Ego, Attachment and Liberation

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Melbourne, Australia 1975 (Archive #329)

In 1975, Lama Yeshe undertook his most extensive international teaching tour, being on the road for nearly nine months. This book contains the teachings and meditations Lama gave at a five-day retreat he led near Melbourne, Australia, in March 1975. In line with Lama’s intentions, this book is dedicated to the awakening of inner freedom within the minds of its readers and all other sentient beings.

See the Related Links for each chapter to access the audio recordings and read along with the unedited transcripts.

Lama Yeshe teaching at Vajrapani Institute, California, 1983. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.
Chapter Six: Every Problem on Earth Comes from Attachment

You are most fortunate, having this chance to put much effort of body, speech and mind into seeking inner reality, your true nature. If you check back how you have spent most of your life, you will see just how fortunate you are to have the opportunity of making this search even once. Extremely fortunate.

I’m not just making this up—“Oh, you’re so good”—trying to make you proud. It’s true. However, to really discover that all human prob¬lems—physical and mental—come from attachment is not an easy job. It takes much time.

For example, if you’re having difficulty at this course you might start thinking about home: your warm house, your comfortable bed, chocolate cake. You remember all these nice things. Then your ego and attachment get to work: “Oh, maybe I should leave. Why should I stay? At least I know I can enjoy myself back home.” We all know what’s going to happen when you get there, but still, attachment follows your ego’s view: “My bed is so good, I’ll be so comfortable back home; my family is there, I can relax and do whatever I feel like, I’ll be free. Here, I’m not free and I have to try to be serious. Anyway, my serious mind doesn’t seem to be functioning, so I might as well leave.” Your dualistic attachment kicks in, telling you so much stuff, convincing you until you say, “Yes, yes, yes…” and leave.

So then you get back home and you’re sitting in your room and you check up. How silly. Nothing’s new. There’s no place on Earth where you’re guaranteed to find satisfactory enjoyment. Don’t think that Tibet must be a fantastic place, a paradise where everything is pleasure. It was never like that. Since dissatisfaction and attachment inevitably come with this body and mind, your samsaric mandala of dissatisfaction accompanies you wherever you go. Even if you flee your own country for a cave in the mountains, attachment will come along. There’s no way you can leave it behind.

Trying to face your problems is much more worthwhile than ignoring their root and trying to run away from them. You’ve been that way before; it’s not a new journey, it’s the same old trip. You go, you change, you go, you change…on and on like that. In this life alone you’ve followed attachment on so many trips.

With effort, everything is possible. In order to attain the realization of indestructible, everlasting peace, you have to have an indestructible mind for training. Realizations don’t come without your training your mind the right way. First you have to make the determination, “For such a long time I have been servant to the two mental departments of attachment and ego, trying to please them, but in fact, they are my greatest enemy, the root of all my problems, the destroyers of my peace and enjoyment.” You have to understand how these two minds occupy and control your internal world.

According to Lord Buddha’s teachings, as long as you don’t realize that your real enemy is within you, you will never recognize that the mind of attachment is the root of all the problems your body and mind experience. All your worries, depression and everything else come from that. Until you do recognize that, even though you might occasionally have an hour’s good concentration, it never lasts. If, however, you see the psychological origin of your problems and understand the nature of attachment and how it works to cause aggression, desire and hatred, your mind becomes very powerful.

When you’re in a peaceful environment, you think, “Oh, I’m so peaceful, my meditation is so good, I have such great realizations,” but when you’re in the street or out shopping in a supermarket and people bump into you, you freak out. Because you’re not sitting in meditation but walking around, your mind is completely uncontrolled. However, if you understand the psychology of attachment and how it lies at the root of your various reactions, you will not freak out so easily and will really be able to control your mind, no matter where or with whom you are.

I’m not talking philosophy here but truth based on living experience. In fact, not only Buddhism, but all religions recognize the shortcomings of attachment. Even worldly people talk about its drawbacks. But even though we say the words, “Attachment this, attachment that,” we don’t really recognize it as the biggest problem on Earth.

