Be Your Own Therapist
by Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Thubten Yeshe gave this teaching at Assembly Hall, Melbourne, Australia in April 1975. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.
The way we live and think everything is dedicated to material pleasure. We consider sense objects to be of utmost importance and materialistically devote ourselves to whatever makes us happy, famous and popular. Even though all this comes from our mind, we are so totally preoccupied by the external objects themselves that we never look within, we never question what makes them so interesting. However, this mind is an inseparable part of us; as long as we exist our mind is there within us. Thus we are always up and down. It is not our body that goes up and down, it is our mind—the mind whose way of functioning we do not understand. Therefore, sometimes you have to examine yourself; not just your body but your mind, which is the thing that is telling you what to do. You have to know your own psychology, or, in religious terminology, perhaps, your inner nature. But no matter what you call it, you have to know your own mind.
Don’t think that examining and knowing the nature of your mind is only an Eastern trip. That’s a wrong conception; it’s not an Eastern trip, it’s your trip. How can you separate your body, or the picture you have of your self, from your mind? You can’t say, “I have the material power to separate my body from my mind.” That’s impossible. You think you are a free person in the world, enjoying everything. That’s what you think, but you are not free. I’m not saying that you are under the control of someone else; it’s your own attachment, your own uncontrolled mind that you are oppressed by. If you can discover how it oppresses you, the uncontrolled mind will disappear automatically. Thus knowing your own mind is the solution for your mental problems.
One day the world is so beautiful; the next day it is so bad. How can you say that! Scientifically it’s impossible for the world to change radically like that. It’s simply your mind that makes this happen. Don’t think that this is religious dogma; our going up and down is not religious dogma. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about the way you lead your life, which is what sends you up down. The people and the environment don’t change radically; the changes are in your own mind. Surely you can understand that—it’s so simple.
Similarly, one person thinks that the world is beautiful and people are wonderful and kind, but another thinks that everything and everyone are horrible. Who is right? How do you explain that scientifically? It’s just their individual mind’s projection of the sense world. Hence you feel, “Today is like this, tomorrow is like that; this man is like this; that woman is like that.” But where is the absolutely fixed, forever-beautiful woman? Who is the absolutely forever-handsome man? They are non-existent; they are simply creations of your mind.
Also, you should not expect material objects to satisfy you and make your life perfect; that too is impossible. How can you be satisfied by even vast amounts of material objects? How can you be satisfied by sleeping with hundreds of different people? It’s impossible. Satisfaction comes from the mind. Your dissatisfied mind wanting to keep changing from one person to another, from one trip to another, can never satisfy you. This is just your mind.
So you see, if you don’t know your own psychology, you might ignore what’s going on in your mind until it breaks down and you go completely crazy. People go mad through lack of inner wisdom, the ability to examine their own mind. They cannot explain themselves to themselves; they don’t know how to talk to themselves. Thus they are constantly preoccupied with all these external objects while their mind within is running down until it finally cracks. They are ignorant of their internal world; their minds are totally unified with ignorance instead of being awake and engaged in self-analysis. It is so necessary to examine your own mental attitudes; it is essential that you become your own therapist.
You people are intelligent: you know that material objects alone cannot bring you satisfaction. However, you don’t need to embark on some emotional, religious trip to examine your own mind. Some people think they do; they think that this kind of self-analysis is something spiritual or religious. To do this it’s not necessary to classify yourself as a follower of this or that philosophy or religion. But if you want to be happy you do have to check the way you lead your life. For this you don’t need to put yourself into some religious category; your own mind is your religion.
When you check your mind, you should not rationalize or push. Relax. Do not be upset when problems come. Just be conscious of them and their origin, knowing their root. Introduce the problem to yourself: Here is this kind of problem. How has it become a problem? What kind of mind has made it a problem? What kind of mind feels that it’s a problem? This is so simple, and when you check thoroughly, the problem automatically disappears. That is simple, isn’t it? For that to happen, you don’t have to believe in something. Don’t believe anything! All the same, you can’t say, I don’t believe I have a mind. You can’t reject your mind. You can say, I reject Eastern things—I agree. But can you reject yourself? Can you reject your head, your nose? You cannot reject your mind. Therefore, treat yourself wisely and try to discover the true source of satisfaction.
When you were a child you loved and craved chocolate and cake, and you thought, “When I’m old like my parents, I’ll have all the chocolate and cake I want, and then I’ll be happy.” You made that kind of mental decision. Now you have so much chocolate and cake, but you’re bored. So you decide that since this doesn’t make you happy you’ll get a car, a house, television, a husband or wife—then, you’ll be happy. So now you have everything, but there are more problems. The car is a problem; the house is a problem; the husband or wife is a problem; the children are a problem. You realize, Oh, this is not satisfaction.
