Anxiety and Strange Thoughts

Anxiety and Strange Thoughts

Date of Advice:
July 2021
Date Posted:
December 2021

A student was struggling with anxiety, sadness and insomnia, and had strange and uncomfortable thoughts creeping into their mind. The student asked Rinpoche for advice and protection.

Mantra calligraphy by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

My very, very dear one,
No need to worry. The thoughts have no meaning; please don't give them meaning, they have no essence! Look at your thoughts as having no essence; they are just thoughts with no meaning; don't give them any meaning. They come and go, don't identify with them. Treat them this way. They are empty from their own side.

Remember how all the three realms’ sentient beings are suffering. They have so much suffering. The neighboring [hell beings’] suffering, the ordinary hell beings’ suffering and the hungry ghosts’ suffering—wow, it’s unbelievable—it’s for thousands of years or ten thousand years, like that, so long. Then all the animals’ suffering—the animals in the ocean, all kinds, the smallest ones you can’t see with the eye but with a machine, and the large ones like a mountain, whales and all kinds, that look like rocks, flowers and trees; there are all kinds of sentient beings.

And then in the bushes, under the ground, in the trees, in the sky, in our body and in the animal’s body, there are all kinds of sentient beings, and there are numberless universes, so not only those in this world. So numberless human beings, numberless sura beings, numberless asura beings, numberless intermediate state beings. We have been suffering and all those beings have been suffering from beginningless rebirths because of the wrong concept.

Actually your thinking—the thought coming of various weapons and wanting to kill yourself—actually, there’s no real I to kill, so that is totally childish, that is totally nonsense. There’s no actual I that exists, so there’s nothing to kill. Thinking there’s a real I is a hallucination; from the beginning, there’s no real I, so it’s a hallucination to kill.

There’s no real doer, I, the harm-giver, there’s no action of harm-giving and there’s no object to be harmed, there’s no object, there’s no you to be harmed. So there’s no creator of negative karma, you, there’s no action creating negative karma, and there’s no object, the negative karma created from beginningless rebirth. It’s all totally empty, it does not exist at all. That’s the reality, that’s what we have to think, to meditate on and to practice mindfulness of, all the time.

So meditate on this even while you are eating, even while you are on the toilet doing pipi or kaka, and while you’re walking. You know you can do very excellent meditation while you’re walking. Sometimes you can recite the Heart Sutra and meditate. You can find commentaries around, so read the commentaries and learn about that.

However, the essence of what I want to say is this: there are no real things that appear and that we believe in from beginningless rebirth. The oceans of samsaric suffering, all the six realms’ [beings] have been suffering numberless times from beginningless rebirth and if we still don’t realize emptiness, if we don’t learn about emptiness, particularly Dharma, particularly emptiness, then we’ll have to be reborn in samsara numberless times and then suffer everything again, numberless times. This is the best opportunity, now we have received a human body, we can learn Dharma and practice Dharma. 

You were born into a Buddhist family, people, so it gives you the opportunity to learn Buddhism. Otherwise if you were born with totally no interest in Buddhism, no understanding, then it’s very difficult. The most precious human body, this human life is totally, totally wasted, and not only wasted, but day and night you continuously create negative karma to be born in the lower realms, the hell realms, for eons and eons. You are so fortunate that you’re born in a Buddhist family and you have the opportunity to learn Buddhism, so please meditate on what I have said.

So all those thoughts that arise, for example, about weapons, there’s no such thing. As I mentioned, the doer, action and object are all just a complete, total hallucination.

It is a spirit that is causing this harm to you. It’s not your mind, it’s a spirit that is causing this harm to you, think like that. Many of the people who commit suicide in the West have no idea of that; they have [not] learned that it’s connected to spirit harm. Often it is because of generally having some problem with attachment or anger or something, you know, because of the self-cherishing thought, and they miss so much not getting something they want.

Then, relating to that outside spirit, as you know, the spirit also came from the mind. Everything came from the mind including the I. So the spirit then contacts us and tries to harm to us. It makes us think all sorts of things, like jumping from a roof or jumping from a bridge, and all kinds of things. It makes us think and do it. It’s very common, the spirit overwhelms us and it becomes sort of like the driver of a car; it drives our life, drives our mind, kind of like that.

You should think these are not your thoughts. So many people think they are their own thoughts, and then they follow that thought and it takes just a minute to kill themselves. What happens is, I think, then the spirit harms them. Then after they are killed they get reborn as the spirit’s surrounding servant, so it becomes like that.

If you can, recite the Heart Sutra and please find the commentary by His Holiness, then it’s very good, and also meditate on this. You should also read the White Umbrella Deity prayer three times. This is very, very important; it’s such a powerful deity for pacifying spirit harm. But if you meditate on emptiness, that is the best, most powerful thing.

Rinpoche checked more and gave this additional advice:

  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama taught the Heart Sutra in San Jose at the request of FPMT in around 2001. A book was made of those teachings, called Essence of the Heart Sutra: the Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom Teachings. Use this for study and just reading it in a contemplative way will be meditating.
  • Read this in a contemplative way again and again. This will be the same as meditating on emptiness. Be patient and do when you can. Keep at it regularly.
  • Rinpoche will do dü kar [White Umbrella Deity] puja for you.
  • You should recite the White Umbrella Deity prayer three times. Do this once a day.
  • Recite the Mantra Promised by Tara. Try to do this as much as you can. This is also good for general success.