Therefore, what I’m saying is, it would be wonderful if you could recognize that your own attachment is the cause of every single problem that you experience. Problems with your husband, wife, children, society, authorities, everybody; having a bad reputation; your friends not liking you; people talking badly about you; your hating your teacher, your lama or your priest—all this truly comes from your own attachment. You check up.

The Source of Problems

We Westerners always have to blame something external when things go wrong. “I’m not happy; I’d better change this.” We’re always trying to change the world around us instead of recognizing that it’s our own, internal attachment that we have to change.

For example, when you get hurt because somebody calls you greedy, you blame that person for how you feel. Actually, feeling hurt comes from your own attachment. People don’t like your attachment-driven behavior so they call you greedy, hurting your ego. Then, instead of accepting their pointing out your selfish behavior, your attachment to always being right, to being perfect, causes you angrily to reject what they say.

The fact that your ego, your wrong-conception mind, cannot accept criticism is itself a big problem. Your ego wants you to be right all the time and your attachment creates its own philosophy of life: “I don’t need anybody’s advice, especially that of my parents.” Thus your mind is closed. Then as soon as your parents start to talk, without even listening to what they have to say, you immediately reject it. You don’t even let them finish speaking. As soon as they begin, your ego starts to hurt. This happens because your ego and attachment have already decided to close that door; as soon as your parents try to open it, conflict begins. That’s so silly. How can you say ahead of time that whatever your parents or other people have to say is wrong? But your overestimating ego and attachment make you reject their thoughts completely.

If you realize the shortcomings of attachment, no matter who complains about your behavior, you’ll listen to what they have to say and won’t start arguing the moment they open their mouth. You’ll think about their criticism for a week or a month, checking to see if it’s valid or not. If, after contemplating in this way, you still think they’re wrong, you can go back to them in a very natural, relaxed way, sit down over a cup of tea and talk it over.

You shouldn’t act the same day somebody criticizes you—you’re too nervous, your ego is too involved, and all your old, ingrained thought patterns are too close to the surface. Therefore don’t react immediately. Calm down, think it over and then respond. That sort of approach is much more constructive.

It’s the same when a couple has problems. Instead of immediately starting to argue with your partner, make space. You don’t necessarily have to change the substance of your conversation, just the atmosphere. Don’t react excitedly. Make space for your point of view to grow in the other person’s mind. It’s important to know this psychological approach.

Attachment makes you think, “He’s my father; I’m his child”; “She’s my wife; I’m her husband.” The moment you start to think like that, you’re asking for trouble. Attachment always creates conflict and makes things difficult. Instead of thinking, “I want to help others,” you grasp with expectation, “He’s my father, therefore he should look after me.” All you want to do from the very start is to take advantage of others. As long as your motivation comes from attachment you’ll have difficulty communicating.

It’s a bit surprising, isn’t it? Here at this course you and I are communicating well with each other. Why? You don’t know anything about me. You’ve come to this course, you’re sitting there listening to me, but still we communicate. On the other hand, you’ve known your parents all your life, you’ve lived with your husband or wife for many years, but your communication is not so good. Why is that? Check up right now. Isn’t that silly? It’s also simple. You don’t even know what I am, so how come we communicate with each other? Don’t think it’s the power of the lama, the power of Lord Buddha’s teaching. It’s the power of your own mental attitude. Since fundamentally, your mind has space, communication is natural. If you didn’t have that fundamental space, no matter what I said, it would just go over your head.

Love and Attachment

As long as we are driven by attachment, which follows the wrong conceptions of our ego, everything we do is very superficial. When we say we love others or try to be religious by generating compassion, making charity and so forth, it’s all on the surface. This is an insufficient answer to our problems.

