Thursday, April 11, 2013

'Training the Mind for Happiness" - by Dalai Lama

Currently I'm reading 'The Art of Happiness' - 10th Anniversary Edition written by Howard C. Cutler and his conversation with His Holiness Dalai Lama. Below were derived from that book as I want to share what Dalai Lama said about “Training the Mind for Happiness.”

Dalai Lama pointed out that ethical discipline leads to happier existence, which is to perform wholesome actions and avoid indulging in unwholesome action as it is felt that a disciplined mind leads to happiness and undisciplined minds lead to suffering.

Dalai Lama continued, "When I speak of discipline, I'm referring to self-discipline, not discipline that's externally imposed on you by someone else. Also, I'm referring to discipline that's applied in order to overcome your negative qualities. A criminal gang may need discipline to perform a successful robbery, but that discipline is useless."

Howard, a Western psychologist, posed his question to Dalai Lama, "If it's natural for us to want to avoid suffering, why aren't we spontaneously and naturally more and more repulsed by the negative or unwholesome behaviors as we grow older? And if it is natural to want to gain happiness, why aren't we spontaneously and naturally more and more drawn to wholesome behavior and thus become happier as our life progresses? I mean, why should we need so much education, training and discipline for that process to occur?"

(I bet we all want to know the answer. Don't we? I am wondering too. Lots of time things are easy to say in theory, but in practical, it is not easy to do. That reminds me of my hubby’s words on why he didn't want to read this book. Because he admits, this book has good theories. But then, what’s the use if it's difficult for us to practice??)

Shaking his head, the Dalai Lama replied, "Even in conventional terms, in our everyday life, we consider education as a very important factor for ensuring a successful and happy life. And knowledge does not come by naturally. We have to train, we have to go through a kind of systematic training program and so forth. And we consider this conventional education and training to be quite hard, otherwise why would students look forward so much to vacations? Still, we know that this type of education is quite vital for ensuring a happy and successful life."

"In the same way, doing wholesome deeds may not come naturally, but we have to consciously train towards it. This is so, particularly in modern society, because there is a tendency to accept that the question of wholesome deeds and unwholesome deeds - what to do and what is not to be done - is something that is considered to be within the purview of religion. Traditionally, it has been considered the responsibility of religion to prescribe what behaviors are wholesome and what are not. However, in today's society, religion has lost its prestige and influence to some degree. And at the same time, no alternative such as secular ethics has come up to replace it. So there seems to be less attention paid to the need to lead to wholesome way of life. It is because of this that I think we need to make some special effort and consciously work towards gaining that kind of knowledge. For example, although I personally believe that our human nature is fundamentally gentle and compassionate, I feel it is not enough that this is our underlying nature; we must also develop an appreciation and awareness of that fact. And changing how we perceive ourselves, through learning and understanding, can have a very real impact on how we interact with others and how we conduct our daily lives.”

Further answering Howard’s question, Dalai Lama said, “When you talk of knowledge leading to freedom or resolution of a problem, you have to understand that there are many different levels. For example, let’s say that human beings in the Stone Age didn’t know how to cook meat but they still had the biological need to eat, so they just ate like a wild animal. As human progressed, they learned how to cook and then how to put in different spices to make the food tastier and then they came up with more diverse dishes. And even up to our present age, if we are suffering from a particular illness and through our knowledge we learn that a certain type of food is not good for us, even though we might have the desire to eat it, we restrain ourselves from eating it. So it is clear that the more sophisticated the level of our knowledge is, the more effective we will be in dealing with the natural world.”

“You also need the ability to judge the long-term and short-term consequences of your behaviors and weigh the two. For example, in overcoming anger, although animals may experience anger, they cannot understand that anger is destructive. In the case of human beings, however, there is a different level, where you have a kind of self-awareness that allows you to reflect and observe that when anger arises, it hurts you. Therefore, you can make a judgment that anger is destructive. You need to be able to make that inference. So it’s not as simple as putting your hand in a fire, and then being burned and just learning in the future never to do it again. The more sophisticated your level of education and knowledge about what leads to happiness and what causes suffering, the more effective you will be in achieving happiness. So, it is because of this that I think education and knowledge are crucial.”

“One problem with our current society is that we have an attitude towards education as if it is there to simply make you cleverer, make you more ingenious. Sometimes it even seems as if those who are not highly educated, those who are less sophisticated in terms of their educational training, are more innocent and more honest. Even though our society does not emphasize this, the most important use of knowledge and education is to help us understand the importance of engaging in more wholesome actions and bringing about discipline within our minds. The proper utilization of our intelligence and knowledge is to effect changes from within to develop a good heart.”

If I don’t understand it wrongly, Dalai Lama said the above that, “Sometimes those who are not highly educated, less sophisticated in terms of their educational training, are more innocent and more honest.” It means, not necessarily people with higher education with more extensive knowledge are able to reach happiness better than those who are not.

Have you recalled anyone when you read that sentence? Someone that you know, that having not high educational level but being more kind, having good heart in nature, more innocent and honest??? I have recalled some people like that.

In my life, I have unknowingly met, known, and learnt different type of people. I am the type of person who learns from experience, who observes people’s behavior. Perhaps because I was born as the youngest in the family, allowing me to learn the experience from my closest ones, especially my dear sisters and brother who were born years before me. I am glad I was given this kind of realization to learn from their experience, to follow the good and to avoid the bad ones. Even until now, after all of us have our own families, I’m still learning from them. But to practice good ones, really not easy tasks to do. Our desires, greed, and other negative qualities have often come to stop us to practice the good ones, blinded us and made us think that it was not bad after all. So, really, “Training the Mind for Happiness” is really a good topic, something that easy to say, but really hard to practice in reality, at least for me. How about you???


Anonymous said...

U gonna try harder :) hehe...

Sangay Cholden said...

Wow!! wonderful and thought provoking article!! Philosophical but really something that we as human should possess this ethic and morality.


Overcome said...

Hi Sangay, great that you enjoyed it! Have a great day! :)

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