environment very seriously as the source of our nourishment which comes from the earth. If we do not respect the earth and donít treat it properly, no matter how much success we have, we can have nice looking apples, fancy looking food, but it doesnít have so much nourishment if we have taken out all the minerals. To be happy we need to have a better physical body, through a better environment. We must take every opportunity not to abuse the earth, and then we wonít have famine. How come all around the world everywhere there is water yet we canít drink it without worrying if it will harm us? Water is something given to us, yet so much water all over the world is undrinkable. The consequences of this no matter how much progress we think we are making, peopleís bodies and minds are not in good shape.†
On our Holy Island project we look after the environment. It is the smallest island but we look after it. It is every human beingís responsibility to take care of the environment. At this time of European civilisation now you are thinking about eastern wisdom. You have a good life, and are intelligent and well educated and can explore anything you are interested in the world, you have a better living standard than anywhere else in the world, so ask yourself are you happy? Are you joyful? I donít think so. Twenty years ago fewer people needed to visit a psychiatrist. Now we get richer and richer, we have to pay a price for this. Human beings are not like a machine. Even a machine needs maintenance or it wonít work for long periods of time.†
Somehow you manage to make even little children frightened. In a good civilisation you should be able to make children so that they can play happily and form good relationships and trust, be able to be in the company of grownups. Because of this new civilisation everyone tells children not to talk to strangers and fills them with fear.† So how can they grow up with the habit of trusting other people? Even relatives tell them not to talk to strangers. You have terrified them. I was in Spain where most people bring their children to the sea, morning to evening, and they donít mind where the children go. They are allowed to be normal children. Here we always say donít do this or that, children canít play physically. If you put them in the garden they learn by playing games. Now children learn from television or reading and are physically weak. And you put so much information into them and have so many expectations of them. If children are not told to trust other people, not given any physical way of growing up except watching television or playing computer games, they will lose their eyesight and also see many bad things on the television. It is such a bad environment, how are we going to raise beings with wisdom, calmness and loving kindness?†
We are not teaching them the right things. As adults we teach that you have to be proud, ruthless and selfish. It comes down to selfishness. If there is jealousy among a family there is no one you can trust. Gradually we develop a paranoid mind. Many families do their best to bring up their children not to take drugs or take anything to harm their mind. But when they go to school they are forced to do the wrong things, because they rebel against their family not allowing them to do things like smoking or socialising. They think they are free. But not so Ė all these drugs and alcohol are habit forming.† The more you get the more you want.† All over the world I meet people who have taken heavy doses of drugs. They are mentally distorted. They canít focus properly on normal life. Their life is ruined.††
Civilisation has a responsibility not to feed wrong information about caring only for yourself and being best at everything, because then so many people feel they are not up to it. If your family, teacher or friends tell you are not good enough you begin to believe it. So you lose self-confidence, you believe you donít belong in the world.† Some people have so much arrogance and ego and look down on the world.† Human beings are connected to each other. If one in a family has a difficulty it affects the whole family. Then the problem spreads to the neighbours. Buddha says instead of becoming judgemental we should do something to improve our situation. We always find someone to blame, people keep on always judging other people, yet they have no good wisdom or habit to improve other people.
The people in Europe should be the best. We used to be brought up to think I want to give my children the best education they can, then they have a job for life. But now that is changed, even with high qualifications they donít want to give you the job as they canít get rid of you. So people say we can have security. So many older people have saved and think they have security. Now when they canít do the job they see there is no security. That is what Buddha says, every thing is changeable.† Nothing in this world is stable, you canít plan ahead. Havenít we all been planning ahead? Even for your children, you want them to be this or that. How many times have you actually been able to do everything you planned? Even if you plan to meet someone tomorrow, everything can change. Everything is impermanent. You canít plan much.† It is better to appreciate and rejoice in every moment you have now. If you are wealthy you could be poor one day or vice versa. If you are sick you could get better.† Of course you should plan some things. Everyone has their own destination, what ever is going to happen will. If I come from India or Zimbabwe there are many problems, there is hunger and if you are in a war zone you donít know if you are going to be bombed, you donít even know if you will wake up the next day, so you worry so much.
