Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)
Pristine Mind: Our Fundamental Nature
3. FROM DISCONTENT TO FULFILLMENT
WHEN WE THINK of happiness, we are generally imagining the good circumstances in our life. We describe how happy we are by pointing to all the good things about our family, friends, relationships, or career. We also claim to gain happiness from hobbies, reading, eating at restaurants, drinking alcohol, watching movies, and socializing; but essentially these activities do not bring contentment so much as stave off boredom. We feel uneasy when left to ourselves with no distractions.
Why do we often get bored when there’s nothing to do? Why are we so uncomfortable without distractions? The root cause of our boredom is our underlying discontent and insatiable ordinary mind. We are uncomfortable because our ordinary mind is driven by a hunger, a constant yearning for something. That hunger is lurking around within us, unsatisfied. Without external stimuli, there is nothing to distract the mind from the restlessness of its insatiable thoughts. Our mind is looking for something, but without objects for it to latch on to, it becomes agitated and unsettled. When our thoughts and emotions have a focus, the mind is soothed for the time being. We find a temporary small comfort zone.
This is why we are so in need of distractions. If there is nothing to distract us from the ever-increasing internal agitation, our ordinary mind gets even more restless and generates more mental events that only make the matter worse. We are caught in samsara, in which we pursue the illusion that things external to our mind can give us the security that we have lost because of our disconnection from Pristine Mind.
I am not saying that ordinary enjoyments of life such as amusements, cultural activities, sports, relationships, and social contacts are bad or to be avoided. We may need these distractions until we find ultimate happiness. When a child cries, it may need a toy. But distraction is not the solution. It is a “quick fix,” not the permanent solution of unconditional happiness.
You may have a good romantic life. Perhaps you have fallen in love and you act like a teenager intoxicated by endless affection. You feel so good that you might even think that this person is “the one.” Suddenly your life seems more meaningful and you feel more content. You are happy for the time being because you have found a good distraction. You are like a child enjoying a new toy. But when that toy is lost, breaks, or gets old, the child goes right back to crying. When the romance of the new fades, the underlying discontent remains.
Even long-term relationships generally depend entirely on circumstances. When times are good, the couple are full of affection for each other, and the partners call each other “sweetie” or “honey.” They may tell friends how happy they are and talk about all the things they enjoy doing together or what a perfect child they have. Both partners are unaware of any underlying discontent or emotional unrest while they are in love. The good circumstances are almost like a drug that temporarily makes them oblivious to their underlying discontent.
But what if the tides turn? Perhaps one of them pays too much attention to work and not enough to family, or arguments break out over how much money is being spent. What if their child gets into trouble at school and they disagree about how to handle it? Now they may each feel that their initial happiness has worn off, pointing to these various conflicts as the cause. But the real problem—the underlying discontent of our ordinary mind—has never been recognized and addressed. At the wedding they said how happy they were, but they never stopped to consider that their feelings could change with the changes in circumstances. They may end up in divorce and go on to look for new partners, never having seen the truth—that all relationships are circumstantial, dependent on conditions.
I am not suggesting that relationships, family, vacations, entertainments, and other activities, whether important or trivial, should be given up. In fact, they can be the source of years of great pleasure and satisfaction. But they can never bring indestructible happiness and true contentment. Why should we look for happiness only from circumstances that constantly change when we can uncover a much deeper happiness from within ourselves?
When we lost touch with the pristine state of mind, we developed many thoughts, emotions, and ideas. That loss is the original source of our dissatisfaction. The more thoughts, concepts, ideas, and beliefs accumulate, the more our discontent infuses our life. For example, your thoughts say, “Oh, I need that. Without that, I’m not happy. I deserve something more. This is not enough. Why don’t people treat me better? I should get something special.” The more your thoughts keep repeating themselves that way, the greater your underlying discontent, because you hunger for some kind of connection—any kind of connection. Whether the connection is through positive or negative emotions doesn’t matter as much as the need to be connected to something, anything. But these connections are ultimately unreliable, because they are based on the cravings and fears of the ordinary mind.
