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Ultimate Healing

1 The Healing Power of the Mind

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1 The Healing Power of the Mind

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The Nature of the Mind

SINCE HEALING essentially comes from our mind, not from our body, it is important to understand the nature of the mind. The intrinsic nature of the mind is pure in the sense that it is not one with the faults of the mind, with the disturbing thoughts and obscurations. All the faults of our mind—our selfishness, ignorance, anger, attachment, guilt, and other disturbing thoughts—are temporary, not permanent and everlasting. And since the cause of our suffering, our disturbing thoughts and obscurations, is temporary, our suffering is also temporary.

The mind is also empty of true existence, of existence from its own side. This quality of mind, known as Buddha-nature, gives us the potential to free ourselves completely from all suffering, including disease, and the causes of suffering and to achieve any happiness we wish, including the peerless happiness of enlightenment. Since the mind has all this potential, we do not need to feel depressed or hopeless. It is not as if we have to experience problems forever. We have incredible freedom to develop our mind in any way that we wish. It is simply a question of finding the right way to use the potential of our mind.

The mind and the body are two distinct phenomena. Mind is defined as that which is clear and perceives objects. Like reflections appearing in a mirror, objects appear clearly to the mind, and the mind is able to recognize them. Whereas the body is substantial, the mind is formless, without color or shape. Whereas the body disintegrates after death, the mind continues from life to life. It is not uncommon to hear of people in both the East and the West who are able to remember past lives and to see future lives, not only their own but also those of others.4 Some are born with this capacity; others develop it through meditation. Some people can remember lives hundreds or even thousands of years ago. When Lama Yeshe, who guided me for many years, visited the pyramids in Egypt, he was able to remember that he had lived there in a past life.

The point is that even though many people do not believe in past and future lives, no one has actually proved that past and future lives do not exist. On the other hand, many people have realized that past lives exist because they remember them very clearly, just as we remember what we did yesterday. They realize the truth of reincarnation because they have the capacity of mind to see past and future lives.

Knowledge of the nature of the mind is more important, and also a vaster subject, than knowledge of the nature of external phenomena. And unless we understand the nature of the mind, there is no way that we can correctly understand the conventional and ultimate nature of other phenomena. Even in worldly terms, it is only through understanding the mind that we can define and understand precisely how external phenomena exist.

Generally speaking, developing knowledge of our mind is the practical solution to our problems. We first have to identify the root of our problems, for only then will we have the possibility of ending our problems and of ensuring that we never experience them again. We also have to recognize the full extent of our problems; otherwise, if we see only part of our problems, our concept of liberation will be limited.

Healing the Mind

Healing our mind is crucial, because otherwise our problems, which are beginningless, become endless. We may use medicine or some other external means to heal a particular disease, but the disease will return unless we heal our mind. If we do nothing to heal our mind, there is always the danger that we will again create the cause of the disease, that we will repeat the actions that caused us to become physically unhealthy. We will then experience the same illness in future lives, or even in this life.

Curing disease through external means is not the best solution5 because the cause of disease is not external. Bacteria, viruses, spirits, and so forth may act as external conditions for disease, but disease itself has no external cause. In the West, however, the external conditions for a particular disease are usually regarded as its cause. The cause of disease is not external; it is in the mind—or we could say, it is the mind. Disease is caused by our self-cherishing, ignorance, anger, attachment, and other delusions and by the negative actions motivated by these negative thoughts. Our negative thoughts and actions leave imprints on our mind, which then manifest as disease or other problems. The imprints also make it possible for disturbing thoughts and negative actions to arise again.

A physical sign necessarily has a physical cause, but the physical cause arises because of the inner cause, the imprints left on the mind by negative thoughts and actions. To fully understand disease, we have to understand this inner cause, which is the actual cause of disease and which also creates the physical conditions for disease. As long as we ignore its inner cause, we have no real cure for disease. We must study its development and recognize that its cause is in the mind. Once we recognize this, we will automatically understand that the healing of disease also has to come from the mind.

What I have been describing accords not only with Buddhist teachings but with our life experience. Research has also shown that health has very much to do with a person’s attitude in daily life, with the ability to keep the mind positive. In Uncommon Wisdom, for example, Fritjof Capra interviewed well-known doctors and psychologists about the cause of cancer. From their research, they had concluded that the source of cancer lies in negative attitudes and that it can be cured by generating positive attitudes.1 This scientific view is approaching the philosophy of Buddha.

A problem is a particular creation of mind. If the cause of a problem exists in our mind, the problem will definitely manifest unless we purify that cause. If the inner cause of a problem exists, the external conditions for the problem will also exist, because the inner cause creates them. In other words, outer obstacles come from inner obstacles. Even the external conditions for a problem are created by our mind. External factors become conditions for a problem because of the inner cause within our mind; but if there is no inner cause, even if the external6 factors are present, they cannot become conditions for the problem. Without the inner obstacle, there is no outer obstacle.

Take the example of skin cancer. It is commonly believed that skin cancer is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. However, if sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer, everyone who sunbathes should develop it. The fact that not everyone who sunbathes develops skin cancer proves that sunlight is not its main cause. Exposure to sunlight is a condition for skin cancer but not its main cause. The main cause of skin cancer is internal, not external. The main cause is the mind. For people who have the cause of skin cancer in their mind, exposure to the sun does become a condition for the development of skin cancer. For those who don’t have the internal cause, however, exposure to sunlight won’t become a condition for them to develop skin cancer.

