When it comes to Buddhist wisdom, the Tibetans occupy a unique position. One thinks of monks and other practitioners of a very devout kind of Buddhism as up there with Indian sages, old men with Fu-Manchu mustaches, Gandalf, and assorted grandparents as being quintessential purveyors of wisdom. Meditation, mindfulness, stillness, open-mindedness, self-discipline, awareness, ethics, and insight are the hallmarks of Buddhist wisdom. The Dalai Lama is always reliable to have a mature, enlightened, very ethical perspective on any question posed to him. This blog is about finding Buddhist wisdom in the writings of a unique monk named Lame Thubten Yeshe.
Influential psychologist and author Daniel Goleman describes the benefits as thus: “If you’ve ever watched someone meditating it looks like they’re just sitting there with their eyes closed. But what’s going on in their head is extremely interesting: metta meditation (or ‘love-kindness’ meditation if that’s your thing) has been proven to actually make long-term practitioners certifiably better people. You might have to do it for 1,000 hours to see discernible effects in your brainwaves, but it’s still fascinating news for those in the mediation field and indeed anyone interested in brain science.”
One exponent of Buddhist wisdom is named Lama Thubten Yeshe. He was a Tibetan lama who died in the mid-1980s. He wrote, taught, and spoke quite a bit before his demise, though. The best repository of his teachings is available here, in the original Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. In fact, it is with a bow that I note that I loved that name so much, that I utilize it now for my own Wisdom Archive, where I house my 25,000-quote search engine.
Below are some quotations about Buddhist wisdom I took from Lama Yeshe’s book I read. Now, Tibetan philosophy and lifestyle is not my cup of tea. Here is the story of the LYWA. It seems amazing how much time, energy, and money have gone into that thing. It’s a mountain of Buddhist wisdom, philosophical insights, and interiority.
“In the West, we pick up a book, “Oh, this sounds good. I like this book. I think I’ll practice this meditation.” But even though the words sound nice and you like the ideas, if you’re not ready for a certain practice, there’s no way you can integrate it with your mind, and if you try, you might end up thinking, “Oh, this method doesn’t work.” But the problem is not with the method; it’s with your trying to implement something for which you are not ready.”
“Perhaps you’re going to argue that you don’t have an agitated mind. In that case, I’m going to say, check how you are when you get up in the morning. Be aware for just a day, then you’ll see. Or not even a day. Just try sitting still for an hour in a cross-legged position. Your ego will completely freak out: “Oh, my knees hurt.” Pain in the knees is so transient; your agitated mind keeps going and going and going—all day and all night; for months, for years. It never stops.”
“Religion is not just some dry, intellectual idea that appeals to you. Rather, it should be your basic philosophy of life; something that through experience you have found relates positively with the energy of your psychological makeup. If you hear an idea that seems to make sense, first see if you can get a taste of it through experience. Only then should you adopt it as your spiritual path. Say you encounter Buddhist philosophy for the first time: “Oh, fantastic. This is so good.” Then, because you regard these new ideas materialistically, you try to make radical changes to your everyday life. You can’t do it; it’s impossible. You can only change your mind gradually.”
“You don’t need to make extreme radical changes to your life, to suddenly cut yourself off from the world, in order to learn that dissatisfaction comes from your own mind.”
“Ideas come and go. Instead of grasping at them, check them out. Some people get fixed ideas: “This is absolutely good; that, I hate.” Or, somebody says that something is good and you automatically contradict, “No, no, no, no, no.” Instead of just rejecting what people say, question why they say it. Try to understand why you don’t agree. The more we tie ourselves up with fixed ideas, the more trouble we create for ourselves and others.”
“Simply put, enlightenment is a state beyond the uncontrolled, agitated, dissatisfied mind; a state of perfect freedom, everlasting enjoyment and complete understanding of the nature of the mind.”
“Mantras are different from ordinary sounds; they help take your mind beyond the superficial view. Our minds are preoccupied with mundane perceptions and split by a constant torrent of thought. If done properly, mantra recitation automatically integrates our minds and creates a calm, peaceful atmosphere within them.”
“So now, just close your eyes for five or ten minutes and take a close look at whatever you consider your biggest problem to be. Shut down your sense perception as much as you possibly can, remain completely silent and with introspective knowledge-wisdom, thoroughly investigate your mind.”
“When you close off your superficial sense perception and investigate your inner nature, you begin to awaken. Why? Because superficial sense perception prevents you from seeing the reality of how discursive thought comes and goes. When you shut down your senses, your mind becomes more conscious and functions better. When your superficial senses are busy, your mind is kind of dark; it’s totally preoccupied by the way your senses are interpreting things.”
