Creating Peace of Mind

By Lama Zopa

It is a common experience that happiness does not arise solely from external factors. If we check up carefully in our own daily lives we can easily understand that this is true. In addition to external factors, certain inner factors come into play in establishing happiness within us. If external development by itself could produce a lasting peace within living beings, then whoever had more material possessions should have greater peace, while whoever had less should have less peace and happiness. But life is not always like this. There are many happy people with few riches, and many wealthy people are very unhappy. Here in India, for example, there are many pandits, highly realised yogis and even simple Dharma practitioners, who live humble lives yet have great peace of mind. The more they have renounced the unsubdued mind, the greater is their peace. The more they have renounced self-cherishing, anger, ignorance, attachment and so forth, the greater is their happiness.

Great yogis such as the Indian master Naropa and the Tibetan yogi, Jetsun Milarepa, owned nothing yet had incredible peace of mind. They were able to renounce the unsubdued mind, the source of all problems, and thus transcended all suffering. By actualising the path to enlightenment they achieved a superior happiness. Thus even though they often had to go days without food the great yogi Milarepa lived for years in a cave subsisting only on wild nettles they ranked among the happiest men on earth. Because they abandoned the three poisonous minds of ignorance, anger and attachment, their peace and happiness was indeed great. The more they removed the unsubdued mind, the greater was their peace.

If happiness depended on only the development of external factors, rich countries such as America would be happy. Many people try to follow America, thinking that in this way they will find happiness. Personally, I find greater peace in spiritual countries like India and Nepal. These are much happier countries, more peaceful for the mind. When I return to India after touring the West it is like returning home. There are so many differences. India is really a very dharmic country. It makes a big difference, to the mind. When you look at a materialistic society and see the people and their way of life, your own mind becomes disturbed. The material progress is incredible and it keeps on going but as a result the people are kept more and more busy and many different problems arise. People have no time to relax; they get nervous, very nervous. Here in India you see people relaxing everywhere but there you even feel nervous yourself, you pick up the vibration of their agitated minds. If happiness depended solely on external development places like Switzerland and America would have the greatest peace. They would have less quarrelling, less fighting, less violence. But it's not like that.

This shows that something is missing. It indicates that something is lacking in their method of seeking happiness. Materially they may be on top of the world but many problems continue to destroy their peace and happiness. What is missing? Inner development. They pursue external development but ignore the development of the mind, the inner development. That part of method is missing. Materially, the Western world has progressed enormously but it is not becoming greater. Looking outside while completely forgetting the development of the mind, the development of the good heart, is their great mistake. Material progress in itself is not bad; the material factor should be developed but inner development is much more important. There's no way to compare the two. Inner development is a million times more effective in producing lasting happiness than is external development. You don't find peace if you forget the development of the mind. Through the development of a good heart one obtains peace in the mind. So like that, we should develop outside but at the same time should also develop the mind. If we compare the value of the peace produced by an external thing with that produced by a good heart - by compassion, love, patience and the elimination of the violent, unsubdued mind - the superior value offered by inner development is overwhelming.

Even if you have a pile of diamonds equal to the weight of this earth there is no way to compare the peace it provides to the peace afforded by inner development. The owner of the jewels is still beset by mental problems like anger, attachment and so forth. If someone insults him, anger starts to rise, followed by, thoughts to give harm, to insult, to hurt. The man of inner development reacts quite differently. He thinks: "If he got angry with me, insulted me and hurt MY mind, how upset I would be, how unhappy I would become; so I shouldn't do negative things to him. If I am angry with him and insult him, he will be terribly upset and unhappy. I become unhappy when he is negative with me so of course he will be very unhappy and his peace will be disturbed if I am negative with him. How dare I do this to him?"

When you think like this, the anger disappears like a popped water bubble. At first the bubble seems to be as solid as stone but suddenly it disappears. At first it seems to us that we can't change the mind; yet when we use the correct method, when we meditate like this, the anger goes like a water bubble. You don't see the point of getting angry. You simply practice patience, try not to let anger arise, try to remember that what disturbs your mind and destroys your happiness also disturbs the other's happiness and doesn't help at all. Then how beautiful your face becomes! Anger makes us completely ugly. When anger enters a beautiful face, no amount of make-up can hide the complete ugliness and terror that manifest.


This teaching is an excerpt from Teachings At Tushita, Mahayana Publications, New Delhi, 1981, and is available from Wisdom Publications, Inc., the FPMT publishing company, and can be found at many good bookshops. Amazon can get them too
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