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Transforming Problems into Happiness    


Lama Zopa Rinpoche

104 pages, ISBN 0-86171-194-7, $12.95

Contents   Excerpts

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1 The Purpose of Life
2 Developing a Different Attitude to Problems
3 Happiness and Suffering Are Created by Your Mind
4 The Shortcomings of Anger and Desire
5 Transforming Your Problems into the Path
6 Experiencing Your Problems for Others
7 The Heart Advice
Root Text
Suggested Further Reading

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Chapter 1: The Purpose of Life

You have this precious human body in order to serve other living beings.

This Precious Human Body

The purpose of having this precious human body is not simply to achieve happiness for oneself, but to eliminate the suffering of all other beings and to bring them happiness as well. This is the purpose of each of our lives. This human body is precious because with it you have the capacity and opportunity to pursue spiritual development in order to serve other living beings.

Everyone wants happiness; no one wants suffering. The happiness we need is not just ordinary, fleeting happiness; what we really need is ultimate happiness, the unsurpassed, unshakeable happiness of enlightenment. When people go shopping, for example, they want the things that are the best, that will last the longest; in the same way, everyone wants the longest-lasting, highest happiness. According to their understanding of what level of happiness is achievable, everyone attempts to obtain whatever is, in their view, the highest happiness.

The Buddha's teachings, called the Dharma, tell us the highest happiness achievable is enlightenment. The only reason anyone would not want to achieve enlightenment is that they lack Dharma wisdom. Lacking Dharma wisdom means simply being unaware that there exists a happiness higher than ordinary happiness. Anyone who has encountered the Dharma and studied it sincerely, knows that one can be liberated from the bondage of suffering, one can experience peerless happiness, that one can put an end to all obscurations, and that one can attain of all realizations of a buddha. Of course a person who knows these things can be achieved wants to achieve them.

With such an understanding, it becomes clear that the greatest benefit anyone can offer living beings is to lead them to the enlightened state. In order to reach this, they have to follow a path that actually leads to enlightenment. Therefore, you have to know all the various methods, without the slightest mistake. In order to do this, you must first achieve enlightenment yourself. By achieving enlightenment, you achieve the state of omniscient mind of a buddha. To be most effective in revealing the path to others, you need to be able to see fully and exactly every single characteristic of their minds. For, as living beings have various characteristics and levels of intelligence, a variety of methods are needed to guide them. Only the omniscient mind of a buddha knows every single characteristic and level of intelligence of living beings and all the methods needed to liberate them...

Chapter 2: Developing a Different Attitude to Problems

The thought of liking problems should arise naturally,
like the thought of liking ice cream or the thought of liking music.
In this challenging modern time with many problems and much unhappiness, human beings are especially overwhelmed by suffering, and their minds are not resilient. This is because they are unable to recognize as beneficial the problems and harm they experience and to see these problems as causes of happiness. Human beings who have not encountered the Dharma are unable to recognize this and unable to train their minds in this recognition.

Instead of seeing all the problems you experience—whether caused by living beings or by situations and circumstances—as problems, you need to develop the habit of recognizing them all as beneficial conditions supporting happiness, and in fact being causes for happiness. But you can't change your perception all at once. You must begin by trying to recognize small problems as beneficial, then gradually, as you become more accustomed to this, you can start to recognize larger, more serious problems as good, even pleasurable, and ultimately necessary for your happiness. You will see everything that disturbs you as essential for achieving happiness.

But make no mistake: The practice of thought transformation is not intended to eliminate problems but rather to enable you to use the problems you experience to train your mind to move step by step along path to enlightenment and ultimate happiness. It is not that you will no longer receive harm from other people, or from circumstances, or from disease and old age, you will simply not be disturbed by anything that happens. The events that the untrained mind perceives as problems cannot in and of themselves disturb your practice of Dharma; they cannot prevent your attainment of the realizations of the path to enlightenment. In fact, when you practice thought transformation, not only do problems not disturb you, they actually help you to develop your mind and continue your Dharma practice.

How do you use problems in support of your Dharma practice, and your attainment of happiness? You have to train your mind in two ways. First, you stop the thought of complete aversion to suffering, and second, you generate the thought of welcoming problems. When you have accomplished this and actually feel happy rather than unhappy to have problems, problems no longer become obstacles to generating the path to enlightenment within your mind.

Chapter 3: Happiness and Suffering Are Created by Your Mind

Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind,
upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside,
from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering
are created by you, by your own mind.

The Tip of the Wish

Buddhist teachings tell us, "All of existence depends on the tip of the wish." All happiness and all suffering depend on our wish, our motivation. The most oppressive suffering of the hell realms and the highest happiness of the state of omniscient mind come from the mind.

With few exceptions, all actions we perform with our body, speech, and mind out of worldly concern—concern only for our own happiness in this life alone—are nonvirtuous and thus result in suffering.

All actions of body, speech, and mind done with the wish that seeks happiness beyond this life, seeks the happiness of future lives, or seeks the happiness of all beings, are virtuous and cause our happiness. Through these actions, we can experience happiness in future lives, as well as in this life. All actions of body, speech, and mind done with the wish to achieve liberation from the bondage of karma and disturbing thoughts are virtuous and are themselves the cause of liberation. And all actions of body, speech, and mind done with the wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all beings are not only virtuous but are also the cause of enlightenment. Once you realize this, you perform positive actions all day and night, and all these actions become the cause to achieve the ultimate and peerless happiness of the state of enlightenment.

This is why the Buddha's teachings say that all of existence depends on the tip of a wish. Everything depends completely on the mind. Temporal and even ultimate happiness depend completely on your wish, on your own mind. Different results come from different types of wishes. All suffering arises from the misguided wish for your own temporal happiness in only this life. This kind of happiness seems to be happiness, but it is really only suffering. This is samsaric happiness, which cannot be found because it does not exist. However, from the wish to achieve liberation comes liberation. From the wish to achieve the omniscient, enlightened mind comes the omniscient, enlightened mind. Thus samsaric suffering and ultimate happiness come completely from your own wish, from your own mind.

If you closely examine your own experience, you will see that happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation of events and circumstances. Happiness and suffering do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind and motivation.

You will experience suffering if you cultivate and indulge in anger, and you will experience happiness if you practice loving-kindness, compassion, and patience. Your suffering and happiness are the direct result of the way in which you take care of your own mind in your life on a day-to-day basis. If you closely examine your own experience, it becomes very clear that suffering and happiness are not created by other living beings, not even by a being such as God or Buddha. You are the creator of your own happiness and suffering.

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