Buddhism and the Unhappy Mind

I have observed something magical, which happens when people are thinking about their children and their safety. They pray, visualize or demand that nothing bad and no unhappiness will ever come to make their precious child suffer. Your mother never, ever intended to bear children so that they would experience the least amount of unhappiness, isn't that so? If your mothers and fathers wishes were obeyed by the universe, you would have never suffered what you have already endured. In that perfect world, where mothers rule, she would tell you, "Oh, my children, you just be happy," and you would have instantly obeyed your mother's wishes perfectly.

In fact, your mother must have been right because happiness is the natural state of the mind. Therefore, unhappiness must be the unnatural state of the mind, unnatural meaning unbalanced, and not poised, out of equilibrium, and bulging with an agenda weighing down the mind.

This unbalanced state of the unhappy mind is always in flux between hoping for the best, so remains alert and not ready to give up and pretty sure something bad is coming. They usually are quite ready to blame also. Immediately, a cascade effect happens producing a state of mind of blaming in trying to figure out whose fault it was. The actual delusion is a process or practice of blame, feeling disrespected, and then further noticing how that feeling feels. This is part of the perceptual machinery associated with the unhappy mind.

For an aware person with an active inner eye, unhappiness does not look very pretty. There are many different kinds of sickly colors, slow moving and darkened. It feels like the smells in certain places in India that assail your nose at every turn. For the person who cannot smell, we say it is such a blessing! In this new life, not my before, but now, I can turn off my smeller. It is a very lucky thing. So, like that, it is better to not look at everybody with the inner eye. It does not benefit them and can make your inner being feel uncomfortable.

This sorry state is painful for the experiencer of that unhappy mind and, for the most part, it is also painful for those watching. Most people, however, cannot see the energetic colors, or the hidden agenda bulging from an unhappy mind, but they can almost always feel something. Maybe they are good at reading expressions on the face. However, I understand that, in some parts of the world, especially people from Northern climates, have faces are not very flexible, (maybe because of such cold weather), and it is hard to tell whether they are unhappy or happy. Finnish people, I think; perhaps you need to examine very closely, with a photoelectric device or some other measuring device because otherwise you cannot tell what their mood is. They have very solid expressions. I think many people in the US living in the Midwest have that in their background too, not so wild or exuberant or easy to read.

Shantideva was a great Buddhist master, and the author of the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. He wrote, "Those who seek escape from suffering move toward their own misery. The very happiness, out of delusion, will destroy well-being as if it were its enemy.”

The very desire to be free from suffering sets in motion a cycle which actually brings about the very dastardly result that we did not want to experience. Because of that, the remedies that we use to rid ourselves of unhappiness usually do not address the main problem. The problem is that we are not in the natural state of happiness, but instead, we are using our life energies in the struggle of holding away unhappiness that seems to be attacking us from all sides.

There is a kind of folk philosophy that affirms a modicum of happiness referred to as the balance of good and bad in life. “Life is like that; you pay for the good times with the bad times.” They say that this balance is quite okay because the payment for all the good times and the happy times comes from the suffering that paid for them in the bad times. Really, this is an interesting logic. As long as the good times are more frequent than the bad times, life is good. When the bad times come more than the good times, life is bad. The problem is that this proportion of good and bad keeps changing. You cannot control the switches very well. It would follow that life is like a defective toaster. It is a bit broken because it burns the toast but still too good to throw out. Unless you watch it carefully, it will toast and then quickly burn. Like that, the very thing that brought you happiness and anticipation of more happiness is now bringing you unhappiness but it still works sometimes.

Like that, I want to have a delicious meal. I arrive home and the smell of this delicious food immediately puts me in a pleasant state of mind. Sitting down at the table with my mother and family, I take the first bite and it tastes delicious. I might even make appreciative sounds. As I continue eating, a pleasant conversation continues with my family while eating and enjoying the delicious meal. Suddenly, hard to say which spoonful, but suddenly I do not want it anymore. Perhaps mother notices and reprimands; "Now you eat every bite of that." "I do not want to." Mother, "You love this kind of food. Now, you eat it!" You feel disrespected. You feel unhappy toward the very thing that made you happy a moment ago as well as unhappy with others to be forced. If something could make you truly happy, then the more you ate it, the happier you would become. In fact, that is not true. At a certain point, even happiness can turn into unhappiness just by continuing to do the same activity.

So, how can we be genuinely happy? Indulging in activities that make us happy can bring about unhappiness and holding away unhappiness does not make us feel happy either. There must be another way of looking at it. To be continued…


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