A Glimpse of Buddhist Psychology (Audio & Unedited Transcript)

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Christchurch, New Zealand, June 1975 (Archive #148)

The edited version of this talk appears in the book Becoming Your Own Therapist. This unedited version is provided here as a companion to the recording of this talk.

Tonight, the small introduction of Buddhism or meditation or something like that!

Learning meditation, or studying Buddhism, is learning about you, your own nature. The subject is about your own mind. Learning meditation or Buddhism does not mean learning skeptical doctrine or philosophy. It is a method how to control undisciplined mind, which is we have. So, by learning the characteristic nature of our own undisciplined mind, the control is the nature, because you understand; through the understanding, you release the emotionally ignorant.

It is so important to know the mentality of your own mind, no matter you believing or not believing, you are religious or not religious, you are Christian, or you are Hinduism, or you are science, or you are black or East or West or…no matter. To know your own mind is very , very important.

Otherwise, many times religious people also such misconception prevent to see reality, although we say, “I’m such religious, such, such, such….” If we really check up deeper, almost we are nowhere. Be careful. Non religious does not against it, to know about your own nature. Many times religious people, they too much involved with philosophy and doctrines, history, but they ignore the present what they are, how they are. Like, they are using religious philosophy or doctrine like material, material, material, play game rather than to gaining salvation or liberation or inner freedom or whatever you call, eternally happy or eternally joyful. Without understanding evolutionary internal nature, how can you discover eternal happy? Where is eternal happiness? Eternal happy, internal happy is not sky, it is not jungle, is not air, is not underneath earth. Within you, into your psyche, or into your conscious, or into your mind or whatever you call, within you. So to know, or to investigate, your own mental nature is so extremely important.

If your learning philosophy or doctrine or religious history, the equipment can not cooperate everyday living life to give happy and joyful, then what purpose? Really, we be careful. Even we think we are something, something, “Such, such, I am this, this, that religion,” if you check up what you did, what you acting, what you discover through your accepting such religions, if you check up detail, perhaps questioning yourself. When you questioning, instead of frustrating, afraid, our own experience is good. You have to question yourself what you are doing. Otherwise, how you examine? The blind faith any religion is no good, cannot solve the problem, isn’t it? I'm sure you all know; I just repeating.

Many people think spiritual trip is sort of, those things are easy, “Oh, I can do easily, I go to see, I go temple, I go church; that’s enough.” That is not answer. You accepting such religion or whatever you doing your trip is, what purpose? Some getting answer or you just joking. You understand what I means. We must check up. I'm not put you down, but we must check up, make sure misconception, the polluted with hallucination, or realistic, getting right action and right effort and leading right realization, then worthwhile dear; otherwise waste time, still waste time. It's not easy.

Misconception are, misconception, the pollution is more danger than people who take hashish. Isn’t it? You know what I means you know. Much more dangerous. The misconception, the mis-idea, wrong practicing, is rooted into mind. That accumulation is life, life and, maybe terminology Buddhist think, even next life you going your mind with wrong conception. That is much more dangerous than just physical energy.

Many times, of course we all, no matter you are religious or you are non-religious, or you are East or West, everybody want happy, searching happy, but where is happy, where searching happy? Perhaps happy is here [Lama shows in front of himself], we searching background, searching here [shows behind himself], looking here, “Where is happy?” Make sure where you looking happy is make sure you can found happy.

Therefore, all the Lord Buddha's teaching is the psychology and philosophy, rather than as you think Western way of religious such only the sort of believing, standing, sort of. It's different. If your religious practice is only belief, relying on the believing, some your friend says, “What are you doing?” “I’m doing such, such, such.” “What is that?” One question, you shaking, you finished your one. Maybe you believe such, such things you doing something, play, your mind, and two three years, one friend comes, one question, you finished. “Oh ,I'm not right now.” You lost. Make sure you. It’s very true, so important what you are doing, your trip is, you should know before you act, and then worthwhile.

Lord Buddha's psychology saying many times our emotionally attach with the sense world is involving with the feeling—feeling of…mental feeling and physical feeling. Through the, as science says, through the sense door, five sense door, five sense door, giving information or report to the mind, and producing different feeling, so feeling is many different ways coming in the mind. But we classify is pleasant, unpleasant, indifferent feeling. It coming sometimes mentally, sometimes physically; way of coming has different.

Most time our attachment emotionally craving; when the feeling pleasant comes…in other words, when the feeling pleasant, the feeling is finished but the same time, mind craving, want again feel. So, that nature is dissatisfaction, disturbing peaceful mind because its nature is agitation.

