Lama Yeshe gave this
teaching at Latrobe University, Melbourne, Australia, in March, 1975. Edited
by Nicholas Ribush. This teaching appears in the May/June 1998 issue of Mandala,
the newsmagazine of FPMT.
Buddhism can be understood on many different levels, and people who actualize the Buddhist path do so gradually. Just as you pass slowly through school and university, graduating from one year to the next, so do Buddhist practitioners proceed step by step along the path to enlightenment. In Buddhism, however, we're talking about different levels of mind; here, higher and lower depend upon how much spiritual progress you have made.
Also, in the West, there's a tendency to consider Buddhism as a religion in the Western sense of the term. This is a misconception. Buddhism is completely open; you can talk about anything - the evolution of both the external and the internal worlds. Buddhism has its doctrine and philosophy but it also encourages scientific experimentation, both inner and outer. Therefore, please don't think of Buddhism as being some kind of narrow, closed-minded belief system. It isn't. And also, Buddhist doctrine today is not an historical fabrication derived through imagination and mental speculation. Rather, it is a true psychological explanation of the actual nature of the mind.
When you look at the outside world you have a very strong impression of its substantiality. You probably don't realize that that strong impression is merely your own mind's interpretation of what it sees. You think that the strong, solid reality really exists outside, and when you look within, perhaps you feel empty. This is also a misconception, the wrong mental attitude that fails to realize that the strong impression that appears to truly exist outside of you is actually projected by your own mind. Everything you experience - feelings, sensations, shapes and colors - comes from your mind.
If you get up one morning with a foggy mind and the world round you also appears to be dark and foggy, or when the world seems beautiful and light, you should understand that basically, those impressions are coming from your own mind rather than from changes in the external environment. Therefore, instead of misinterpreting whatever you experience in life through judgmental wrong conceptions, you should realize that it's not outer reality but only mind.
For example, when everybody in this auditorium looks at a single object, me, Lama Yeshe, each of you has a distinctly different experience, even though simultaneously you are all looking at the one thing. These different experiences don't come from me; they come from your own minds. You are probably thinking, "Oh, how can he say that? We all see the same face, the same body, the same clothes," but that's a just a superficial interpretation. If you check deeper you'll see that the way you perceive me, the way you feel, is individual, and that at that level, you're all different. These various perceptions do not come from me but from your own minds. That's the point I'm making.
o then perhaps you think, "Oh, he's just a lama; all he knows about is mind. He doesn't know about powerful scientific advances like satellites and other sophisticated technology. There's no way you can say that those things come from mind." But you check up. When I say "satellite," you have a mental image of the object that you've been told is a satellite. When the first satellite was made, its inventor said, "I've made this thing that orbits the earth; it's called a 'satellite.'" Then when everybody else saw it, they thought, "Ah, that's a satellite." But 'satellite' is just a name, isn't it?
Before the inventor of the satellite actually made it, he speculated and visualized it in his mind. Then, on the basis of this image, he acted to materialize his creation. Then he told everyone, "This is a satellite," so everyone thought, "Wow, a satellite; how beautiful, how wonderful." So that shows how ridiculous we are. People give things names and we grasp at the name, believing it to be the real thing. It's the same thing no matter what colors and forms we grasp at. You check up.
If you can understand what I'm explaining here, you'll see that indeed, satellites and so forth do come from the mind, and that without mind, there is not a single manifest material existence in the entire sense world. What exists without mind? Look at all the stuff you find in supermarkets: so many names, so many foods, so many different things. First people made it all up - this name, that name, this, this, this - so then, this, that, this, this and this all appear to you. So if all these thousands of supermarket items as well as jets, rockets and satellites are manifestations of mind, what then does not come from mind? That's why it is so very important to know the way your own mind works.
Thus, if you check really deeply into how your mind expresses itself, your various views and feelings, your imagination, you will realize that all your emotions, the way you live your life, the way you relate with others, all come from your own mind. If you don't understand how your mind works, you're going to continue having negative experiences like anger and depression. Why do I call a depressed mind negative? Because a depressed mind doesn't understand how it works. A mind without understanding is negative. A negative mind functions to bring you down, because all its reactions are polluted. A mind with understanding functions clearly. A clear mind is a positive mind.
Therefore, any emotional problem you experience arises because of the way your mind is functions, and your basic problem lies in the way you misidentify yourself. You normally hold yourself in low esteem; you see yourself as a poor quality human being, while what you really want is for your life to be of the highest quality, perfect. You don't want to be a poor quality human being, do you? So, in order to correct your view and become a much better person, you don't need to squeeze yourself or to jump from your own culture into another. That's not the solution. All you need to do is to understand your true nature, the way you already are. That's all. It's so simple.