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These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt
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These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
January 10, 89
To continue with the noble truth of suffering. Nowadays society seems to be into positive thought which is true and right and it is proper to do that. But it is also important that we get in touch within our selves so that we start to become dissatisfied with the status quo. That we look for a change, try to bring about a change. In that sense, we often try to avoid certain aspects of life because we think it is nicer to see the bright and beautiful side than to be in touch with those things which are difficult.
But if we want to work at ourselves in transformation, gaining a more whole experience of our life so we have an encompassing experience and vision of ourself, that our philosophy is not only on good and beautiful but also on what is mundane and base. The noble truth of suffering I explained last week has two aspects. One is, it helps you become inspiried by becoming more aware of your own sufferings, you can be more realistic in your own vision, and it rounds you, helps bring you down to earth. The second aspect is the compassion. If you know your own sufferings, your compassion is very real in relationship to other people. You don't have a fictitious or a compassion that is out of touch with whatever the situation is. If someone is in pain then you have some some experience with your own pain and your heart moves in a very real manner and you don't do inappropriate actions. Like trying to alleviate a persons pain. If you now what pain is all about. Someone ides, and you have had a death in your own family, and you have dealt with it in a very real and direct manner, not avoiding it, then when another person experiences a death in their own family, you don't run over and try to make them forget it or get them out of it, you can be with them in their pain and actually experience your own pain. And that is a real way of communicating with another person. Those are the two reasons why it is good to be aware of your own suffering or your own dissatisfaction.
The types of suffering that I wanted to deal with, in the Tibetan they use a work namdok. The closest translations one of my teachers used was the word superstition. The more appropriate meaning is a mixture of two. One is it's a neurotic mind and the second point is that it is a mind that has a lot of projection. Is very caught up with image that it puts out, that it thinks it is seeing in the outside world. When we talk of suffering, particularly the suffering I want to deal with tonight, we are talking of one, it is your neurotic mind or secondly, you can say it is the mind that has ha lot of projection, a mind that has a lot of expectation or preconceived ideas or such things like that. In dealing with that or becoming more aware of your mind as having that energy when it is interacting with various things is to realize that that is really miserable. In that realization could be the motivation for you to change yourself, to try to be a little more in tune with reality and not have the normal neurotic mind.
What sort of neurotic minds do we have? We have our mind which is never able to take things as they come, has a lot of different experiences about itself. One style of problem that goes through is the dissatisfaction or the unhappiness we go through when we meet the unpleasant which is blatant! We meet with that we have our body doesn't function as well as we would like it to, so we meet with the unpleasant body. As we get older our body doesn't function as well as we would like it to. So we meet with the unpleasant ness of that reality. We meet with the unpleasant as in difficult situations.
We were involved in something and met with people that present us back with things that we don't like about ourselves. Things like that. So that is something which is miserable for us, isn't it? When you have to meet with something that you don't like. Your mind goes into that it doesn't like it and gets unhappy. That appears as a fairly easy one. But what our mind tends to do is that it creates more suffering on that. Like we have the basic situation where our mind sort of gets very engrossed, doesn't like that, tries all sorts of various things to avoid it. We just sort of don't notice, like in more personal inter relationships we try to completely avoid the issue or we try to ignore or change it, it wasn't that way really! Our mind goes through all of these acrobatics which is what the suffering is all about.
For you and our own experience what is important is when you come across something which is going to unpleasant, our car breaks down, family member gets into trouble, your body doesn't function the way it should, illness, whatever, when you meet with that, to start to be aware of what your mind does in unrealistic manner. Start to realize how ridiculous that is. How it sort of adds so much more suffering to the situation. So much more unpleasantness to it.
Another one is having to part with something that we are attached to. We are attached to having a lot of nice friends around. When we have to say goodbye to them we get very unhappy, depressed, again our mind goes through all sorts of things. We can't accept it that in life there is that so we do things to ourselves to make ourselves get over it. We might drink or go on some sort of spree to move into the next situation that we have whatever. Again our mind cannot accept a little bit of suffering and it creates a lot of excess energy just to try to get over it. This is the neurotic minds function.
Another one is not obtaining what we want and how we anguish over that. In having desires, we would like to be more wealthy or such, happy in our relationships with other people, or we would like to be thin, lower cholesterol, whatever it is we would like to have. We have the desires, and if they are intensive enough then we have the anguish. It either doesn't let us sleep at night or makes us manipulate people we are involved with to get what we want, or if we don't get what we want although we want it badly enough, we sort of pine over it. We have to make up excuses why we don't get it. Our mind is neurotic like this.
What I am trying to identify is using simplistic ideas, meeting with the unpleasant, having to give up that which is pleasant, not being able to fulfill your desires or wishes, these are like the general ideas. It is important for you, when you get into a situation and you find your mind spinning, having lots of thoughts going on and you want to tell everybody or to do whatever you are doing , is to say to yourself, hey, right now this is my neurotic mind all caught up in this. And this is part of what is called the noble truth of suffering. This is what the Buddha talked about when he identified that this is suffering. Suffering is having a lot of preconceived conceptions. Having what I termed as namdok or projections, expectations, or superstitions. This is the principle aspect of suffering when we normally never want to deal with. We even sometimes think it's good. Having a lot of rationalizations because that is the way we balance our ego and make ourselves feel alright.
The point of getting in touch with suffering is to get in touch with the fact of how neurotic you are. And in finding this out, you can begin to question if it is realistic to do the things that I am doing? Is that satisfactory? In that sense, if we have some space and equanimity, maybe start to say it's not necessary to do quite what I normally do. The rationalizations I do or whatever. What I do to myself feel alright about a situation. In that sense then, we look for a solution which is more suitable.