If you check up honestly what you really mean when you say that you love someone, you’ll find that your “I love you” actually means “I want to take advantage of you.” Of course, you don’t say that verbally or even think those words, but if you check deeper within yourself you’ll find that selfish expectation lies beneath your expressions of affection. You look at somebody and if you see that you can get something from that person, you say, “I love you.” This is very poor-quality love. From the Dharma point of view, it’s not even love at all. True love comes from understanding that others’ problems derive from the attachment deeply rooted in their mind and is based on a correct realization of the nature of these problems. This profound logic gives you a deep reason, a universal reason, for helping others. Ordinary love is narrow, closed-minded and fickle.

As long as your love is ordinary, your narrow mind will keep singling out one object: “You’re the only one for me; my only object of love and compassion.” This Earth contains countless atoms but you choose only one: “I love this atom.” That’s such a silly mind; completely silly. There are countless atoms throughout all of space but tied by attachment your squeezing mind chooses only one. Then, whenever you encounter another atom, you feel insecure. “I really love my atom. I’m not sure about this other one.” This is how your mind is. You fixate on one atom and mistrust the rest.

When you look at the atom you’ve chosen, what you see is just a relative projection painted onto that object by your ego. Your ego projects that this is a good object, something you can trust, and believing this appearance to be true, you choose that object to be yours. Then, when you see other objects, you automatically don’t like them just because they’re different and fabricate all sorts of reasons for your dislike: “I don’t like its color, I don’t like this, I don’t like that.” When you get attached to one thing, you automatically feel hatred for others.

Of course, if I use the word “hatred,” you’re going to interpret it emotionally, but that’s not how I’m using it. One of the factors in your mind is dislike, which causes you to disdain certain objects, to close your mind off from certain things. The basic nature of that mind is classified as hatred.

You have these experiences because your mind is unbalanced, unequal. Your internal world is constantly being thrown out of balance by the two extremes of attachment and hatred. Your attachment makes you choose one particular atom; your hatred makes you feel that the other millions of atoms are against you. Perhaps I should use a more psychological term than “against” here, but I’m not sure what it would be. “Rejection” might be better. Because of attachment, you have the extreme mind of acceptance, and because of hatred, you have the extreme mind of rejection; automatic rejection of other. These extremes of thought make your mind unhealthy.

More Shortcomings of Attachment

When we function normally as human beings, we communicate well with each other and seem to be quite healthy. However, those two sick minds—the extremes of grasping acceptance and blind rejection—are always with us. When the conditions are suitable they surface and make us clinically ill. I’m not trying to scare you but you have to be aware of what’s lurking in your mind, just waiting to come out. Therefore it’s most worthwhile to constantly check your mind. If you do, you’ll never have any reason to freak out.

Normally what happens is that you just go along, never observing your mind, and when emotions suddenly arise, you freak out. Some-times you don’t even understand what’s happening to you. All the schizophrenic mental defilements, personal problems and suffering of all universal living beings derive from attachment.

Sometimes you think, “People don’t trust me.” Perhaps they don’t. But other people’s mistrust of you comes from your own attachment. They don’t trust you because they sense the bad vibrations of your selfish attachment. If you didn’t give off those bad vibrations others would see you as easy to get on with and not be afraid of you.

If you have a neighbor whose gross mind of attachment is strong you’re likely to be afraid of him. You avoid going near his house, and if you have to, you do so cautiously, afraid of what he might do. Others avoid him too. This is a common situation; we’re all familiar with it. Why does this happen? When people don’t like you it’s because they can feel the vibrations of your gross emotions of greed and so forth. Even the members of your own family who like each other don’t like you. All this comes from your own attachment.

If you are going to learn only one thing from your Dharma studies, it should be that every problem on Earth comes from attachment. If you can realize that, you won’t have to worry too much about deficiencies in other areas—“I don’t have good concentration.” Anyway, concentration alone is not enough. Dividing the entire Buddhadharma into wisdom and method, concentration comes more from the wisdom side of the teachings, while recognizing the faults of attachment and changing your mental attitude come from method.

To discover the everlasting peaceful realization of enlightenment, ultimate inner freedom, you have to practice wisdom and method together. When you do, it’s like a powerful elevator whizzing you straight to the top of a tall building. To reach the top of a building quickly, you need both a powerful elevator and electrical energy; to reach the everlastingly peaceful penthouse of your own inner edifice, you need both wisdom and method.

