“The organisers weren’t happy when I suggested the name for my talk. They wanted to change it to ‘Life is not always happy,’” Thubten Gyatso says.
“Happiness is just a lighter degree of suffering,” he says. When we have a source of happiness, after a while it fades, and we look for another source of happiness.
Gyatso talks about the pain of birth. It’s painful for the mother, but also for the child. Having your head squeezed through a narrow passageway, coming into a room that’s bright, cold, and rough on your skin, compared to being in the womb. “From that moment, we decide to take revenge on the world,” he jokes.
From the beginning, we have one driving need: to find happiness and avoid suffering. It’s the Pleasure Principle – “We pursue this, and mum and dad oblige – they want to see their child happy and smiling,” he says.
“We initially lean on mum and dad for security,” Gyatso says. Our mother calms us with her heartbeat, the sound of her voice. “But we can’t fall into stereotypes,” he says. In some cases, people do not feel a bond. However, we shouldn’t feel guilty about this.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with our minds that make us incapable of loving,” Gyatso says. When it’s difficult to love someone, it’s because we’re unhappy, and that’s because we have mental disturbance.
“You can have the seeds of love in your heart, but love can only be manifest if you are happy.”
In the Buddhist teachings, someone has to appear to your mind in a pleasing manner in order for you to love them. “It is a goal in the Buddhist path to have universal love,” he says. This means love for every sentient being.
“When I travel around the world, I always relate to people as if they are a long-lost friend,” Gyatso says. If we train our minds to see others in the same way as we see a person we love, such as our mother, this will make us happier. “All experiences are rooted in our own mind,” he says.
“The morality to practice is a non-harmful attitude towards others. This is the secret for how to practice love, to genuinely have love in your heart.”
To conclude, Thubten Gyatso sings us a rendition of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ – a song I’m sure many of us relate to. Thankfully, there are other ways to feel long-lasting love. It starts in the mind.
Thubten Gyatso (Dr Adrian Feldmann), Buddhist monk and author of A Leaf in the Wind and The Perfect Mirror: Reflections on Truth and Illusion presented this at Happiness & Its Causes 2016.