This moves us to the second phase which is what is the causes of our suffering. To do this effectively with yourself, to become more clear, in reality, have a mind which is serene, handle things well, which is more liberated, a state of consciousness which is more open, to work towards that, it is important to get more in touch with the extent of how neurotic you are, how much you suffer, how much misery you go through, as in those three categories I identified. If you do that well, then moving to the next step which is what is the cause of that, can be very powerful for yourself.
It moves into, one, you have a positive view. That you try to do the best you can with whatever you do. The course of your suffering is that you don't understand how to work with yourself. And also maybe you don't understand the true nature of reality. There are two ways we are unrealized. First is the maintenance attitude that we should have in working with our life. How to maintain a good existence. In that means having an attitude that works well for for you which is not productive of negativity. Or if you want to say it, negativity which is productive of being more neurotic and bring more suffering.
The cause of suffering is not understanding how to work well with yourself. What the correct attitude is. Correct attitude is basically what is called the law of cause and effect, or as you create so you reap the results. As your attitude creates your situation, so you are going to experience it. If you start to get in touch with your own neurotic self, the self that rationalizes, justifies or does whatever it does inside of itself. Then you ask, what is the perspective of that? Is it positive or negative? Normally our perspective is defensive, negative in the sense.... this situation is happening to me. I don't like this, I want out... negative as in defensive. It's not positive saying what can I do to this situation?
So most of our attitude is negative. And if we have a negative attitude, like one that sits self centeredly, concerned with personal image, those sorts of things, then obviously it's going to create more of itself. So is that proper? As I say, the proper maintenance attitude which you want to have to maintain a good situation for yourself is to start to realize well, I need to overhaul my attitude to a more positive one. Or in simple Buddhist terms, is to be more aware of the law of cause and effect in regards to my attitude. If my perspective is a little more positive, I look at things as, what can I learn from this situation? Or what can I do that is positive with the situation? At least let me accept this situation blatantly for what it is. I won't elaborate it, I won't try to rationalize it, I won't do some sort of silly mental acrobatics with it, I'll just accept it for what it is. In that then, your mind doesn't create a lot of neurotic little channels in itself. That is a more positive attitude. What you really want to say is, what can I do that is more beneficial with the situation whether it is suffering or whatever you are involved with. It just says what can I do to be helpful for myself or others around?
That deals with one aspect of how to work with suffering and how to work with the cause of suffering in changing it so that you don't reck or create suffering for the neurotic mind for yourself.
The secondary aspect is realizing the nature of reality. It has to deal with realizing what is the fundamental nature of yourself. And from that fundamental nature, the sense of yourself that you have, is it in tune with that or is my sense of self very unreal. I don't want to deal with that one too much tonight. But I would like to say that being aware, this is a bit deeper one, not just having a positive attitude saying everything I interact with I want to be positive with it, I want to work well with it, not just having that, but more deeper because it is saying, the very self nature, like me, the nature of the "I" what is that nature. Then sort of looking at that nature, is my sense of self that I have, is it in tune with reality? Is it close to reality? Or is it a completely mistaken concept that I have?
Like I say, I don't want to go into it, but the second realization which helps us get out of suffering, you could say it is an appraisal of the basic nature of our being. Anyway coming back to the point that I want to make for this evening, is, that one we do have a neurotic mind, why, how you identify it is, you look at how many acrobatics you go through, in any relationship that you have, any situation that you are involved with, and you can look at it in two ways. How much do I dump on other people around me? Secondly, how much do I anguish within myself? Two ways to figure out how neurotic you are.
If you dump a lot on other people, then your mind is extrovert neurotic. It has to sort of tie other people into it, rationalize and hash it over. There is no peace in there. There is a lot of aggravation, a lot of stimulation and such. So you can say, if that is the way I do things, that is an indicator, I don't want to say like negative neurotic, but, you have a certain neurotic mind there which causes a lot of agitation, makes a lot of waves. Another way of appraising your mind is to look at how badly you can not face up to a situation for what it is. That one means, maybe it is a little more internalized, you don't project it, involve a lot of other people, but when something happens you mind goes through all these trips about handling that information, how to put it in it's place, what to do with it. You do all sorts of things within yourself to get that information to be able to be there.
Some people can do it with rationalization, being judgmental. Others maybe drink or take a holiday to work with that information. But inside their mind can't handle whatever it is. In that sense that Tibetan word, rigpa, neurotic or having heavy preconceived projections, or could say superstitious and in there is lots of thoughts and superstitions kicking around in the mind. It's not just a be here now sort of mind, it's a mind that has all these gymnastics.
So, the basic situation is to appraise yourself and say well how neurotic am I in this situation. And by realizing that you are fairly neurotic, it's not to sort of put yourself down, but then then say what is the cause of all that? And so you have two causes for it. One is basically a poor attitude or a poorly established attitude in handling that information, and the second one is your basic perspective is mistaken and therefore you are creating all these situations.
For this week I wanted to deal with the recognition of our own miserable situation in the various levels of misery that it might be at. Coming a little more in touch with the creator of that, our neurotic mind, and realizing the causes of that. And the principal cause is not having a good philosophy, appreciation of the law of cause and effect, which then means that you don't have a bad attitude to work well with situations. Your philosophy which sets up your attitude toward life is not well thought out.
I hope that the information is fairly clear. It is called the noble truth of suffering and the noble truth of the cause of suffering in Buddhism. I identified three types of suffering, the suffering of meeting with the unpleasant, the sufferings of parting with that which is pleasant, and the misery of not obtaining our desires, sort of three generalities of misery. Although we might not like to think that we are very neurotic, to just sort of then reappraise ourself, maybe we are fairly clear minded, but maybe we are not.
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