When people talk about evil, they always make it sound as if it comes from outside of themselves. There’s no such thing as outer evil. Mahayana Buddhist art might depict horrible-looking demons but this is just symbolic. We never believe that evil is external. Evil is nothing other than the manifestation of ego and attachment. If somebody asks, “What is evil?” the answer is attachment. Attachment is evil; ego is evil. If you want to know the words for evil, they’re ego and attachment.

The Kindness of Others

Every happiness and benefit you have ever experienced has come from others. When you were born, you came from your mother’s womb with nothing. You didn’t even have any clothes. Your parents gave you clothes, milk, care and attention. Now that you have grown you have clothes and many other things. Where did they come from? They came from the effort of other sentient beings. Maybe you think it’s because you have money. You can’t wear money. If other people hadn’t made the fabric you wouldn’t have any clothes. The cake you enjoy is also the result of others’ effort. If they hadn’t put effort into making the cake you wouldn’t have any. It’s the same with all your other samsaric enjoyments; everything comes from other sentient beings, from other people’s giving it to you.

Is that too hard to believe? Is that too much for you? Think of everything you’ve done today. The milk you had this morning—it wasn’t your own, was it? Similarly, check in detail everything you have. It has all come from others. You were born with nothing. Other people are so kind. Without the kindness of others you’d find it impossible to live.

Don’t think that you’ve come up through society—studying, working, making money—and now you’re doing everything yourself. This is just the intellectual way society has developed in order to run more smoothly. Of course, you can’t survive without an organized society. Otherwise how would you get milk from the farm and fruit from the orchard to the city or wherever you live? Society has arranged all this to make your life and everybody else’s easier. Society is also kind.

Another example of the kindness of others is that of reputation. You’re very attached to having a good reputation, of being well liked. How can this happen if you’re alone? How do you have a good reputation without other people? Praise—“You’re good, you’re kind, you’re this, you’re that”—comes from other people. Reputation, food, clothing—all your enjoyments—come from other sentient beings. Forgetting their kindness and thinking “I did it” is a completely mistaken, totally unrealistic mental attitude.

Check up. All the food in the supermarket comes from other sentient beings’ effort. You can’t do everything yourself. Other mother sentient beings expended their own energy, brought the food to the supermarket and made it available to you. I’m sure that your ego and attachment have never let you think that other sentient beings are kind. Over the eons that thought has never even crossed your mind. As I’m saying this you’re probably thinking, “Oh, that can’t be. That’s just what Lama thinks.” But you really check up. It’s important. Truly, I’m not joking.

The Practice of Dharma

If you don’t check things deeply your spiritual practice is just emotional. You have only a vague notion of what religion is and whatever practice you do is just empty ritual done according to custom. Religion is nobody’s custom; Dharma has nothing to do with custom. The practice of religion, the practice of Dharma, is the gaining of understanding realizations. The problem with us is that we are so ordinary that when we look at Dharma, we do so with our senses. Dharma is not a sense object; it has nothing whatsoever to do with sense perception. Dharma is the view of the wisdom mind; it’s what wisdom sees.

Seeking the nature of attachment and realizing that all your pleasures and your life itself come from the kindness and effort of other sentient beings do not demand that you be a member of this religion or that. Dharma practice needs no partisanship: “I’m this; I’m that.” Just do it; just realize.

Otherwise you hear some artificial idea, pick it up and try to practice it—Buddhism, religion or whatever else you call it—but it all becomes shallow and artificial. You have no understanding; whatever you do is of poor quality, almost hypocritical. Instead of being of benefit and solving your problems, the idea itself just pollutes your mind.

Look, for example, at what the communists tried to do. Their philosophy was that of radical, external change. Trying to change the external world without first changing within is simply asking for trouble. I’m not talking politics here; I’m talking human psychology. Don’t have just a superficial view of human problems. You can’t change things that way. Look deep, look wide, and don’t be content with mere ideas.

