“What we do, how we act, the way we speak, has an effect, not only on other people, but on our own minds. So we are creating, moment to moment, our own inner mental environment, this is the environment we inhabit in our lives.
When we understand this, we begin to take more responsibility for our actions, for our speech, for our thoughts, what we choose to give energy to, what we choose to let go of, because we realize that our own happiness depends on this awareness.”
The awareness of this truth is central to making progress on the path and ending one’s suffering. It is the awareness that it’s not what’s going on around you that causes your suffering; it’s not what’s happening to you or happened in the past. It is how you react to it. We create the mental environment that we inhabit, and it is that that causes our suffering.
This is pretty standard Buddhist fare. But I found the wording of this to be not just very appealing, but I felt it could be helpful to practitioners in getting past the tendency to push back at the concept that our minds create our suffering, as opposed to the events that the mind is reacting to.
To shortcut further pushback, let me clarify. It’s not that we are responsible for being the way we are. That is a result of our learned experience over which we had no control. We have been programmed to be the way we are.
But once we are exposed to the Buddha dharma and become able to discern the difference between what our ego-mind is telling us and the guidance we receive from our heart, our true Buddha nature, then it does become our responsibility to stop following the guidance that causes our suffering. Yes, it’s difficult because it’s what we’ve done all our lives; it’s all that we know. But we do have a choice and we have to find the faith and discipline to make that choice.
This is a critical point. Understanding this and accepting this truth is central to all the teachings that move us forward on the path to end our suffering:
Whether it’s embracing all aspects of our being and experience. Whether its testing every guidance we receive and if it is not right for us, if it causes us suffering rather than brings us peace and happiness, then it is our responsibility to reject it. Whether it’s understanding that our ego-mind is not our true self because it causes us suffering, and thus we respond, “not me!” Whether it’s knowing that our true self is our heart, which is light, faith, trust, compassion, joy, strength, courage, and wisdom. Whether it’s having faith that regardless what life throws our way all will be well because we will always return to our true Buddha nature and thus be at peace and happy.
If we do not accept our responsibility for our samsara, and take action accordingly, then there will be no end to our samsara. Regardless what happens in our lives, what we accomplish, we will continue to suffer.
The choice is ours. The choice is yours. As the monk Huyen Te said to me many, many, years ago, “The choice is yours. Your can either continue suffering, or you can surrender your ego to your true Buddha nature,” or as I put it, turn your will and your life over to the care of your true Buddha nature. There is no other way to end your suffering.