When the unpleasant feeling come, automatically dislike, feel wanting to rid of, but same time feeling. When the feeling indifferent, just ignore, don't like to see reality.

So, everyday life, either you have feeling pleasant, either you have unpleasant, either you have indifferent, whatever comes, you see, there is something emotionally disturbing. These’s no balance, equanimity feeling. So, to examine your own feeling is nothing to do with believing, don’t you? This not Eastern Himalayan mountain things. It is with you, isn't it? It is your thing. You cannot reject, “I don't have feeling.” Don't tell me please, Lama. It’s so simple, isn't it?

So, also, many negative action, reaction is comes from the feeling. You check up that. So when the feeling comes with people, you check up. Not only with people, materials, all the sense object, how you feel, why you feel, why pleasant this? Feeling pleasant not outside in the material isn’t it? In your mind. Feeling is not outside, we all agrees. So the inside. So, why you feel that? If you experimenting that way, you can discover is real happiness, joyful, unpleasant, unhappy, sort of easy [? = indiff.], within you. Responsible is yourself; you can discover. You cannot blame, “He make me miserable, she make me miserable, this material make miserable.” We always do, isn't it? And we blame, all society, “This society make I'm suffering.” It's not realistic. You check up that.

One who realize one's own mental problem, they never blame any living being. Then beginning you have good communication with others, and respectful others. We often, we becomes unconscious, therefore we just act like that, unconsciously, disrespectful, and we hurt unconsciously, automatically what we are doing. We don’t care, we just do it, that’s all.

Almost Western psychologist thinking to stop such emotion, craving desire, stop it another material giving for that desire, can stop it. Impossible! Without understanding the characteristic nature of your inner feeling, feeling pleasant, or unpleasant or indifferent, impossible you can discover your mental attitude nature. Specially, we say, have compassion or love everybody. How can, with such ignorant differentiate dualistic mind, impossible to have equanimity feeling with all living beings. Because emotionally too extreme, our life is; we emotionally too extreme. We make exaggerated. When the something happiness feeling comes, we putting as much possible to emotionally to build up as much as possible. That cannot stay. You know. It’s so impermanent, so transitory, its nature is like bumping down, down, down, down, down. Then automatically unbalanced mind depressed, when the time come down. So, very necessary to know how much effort energy putting for the mental feeling. We always extreme. In other words, we have to go in middle path, middle way, rather than too extreme.

If you really check up deeper, the feeling make, the feeling causes suffering. Feeling make conflict. Because two boy, small child, fighting one candy, biggest one nation fighting another nation is comes from why? For the pleasure, fighting. For the feeling. Even children cannot talk language, they fighting one small candy, is the feeling. Want feeling happy, so they fight small atoms.

So meditation can easily see, demonstrate, through the meditation you demonstrate all your inside whatever garbage feeling or positive action or negative action or…everything is demonstrate, can easily see through the meditation. That’s why many people interesting meditation.

And also, meditation does not mean sitting lotus position, do nothing. You can do everyday life, walking, drinking, eating, conversation, everything is; by becoming conscious, you are meditating still. So that way you realize easily you are responsible your action, you are responsible you want happy feeling, result or you want unhappy feeling, you can see. Rather than somebody else control you.

When the feeling happy comes, same time the original, the feeling is finished already, but you want again, want more, with frustration. That not created by the God, that not created by the Buddha, that not created by the Krishna, or whatever you call, doesn’t matter words. That is responsible your own action. It is so easy isn't it, can see. But the weak mind, some people think, “Oh, somebody make me sick, somebody make me horrible,” always looking something else. That is the weak mind.

I mean at least, the door of your feeling of body and mind to examine everyday life is so wonderful. You are learning all the time; the never stopping not learning. You always learning. So you can discover everlasting peaceful and joyful realization is within you. So easily, by your own action of knowledge wisdom. Actually, weak mind don’t have so much energy. The wisdom has energy to encouraged.

The same thing, Mahayana Buddhism, we teaches the equilibrium thought with all sentient beings. Why? Many times we choosing something, some atom, “This good for me, this is best for me,” then putting so much extreme value: one is best and rest one you hate. That not good for you, for your peaceful mind. So, learning, meditating the equilibrium feeling rather than one is too extremely attach and rather one is extremely hate, they are equally same thing, wanting happy, not desiring unhappy feeling. “Why I do this? Such unrealistic, egotistic mind doing this kind of things,such pollution.” It is very much helpful to keep mind healthy. This the experience.