You hear some idea and think, “Wow! That sounds good.” This is common, especially amongst Westerners. They are so intellectual; they love ideas. They don’t care what they are. As soon as they hear something they like, they’re out there trying to put it into action: “Oh, what a great idea! I love that idea!” But they don’t know how to fit action and idea together, which is much more important than simply the good idea itself. If you don’t put them together, ideas are like the sky and you’re like the earth—the two never meet. Be realistic.

Equalizing Others

It’s very difficult to equalize things without changing people’s mental attitude. You can’t force everybody to be equal. It’s impossible. Without changing your mental attitude of attachment, it’s impossible to equalize everybody. You can, however, completely change your internal world. Without need of radical external change, you can achieve total inner equality and transform your too-extreme mind into a perfectly balanced one. That’s the way to equalize others. It is very logical.

When you achieve mental equilibrium beyond the two extremes of attachment and hatred, your inner nature is even and peaceful instead of conflicted. The experience of inner equality also gives you a vision of beauty when you look at the outside world. You can see that beauty lies deeper than the surface, that human beauty lies within the person, beyond the form your sense perception apprehends. This extremely realistic view gives you a warm feeling for others.

How can you exist without relating to other human beings? It’s impossible. You can’t live without relating to others. Throughout your entire life, your mind and brain relate to others. Therefore, other people have a great influence over what comes into your mind. That’s why most human problems come from other human beings. We imitate each other. Human problems don’t come from some place far away. To stop them, your attitude and behavior have to become humane.

When you realize how kind other mother sentient beings have been, instead of seeing them as repulsive or undesirable you’ll see them as beautiful. Instead of rejecting them you’ll have space in your mind to feel true love—profound, deep love for all sentient beings—and this feel ing will be based on deep reasons, not superficial ones. You’ll feel inner equilibrium instead of the usual extremes of attachment and hatred.

The logical reason for feeling that all sentient beings are equal is that equally, all sentient beings seek happiness, and not one, yourself included, wants to be unhappy. Think, “All sentient beings want to be happy and no sentient being, myself included, wants to suffer. Whenever I experience an unpleasant feeling I want it to stop immediately. Although basically, all sentient beings equally desire happiness and freedom from suffering, out of the countless billions of beings, my fickle mind selects just one to make happy and forgets the others. When I encounter somebody who agitates me I see him as an enemy and want to give him harm, and when an enemy finds good fortune, I get jealous.” Such a mind is unrealistic, unbalanced and extreme.

It’s as if two equally hungry and thirsty people come to your door. You look at them both but choose only one, “You can come in,” and tell the other, “You can’t come in. Go away.” You know that they’re in exactly the same predicament, that they’re both extremely hungry and thirsty, but your extreme, narrow mind picks one—“Come in, I love you. Put on some nice, clean clothes; have something to eat and drink”—and completely rejects the other.

This is the action of a narrow, silly, extreme mind. It all comes from the misconception of attachment, an unbalanced mind acting in an unrealistic manner that certainly has nothing to do with Buddhism or any other religion. Even if you check from the scientific, materialistic point of view, it’s unrealistic; even ordinary, non-religious people would easily see that this kind of mind is ridiculous.

So what am I talking about here when I tell you to generate a feeling of equality with all living beings in your mind and concentrate on it? Well, the way to do the Mahayana equilibrium meditation is to first do analytical meditation—intellectualizing a little on the equality of all sentient beings, as I mentioned above—and then, when you reach the point where at least intellectually you see their equality, let your mind remain in that feeling. Enjoy it. It’s a remarkable experience. And you should also maintain that feeling of equilibrium in your meditation session breaks—walking, eating, whatever you are doing.6

It’s very important to recognize that all desire, hatred and other delusions and the problems they bring come from attachment and ego. Actually, of the two, attachment and ego, it’s ego that comes first. Delusion starts with ego; attachment follows. How is this? The concept of ego builds a projection of “I” and paints that polluted projection with a veneer of qualities. Then, when the I—superficial, artificial and illusory—starts looking at the pleasures of the sense world, it labels certain objects as desirable. From this, attachment arises, sticking, or clinging, to these attractive objects. This, very briefly, is the evolution of attachment.

