Venerable Geshe-la says that every living being shares the same basic wish to be happy all the time. The problem is we are confused about what makes us happy. Normally, we think our happiness is a passive reaction to favorable external circumstances, so therefore when our circumstances are less than favorable we suffer. The fundamental revolution of the spiritual path is it provides us with a perfectly reliable method for building our own true happiness within our own mind that we can take with us in every situation of our life, and indeed for all our future lives.
At the root of it, the path to happiness is quite simple: we need to “find the right words, and then make them sincere.” How can we understand this? We are happy if our mind is happy. Our mind is happy if our mind is at peace, regardless of our external circumstance. The method for making our mind peaceful is to mix it with wisdom and virtue. The more deeply and irreversibly we mix our mind with wisdom and virtue, the more peaceful and therefore happy we become. There is no other method for lasting happiness, and this method alone is sufficient. This doesn’t mean we don’t also have to successfully manage our external affairs, rather it means if we want to be happy while we manage our external affairs, we need to actively strive to mix our mind with virtue while doing them.
So how do we mix our mind with virtue? Through meditation. Meditation is nothing other than the method by which we mix our mind with virtue. Meditation is not just sitting cross-legged with our eyes closed on our meditation cushion in the morning. We can actually meditate all of the time by actively trying to mix our mind with wisdom and virtue all of the time in every situation of our life.
We mix our mind with virtue at three different levels: listening, contemplating and placement meditation. These three levels can simply be understood as “finding the right words and then making them sincere.” Enlightened beings have attained the state of perfect happiness all of the time. They then explain how they did it and encourage us to do the same. They specifically, with their words, explain the main minds we need to generate within ourselves, such as an appreciation of our precious human life, the wish to become free from all delusions, love, compassion and the wisdom realizing emptiness. Their words are not only a very precise reflection of the minds they have generated, but mixing our mind with them is the path itself to the same state.
When we listen to or read their words, our goal is to gain an intellectual understanding of what they mean. We may or may not agree yet with the idea, but at least we intellectually understand it. This is finding the right words. Once we have done so, we then test the words to see if they are in fact true. We analyze and contemplate the meaning of the words, examining whether they are true and applicable and sound. In short, we validate the truth of the words for ourselves. Our contemplation is complete when what we intellectually understood through listening becomes true for ourselves. We know the meaning of the words is true, correct and reliable. Placement meditation is then striving to keep this truth alive and functioning in our mind. We try maintain the continuum of our understanding or realizing of this truth. It is largely an issue of continually recalling the truth we have understood. Our placement meditation functions to transform what we understand to be true into, as Venerable Tharchin says, “an acquisition of our personality.” We do not simply realize we have a precious human life, but we are actively seizing it. We do not simply realize others are precious, but we become a loving person, etc. In the beginning, we have ‘moments’ where we are loving; but through continual training we become loving all of the time in everything we do. When this is the case, we are said to have a “spontaneous realization” of love, in other words, being a loving person just comes natural all of the time. In short, contemplation and placement meditation is the method for “making [the correct words] sincere.” We not only believe them to be true but we live every moment of our lives as an expression of their truth.
So how can we do this all of the time, even while managing our external affairs? It is simple: we manage our external affairs by responding to them with wisdom and virtue. We listen to, contemplate and meditate on the Dharma specifically in terms of how it can be used and applied to the circumstances and challenges of our life, whatever they happen to be. We can do this not only in formal meditation, but as we go about our daily business. Wisdom and virtue is the correct response to every circumstance, both in terms of making us internally happy, but also in the sense of making all of our external activities successful. If we can do this all the time, every moment of our life will be happy, meaningful and bring us one step closer to the final goal.