Here you have everything, freedom, opportunity, wealth, education, even if you donít have a job you are looked after by the government. Nobody dies of starvation. There is social benefit. My education doesnít make me a joyful human being, my job gives me stress, my relationship is like walking on broken glass. People who donít have everything they want will steal, thinking they will be happy if they have more things.† But if you look at rich people, the more they have the more uptight they are.† The less generosity they have. And because their wealth is all based on ego - they only like to see their numbers going up and down - they have blood pressure problems and headache because they worry about their millions. If you are very wealthy you suffer, if you have nothing, you suffer.† Whatís the use? Why do you engage in all this effort all your life until you die working for a bigger house, more money. When you die you canít take it with you. All this work is the cause of your stress. Live the Tibetan way. If you donít have a house, a cave is good enough.
How about a partner? They cause problems and chaos too, perhaps it is better to be without a partner. How about food Ė what about nettles like Milarepa? He survived on nettles, he didnít even have clothes on his body, but he could sing songs, a thousand songs because he found joy. When you have no longer a partner or wealth to lose, a partner to lose, there is no longer stress. There is nothing to lose. Who gives you the most pain? Your closest friends. Your enemies donít Ė you can run away. As Buddhists we are good at running away. If you become stubborn about rights and wrongs, you can see how many lifetimes they are going to be clinging to each other.†† If you canít find satisfaction, fulfilment and joy in having everything† and travelling round the world; if that is not bringing you joy, then you are missing your spirituality.
Because you think in this new civilisation you give up on anything to do with belief.† There is nothing wrong in Christís teaching, there is nothing wrong in Buddhaís teaching. When they say religion causes problems, it is not the religion that causes the problems - it is the people. They have not understood the teachings properly, then they use the teaching to cause other people pain and suffering. There is a great opportunity for you all now to put your energy to the right cause Ė to find your inner peace, your spirituality. In poor countries they have no time to worry about spirituality, they only worry about finding enough food, or who is going to kill them. They have no home to go to. Many sleep in the street and in Latin American countries they get killed for sleeping in the street. There is no security.†
When you have everything you donít remember to appreciate it, you just accept it as normal. If you are the kind of person who does not appreciate what you have, youíd better go to India where you can really see what poverty means. I was in India for many years, even the beggars seem peaceful, quite happy, not mentally disturbed.† The mind is powerful, if you put the wrong information in you have big problems.† We must learn to appreciate what we have. When we have right view, then right conduct comes. Because you start to appreciate what you have, and see what the world has given you. You start to do the right thing. You have confidence, then you have the right result. With the wrong view, ignorance, you are sleep walking, you donít know what you are doing. So out of this we start not to have an inner life, so we act badly, and get a bad result. We donít appreciate what we have, so we start to act wrongly.†††
So as human beings we are intelligent and educated. If so, then why donít we use this to solve our ongoing problem. The world has not enough resources. We canít tell the Chinese or Indians what to use, we have made progress in Europe, and they now need to. It is very uncomfortable, but there will be times when you donít have any choice. We will have to pay more to heat our houses and get energy, if we misuse what we have.† This is where spirituality comes in. We have choices, and should make the right choices for the future. It is good to give them opportunity for future generations to have a joyful, kind and stable mind without which there will be fighting and dissatisfaction. There will be disharmony even among religious based groups.† So Buddhist should learn to respect all other teachings in the world and all those human beings who are less selfish and working towards helping those who are suffering poverty.†
If we donít take this challenge in everyday life, if you blame the government or everyone else, whenever you are trying to do something you want to impose your will on other people. We should share what we know. If you have wisdom, people can take what is right or useful. You donít have to pick up anything that is not beneficial.† We should put more emphasis on your inner spiritual journey, developing loving kindness. In all major religions forgiveness is key to everything. We should learn to forgive everyone, not blaming other people. And if we manage to forgive other people, some people have a habit of bashing themselves, you can also learn to forgive yourself. If you are positive and forgiving, everything you say or do has a good result, and you begin to feel life has meaning. Otherwise you allow the mind to deteriorate, get into stress and there is no joy in your everyday life. You get so busy about working hard, but inwardly you never manage to sit one hour with your own state of mind. We should use meditation to stabilise our mind. Motivation is everything. Even meditation is for the benefit of all sentient beings. If I can help other people, that is why I am meditating. If you sit thinking I want to have peace and joy from my meditation, if you donít think about other beings, you will never have the capacity to help other beings. Also to meditate, time is yours, place is yours, so you donít need to get involved in a club with a membership. So many people have resistance or fear, thinking if they become a member of some group or organisation they will give up their freedom. But in Buddhism, one teaching gives you freedom.† You donít have to submit to anything. You get freedom Ė that is what is called self-liberation. We should use this motivation to help ourselves and others to free ourselves from our uptight minds.
