The Truth of Humans’ Mind

Gyalwai Nyugu answered questions from French Visitors (selected)
Place: Yachen Gar
Date: 09/19/09

gyalwaiOur bodies will leave us. They’ll disappear, but our mind will remain. It will not die. Our mind is like the water in a cup. You can pour it into another cup, but the water will not change. Our mind transmigrates from one body to another when we are reincarnated. Disturbances to this mind—negative emotions—are the source of all of our suffering. We can be in a very comfortable place having a good time, but as soon as negative emotions raise their ugly heads, suffering will take control of our minds. For example, let’s say you haven’t seen your lover for many years. One day you get invited to a wedding party. You go and have a good time until you find out that the person getting married is your former lover. One moment you’re in a good mood, the next you’re crushed.

I’ll give you another example. When I was in Brazil, a young lady was standing on the roof threatening suicide. Her family and friends pleaded with her to come down but she wouldn’t listen, so they asked me to talk to her. I went up on the roof and asked the girl what she was doing. She said she wanted to kill herself because she thought that would make her happier. She was a heart-wrenching sight, just trembling with fear. But instead of consoling her I said, “If you want to kill yourself, go right ahead. But I’m a Rinpoche. If you jump now I’ll look really bad. Can you do me a favour by first going home and sleep for an hour? I guarantee you if you commit suicide after sleeping for an hour, you’ll go to a much better place after death. Go home and nap a while. After you get up, you’ll know what you have to do.” She listened to me. She went home, slept for three or four hours and woke up with no desire to die. Why? Because the mind is changeable. After resting, she was in a totally different state of mind. To this day, she thanks me for saving her life.

If we observe closely, we can see that suffering is not something inflicted upon us by external reality, but is fundamentally a product of our internal state. By practicing Buddhism, we develop wisdom that transforms the negative emotions we harbour inside. When our practice reaches a certain level, we will remain unaffected no matter what external circumstances arise.

I enjoy helping others. When I’m involved in a project, I will first consider how my efforts might help others. But then a little voice inside will ask, “What’s in it for me?” How should I deal with these feelings?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
Your first impulse to help others was good. You’ve got to continue with that thought. When your second thought arises, your concern is with personal benefit, you’ve got to abandon it as quickly as possible and return to your initial impulse.
It’s not wrong for you to think for yourself. But after gaining basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter, it’s good to use the extra resources to help others. Don’t worry about being short-changed. In reality, when you provide others with relative, worldly assistance, you reap absolute, eternal benefits.

How can we judge a person’s character?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
To determine whether a person is truly kind, judge him not from his behaviour but his motives. One who donates to the poor may seem generous, but was he really motivated to help the impoverished? If he gave his money in hopes of receiving personal recognition or good karma, you know he’s not truly kind.

What should you do if you find yourself devoting so much time and effort to others that you’re exhausted?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
This happens for two reasons: one, because your compassion is insufficient; two, because your wisdom is insufficient. Look at His Holiness Lama Rinpoche. He has over 70,000 students requesting all manner of teachings from him, but he doesn’t get tired. His wisdom gives him the power to recover his strength. Once you’ve cleaned out all the unnecessary junk in your mind, the power of your wisdom is unleashed. The obstacles that prevent you from accessing your energy source are removed, and you will have the ability to recharge. Hence, if you are able to do some “internal cleansing”, you will not feel exhausted anymore. Right now you are debilitated by your fear of death. When your mind recovers its innate ability and you clearly understand where you came from and where you’re going, you will no longer fear death. Your death will be no more a cause for concern, than a walk down the prayer hall.

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