So you can see, when the feeling pleasure comes, too much desire comes, craving, again, attachment comes. When the feeling unpleasant comes, hatred, don't want, want rid of. Both are frustration, if you check up in the mind, be carefully, skillfully check up. If it is indifferent, ignore, don’t want to check up reality. It necessary the two, both feeling are, necessary to know what is real reality, how come, how go, what cause go.

So this are the real Lord Buddha's psychology. To know, very important.

I think instead of I talking, better maybe we have question answer. If someone has question, please do so.


Q. What is karma?

Lama. Karma is your experience, your experience of your body, and your experience of your mind. That is karma. Karma is Sanskrit, words is Sanskrit. What really means, meaning of karma is cause and effect. So, your experience, feeling happy, unhappy, by physically, by mentally, is another reaction. Can you realize? That is result. One action produces another reaction. That is karma. As science say—it not only the East philosophy—science explain all the matter relating each other. Do you? Do you study that kind of? In the West, science, they explain all matters relying on each other. Okay? Clear, I think! All the existence, external, internal, not come just accidentally. The energy of external, energy of internal, everything relating in each other. Example, your body, just simple example, energy of your body is relating from your parents. Your parents' body is relating another body. Those kind of things karma. Clear? Good, thank you.

Q. What is Nirvana?

Lama. Nirvana is when one is concentration developed, mind is integrated into one pointedness and slowly, slowly he vanish such ego's emotional action, of mind, he reach beyond ego, and discover everlastingly blissful peaceful state mind. That is what we call Nirvana, maybe. Clear?

Q. Are there many people attain Nirvana?

Lama. Many people? Oh yes. Many people going Nirvana, many people already Nirvana. Sure! Definitely, of course, yes.

Q. I am trying to get clear in my mind the distinction between pleasure and happiness. Are they the same thing? Can one become attached to pleasure but not to happiness?

Lama. The same thing, when the happiness comes, if attached, same thing, the reaction of when the pleasure comes we attach. Same thing. Pleasure comes without attachment, one should be enjoy, with understanding, subjectivity nature, objectivity nature, of feeling and mind. That’s right, yes, good dear. So, person even who reach Nirvana, if he is attach, that not right. You understand? Perhaps we call maybe he not reach Nirvana.

Q. I would like to clarify the Buddhist meaning of meditation. Am I right in interpreting it as “observing the passage of your mind”?

Lama. Yes, right, yes. Buddhist meditation means not necessarily to have you sit down one pointedness concentration; not necessarily. Just observing how your mind is cooperating sense world. That is really perfect meditation, have perfect result. So, meditation does not mean sitting only; walking, conversation and shopping, buying; supermarket you can meditate, OK? Sure, OK, possible. Yes, definitely.

Q. In nirvana do you cease to exist in a bodily form?

Lama. Existent yes, but not existent as such uncontrolled nervous system.

Q. If a person achieves nirvana does he disappear?

Lama. No. He stay alive, so you don't worry. Sure, sure. Try as much as possible, happy.

Q. But Buddha said that he would never be reborn when he achieved nirvana.

Lama. Yes, why? Because he don't need reborn such uncontrollably. He saying is he never going reborn such uncontrollably, with ego's force energy. OK? But he can incarnate with controllably, purpose beneficial for help mother sentient beings. That's possible.

Q. What is a sentient being?

Lama. Sentient being means which got mind, associated with the uncontrolled mind. That is we call sentient being.

Q. In respect to rebirth, what is it that is reborn?

Lama. Rebirth is, when the time when we are dead, the conscious is separate from this physical form and going intermediate state and then take another form. That is we called rebirth. Very simple, isn't it.? Because physical energy, the mental energy is different. Physical energy is so limited, but mental energy is always continuity.

Q. Is it possible for the consciousness to develop in the after death state or is it only in life that the consciousness evolves?

Lama. Yes, during the death process the conscious is continually going, like electricity. Electricity energy is coming all the way, isn't it, where is the basic the…[generator] and but different house, different colors, different things, taking different forms. But energy is all the way continuous coming.

Q. In your mantras do you ever concentrate on any physical organs of the body or is it only in your mind? Do you concentrate on your chakras or energy centres?

Lama. Is possible, yes. We have different methods for different purposes. Do not think in Lord Buddha's giving teaching method is only one. Thousand, thousand, maybe countless method giving for the individual living being. OK? Good.

Q. I don't fully understand the answer to a previous question about the mind consciousness developing and going from one body to another .In the time between going from one body to another is the consciousness or mind developing or does it stay as it is?