Anger Ė if you have a stable mind. If you are very angry, you are very weak or very stressed, or very vengeful, or it is self defence. Anger has never helped to achieve goals.† To make a good friendship takes many years. To break it takes one moment of anger.† So you see how harmful it is. If you see someone is a very angry person, you try to challenge this person with anger.† The more this person makes you angry, the more joy he takes from you.† So you need to think, this other person needs tolerance, give the opposite of anger, loving kindness.† If you try to ignore it and not respond to the challenge they get very angry.† But once you try this response, if there is anger coming from the other person, you feel sorry for them and offer loving kindness.† Think that the anger is not going to achieve their goal.† If the anger is coming from you, then you make a commitment that you are never going to give in to this anger.† If you think this many times a day Ė I will not give in to anger Ė I will turn this anger to loving kindness.† As soon as you remember you are not going to give into it, you will be successful.† But if you say you are not going to be angry but you never think about it, then you will give into it and feel remorseful and guilty.† But feeling guilty is useless.† It does nothing for the other person, and it does nothing for you.† It can even make you worse because you decide you are a bad person, not good enough, so you canít do anything right.† If you try hard enough you can succeed.† If you recite some mantra, as soon as you remember you renounce your anger.† Then you will be successful.
It is very difficult.† The government is trying to give what the people want.† We will be happy to take less energy if everybody makes that commitment, he doesnít need to promise all these things.† If they tell lies to get there, if they tell you they will give you everything you want, then people are not taking full responsibility.† If everyone says they are part of it, we will learn to lead a simpler life.† Say if you have a hot water tank, you turn it on full and waste gallons of hot water, it is just a habit.† If you wash a cup or plate and use lots of water it is just wasteful.† If we can learn to save energy people will start to take responsibility.† In supermarkets, the waste would feed a third world country.† In families, how much food you waste.† In this country everything has to come from abroad using so much energy.† We cannot blame the government, they are elected to give what people want.† But if people can decide they need less energy, they wonít find the resources to build nuclear energy.† We have a choice.
In a way I am coming from a primitive civilisation.† I was born in Tibet and left when I was fifteen.† I have never seen manmade roads or cars, trains, nothing like this except cows, yaks, foot paths, lot of mountains.† In a village there may be only ten family members.† But we had the best life.† No school Ė we had all the time in the world to play.† From morning to evening.† Nobody has any way of measuring time, we go to sleep when the light goes, get up when the light comes.† No-one has a job, there is no factory to go to, so every member of the family is in the home, looking after you.† So we have a winter home in one place, then a spring home where we move higher up with our animals.† The snow melts, the flowers come.† then in the middle of summer we go up the highest mountain, and see the deer running.† It is a life of sheer luxury.† But none of us starves, we have plenty of food.† Tibetans eat six or seven times a day because we donít have anything to do, so there is a lot of eating.† Any job, the men will plough the land.† I remember sunshine and the mothers coming, and combing each otherís hair and spending hours making themselves beautiful. Then I remember the first time I came to India I smelled chemicals.† I was vomiting, I couldnít cope.† It was my karma.† I escaped to India but there was no road. We went in a cargo plane, and they gave us paper bags to be sick in.† Then we landed and I saw what I thought was houses moving.† It was a train going past!† the trains in India are so long with smoke and noise.† I thought I was having a dream.† Then we went on a ferry.† I was exposed to everything.† Now nothing frightens me.† I learned English when I was twenty and came here. Now we have lamas in Norway, Sweden, some donít even learn to speak the language, but they are very joyful.† As far as I am concerned, after twenty six years of practising to achieve the things I am supposed to be achieving, now I can say I am joyful.† I have no wealth of my own.† I donít worry about my old age pension.† My pension is my belief.† No sangha has ever died of starvation. I am comforted.† I see myself among the beggars in the street, ok, I only need cheap food.† If I need to make a fire I can.† I should never allow myself to be attached to anything.† I am happy that I am still alive and enjoying my life.† People give me the opportunity to talk about myself and Buddhaís teaching.† So in a way I feel we donít rely on our race.† Black or white is no difference.† Then you have inner peace.† I travel all over the world even if I donít speak the languages.† But if you have joy in you, it is wonderful.† So we Tibetan lamas, we can manage whatever situation we get into.† Once I had to speak to five hundred executives of Shell Oil Company, but I was not afraid of talking, I like talking, even in broken English.† But I can be in solitude month after month, I am happy to be on my own.† Whether I speak good or bad English makes no difference.† I try to speak from my heart.