Then, what is satisfaction? Go through all this mentally and check; it’s very important. Examine your life from childhood to the present—meditate. This is meditation, analytical meditation. At that time my mind was like that; now my mind is like this. It has changed this way, that way. You see, your mind has changed so many times but still you have not reached any conclusion as to what really makes you happy. My interpretation of this is that you are lost. I don’t care that you know your way around the city, that you know how to get home, that you know where to buy chocolate; as far as I’m concerned, you’re lost; you can’t find your goal. Check honestly, you’ll find that this is so.
Therefore, Lord Buddha is saying that you only have to know what you are, how you exist; that’s all. You don’t have to anything. Just understand your mind: how it works; how attachment and desire arise; how ignorance arises; where the emotions come from. It is sufficient to know the nature of all that; just that gives so much happiness and peace. Your life changes completely; everything gets turned upside down; what you interpreted as horrible becomes beautiful. It’s truly possible.
I’m sure that if I told you that all you were living for was chocolate and ice cream you’d think I was crazy. No, no, no, your arrogant mind would say. But look deeper into your life’s purpose. What are you here for? Gaining a good reputation? Collecting possessions? Trying to be beautiful? I’m not exaggerating— check for yourselves, then you’ll see. Through thorough examination you can realize that if your entire life is dedicated to seeking happiness through things like chocolate and ice cream, there is no significance in your being born human. Birds and dogs have the same kind of attitude to life. If you think you’re intelligent you should dedicate your life to goals higher than those of chickens!
I’m not deciding your life for you, but you check up. It’s much better to have an integrated life than to live in mental disorder. Otherwise your life is not worthwhile, not beneficial to yourself or others. Ask yourself what you are living for—for chocolate? For steak? Perhaps for education. But that also comes from the mind. Without the mind, what is education, what is philosophy? A philosophy is somebody’s way of thinking, thoughts put together in a certain way. Without the mind there’s no philosophy no doctrine, no university subjects. These things are mind-made.
How to check the mind? Just watch how your mind perceives or interprets any object that it contacts; what feeling—comfortable or uncomfortable—arises. Then you check: When I perceive this kind of view, this feeling arises; that emotion comes; I discriminate in such a way. Why, This is how to check the mind; that’s all; it’s very simple.
When you have checked your own mind properly you stop blaming others; you recognize that actions come from your own defiled, deluded mind. When you are preoccupied with material, external objects, you always blame them and others for your problems. Then you become miserable because you project that view onto external phenomena instead of seeing their reality. So you can realize your fade-conception view—the attitude, or nature, of your own mind.
You might think that this is all very new for you, but it’s not. Whenever you are going to do anything, first you check whether to do it or not and then make your decision. Since you do this already, I’m not giving you something new; the difference is that you are not doing it enough. You have to do more checking. To do this you don’t have to sit in some corner on your own—you can be checking your mind all the time, even while talking or working with other people. Also, you shouldn’t think that examining the mind is something only for those who are on an Eastern trip. Don’t think that way.
You should also realize that the nature of the mind is different from that of the mesh and bone of this physical body. The mind is like a mirror, reflecting everything without discrimination. If you have understanding-wisdom you will control the sort of reflections you allow in your mind-mirror. If you totally ignore what is happening in your mind, it will reflect all kinds of garbage—things that make you psychologically ill.
Your checking-wisdom should distinguish between reflections that are beneficial and those that bring psychological problems. Eventually, when you realize the nature of subject and object, all your problems will dissolve.
Some people think they are religious, but what is religious? If you are not examining your own nature, not gaining knowledge-wisdom, in what way are you religious? Just the idea that you are religious—I am Buddhist, Jewish—does not help at all. It does not help you; it does not help others. If you have knowledge-wisdom, you can really help others.
The greatest problems of humanity are psychological, not material. From birth to death, people are continuously under the control of their mental sufferings. Some people never keep watch on their minds when things are going well, but when something goes wrong—an accident or some other terrible experience—they immediately say, God, please help me. They call themselves religious but they’re just joking. In happiness or sorrow, a serious practitioner maintains constant awareness of God and their own nature. You’re not being realistic or even remotely religious if you forget yourself when you are having a good time, surrounded by chocolate and preoccupied by worldly sense pleasures, and turn to God only when something awful happens. That doesn’t help.
No matter which of the many world religions we consider, their interpretation of God or Buddha or whatever is simply words and mind; only these two. Therefore words don’t matter so much. What you have to realize is that everything—good and bad; all kinds of philosophies and doctrines—comes from mind. The mind is very powerful; therefore it requires strong direction. A powerful jet plane needs a good pilot; your mind-pilot should be wisdom understanding the nature of the mind. Then powerful energy can directed to benefit your life instead of being allowed to run uncontrollably like a mad elephant, destroying yourself and others.