Take care of your consciousness
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
CHÖKYI NYIMA RINPOCHE speaks about consciousness and how it develops through kindfulness.
Q: … Respected Rinpoche, you were saying that it is difficult to talk about consciousness.
CNR: Yes. If we speak about how consciousness develops – when, how, why – it is difficult, but let’s consider it from a different angle. We humans are also animals who give birth to young and are subject to all the ups and downs of biology and existence. So why is it that a healthy man and a healthy woman don’t always conceive and produce a baby, whereas another couple who is not so healthy is able to easily produce babies ? Why ? What is it that enters to create new life sometimes and not at other times ? There is some other energy entering. Buddhists call this energy consciousness.
We can also try to understand consciousness in another way, by examining what we think we are. With what do we identify? Are we our body, or our wealth, or our family ? You can say that the whole world is our living area and we develop a strong attachment to the physical body, to wealth, to family, and even to name, fame and power. We really think these things are ‘mine’. We sign documents stating that we own certain things, and then we definitely think : “I am the owner. I own this much.” But if we really examine it, we are not the owner. We fool ourselves – we only think we own things and actually we don’t even own our body. These are all rented, like a guesthouse or hotel. It is like staying in a hotel and thinking, “This hotel is mine.” We cling so strongly to the physical.
Whereas we really need to think how consciousness entered into this physical body, and what happens to consciousness afterwards, because we will not live more than one hundred years. Then what happens to consciousness ? Does it die, evaporating like water? If not, where does it go ? Do we have the power for our consciousness to go wherever we want it to go, or is that out of our control ? If it is not in our control, in whose hands is it ? Is it in God’s hands, or Buddha’s hands, or Allah’s hands, or Ishwar’s hands ? If it is in their hands, what is the proof ? And if we obey them and surrender to them, will they take us to some nice place after death or not ? Who knows ? Who guarantees ? What proof is there ?
So here today, among the billions of humans living, we have believers and non-believers. Most religions are based on faith. Faith is also belief in the Divine or God. For example, if you are a Buddhist but you do not study deeply, you may think that Buddha Bodhisatva will help you and guide you. But Buddha says, “I cannot protect you. I cannot save you. I cannot heal you. I can only teach you how to save yourself, how to heal yourself and how to protect yourself.”
Now the question comes, who protects whom ? Who saves whom ? Will wealth save me ? Will name, fame and power save me ? Will family save me ? Will the Divine God save me ? I am a Buddhist and Buddha says that he cannot save me. It is disappointing on one hand, but on the other hand it is very logical. When we are sick we think the doctor can cure us, but it is not the doctor who cures us – medicines cure us.
So in Buddhist teaching, the most important thing is impartial loving kindness and compassion. We all have love and care – not only humans, animals also have love and care – but we are partial. We trust those who trust us, help and care for those who help us, love those who love us. It is like a business. It is not that pure. So the Buddhist way of loving kindness and compassion must be impartial, equally for those who love you and who hate you, who help you and who harm you. They equally need love and help, directly and indirectly.
Q: So how is that possible?
CNR: It is for this that we take care of our consciousness. Where does consciousness enter ? And how does it look ? What shape ? What color ? In science nowadays, they talk about the brain and there is a lot of research going on, but for thousands of years we have been interested in consciousness.
Where does consciousness enter ?
And how does it look ?
What shape ? What color ?
In science nowadays,
they talk about the brain and
there is a lot of research going on,
but for thousands of years
we have been interested
You will eventually have to drop all the rest – wealth, fame, family, and even this body. The body is built of five elements but after death it is just a handful of ashes and that also disappears. But does consciousness die ? If it does not die, then we need, urgently, as a matter of priority, to take care of our consciousness. Now. We shouldn’t wait one day.
We never know when we will need to leave this guesthouse. It is unpredictable. What to do with consciousness ? When to develop consciousness ? Right now. Each second is our precious time.
Q: How do we develop consciousness?
CNR: Impartial loving kindness and compassion is the number one important thing. Why ? That brings consciousness itself to a floating state. It makes it clean. But that is not enough. We need realization, and what is that realization ? That we are deluded, confused. Nothing is real that we think is real. Nothing is permanent that we think is permanent. We cannot pinpoint ‘me’ or ‘I’, because ‘me’ and ‘I’ are deluded. It is a wrong belief. So we need to learn more about consciousness.
How do we learn about consciousness ? Where do we find this education ? Who teaches us this ? I would not say that Buddhism is higher than any other system, but there is so much literature available on consciousness in the Buddhist teachings. The answers about consciousness can be found in Buddha dharma. Also, some modern science is very helpful. We respect the scientists and I think they respect us. One scientist told me, “Now I know that I shall never know.”
