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The Dissatisfied Mind of Desire
ADVICE FROM THE VIRTUOUS FRIEND
By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Whether we are a Dharma practitioner or not, every problem in life comes from our own mind, as does every happiness. The cause of suffering is not external; the cause of happiness is not external. It is within us, in our mind.
The particular thing that has created all the problems of life is the dissatisfied mind of desire, the mind clinging to this life. We try to obtain the immediate happiness of this life through what we call the eight worldly dharmas: a desire for comfort, material things (such as gifts, friends and so forth), a good reputation and praise, and an aversion to a lack of comfort and material things, a bad reputation and criticism, or blame.
Wealth is not a problem; the problem is having desire for wealth. Friends are not a problem; attachment to our friends is. Objects become a problem for us because of the emotional mind of desire. When desire, the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, is there, not only does a lack of wealth cause us problems but so too does having wealth; when we are controlled by the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, we are miserable and lonely without friends but having them does not give us complete satisfaction either. When our mind is controlled by desire, neither having nor not having an object can bring anything other than dissatisfaction.
It might seem that we know the distinction between happiness and suffering but in fact, when we see how we so constantly and diligently work toward bringing ourselves suffering, it is very clear that we really don’t know at all.
Because of our attachment, we feel lifted up when we meet the four desirable objects and we mistake this excitation for happiness. We fail to see that meeting these objects brings no calmness or peace in our heart. Instead, because the dissatisfied mind of desire has not been stopped, we subject ourselves to constant mood swings and instability. Clinging is an uptight mind where we are painfully stuck to an object, unable to separate ourselves from it.
When our mind is overcome with desire not only is the reality of the object obscured but we are also unable to see the shortcomings of desire itself. Seeing a friend in the distance we are immediately lifted up with attachment, our mind labeling and exaggerating the object. “How wonderful he is! How gorgeous! How lucky I am to meet him on the street like this!” We grasp our object of attachment as if it truly exists, embroidering it and blocking our understanding of the object’s true nature. Upon that object walking toward us we project all these exaggerated qualities and hold the unrealistic expectation that he can make us truly happy.
When we first see our friend in the distance we see the body alone. Only after that do we recognize and then label that body “my friend.” First we see the base, on which we label “friend,” then we see the friend. This is not how it appears. To us the “friend” and the body walking toward us are inseparable, whereas the “friend” is just a projection of our mind. Although it was our own mind that imputed the label “friend” onto the object, we believe that label and see the object as being more than an imputed friend; it seems to us to be a real friend. Then we say, “This is my friend.”
To us that friend, rather than being a mere imputation of our mind, is something totally the opposite, totally contradictory. Walking toward us is a friend that intrinsically exists, completely independent of our mind. There is someone there, but that truly-existing friend is nothing more than a decoration, a projection, placed on the base, the aggregates of the merely-imputed friend, caused by the negative imprint left on the mental continuum by past ignorance.
This is our fundamental confusion, and all the delusions that plague us and rob us of happiness – minds such as anger, jealousy and pride – grow from that. Misreading the object, we get stuck. As if intoxicated by a drug, we hallucinate a real, independent object where there is none. Under the control of the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, we see that merely-imputed friend as permanent and unchanging, as the true cause of our true happiness. This is our friend and he will never change. But change is natural and when something happens and he does change we get shocked.
Confused about the nature of reality, we see impermanent things as permanent and so we suffer. Nobody gives us trouble except ourselves. We torture ourselves by not having realized reality, by not seeing things the way they really are. We perceive them in a way that is completely contradictory to reality and grasp onto these false appearances. In this way we become the creator of our own suffering.
Something that is only suffering by nature appears to us as happiness; something that is impermanent appears as permanent; something that is impure appears as pure; something that is not truly existent appears as truly existent. While we are clinging to these appearances, enjoying these objects with desire, they look good, but sooner or later they will cheat us. The final result of our relationship with them is only suffering. … This is samsara. It seems good to have samsaric perfections, but since we have no renunciation of the clinging to this life, we are bound to be deceived. Even after we have found our object of desire, it’s never perfect; there’s always something missing in our heart. The dissatisfied mind of desire robs us of our happiness.
Excerpted from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas, edited by Gordon McDougall. Forthcoming from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive this summer.
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