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The Mind as the Source of Suffering and Happiness

buddha header-Mind as the Source of Suffering and Happiness

“To speak or act with a defiled mind is to draw pain after oneself, like a wheel behind the feet of the animal drawing it” (Dhammapada 1).

Suffering is inevitable for the person with a defiled mind, for it is impossible not to act or think (which is speaking inwardly, even if not outwardly). “Good” or meritorious acts done by a person with a defiled mind will bring suffering–perhaps not as much as evil acts, but still the suffering will not be avoided.

This is imperative for us to comprehend: Action is not the determining factor in our life–Mind is. And mind alone. This why in the seventeenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita Krishna describes how bad people do good in a bad way and thus accrue more misery to themselves.

It is very important to understand this fact, since we tend to mistakenly assume that “good” acts produce “good” karma, etc., when in reality the actions mean nothing–it is the condition of the mind that determines their character and therefore their consequences. (Buddha was very insistent on this.) Selfish people do “unselfish” deeds to either cover up their selfishness or to get merit for themselves so they can enjoy this or a future life. Their intentions defile the actions and so little good (if any) accrues to them. Instead their selfishness and pettiness is compounded. This is the plain truth.

Negative consequences

False religion gets rich on such persons through promises of merit and remission of sins. Even after death the deception goes on as their relatives and friends offer prayers and almsdeeds that supposedly will mitigate their negative karmas and alleviate–or even eliminate–the after-death consequences of their defiled thoughts and deeds. It is common to hear patently evil people excused on the grounds of “all the good” they do along with their evil actions.

The truth is plain: evil minds can only produce evil actions that produce evil results. That is why Jesus, a student of Buddha’s teaching, said: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).

How then can a negative person break the pattern of negativity and escape it? By thinking and acting with the intention to change from negative to positive. The admission of negativity and the resolution to turn from it can produce positive thoughts and deeds when the intention is to change the consciousness, not just the consequences. Without the desire for real change nothing worthwhile can take place in life.

Unavoidable good

Buddha repeats his statement about the nature of objects and then continues:

To speak or act with a pure mind, is to draw happiness after oneself, like an inseparable shadow” (Dhammapada 2).

What is defiled and what is pure? Buddha is speaking of something much more than good and bad thoughts and deeds in the ordinary sense. Instead, he is speaking of defiled and pure minds. What is a defiled mind? One that is smudged and clogged with egotism and its demon attendants: selfishness, greed, jealousy, spite, hatred, and materiality.

A pure mind is free from all these things, including the root of egotism. Further, a defiled mind is outward-turned and a pure mind is inward-turned. One roves through the jungle of illusion and delusion that is the world of man’s making, and the other rests in the truth and perfection of its immortal Self. A person who is spirit-oriented cannot but produce peace and happiness for himself. It is as inevitable as the suffering of the matter-oriented person. It is a matter of polarity of consciousness.

Again we see that suffering and happiness are matters of the mind alone.

Further Reading from the Dhammapada for Awakening:

Dhammapada for Awakening coverAvailable as a paperback and as a Kindle ebook

The Dhammapada for Awakening: A Commentary on Buddha’s Practical Wisdom, by Abbot George Burke, is available as a paperback, ebook, free pdf, and for online reading.

“In this compelling book, Abbot George Burke brings his considerable knowledge and background in Christian teachings and the Vedic tradition of India to convey a practical understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. …This is a book you’ll want to take your time to read and keep as reference to reread. Highly recommended for earnest spiritual aspirants, especially those who may need a prod to keep them moving forward.”
–Anna Hourihan, author, editor, and publisher at Vedanta Shores Press

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