To truly solve the problem of our underlying discontent, we need the realization and experience of Pristine Mind. The first step is to perceive that your mind is naturally pristine, and that your mental events are just passing through. You must deeply realize this.
If we remain in Pristine Mind, then we are completely at ease—comfortable, spacious, and very relaxed. Our thoughts and emotions are quiet and peaceful. When our thoughts and emotions are quiet, when the mind is pristine, nothing is lacking, so the hunger that drives mental events has ceased to lurk. Without that hunger, we are comfortable.
We do not need external chatter, preoccupations, or amusements to be happy. Without distractions, we are connected, cheerful, and calm. And even if we are engaged in the world, external experiences are no longer distractions, but genuine enjoyments, forms of happiness, because they are not motivated by internal fears or cravings. When we go to a buffet for dinner, if we are famished, we will devour everything we can grab to satiate our hunger. If, however, we are already well fed, then we can enjoy our food and sample new tastes. In ordinary mind, we are starved for external satisfactions. In Pristine Mind, we enjoy the gourmet cuisine of life.
THE SEARCH FOR COMFORT ZONES
With every blink of the eye, with every breath, we are trying to find comfort—some kind of relief from the underlying agitation and unsettledness of our ordinary mind. We look to family or friends, to some source of stimulation, or to an infinite number of other external conditions that we hope will help us. When we listen to music, watch movies, or engage in any other form of entertainment, in one way we are enjoying it, but in another way it is also an example of using our ordinary mind to find comfort. Our search for this comfort arises from the primordial fear within our ordinary mind.
We are all trying to find a comfort zone, and when our circumstances inevitably change and we are no longer in a comfort zone, our secure and hopeful world is gone. Even when we are getting what we want, we worry that we may lose our comfort zones. We worry about losing our job, our family, our relationship, our health, and anything else that temporarily provides that zone of comfort. We worry that these things will collapse. We think, “What will I do if he breaks up with me?” “How will I deal with losing my job?” “What will happen to me?” And, indeed, some of these things do come to pass. If we depend on these circumstantial events for our security and self-confidence, we are truly vulnerable.
We go through our whole life like this. At first we are young children with so many toys to fascinate and distract us. Then we grow older and go to parties. We feel, “Oh, yeah, I’m funny. People like me. I’m happy.” Then we fall in love and spend all our time with our partner. Then we think we want to get married and have children, so we get married and have children. Then we are satisfied with our life, feeling that we have accomplished something. These are the comfort zones we find throughout our lifetime.
With all of these steps in our life, we may be building some contentment, but it is circumstantial. In the end, we don’t gain anything. We gradually lose everything we own, our family and friends around us go their own ways or pass away, and even our own body grows old and frail. Our temporary comfort zones don’t provide deep solutions to our dissatisfaction.
Once we are in touch with Pristine Mind, however, we discover an internal true comfort zone. Then, even if our outer comfort zones collapse, we are still content and do not experience the fear and pain of loss that we do in ordinary mind.
When you truly experience your mind as pristine and flawless, when you know your pure awareness, your true consciousness, when you recognize and remain within that, then deep down you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilled. You are intimately connected with who you really are and with the world.
As your meditation progresses, then your own thoughts, emotions, and mental chatter slowly dissolve, giving you contentment and satisfaction. Then all relationships you have with others are enhanced, and when those relationships come to an end, for whatever reason, you remain fulfilled because you are not entirely dependent on circumstances. You are not merely numbing yourself temporarily to feel content; your contentment is springing forth naturally.
Then any relationships you have, any trips you take, any parties you attend, any sensory experiences you enjoy, are enhanced by your innate happiness. Then whatever you do is more grounded. Then those things are no longer distractions; you are experiencing true happiness. When your mind is pristine, external conditions actually arise as manifestations of happiness, not distractions.
In the parts that follow, I will describe how to find a comfort zone within, how to find ultimate, changeless happiness, how to achieve ultimate fulfillment with your mind remaining present in its pristine state. In particular, part two is about how to realize our Pristine Mind. Part three is about how to maintain our Pristine Mind. Once you achieve or experience the pristine state of mind, then while distractions and entertainments may appear very beautiful, even without those distractions you are still happy and content.