To me these four basic thoughts are fundamental to understand and consider in relation to everything. I was fortunate enough to discover them in buddhist teachings where they in a more brief version form the introduction to meditations but I found the same assumptions in the sciences and in fact it is accepted within buddhism that if anything is scientifically proven it is above any other teaching. In general they are interesting basic assumptions which are very useful to understand and to practise. By the way buddhism means ‘the way things are’. According to Albert Einstein it is the only socalled ‘religion’ (which is not a religion because it’s based on your own work and experience) that corresponds directly with science. They are two sides of the same coin as they both look for discovery, verification and results.
I’m giving a personal interpretation describing the way I see the four basic thoughts and I add what I think are relevant current perspectives. I don’t think we should hold back. Life is short and precious and we must always be critical enough to find out what makes most sense to us, test it and live by it only if it corresponds with reality after our own thorough investigation.
We sit or lie comfortably, we breathe naturally and you relax your mind. We feel the formless stream of air at the tips of our noses and let thoughts and feelings pass without judging them, we let them go and avoid evaluating anything that comes and goes in our mind. A bit like movie scenes passing on the big screen, we stay in the centre and become one with that which observes everything, that which is behind and beyond all events, listening through our ears and looking through our eyes. We are not just passively watching the movie, we own the cinema and actively decide what movie we want to play, when and with who. You eyes can be closed or open depending on what is most comfortable. It is normally easier to relax with the eyes closed.
Then we focus our minds on the four basic thoughts that changes our mind towards liberation and enlightenment.
Liberation of ourselves and our minds is indeed an important, meaningful and wonderful target to set for your life as in essence we are all free with full access to mind’s potential but thoughts and feelings (different poisons coming from ignorance) repeatedly cloud our minds because of previous events in our own life and the energies of confused people’s thoughts and emotions accumulating into this now. We now let go completely and rest in what is, mind’s vast ocean of light and limitless opportunities.
Enlightenment is a great target to work towards on many levels because seeing everything as it is from a higher, pure and enlightened point of view means that we experience clarity and that we wish to benefit others since we realise that it´s the most efficient and actually also the only way to benefit ourselves. Something that many people misunderstand because of attachment to their own egos. In essence enlightenment is also the target for the different sciences.
Whenever we have become more enlightened and managed to take a step up in the history of society, such as when we facilitated democracy, human rights and gradually improved conditions through a long learning process, we also created more happiness, more freedom and more space for love and joy. It makes sense on the level of our own individual lives and on the level of society to cultivate compassion and love for others as this way our mutual growth will increase and beyond boundaries as happiness, joy and success is as limitless as your own mind.
Now to the first basic thought, generally speaking all living beings desire happiness, comfort, pleasure and success.
We are very fortunate to be born, to have the ability to live, speak, sense, to have and enjoy our precious bodies, we are also very fortunate to encounter constructive and useful perspectives, such as buddhist teachings which in detail show multiple ways to benefit, to give, to create and experience freedom and joy using the limitless opportunities coming out of the vast space. These methods are completely friendly, unique and impeccable and a lot of work and positive conditioning lie behind something so valuable and extremely useful. Maybe more useful than ever before during these times of change.
However, attachment to our egos separates instead of unites us, the separation creates a dualistic perspective on everything and there from ignorance produces problems, such as jealousy, hatred, anger and other negative thoughts and emotions that cause harm. We can forget that everything we project out comes from our own mind and that we are our own inner teacher all the time.
If someone is good looking or has a beautiful girlfriend, a nice car, wealth and success of some kind, personal qualities or a great sense of humor, someone else – being caught in ignorance, fear and suffering – may get jealous wanting to have those things or be like that person. This unfortunately is very common and it’s causing a lot of problems that can only dissolve through letting them go.
We see today that people from the Middle Eastern countries are fighting to illegally invade Europe because they want to have the conditions we have cultivated on the continent. They even leave their home countries, their women and children behind to achieve their own aims going to the “promised land”. This of course is blooming stupid because the way you achieve great conditions for yourself and your family is by building them up consistently through disciplined hard work and not by stealing from others who did the work. Something really great can not be stolen. Only things can be stolen, not a state of mind and certainly not enlightenment. To achieve peace of mind a serious and structured work effort must be invested for years and generations. Being jealous, greedy and angry because others have something you don’t have is ignorant and there is no faster way to happiness than getting to know your own mind and starting to benefit others around you through your own dedicated work. This way great businesses and well functioning humane societies have been created throughout history and will be created in the future.
In Scandinavia we have a socially responsible mindset and we accepted to pay high taxes since the birth of those societies. As a result, now there´s obviously accumulated value as in a collective pension fund. That´s natural after generations of hard work so better to see this is a role model to follow than trying to steal it. Nothing good comes out of that for anyone. Greed and jealousy can never lead to happiness and success. Only overcoming those negative emotions will take you there.
Besides that cultures today are so different that people are better of seeking development and protection in groups sharing their own fundamental view points instead of trying to suppress a mindset which might be superior to their own. Don’t walk into a perfectly functioning house and start imposing your own limited belief on everyone. Instead stay in your house and develop your own castle if you are so sure your ideology or philosophy is so great. Proove it and build through hard work. In buddhist teachings it’s not appropriate to preach or try to convince anyone because it’s based on personal experience and not a judging external god or set of principles.
