Chained to Suffering

Shantideva- Guide to Bodhisattvas Way of Life - "Although wishing to be rid of misery, they run toward misery itself. Although wishing to have happiness, like an enemy they ignorantly destroy it."-There is a basic confusion in samsaric living beings. By primordial ignorance, living beings are misled as to the intention and purpose of being alive. The prime characteristic of living beings is seeking happiness and avoiding suffering, isn’t that so? If that is so, then why is it that misery has not decreased? If it’s the prime directive, then why has misery not been reduced, or eliminated? Given beginningless time, how is it that living beings can’t get rid of suffering?

Student: They’d have to be escaping samsara.
Rinpoche: But that is the prime directive of samsara to seek happiness.
Student: If the efforts are not put to escape samsara but to grasping after it, it continues.
Rinpoche:That is a logical inconsistency,how could the method for avoiding suffering and seeking happiness could be different than the script that you were handed?

How the mind functions naturally is a dynamic of attraction and aversion. This process creates confusion due to an attraction to what it has an aversion to. So you are just as connected to what you hate as what you love. Yet this is not what you are seeing because then you would be upset to think- if you have a strong aversion toward suffering that must mean you have a connection to suffering. But, in fact, the harder you push it away the easier it is for it to actually come to you.

When you think about something you really do not want to be connected to, you think about it, how much you dislike it, you are thinking about it all of the time. You can’t get it out of your mind, and in it’s unimaginably close to you. It becomes your closest companion.

I saw a movie about two prisoners who hated each other but the prison guard chained them together. They somehow managed to escape, yet they continue to be chained together and torment each other. Like that, you and what you dislike are chained together. The powerful energetic compulsion of attraction and aversion keeps your mind fascinated in a process that doesn’t allow clear thinking to arise.

Student: Also, pushing things away and pulling things close makes one separate from life itself. As I see it, it’s impossible to be happy when you’re not living your life. The active pushing things away and pulling things close that are in the natural flow kind of takes you out of the river of life and puts you on the shore, stranded by yourself.

Rinpoche: Being free of attachment and aversion does not mean allowing the winds to buffet you here and there. The mind works by seeking an object to attach itself to. And when it can’t find one, it invents one. When it can’t invent one, it will look at its own energy. People who are severely dysfunctional can become fascinated by the imagining energy that is not even there. Yet to them, it exists. They can become fascinated with the energy of some internal process that is not related to outer reality as though it had substance.

Clinically disturbed people are on that end of the spectrum and the enlightened being is on this end of the spectrum, and perhaps you’re somewhere in between. Maybe you’re not over here with the ones we say, “They’re really crazy. I’m OK but they’re really crazy.” And yet the same process of mental function or dysfunction is operating steadily in them as it is just putzing along in your mind. Perhaps you don’t have strong fascination to the point of obsession – you’re just a little bit obsessed.
Student: We call it neurotic.

Rinpoche; So, although wishing to be rid of misery, ordinary living beings run toward misery itself because of magnetic attraction to fascination itself…they’re not fascinated with suffering like a masochist who has kind of total opposite thinking and takes pleasure in something that is suffering.

Imagine that there truly is not a support in reality beneath your feet, and yet this illusory process by which one is moving step-by-step is being created by the process of their own mind. Like walking in air, there is no actual support, and yet as one takes a step there are discs of stepping stone that magically appears under your foot. The one you have just lifted your foot from disappears, you lift your foot again and another magically appears. This may not be easy to understand. I am explaining in a simile one method that your own personal illusion is able to maintain a continuity when no continuity exists.


  1. This feels so important to hear !

    Thank-you again Rinpoche !

    ~ Rinnyi

  2. There seems such a big (and key) difference between a fascination with the fantasy objects & activities that the mind produces, and a more 'clinical' interest in how the mind itself works!

    Many thanks Rinpoche!


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