The moment your ego says “I,” you automatically identify yourself as totally separate from other atoms, other people. On the basis of this view of two different things—self and other—you automatically see “I” as the most important one. Then, with attachment, your narrow mind chooses one particular atom as a source of sense pleasure. This then makes you view all other atoms as either irrelevant or as objects of hatred. That’s the way it all starts.

In other words, when you perceive the hallucination of the self-existent, independent I, you immediately accept the existence of other. That other then appears as totally separate from you. If there were no I, there would be no appearance of other. But you build up that separateness, and this is where all the problems of samsara come from. All this is the work of ego, which is a product of ignorance. Ignorance causes ego.

The Wheel of Life

Lord Buddha demonstrated this graphically when he created the wheel of life. You must have seen thangkas of this; they’re very common. There are many details, but at the center there’s a pig with a chicken’s tail feathers in its mouth. The chicken’s beak holds the tail of a snake, while the snake is shown biting the tail of the pig. The wheel of life is not just some item of Tibetan culture. It’s a deeply symbolic teaching and was created by Lord Buddha himself.7

Once, some disciples were looking for a gift to send to a neighboring, non-Buddhist king. Lord Buddha told them how to make a painting of the wheel of life and suggested they send it to the king simply as a work of art, without any other explanation. After receiving this gift, the king kept looking and looking at it, until one day he realized what it represented. The art itself spoke to him. He realized that ego, attachment and aversion were the worst of all poisons and the cause of all suffering. If you, too, keep Dharma art in your room, it can have a similarly beneficial effect on your mind.

It works the other way as well. Take movies, for example. Sometimes what you see on the screen makes you afraid; sometimes it makes you so sad that you cry. It’s not reality; it’s an illusion. Nevertheless, without discrimination, the mirror of your mind takes in and reflects whatever garbage appears before it. Things you see can have a strong effect on you. Therefore it’s very important that you remain aware of how the people and things around you affect your mind. Check up. Are they stimulating attachment or hatred? If you are psychologically alert you can easily tell, but usually you ignore your internal world. Your ego might be in there making a toilet of your mind but you think it’s OK; you don’t care. However, if someone were to try to build a lavatory on your property right next to your house, you’d freak out, wouldn’t you? It’s so silly. You don’t know what really makes you happy.

In the wheel of life, then, the pig symbolizes ignorance, the chicken, craving desire, and the snake, hatred. It’s a perfect external demonstration of how, starting with ignorance, delusions develop in the mind, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with any Eastern trip, lama trip or other kind of trip. It applies equally to all samsaric beings and is simply a scientific explanation of how our internal world evolves.

Wisdom, Love and Equilibrium

Now you can see why Lord Buddha always stressed that we should abandon ignorance and develop understanding. He wasn’t the slightest bit interested in religious games, ritual or theory. His teachings always stressed actions based on wisdom as the only solution to problems.

Lord Buddha’s key discovery was that the pollution of ignorance is the root of all problems, and from ignorance come attachment, craving desire and hatred. Therefore, he always emphasized that only an integrated, understanding mind could overcome mental defilements. You can pretend as much as you like that everything’s under control, but if you don’t have understanding, you can’t stop any problem.

If you conquer your worst enemy—the internal enemy of attachment—you will control all external energy, all other people, but if you try to exercise such control using just the power of your ego, it will be impossible. You think you can control others, but you can’t. There’s no way to attain inner MUNÉ MUNÉ through the power of ego. Remember Lord Buddha’s mantra, OM MUNÉ MUNÉ MAHAMUNAYÉ SOHA? Control, great control, greatest control. To realize inner MUNÉ MUNÉ you have to conquer the inner enemy of attachment. If you can do that, you can control anything.