In general in our present state of ignorance and attachment we do not recognize our own nature, we try out of curiosity to obtain possessions, wealth, fame, and so forth. But in fact these things bring us suffering. When at last we do realize our true nature, we no longer feel attached to any thing, and no one is our enemy; there is nothing that is self or other. Actually, everything and everybody are one, and realizing the oneness of everything brings eternal happiness. The best method to find this is through self-examination, to observe what is happening within ourselves. This is better than studying others, because when we look at another’s errors we do not see our own, and when we criticize others’ faults we feel that we have none. We might even feel that we are perfect. Without self examination we can only remain ignorant and make many mistakes without even knowing it.
The second basic thought is understanding that everything is impermanent, even ourselves, thoughts, emotions, all things even our own precious bodies come and go, only the radience of mind itself is permanent and lasting.
When we do not examine ourselves we forget this obvious fact, and we act as if we will live forever. We collect as many possessions as possible and try to make hundreds of friends, and we waste our lives. But when we face the inevitability of our death, then we start to wonder what to do about it and how to deal with the uncertainty of life. As soon as we personally encounter impermanence in this way, our mind falls into practice, so to speak. We become interested in it, and we know why it is important. From the start we must base our practice on this awareness, realizing that at the time of our death the only thing that can help us is the practice that we have done during our life. Nobody else can help. In this way we meditate on the impermanence of both our selves and others.
Our third thought is to consider karma, or cause and effect. Karma and its result are infallible. They are like a seed and its fruit. If you plant the seed of a sweet fruit such as an orange, it will grow as an orange tree and produce oranges. The result of a sweet fruit is health, if you plant its seed. If you plant a poisonous seed, it will produce poisonous fruit, and its result will be painful or even life threatening. Karma works in the same way, because if we act negatively now, then we will experience suffering, illness, pain, and frustration. If we practice the precious actions of body, speech, and mind now, then we will experience greater happiness and success.
We decide now about tomorrow and our future as we will enjoy the benefits created in the past or manage the difficulties related to the seeds we planted previously. We are constantly dealing with our own karma and influenced by other people’s karma in this now which is all we have. Therefore take a moment to breathe and read between the lines.
Now is the moment where things come to fruition and the states of our minds and bodies are a result of previous thoughts, feelings and actions. We are all born into this world and it is also inevitable that we all get old, sick and die eventually.
That’s why it is completely meaningful to now think, feel and act in a way which will create beneficial results in the future. Beneficial as in helping others to realise themselves and their own minds, assisting others in being happy by practising and giving compassion, love, kindness, intelligence and wisdom. The combination of compassion and wisdom is the most fundamental expression of all the buddha aspects, reflecting all the aspects of our own minds potential.
The fourth thought, and a big obstacle to success on the path of enlightenment, is our attachment to many things in life. Because we are all so strongly attached we need to examine with great care whether worldly activities will benefit us eternally or not. For instance, most people desire possessions and also love and acceptance, and many work hard, day and night, to obtain them, going through much discomfort and even suffering. Yet if we evaluate whether possessions or popularity will help us after death or with a better rebirth, we find that neither does us any good. Clinging to hedonistic and attached life is fruitless.
To practice meditation means to remove confusion. Right now we are so confused that we are attached to everything. We take the right thing as the wrong thing, and the wrong thing as the right thing. Again we must examine everything that we do. For example, we may feel that friends, relatives, and family truly make us happy. But if we look carefully, we see instead that these, too, bring sufferings.
We have now examined four thoughts that turn our mind away from its clinging to attachment and towards liberation, happiness and real success which always takes the happiness and well-being of others as a starting point and constant reference.
We have seen that the first thought is to appreciate that we are fortunate to have obtained a precious life.
The second is to recognize that because this precious human birth is impermanent we should practice the flexibility, efficiency and enlightenment of our minds as soon and quickly as possible.
Third is karma and its result, knowing that if we act positively through body, speech, and mind we experience happiness, and if we act negatively we experience suffering.
Fourth, we understand that the nature of a life of attachment is suffering.
These are sometimes called the four ordinary foundations.
I had the luck to meet some great lamas, such as Danish Lama Ole Nydahl, phenomenal and hard-working teacher to transmit teachings who travelled the world twice every year for the last 40 years to build and attend over 600 centres that make a difference and benefit many. He has been pivotal in bringing buddhism to the West and worked none stop for his whole life to benefit as many as possible (most of his journey was with his amazingly beautiful wife Hannah Nydahl at his side), Sharmapa Rinpoche, Jigme Rinpoche, the 17th Karmapa, all incredible encounters each of them and other amazing examples of practitioners on a mission to benefit others with positivity, compassion, love and immense protection.
It is easy to find one of these places, if you want to learn about these useful practises. Always come with your head high and follow your own instict. This will give a better result in the end. Try to avoid ‘imposing spiritual stereotypes’ and trivial groupie cultures. They will get you no where.
It’s fantastic and of paramount importance to meet idealistic people with a layman’s practical approach to life, wherever you may find them as it can help releasing the unlimited potential of your mind.
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/Martin Juncher Jensen