Happiness Comes from the Mind

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
(Archive #091)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained how happiness and suffering depend on the mind at the 9th Kopan Course in 1976. This teaching is an edited excerpt from Lecture Three, Section One of the course. Click here to read more.

(25271_ng.TIF) Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching outdoors at Manjushri London (currently Jamyang Buddhist Centre), 1983. Photos by Robin Bath.

We are here to receive peace and happiness in our mind by avoiding suffering, but first we have to recognize the cause of happiness. We have to understand what brings us happiness and what brings us suffering. This is extremely important to understand, or there is no way to prevent suffering and receive happiness in our mind.

In our dreams, happiness and small pleasures are created by our mind, and suffering and unhappiness are also produced by our mind. In our dreams, even the small suffering and the pleasure that we feel when we meet an object is a projection of our mind. It is easy to understand how this is dependent on our mind and is produced by our mind.

Similarly, all our happiness and the small pleasures of our life—when we feel extremely cold, we stay inside for a long time and when we are hot, we go outside and feel pleasure—even small pleasures and physical pains are just like a dream, they all come from the mind. Just like this, all our enjoyments—our food and clothing, whatever we wear and whatever we see, beautiful or ugly, always wearing soft, comfortable clothing, always receiving good enjoyments and food, always being busy in a beautiful comfortable place—all this is received by depending on the mind. All our pleasure and happiness comes from the mind.

This is explained in the Buddha’s philosophical teachings about nature and the evolution of the universe and things. All these various worlds are born from karma or action. What Buddha is saying is that all the planets, the earth on which we live and the reason we have to live on such an earth and in such a country—why there are different planets and at night-time another moon and lighting, and the sun, stars and different planets that we enjoy, all these objects that give us pleasure—all these various worlds are born from our actions or karma.

The different mountains and plants—ugly and beautiful plants and bushes—all these different objects of our senses in all of the different universes are all produced by the mind and have arisen from the mind. How they are produced is dependent on the mind. All the sufferings, all the ugly objects and all the unhappiness that arises from meeting these objects, is all born from karma, or the actions of our body, our speech and our thoughts.

Do all the actions of body, speech and mind bring suffering? Not all the actions of body, speech, and mind bring suffering, but some actions cause suffering and cause the existence of ugly objects—the objects that we feel unhappy about when we meet them.

What actions bring all this suffering and all these ugly objects? These are the nonvirtuous actions of body, speech, and mind. What creates the nonvirtuous actions of body, speech, and mind? The whole source is the mind. Do all the actions of mind bring the causes of suffering? Not all the actions of mind cause suffering, but there are certain types of mind that cause suffering and produce nonvirtuous actions. So what type of mind is that? The delusions—the nonvirtuous thoughts.

If we plant poisonous seeds in the ground, all the trees and fruit become poisonous plants. So, the delusions are like poisonous seeds. From our nonvirtuous thoughts, our actions become nonvirtuous and bring the result of suffering. All the undesirable, ugly objects that cause us to feel unhappiness and suffering when we meet them, come into existence as a result of our actions. It’s the same thing with all the problems in our life. Where do they come from? They come from the nonvirtuous thoughts and actions, which are like poisonous seeds. The various problems of life are like the various poisonous fruits of the tree with branches that have grown from those seeds.

In the same way, all our happiness and all the desirable and beautiful objects that make us feel happy when we meet them, come from the virtuous actions of body, speech and mind. Just as a medicinal tree grows from the medicinal root, fruit and leaves, virtuous karma or action arises from our virtuous thoughts. From this we receive a good result—happiness. So, the key to suffering and happiness depends on the mind. The whole root of suffering and happiness is within our mind.

Therefore, we each have the freedom to prevent suffering. If we want to continuously receive happiness, there is freedom and there is a chance. Since our own mind is the root of all this, it is up to us how we direct our mind. Whether we make it into virtue, or whether we turn our mind to nonvirtue, it is up to us. It depends on us and what we do. That is why happiness and suffering is not something that is decided by God, it is created by us. If we receive happiness, it is because we did some good actions with a good mind, and if we receive unhappiness, it comes from our own nonvirtuous thoughts and actions.

We can’t blame other people and there is nothing to criticize other sentient beings for. If we always turn our mind to virtue, we always experience happiness as a result. Even if other sentient beings want us to suffer, because we have not created the cause to experience that result, no matter how much other sentient beings try to create a problem and try to arrange for us to suffer, because the cause is not within our mind, it is impossible to experience the suffering result of that problem. Even if all sentient beings pray for us to be killed, because we have not created the cause to die in an explosion or atomic bomb, even if they pray for this, we will never experience it. If we have not created the cause to be bitten by a snake, even if we walk in a place which is full of poisonous snakes and even if we touch them, there is no way to be harmed.