Happiness and mind
This is an exploration by Gerard Allan
Mental exercises that would help people realise where suffering comes from.
I would like to explore mind and where happiness and unhappiness comes from. It is important to identify present thinking that creates unhappiness and to turn that around, to change it. How do we help people identify where suffering comes from? Once identified there are teachings on thought transformation. I want to spell out clearly what I think needs to be done.
The Buddha’s view
The Buddha has said that the mind is the producer. External conditions and circumstances is not the producer of our happiness, maybe they are the conditions of our happiness, but they are not the producer or the primary cause. This is the Buddhist teaching of the causes of happiness and unhappiness. When we say the mind is the producer what do we mean by that and also how does the mind produce? These are important questions that need to be explored. If we don’t know how the mind produces suffering how can we stop it? That is the most fundamental thing.
What do people really want?
The next thing is that everyone desires happiness. That is the thing that drives everyone. Everyone wants something better; everyone wants something, wants fulfilment, and wants good conditions. This is universal. Everyone wants happiness as they define it, fulfilment. When I get “this” I will be happy. So we construct our necessary conditions, or society helps us to construct our necessary conditions for our happiness and when we don’t get it, when we don’t get our happiness, what we tend to do is try harder or we despair. There was a very interesting line in a movie I saw recently John Clese said: “It’s not the despair that’s a problem I can handle the despair, it’s the little bit of hope that I can’t stand.” So if we don’t get what we want and most people if you ask them there is something wrong with their lives, something wrong with their relationships, there is something they would like to fix up in some way. It doesn’t have to be major things it can be little things. I am not happy in the moment. I am not happy with the conditions around me. The Buddha said that this very mind that is not happy with things creates the unhappiness. Unhappiness is created. If we leave things as they are they are quite OK. So mind itself is the creator of unhappiness. How can we use our mind to create happiness? What are the mental conditions or activities that create happiness? Now herein lies a contradiction because the Buddha has said giving up; there are many many ways to approach this question but it’s a good question. What is the question? Can we create happiness? Or are we just not creating unhappiness and the default nature is happiness?
What mental activities do we need to create happiness? What mental activities do we need to drop suffering? If people can get that right to some extent Buddhism or the teachings of the Buddha can be extremely helpful. We are not talking about enlightenment. Enlightenment may be a long way off but within the same continuum we are creating happiness and enlightenment is the state of complete enjoyment or happiness with everything, with our mind, a blissful state of mind, knowledge realisation all of these things. Now I think we need to be clear that enlightenment is on a continuum of realisation or happiness, but just to help people understand or help myself understand; help myself remember the causes of happiness and the causes of unhappiness will b extremely beneficial.
Where do we look?
Where do we look for the answer for the causes of unhappiness and the causes of happiness, where do we look? Its very beneficial to read different ideas where unhappiness comes from, Buddhism offers a solution for that. There are other theories or propositions where we get our happiness from put forward by other sources, our society, other religions, other philosophies, therapies of all descriptions basically have arisen as a response to mental unhappiness, mental anxiety, all these sorts of things, they all help in some ways. I am not sure about some of the methods of society although there are limited things that are helpful, but we probably need to go the core, from the Buddhist point of view it is important to go the core, to go to the root cause of unhappiness and the root cause of happiness. It’s important to explore and try and discover what the root cause is and try and change the root cause. Because the root cause in our mind produces many other thoughts. So we need to look at models of mind. I have already discussed the different perspectives on the mind.
Models of mind
Models of mind? What does this mean? It is important to know how the mind is structured or how the mind works and how the mind is structured. There are all sorts of theories about what the mind is and how it is structured, but I guess the simplest model that I feel is workable is: belief is the most important thing; what we believe to be true about ourselves and about other things, about the outside world, and what we believe to be true in terms of our interactions and responses to the world; the kinds of constructions, conclusions we hold about ourselves and the world. These are the things that drive us to some extent. To a great extent. Or limit us. That’s the set of propositions. It is important to identify the program, the set of propositions, the set of constructs we believe to be true, I think these constructs that run us, drive us that our mind reflects on sometimes consciously but mostly unconsciously. These are the assumptions behind our actions. I think if we are going to make any kind of transformations, these set of basic constructs about ourselves, about the world and about our interactions with the world, we need to identify and perhaps change if we conclude they are producing unhappiness.
Faith, experience and logic
It’s important to identify those mental structures and to see if those mental structures are in accord with reality. We can then say there are lots of versions of what is reality. My choice is to adopt the Buddhist view of reality as being true and until I realise it myself its not something I can say is true but I am choosing to believe that its true. I have faith that it is true. I have faith in the Buddha’s teaching of suffering and where suffering comes from, the mind and all those sorts of things. So I recognise that at the level I am at, that I require a certain amount of faith, however I have also had certain experiences in meditation and other experiences where the Buddha’s teachings have been confirmed in my mind. So I am not just operating from faith. There is also another: so there is faith, there is experience and also there is logical inference. Trying to analyse what is true and what isn’t true. Logical inference is also connected with experience of the world. So it’s not just a head thing, we have to also use our basic experiences. So those three things: faith in the Buddha’ teachings, gradual experience confirming the Buddha’s teachings, and logical inference and analysis. The three of them combine and hopefully reaching a point where experiential conviction is predominant. I certainly have faith; I certainly have some experiences. Faith in the Buddha’s teachings can’t b separated from a continuing faith in oneself. One of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha is that we all have Tathagatagharba, which is the seed of Buddha’ mind resides within us.
We all have Tathagatagharba
No matter who we are and where we are we all have the Buddha’s mind, the seed, we need to develop it and realise it, to bring it more into our lives, our ordinary waking consciousness. We need to bring the Buddha’s qualities and all the teachings are about bring the qualities of the Buddha forward, which is basically saying bringing the pure mind into our lives: compassionate mind, wisdom mind, confident powerful mind relating to these core states of our mind, core states or core activities. What is a state and what is an activity? We experience activities as states, state implies something static but the mind doesn’t exist as state, the mind exist as an activity, the mind exists as movement or energy of awareness and knowledge. Awareness and knowing, there is huge teaching of the mind in this way. The awareness and the knowing are the fundamental nature of mind, when knowledge becomes restricted in term of beliefs its still kind of knowing but limiting knowing; so we need to break up the limitations of beliefs and get to pure knowledge or pure experience; experiential knowledge.