Every action we perform leaves an imprint on our very subtle mind,
and each imprint eventually gives rise to its own effect.
Our mind is like a field, and performing actions is like
sowing seeds in that field. Virtuous actions sow seeds
of future happiness and non-virtuous actions sow seeds of future suffering.
These seeds remain dormant in our mind until the conditions
for them to ripen occur, and then they produce their effect. In some cases,
this can happen many lifetimes after the original action was performed.
We cannot avoid the suffering of dissatisfaction
by frequently changing our situation. We may think
that if we keep getting a new partner or a new job, or keep traveling about,
we will eventually find what we want; but even if we were
to travel to every place on the globe, and have a new lover in every town,
we would still be seeking another place and another lover.
In samsara there is no real fulfillment of our desires.
Delusions are distorted ways of looking at ourself, other people,
and the world around us. The way a deluded mind
views these phenomena does not accord with reality.
The deluded mind of hatred, for example, views another person
as intrinsically bad, but there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person.
Through studying many Buddhist texts we may become
a renowned scholar; but if we do not put Buddha’s teachings
into practice, our understanding of Buddhism will remain hollow,
with no power to solve our own or others’ problems.
Expecting intellectual understanding of Buddhist texts alone
to solve our problems is like a sick person hoping to cure
his or her illness through merely reading medical instructions
without actually taking the medicine.
We often feel that it is someone else who is making us unhappy,
and we can become very resentful. If we look at the situation carefully,
however, we will find that it is always our own mental attitude
that is responsible for our unhappiness. Another person’s actions
make us unhappy only if we allow them to stimulate a negative response in us.
Criticism, for example, has no power from its own side to hurt us;
we are hurt only because of our self-cherishing. With self-cherishing
we are so dependent on the opinions and approval of others
that we lose our freedom to respond and act in the most constructive way.
To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think
about the past or responsibly plan for the future.
The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets
about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded
in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry,
the object of your mindfulness and concentration.
You can attain many insights by looking into the past.
But you are still grounded in the present moment.
Carl Jung said that the reason for mental illness
is the avoidance of legitimate suffering. We have a wrong relationship
to pain and change, and that is because we are not aware
that death is part of life, not at the end of it.
The ego is conservative and only wants more life
and puts death outside the wall, into the hypothetical future,
as something which is going to happen. But in reality each breathe comes
and then goes. Between each inhale and exhale we die and are reborn.
So clinging to memory, to the past attachments, to toxic people,
and useless ideas and beliefs brings great stress to the Self
which knows that it is all junk. But like pack-rats, we hold on and wonder
why life is rancid and mediocre.