I escaped to India at 15, I wanted to learn Hindi and English and gave up practice as I thought it was a new civilisation. I came to Britain in 1968 and at that time in Samye Ling we had a lot of crazy people, famous actors and singers and we slept in dirty log cabins. I was wondering what was wrong with this new civilisation. I stayed there five years and thought I should try hard to find something good in it. I used to stay with a friend in London and tried to find something for myself. I went to New York and the more I saw the more I was discouraged. I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the owner of the American Steamship Company, he was wealthy. I was going round where many nationalities were taking drugs, and was warned not to go to these areas. I remember one big guy attacking a woman, and she was crying for help but nobody came. I was so unhappy. In 1976 I decided the new path was not for me, and I should return to my roots. I took the highest ordination and had a log cabin built in a most beautiful place, for five years.† Then I cam back to Samye Ling. I have done twelve years of retreat including two 49 day periods of total darkness.†
My everyday routine Ė I get up at four oíclock, two hours of meditation, at six I have breakfast.† Then I go to Samye Ling, it takes about ten minutes, winter or summer. I do half an hour of walking exercise, then take a one hour meditation session. Then I see other people and talk to people from all over the world.† After lunch I go back and meditate all afternoon. Other people work eight hours a day, as a lama I meditate for eight hours a day. The rest of the time I try to help other people.
I go to bed at nine oíclock. If I sleep, I sleep, if not, I donít mind. I donít have any preference. I can meditate, and that for me is like sleeping. Year after year, day after day, you may think this a boring schedule.† I even eat the same things every day. This is my schedule, though some of you may think it is a boring way of life. Life becomes very simple.
If you have a genuine belief in Buddhism, there is no reason to have fear, because we say I do not exist.† If I do not exist, who has fear?† If you read and study and meditate and genuinely discover that there is no such thing as I, then there can be no fear.† This ego, the I, is very fearful.† In Buddhaís teaching, this consciousness, or buddha mind has no home.† You will never find it.† But you cannot say it doesnít exist, because it causes pain, suffering, joy everything.† But through meditation you will discover this state of mind where nobody can frighten you.†
The best type of meditation is non-judgemental, not thinking my meditation will give me a wonderful experience.† The highest form is not judgemental.† No difference between good thought and bad thought.† In meditation you have certain expectations, and if it is not fulfilled you have difficulties.† If ego doesnít exist, then there are no expectations.
My brother was an incarnate lama in charge of a monastery.† In our tradition he carries the family lineage. So I was sent to his monastery, to help him run and manage it.† But the communists came, and wanted to kill those high lamas with strong belief.† So we were told we had to run away or we would be killed.† We left my mother, father, two sisters, and one brother who was carrying the family lineage, we could not communicate with them.† We were travelling months and months with many hardships. Once we had three hundred people with us, but gradually we had to give up our horses, and some people with families couldnít follow us.† At the end when we were crossing the Bramaputra river and the Chinese soldiers somehow knew we were crossing, they were waiting for us on both sides.† Out of three hundred only fifteen escaped.† Most of them were caught.† I know what suffering is.
I want to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to speak.† Donít worry.† If you think I donít know about worldly things, then just forgive me.† From the lamaís point of view everything, joy, happiness, is all from our own minds.† We need to tame it, to perfect this, and once you achieve this no one can take it away from you.† You will never lose it.††