Body, Speech and Mind
by Venerable Lama Yeshe Losal
Chapters from his book 'Living Dharma'



Tibetan Buddhism
Teachers and their teachings
Glossary and links to teachings


When printing this page, set printer to landscape format.

Taming the Body
To train the body is relatively easy because physical actions are easy to see and to recognise. Our body is the first thing that involves us in the world, because it has a form, it has some sort of solidity. We do many things with our bodies and we all have many weird habits. Someone may go through different levels of emotional turmoil, but the first sign of the neurosis will be, for instance, slamming doors, or dropping plates in the kitchen. Such actions are very easy to notice. We should try not to react so strongly and so quickly at the first emotional impulse. Our mind is the boss, the body follows it's instructions, therefore we should be mindful, check our actions and try to overcome such habits.

Walking heavily and being noisy can disturb others. Hurting them is not what we really want. Learning to move slowly and gently can take some time, but it is possible and we should try to achieve this out of respect for others.  Ordinary people will argue that this is taking their freedom away from them because they should be allowed to 'express their feelings' freely. This is what I call a shallow world. Expressing every feeling of yours in a wrong way doesn't do anybody any good. You should be aware that the moment you express something, it affects others. Remember causes and effects!

To tame ourselves is the only way we can change and improve the world.  This means we should always remember never to hurt any being through our physical form, never to do any wrong physical action. Taming the activities of the body is very easy. Sometimes people think it's difficult, but it's not.  Human beings train animals by teaching them, beating them, giving or denying them food or even giving them electric shocks! Lions are not meant to jump like they do in the circus.  If we are able to tame animals, then how come we can't train our own body? It is more crucial to train ourselves than to train animals, because human beings are the cause of the world's problems, not animals

Taming the Speech

We need to tame the simple physical form, but the most lethal weapon I've seen used by people is speech! This is actually worse than machine guns. People use their speech to twist everything around. It's used almost every day by everybody to separate friends, to send wrong information, to hurt other people. Trying to build up a good friendship can take so many years and just a few words can ruin it in seconds. Words can hurt so much. They can sometimes be very harmful.  Being human beings means we have enough intelligence to know that giving unnecessary pain and suffering to others is not the right way. Just as we don't like to be abused, other people don't like to be abused either.

I often look at the world and wonder why things are getting so bad. According to Buddha's teachings, we have lost respect for honest, true people. We ignore those who are honest and truthful, whereas liars, cheats and people who have a big mouth, are in high positions everywhere. So the world is changed in the wrong way. We are therefore also partly responsible for what is going on, because we don't have the wisdom to appreciate and value people who are wise, learned, honest and truthful. In traditional cultures, a truthful person's speech has value. A truthful person doesn't need to say very much, but people will respect his or her words.  They know they'd better listen to so and so because he or she really speaks the truth. On the other hand, untruthful persons can talk all day and night but people won't value their words, because they know they're lying all the time and their speech has lost its meaning and its value.

In this modem world, we just turn everything upside down through our lack of wisdom. We know that the politicians make a lot of promises, and that they will not be able to deliver, but still we vote for them because we have a 'good feeling' for them, or because they talk so well.

For me, training our speech means learning to speak the truth, always being careful not to use speech to cause chaos or to bring more suffering into the world. If we can always remember this, then the gift of speech is really meaningful.

Taming the Mind
Taming the mind is more difficult than training the body or speech. Mind has such a big potential! It's the mind that gives you pleasure, happiness and joy, as well as pain, sorrow and unhappiness, - everything! If you really look into where your emotions start, where they come from, you will see they all have to do with your state of mind. For instance, when you feel mentally very stable, physically very well, if people abuse you or give you a hard time, at that specific moment, you will feel it's no problem, you can accept it, it doesn't hurt you, it's no big deal.  But if you are physically and mentally not so well, then you become so negative that people don't even need to say anything wrong, you will get upset even if they say the right things to you. This shows that what matters is not what we say or do, but our state of mind.

To tame one's mind is the most difficult thing, but also the most essential. We can never be truly happy or peaceful without taming the mind. Therefore we should not feel afraid or overwhelmed by the task, but simply resolve to begin and stick with it. This is why we meditate.