Our minds create the experience of both happiness and suffering, and the ability to find peace lies within us…
According to Tibetan medicine, living in peace, free from emotional afflictions, and loosening our grip on “self” is the ultimate medicine for both mental and physical health.
I wonder why it takes many long years of living to grasp these basic truths. When I was young I seemed to live with the goal of escaping from the suffering and hurts I had already experienced. I wanted to find some Shangri-La, some perfect little oasis from the world in a town, job, community, friends, imagined lover, that would supply all my needs and make me happy. It never works out that neatly.
I tried to convince myself that the antidote to pain and loneliness was not satisfaction with what I had, both material and in the way of self-knowledge, but ceaseless activity, absorbing myself in my work, staying up late talking into the night with friends, being part of some “cause,” (which was usually another person’s cause), and by so doing inoculate myself from what I feared most: failure, loss of job or respect, loss of friends, disappointment of family. And, of course, because I had so completely separated myself from others and from God, all those things happened to me.
Today, as life enters a more mature level of understanding and being, as much the product of time’s passage as enlightenment, I try to hold onto what I have learned. As a struggling, flawed, disillusioned, willful, disobedient, questioning Christian, I find different kinds of answers to questions I have in the writings of Eastern religion and traditions. These are not, for me, the ultimate answers, but they are enough to allow me to see how others have grappled with the same questions over the ages. How can we not pay attention to the wisdom of other religions?
In the Buddhist view, according to Thondup, self is an illusion because everything is in the process of changing or dying — it is all transitory. Nor is the self an independent entity. Everything and every person functions interdependently. Just notice how, for example, a wrong word said to someone at work, or a loved one, can cast a cloud over everything, and how, conversely, a simple smile seems to open up the secrets of the universe.
I think selfishness, self-centeredness, and egoism in all its forms are the ultimate manifestations of the dualistic way of thinking we are accustomed to in the West. How quickly we can tell whether someone is interested in anyone or anything other than himself. How many “I’s”can you count in their words? How rapidly do you want to flee from them when you realize their only true love is themselves?
I don’t think aloneness has to lead to self-centered ness. However, many people fear this, and they seek to escape through myriad delusory means because they don’t know how to give of themselves to others. Sometimes it’s as simple as inquiring about the well-being of another person, and then inquiring some more.