“The joy of the silent experience comes from your own mind. Therefore, joy is always with you. Whenever you need it, it’s always there.”
“But by constantly observing your own everyday life—how your mind interprets your family and friends, how your mind interprets what you feel—by always checking, you will realize that what makes life complicated is your own misconceptions. You will understand that your problems come from you.”
“…when you’re in a situation where you’re psychologically bothered, instead of obsessing over how you feel, focus instead on how the bothered mined arises. If you check up properly with introspective knowledge-wisdom, that troubled mind will disappear by itself. You don’t need to drive it away by force. Just watch. Be wise and relaxed.”
“It’s impossible to find happiness and satisfaction through material means alone. When Lord Buddha made this statement, he wasn’t just putting out some kind of theory as an intellectual skeptic. He had learned this through his own experience. He tried it all: “Maybe this will make me happy; maybe that will make me happy; maybe this other thing will make me happy.” He tried it all, came to a conclusion and then outlined his philosophy.”
“Meditation is the right medicine for the uncontrolled, undisciplined mind. Meditation is the way to perfect satisfaction. The uncontrolled mind is by nature sick; dissatisfaction is a form of mental illness. What’s the right antidote to that? It’s knowledge-wisdom; understanding the nature of psychological phenomena; knowing how the internal world functions.”
“The most important thing about religion is not the theory, the good ideas. They don’t bring much change into your life. What you need to know is how to relate those ideas to your life, how to put them into action. The key to this is knowledge-wisdom.”
“When you meditate, you make a penetrative investigation into the nature of your own psyche to understand the phenomena of your internal world. By gradually developing your meditation technique, you become more and more familiar with how your mind works, the nature of dissatisfaction and so forth and begin to be able to solve your own problems.”
“Our problem is that we don’t accept ourselves as we are and we don’t accept others as they are. We want things to be other than they are because we don’t understand the nature of reality. Our superficial view, fixed ideas and wrong conceptions prevent us from seeing the reality of what we are and how we exist.”
“Meditation isn’t necessarily some kind of holy activity; when you meditate, you don’t have to imagine holy things up there in the sky. Simply examining your life from the time you were born up till now—looking at the kind of trip you’ve been on and what sort of psychological impulses have been propelling you—is meditation.”
“Normally you tend to believe, “As long as I have chocolate, I’ll be happy. I can’t be happy without it. You make your own philosophy of life with this kind of determination, which comes from attachment. Then, when the chocolate disappears, you get nervous: “Oh, now I’m unhappy.” But it’s not the absence of chocolate that’s making you unhappy; it’s your fixed ideas. It’s the way your mind tricks you into believing that your happiness depends on external objects. It’s your psychological impulses that make you mentally ill.”
“To liberate yourself, you must know yourself, and getting to know yourself is a fantastic achievement. Then, no matter where you go—up in the sky, under the earth—you will carry the solution to your problems with you.”
“To experience everlasting satisfaction, freedom, and enjoyment, you must bring your own wisdom into play and try to be totally conscious and aware of your own behavior and the impulses that drive you to act, your motivation for doing what you do.”
“When we meditate deeply, we integrate, or unify, our mind, thereby automatically controlling the agitation that normally arises from the dualistic view projected by our sense perception. In other words, we are able to transcend our sense perception.”
“The problem is that when you choose one particular religion, you get too extreme about its ideas and then put other religions and philosophies down. This happens because you don’t know the purpose of religion, why it exists or how to practice. If you did, you’d never feel insecure about other religions. Not knowing the nature of other religions or their purpose makes you fear practitioners of other paths. If you understand that different people’s minds need different methods and solutions, you’ll see why there’s a need for many religions.”
“Those who know the real, true nature of the human mind understand that relationships are completely changeable and that there’s no such thing as a permanent relationship; it’s impossible. Even though you want it. But check back through the entire history of life on Earth, from the time it began up to now: where is that permanent relationship? When has there ever been a permanent relationship? It should still be here. But it’s not, because there’s no such thing.”
“The mind needs time to absorb any idea. If you really want to teach somebody something, you have to wait until the person’s ready and then do it. If somebody’s mind is not ready, you shouldn’t try to push your religious ideas onto that person, no matter how strongly you believe in them. It’s like giving a dying person a precious jewel.”
“The ordinary understanding of charity is giving things to others, but as you can see, the Buddhist point of view is that material giving is not necessarily charity. True charity has to do with the mind; giving mentally. The practice of giving is training the mind to overcome miserliness. Miserly attachment is in the mind, therefore, the antidote must also be mental.”
If you enjoyed learning about Buddhist wisdom in this blog, consider a different take on finding fulfillment, meaning, peace, and success by listening to the podcasts I recorded on wisdom here (scroll to bottom) as well as here.