Meditation Is Action

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Manjushri Institute, Cumbria, England (Archive #153)

Lama Yeshe discusses the benefits of meditation practice in this teaching at Manjushri Institute, Cumbria, England, 9 September 1976. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.

Lama Yeshe teaching at Manjushri Institute, England, 1976.

Most of you gathered here have already had a good deal of meditation experience and, through that, have developed confidence in yourself and an enthusiastic feeling for meditation. Yet sometimes, when you don’t keep that energy flowing continuously and your positivity and inspiration go down, down, down, down, you can start feeling hopeless. Perhaps you start feeling that it will be impossible to discover everlastingly peaceful realizations through meditation. Many different kinds of negative thought can arise. But the thing is, if you do act continuously, you will definitely see results. Our problem is that we don’t act enough, that’s all. Meditation is action; meditation is action.

It's quite simple, too. You can see that a few short minutes of morning meditation, maybe half an hour, can bring quiet, peace and awareness to the rest of your day. You can experience that result.

Also, you don’t need to hold some kind of extreme philosophical or doctrinal beliefs to actualize meditation. In fact, just experiencing meditation—acting to bring conscious awareness—is enough.

I mean, you can see what makes you happy and what makes you unhappy. It’s so simple. That’s the whole question: what really makes you happy and what really makes you unhappy? That’s what, through meditation, you need to check up for yourself. The effect of actions that benefit others and actions that harm yourself and others is what you need to discover through meditation. It might be easier to know all this intellectually, but to have an actual, really deep root understanding takes much time. Why? Because over countless lives we have developed the misconception of the self-cherishing thought. We have the wrong idea about what makes us happy.

Now, as adults, we look at a young boy playing with a sharp knife in danger of cutting himself and say, “Oh, that’s foolish,” even though the child thinks it’s making him happy. But even though we’re now old enough, through having reinforced the self-cherishing thought over countless lifetimes, our behavior patterns are exactly the same as those of the child. We have all these wrong ideas, wrong attitudes, wrong conceptions and desires, but still think following them will make us happy. We have to examine our wrong conceptions and see how rather than making us happy, they make us miserable.

By cultivating meditation, your mind becomes sharp and clean clear. Then you can easily see your false conceptions. This is extremely difficult to do when you are deeply submerged in hallucination, just as it’s extremely difficult to surface when you’re trapped deep in the ocean. At the beginning, when you’re full of wrong conceptions and garbage thoughts, it’s hard to see what is really wrong and what’s right. Extremely difficult. So meditation is worthwhile. Its result is that it integrates your mind and allows you to understand your own actions, which arise from misconceptions and lead you into a restless state of mind.

Through meditation you can also see your great potential and understand that there’s no value in just living for food and clothing. It’s so sad to see people living only for food and clothing, ignoring their great potential. That’s incredibly sad, isn’t it? Living for such small temporal pleasures, which have no real value and do not last. Sometimes, if we really check up, we’re too much; it’s incredible.

What we need to do is to make a comparative check between the worldly pleasures that our wrong conceptions consider make us happy and the benefits of meditation. In the West we have hundreds, even thousands, of ideas of what makes us happy, not just food and clothing. Look at supermarket shelves. There are so many ideas. Most of them are wrong conceptions. Through meditation you can discover those temporal objects have little value; actually, no value. But I don’t mean you should completely reject them. Don’t reject them, but if you strongly desire them and put too much energy into them, there’s no value in that; it’s not worth the effort. Especially when it comes to material objects—when you need them, they’re not there; when you don’t, they are. Sometimes they’re there, sometimes they’re not.

Consider medicines, for example. They are there to help us, to support and sustain life, but we can never be sure whether they’ll destroy our life or preserve it. It’s not certain. But through meditation, we can discover joy and the everlasting, peaceful state of mind, and that understanding can last forever—from this life to the next and to all our future lives. By contrast, material things can disappear in a flash, and at the time of death we leave everything behind. Not only that; we die with great attachment to our material possessions, and that brings us much harm. It’s not the material objects that harm us but our clinging to and grasping at them. During our life we grasp at this, we grasp at that, building up our attachment more and more so that when we die, our grasping is incredibly strong and very difficult to release. During our lifetime, our desire wants more and more, better and better, such that we build up more and more superstition, which makes us more restless, more confused, more foggy and more ignorant. Therefore, actualizing meditation is really worthwhile.

If you don’t contrast material things with meditation you won’t understand how much more worthwhile the results of meditation are compared with those of the desires of the sense world. If you don’t know that, you won’t have much energy for meditation. Being unsure, you won’t see that sitting down to meditate is of much greater value than running out for chocolate. Your attraction to chocolate will be stronger than your desire for meditation. It’s obvious.

I’m not joking when I talk this way. I’m saying “chocolate,” but I’m referring to the incredibly overpowering Western vibration for sense pleasures. It’s all so exaggerated, which makes things much more difficult for Western people. So much clinging. I can see that. But at the same time, you people are very intelligent. Actually, you can see how shopkeepers and television advertisers in the West understand people’s psychology. Ask yourself, “Why is he doing this? Why is she doing that?” They’re appealing to people’s superstitions and delusions. You can see. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating but check up. That is the really important point.

You can also see that it’s impossible to find satisfaction by feeding desire. Satisfaction comes only from the mind, not from the outside, not from chocolate. I can say, as long as you’re dissatisfied, there’s no everlasting happiness; there’s no happiness whatsoever, actually, even though you put on a display of “I’m happy, I’m happy.” In the West, we throw parties where everybody is drinking and dancing and apparently having a good time. It means “We’re happy, we’re happy,” but they’re not happy. That’s the misconception.