Lama. Can develop, yes. We call intermediate state. When the time my conscious is separated from the my body and not yet to contact another body, we call intermediate state. That time still can develop, possible, sure.

Q. So the mind does not need a body to develop?

Lama. You mean intermediate state body? There is body, but not body like physical as we have. Is very light, psychic body.

Q. What is the meaning of suffering?

Lama. Meaning of suffering is mental agitation, function of brings mental agitation. That is suffering. OK? Good And dissatisfaction is the meaning of suffering. It's very important to know, because the Buddha's teaching, many times talk suffering, but Western sort of superficial looking is, “Why, too much talking suffering? I’m happy!” They think this kind of things. Lord Buddha's teaching, showing the nature of suffering, does not mean something emotionally hurt here. Does not mean emotional hurt here, cut here, something. We think, average people, we think, “Oh, he is so happy, he’s so happy,” but if we check up, how happy, there’s still, there is dissatisfaction. Control, all the time, cannot come over, that is mental suffering, is much more painful than somebody hurt like that. Therefore, Lord Buddha's suffering is so much emphasizing mental levels. Therefore, all the process Lord Buddha's teaching is so much psychology, method to vanish or to purify the mental levels suffering.

Q. Is the consciousness that develops during our life and leaves when we die part of some supreme consciousness? Like God of universal consciousness?.

Lama. No, very, very ordinary simple mind. Because what you have now, your mind, is relating that intermediate state mind, but what different is, just separate such physical this body and looking searching another body, that’s all. So the, really state of mind is, if this body, time this period, so much agitation, conflict situation, that this force, karmic force power, this time also confused, agitated. Cannot be this time supreme something higher, you understand what I mean?

Q. Are you familiar with the Hindu concept of atman and brahma? That is what I meant.

Lama. You mean the Hindu philosophy accepting the soul, part of soul? [Yes, the idea of the self.] That not accepting, the philosophy of Buddha; there no self-existent I and soul permanently. You are impermanent, changing, changing, changing, at the same, simultaneously your soul, or conscious, or whatever you have, every your existence, simultaneously changing, changing, changing. Therefore, Buddhists don’t accept permanent hell. Every pain, every enjoyment, relative, is always changing, changing. So transitory, so impermanent, never lasting. So therefore, to seeking nirvana or enlightenment is everlastingly, eternally joyful realization, we seeking, by realizing such sense perception and cooperate with sense world, and the mind such feeling, those are so transitory, there no worth to grasping too much. OK? Good.

Q. Do you think ritual is as important to the Western person in trying to understand Buddhism as it is for the Easterner, who has a feeling for it?

Lama. Depend; depend what kind of you choose. Look, look, you can see, the real Buddhism, the meditation does not need something, you have something, this kind of things, material things. The important thing is only the mind. So you don't need bell ringing, make sound, puzzle things, you don't need. OK? You means ritual means like that? Oh good, you don’t need, don’t worry. That same thing East, West equally same thing, dear sir. But some people need these kind of things. Different mind, different method need. Example, you need glasses. It is not the most important, but some people need. Therefore, different religions also need different living being according their own ability or mentality of their own mind. So we cannot say, “This is only right, everybody should do my trip.” Cannot say. OK?

Q. Are new methods of practice required in the West today?

Lama. Not new method. Method is already. Just you need discover. OK?

Q. I am trying to understand the relationship in Buddhism between mind and body. Is mind more important than body? For example, in the case of the tantric monks of Gyuto, obviously they develop their body very much in singing... just how important is the body?

Lama. Mind is important, very important, but in some particular training also we have physical yoga exercise. If the body is sick, example, and circulation is not running well, then that is effective for the mind. So therefore, body also important to keep healthy. But if you forgetting to discover reality of mind, only concerned physical, that is, I think, not realistic, that not balanced, that not wise. I think we agree, you know the mind is more important than physical. But at the same time, you cannot forget body. That not wise. Example, yes, good example, if you say, such Western people say, thinking, now, “Oh, lamas can live on the mountain without having one piece of bread. Fantastic! I want to do also, like Milarepa.” That mistake, if you do. It is necessary, in the West, we born such and such conditions, body, you understand? So to be able to keep body condition we must have good also environment such way develop. You cannot make the Himalaya trip. It is very important. Yes! OK, you people wise! Not be extreme.

Q. Is it true when a human is born that they have a quality of innocent mind. Is it possible for a grow up in this world with all the hang ups of humans.