I travel here and there and I see that the main problem in this world is not lack of education, nor lack of technology, nor even an economic lack. If we really try to balance, everyone can live well. The problem is that instead we go to extremes, where some people have much more than they need and others find it difficult to survive. And so much money is going into weapons. Those weapons, those awful technologies, are for whom ? Human to human. Humans are smart, but humans make awful things. Humans make weapons, pistols, handcuffs and big machines. For whom ? For other humans. It is extremely sad and painful to see how it is going on, getting worse and worse. Technology has become so powerful.
Now we hear about Artificial Intelligence, and how robots can have feelings. This is not a joke or a toy. We give so much power and energy to technology. In the process we become less and less, and we let technology control us.
So it is time to develop loving kindness and compassion for our individual happiness, each in our own areas and countries. The problem right now is lack of loving kindness and compassion. Consciousness has so much power that if it goes wrong the whole world will be destroyed through technology. If we go to the positive side, consciousness can help and it will not only help humans. Our natural environment will be benefited also, and this is more important than technology. Without water, how can we survive ? How can unhealthy water help us ? Without healthy soil, what can we produce ? Technology may look good, but we need to eat, and not just vitamin A, B, C and D tablets. Real vitamins come from water, earth and air ; it is undeniable. It is time to take care of our global environment.
These days I am thinking more and more, what is the lack in this world ? I am one of the human beings in this world. We need to help each other. So it is important to reach out not only to Buddhist people but also to anyone who wants to know more about consciousness.
We need to live with kindfulness, moment by moment. This way we are contributing to the global whole. This contribution is so proper, so clean. It heals – and through it we heal each other. All will become peace, harmony and a happy world.
Q: How to develop kindness? Can we develop this through meditation?
CNR: These days, people so easily use the words ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’, but meditation is so profound and there are so many steps. And who is teaching you meditation ? The teacher is very important. He or she needs to study the mind and consciousness in detail, and have some experience. Only then can he or she teach or share. We shouldn’t play with each other in the mental realm. It is much more sensitive than the physical realm.
We don’t expect doctors to play around with our physical well-being, giving wrong medication, as it can be dangerous. It is even more important to be careful with our mental well-being. We shouldn’t play around with different sorts of meditation with each other, as it can also be dangerous.
But these days, many people don’t want to learn from a proper teacher, as they think that is religion. So they get stuck into methods that claim all sorts of things, and are then not able to develop their consciousness.
I can think and understand,
but I need to realize and have experience.
I get experience through the heart.
Only then can I understand through the mind.
People are very interested in mindfulness and meditation. It is nice, but they really need to know why, how and what effect results from what quality of meditation.
So you asked : how to develop kindness? Kindness is based on calmness. No calm, no kind. No kind, no realization. It’s connected. No foundation, no wall and no ceiling.
Q: And what about the heart?
CNR: These days we talk about the mind, the brain, the heart and feeling, but if you put it a very simple way, I think [pointing to his head] and I feel [pointing to the heart]. I can think and understand [pointing to the head], but I need to realize and have experience [pointing to the heart]. I get experience through the heart. Only then can I understand through the mind.
We need to live moment by moment, healthily, happily. And this is based on kindness. With negative emotion, we are unhappy, and with positive emotion we are happy. Check whenever you are unhappy. The number one reason is that you do not appreciate what you have. The number two reason is that you are not getting along with someone. The number three reason is that you are jealous of someone. These are the three negative emotions. The result is unhappiness.
Now, you surely don’t want to be unhappy. You want to be a happy person. So how to do it ? But people say, “I don’t want to meditate. I am not interested. I am a free thinker, and I am very smart. I am a scientist, and a doctor. I don’t want to do religious things. I don’t want to pray. Where is the Divine ? Where is God ? I don’t believe in all this. I trust pills because they work. I trust alcohol, and even other substances. They make me calm and bring me some kind of good feeling.”
But they will not bring you total happiness, only mental dullness and dumbness, damaging your brain and heart. This leads to addiction. Now what do you do ? Definitely you still want to enjoy life. So you go away on vacation, thinking that maybe your unhappiness will disappear. You look at panoramic views. You listen to unusual music. You eat the best food in the world. Does that bring you ultimate happiness ?
Now, what is the positive emotion, the positive approach ? Appreciate whatever you have. In that moment you are happy. Then, how can you not get along with others ? Practice forgiveness, apologize, don’t let problems continue, or they will destroy your health. Fix problems as soon as possible. If you are jealous because others are more successful, you will indulge in useless mental torturing. You will not get anything beneficial from it. You will only experience anger, suffering, and maybe even worse than that ! So what to do ? Rejoice. Positive emotion results in happiness.
Interviewed by GABRIELE FONSECA
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