When Lord Buddha was meditating to reach enlightenment, the maras declared war on him and tried whatever they could to interfere with his meditation. At one stage they attacked him with a hail of arrows. In response, he went into single-pointed concentration on equilibrium and universal love and turned all the arrows into flowers. Noth¬ing the maras threw at Lord Buddha could hurt him; he controlled it all with his inner atomic bomb of universal love. With love, he conquered the whole world.

The well-known Tibetan yogi, Geshe Ben, used to say, “When I was a thief, I went about armed to the teeth with knives, spears and arrows, robbing by day and stealing by night, taking whatever my ego and attachment wanted. At that time, enemies were everywhere and samsaric pleasures hard to find. When I became a monk and changed my life, my enemies disappeared, everybody became my friend and now samsaric pleasures have to fight among themselves to get my attention.”

This was his experience. At first his wrong-conception mind and attachment made him think that to have friends he had to be powerful, so he spent all his time fighting and killing others. But the more he fought, the fewer friends and the more enemies he had, and his experiences of pleasure were few and far between. Then he realized that his thinking was all wrong, so he gave up his weapons and found that all his enemies had disappeared, all sentient beings were his friends and he had more samsaric pleasures than he knew what to do with.

Take, for example, the situation where you’re confronted by an extremely angry person. If, instead of retaliating, you respond peacefully, with love and understanding, your peaceful energy automatically calms that person down. If you respond to anger by getting nervous yourself, all you do is make the other person more agitated than he already is. It’s that simple.

Therefore, the only equipment you need to conquer both external and internal enemies is true love. By external enemies I mean the external objects you label as enemy because of the way your internal enemy, the two departments of ego and attachment, interprets them. First you develop equilibrium, then gradually bodhicitta.

Here’s another example. Say you have an only son. When he does silly things, you know he’s being silly but because you love him so much, it doesn’t bother you; you accept whatever he does. If somebody else were to do the things he does, you’d freak out—not because of what the person was doing but because of the way you interpret it. Because you see your son as beautiful, even when he does something bad, you can control your anger; you make an exception.

Similarly, if through equilibrium you come to understand the human condition and human nature at its deepest level, just as your positive view gives you control when your son is naughty, so too will you be able to tolerate the stupid behavior of any living being in the universe; just as you see your own naughty boy as beautiful, it won’t bother you when others act silly. Since you understand the basic nature of the mind, you see all beings as beautiful.

Also, you know that when your son is being silly it’s because he’s under the control of his superficial mind; his attachment is following his ego’s narrow point of view. You know that he doesn’t really want to be silly but he’s pushed into it psychologically by his uncontrolled mind. He has no freedom. You feel only more compassion for him. He’s oppressed by his two departments of ego and attachment; completely mashed. When your only son is in this predicament, you don’t need to tell yourself, “Oh, I should generate compassion.” It comes automatically. Because you understand human nature, compassion comes spontaneously; you don’t have to generate it artificially.

To summarize, therefore, it is most worthwhile finally to recognize that your own attachment is your own biggest problem and worst enemy. Your problems do not lie outside of you. As a step towards realizing this, you should actualize the equilibrium meditation.

Equalizing others does not mean radically changing the outside world. It’s in the mind. Also, as I said before, it’s completely logical that you should feel equal with all living beings. With analytical knowledge-wisdom, approach the feeling of equality. When you reach that point intellectually, let your mind abide in the feeling of equality for as long as you can; maintain single-pointed concentration on equilibrium as long as possible. When you get distracted, return to your logical reasoning and again explain to yourself the nature and shortcomings of attachment. When you come to the conclusion that you are equal with others, again let your mind rest in that feeling of equilibrium. Be satisfied with that. Just stay there. That’s much better than intellectualizing at that time.

Therefore, in the next session, practice the equilibrium meditation, and I’ll see you again after that. Thank you so much.


6. See Appendix, the Mahayana Equilibrium Meditation. [Return to text]

7. See His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s The Meaning of Life. [Return to text]