Lama. Human, when you are born, and baby time, not too much intellectual complication, you understand, as we all know. But when we intellect, the feeling, so much information, philosophies, that-this, this good, this not good, this should have, this shouldn't have, too much intellecting, and then becomes mind too full of garbage, that makes more worse. But that doesn't mean when you born you are absolutely pure, then the intellectual comes, you become negative. It doesn't mean. Why? Because if you basically, you don't have such attachment, ignorance, fundamental if you doesn't have, then even the all garbage coming, but you there is no space. So, the fundamental is well open already here like that, come on! Welcome already. So the intellectual garbage comes chung, chung, chung here, that's right. Therefore, children time, you cannot say children is absolutely pure mind. That also not right. Children cry, you understand, is feeling. Sometimes feeling unpleasant, crying! Sometimes feeling craving, want more milk from you! OK? All right, good, that’s good.

Q. We have the idea of consciousness transmigrating from body to body, from life to death to life again, and if there is continuity of consciousness, why is it that we don't remember our previous lifetimes?

Lama. Too much supermarket information! Forget old experiences. Even science say brain is limited, therefore if you have new information, so the old, the other one is push back. They explain that way. But that's not quite right. However, human mind is the basically so much unconscious, the ignorant mentality, therefore, new experience so much occupied, so other one forget. Even this life, your previous month, what exactly happened, all the feelings, every day, you don't remember. So check up all the way through your that much small in mother's womb, and farther then, check up, is very difficult. Slowly, slowly, OK? But you can see, continuously checking in your mind, you can really experience. Many times our life we have experience, mental something, reacting experience, that is nothing soever to do, that reactions is in this life. So we can’t put together, “Oh, why this come? I never had this kind of experience in my life? Why this come?” And Western psychology cannot prove that, don't understand that, and they don’t know because they don't understand that the mental energy is, this experience reacting is coming so many long, thousand years, your mental impulse. They cannot understand, but through your checking, through meditation, you can see that channel. I hope one day you discover. Sure, possible, definitely.

Q. Could it be negative to find out your previous lives?

Lama. Sure. Both. Positive experience and negative experience.

Q. Could it be disturbing?

Lama. By realizing? By realizing better. Disturbing is comes from no understanding. You understand? Good. As much possible trying to realize characteristic nature of negative: solved when you understand. By understanding negative characteristic nature you can stop negative problem. So therefore, understanding is only solution, mental problem or physical problem. That’s all, dear. Clear? So, checking be carefully, where you putting your energy to make you happy is worthwhile or not is big responsible dear, isn't it? Wise trip or ignorant trip, checking up. Very good, good, sure. Yes?

Q. We all experience suffering. Why do we have to experience it and what do we learn from it?

Lama. That's so simple isn't it? Why you suffering? Because you involving too much with ignorant action and too much grasping; too much attachment. So therefore you suffering. You can learn easy when you realize how come suffering, what makes you suffering; then you can learn from suffering. Otherwise, most many times we lifetimes we so much experience but no understanding. Many times people think they experience, they learning. That's not true. They think their experience, they learning. That not true, I say. Unconsciously so much experience, but not learning anything about nature.

Q. Why do we have the opportunity to be attached?

Lama. So simple. Because we are hallucinating. Yes, exactly. We not seeing reality, objectively, subjectively. When you know the attachment object characteristic nature, the attachment subject is disappear itself. Anyhow, fogging, the mind, makes attraction, and painted projection, so, therefore you are suffering. That’s all. Very simple. Thank you. Then?

Q. In the film when saw images of Yamantaka and Mahakala, although they were fierce-looking, they didn't look evil. Wondered if Buddhism does not emphasize evil and bad things.

Lama. Yes, you right. Buddhism not emphasize evil outside. Evil is projection of mind, you understand. Even if there is evil, evil is inside; there is no outside evil to make you fearful. But this kind of feeling, project is, sometimes we have method. Person who has so much anger, anger, uncontrolled, automatically, so we transform his anger into wisdom and make him visualize such wisdom, fearful wisdom form, so he digests his hatred, anger energy into wisdom, it the method. Yes, that’s right. Actually, there’s no outside something to make you afraid. We don't believe that.

Q. What do you feel about a man killing another man in the case of self-defense? Do you feel he has the right to protect himself, even if he has to kill the other man?

Lama. I think that is his uncontrolled mind. Anger. As much as possible, he protect, but not kill other man. For example, you try to kill me. I am responsible to protect myself, but not kill you.

Q. If killing me was the only way you could stop me, would you do it?

Lama. Then better you kill me. Good. That’s right.

OK, if no question I not keep you your time. OK, better sleep well, be happy, thank you very much everybody. Thank you very much, everything.