As I have already mentioned, the root of our problems is within our mind. It is our unskillful ways of thinking. We have to recognize the right ways of thinking, which bring happiness, and the wrong ways of thinking, which bring suffering. With one way of thinking, we have problems in our life; with another way of thinking, we don’t. In other words, happiness and suffering come from our own mind. Our mind creates our life.

Meditation Is the Medicine

While external medicine can be taken to heal a physical sickness, inner medicine needs to be taken to heal the cause of disease, and to ensure that we never experience disease again. What is this inner medicine? Meditation. Meditation is using our own mind, our own positive attitudes, to heal ourselves. And we shouldn’t restrict our definition of healing to recovery from one particular disease, but expand it to include the healing of all problems and their causes. Since disease and all our other problems are caused by negative imprints left on our mind, healing ourselves of the causes of our problems also has to come from our mind. “Meditation” is simply a label for what we do with our mind, and it is the best treatment because it has no side effects.

Since happiness and suffering come from our own mind, meditation is the essential key to healing. It is the only way to stop the cause of7 suffering and to create the cause of happiness. We cannot accomplish this through any external means; we have to accomplish it through our mind. Medicine alone or a simple visualization might heal a particular disease, but it is not sufficient to heal the mind. There is no way to heal disease as well as its cause other than through meditation.

In meditation, our own positive attitudes become the inner medicine that heals our mind and cures the cause of all our problems. Successful healing requires development of the good qualities of our mind. Certain ways of thinking are peaceful and healing; others are disturbing and harmful. Disease and all the other problems in our life are caused by unhealthy minds. An unhealthy mind is any mental action that disturbs us and makes us unhappy, and an unhealthy body comes from an unhealthy mind.

Meditation not only heals disease but brings great peace to the mind. It is the nature of positive thoughts to make us feel calm and relaxed. The best positive thoughts for healing are loving kindness and compassion. Loving kindness is the wish that others have happiness and the causes of happiness; great loving kindness is taking the responsibility upon ourselves to bring others happiness and its causes. Compassion is the wish that others be free from suffering and the causes of suffering; great compassion is taking the responsibility upon ourselves to free others from suffering and its causes. Generating these positive attitudes can heal disease.

Compassion is the best healer. The most powerful healing comes from developing compassion for all other living beings, irrespective of their race, nationality, religious belief, or relationship to us. We need to feel compassion for all living beings, every single one of whom wants happiness and does not want suffering. We need to develop not only compassion, the wish to free everyone from all suffering, but great compassion, which means taking upon ourselves the responsibility for doing this. This brings deep and powerful healing.

The nature of loving and compassionate thoughts is peaceful and healthy, quite different from the nature of ignorance, anger, attachment, pride, or jealousy. Even though a compassionate person feels genuine concern for others and finds it unbearable that anyone is suffering, the essential nature of their mind is still peaceful.

On the other hand, the mind of ill will, the wish to harm others, is8 not calm; it is like having a sharp thorn in our heart. Attachment also has its own pain; it is tight, squeezed, and very painful when we have to separate from the object of our desire. Attachment also obscures our mind, creating a wall between us and reality. When we are attached to a particular person, or even to a particular animal, we cannot see the reality of that being’s suffering or feel compassion for them from our heart because attachment obscures our mind. Attachment gives us no space to feel compassion. Even if we help them, we always have an expectation of getting something in return. Our help is not given simply because they are sick or in danger, but with the expectation that they will reward us in some way in the future.

When our mind is invaded by attachment, we find it difficult to feel compassion. If we check, we find that when we are overwhelmed by strong attachment, we care only about what we want. Our main aim is our own happiness. Even if we help others, it is because we want something in return. Our mind is disturbed and obscured. We cannot see that the person for whom we feel strong attachment is at least as important as we are; we cannot cherish them and sincerely offer them help.

By healing our mind with great compassion, we will be able to solve all our own problems and those of others. The positive thought of compassion will not only help us to recover from sickness but bring us peace, happiness, and satisfaction. It will enable us to enjoy life. It will also bring peace and happiness to our family and friends and to the other people around us. Because we will have no negative thoughts toward them, the people—and even the animals—we deal with will feel happy. If we have loving kindness and compassion, our prime concern will always be not to hurt others, and this itself is healing. A compassionate person is the most powerful healer, not only of their own disease and other problems, but of those of others. A person with loving kindness and compassion heals others simply by existing.

Ultimate Healing

Each time we meditate on compassion for all living beings, we accumulate infinite merit, the cause of all happiness and success; each time9 we practice meditation for the benefit of all living beings, we perform ultimate healing.

Developing our compassion also helps us to develop wisdom, especially the wisdom that realizes emptiness, the ultimate nature of the I, the mind, and all other phenomena. This wisdom gradually thins the clouds of obscurations that temporarily obscure the mind until the mind becomes as pure as a clear blue sky flooded with sunlight. This wisdom directly purifies the mind. It liberates the mind from ignorance, anger, attachment, and all the other disturbing thoughts; from the seeds of these disturbing thoughts; and even from their imprints. All obscurations, even the very subtle ones, are completely purified by this wisdom.

With full development of compassion and wisdom, the mind becomes completely free from gross and subtle obscurations. At that time the mind is omniscient, or fully knowing. An omniscient mind is able to directly see all of the past, present, and future; it is able to see the minds of all sentient beings and to know the methods that will free them from their problems and bring them happiness, including the highest happiness of full enlightenment.

At the moment, our knowledge is very limited. Even to know the state of our own health we have to rely upon doctors, machines, blood tests, and so forth. Even in the small area of medical treatment, we cannot understand the problems of other beings, their causes, and the solutions that would suit them. Our understanding is very limited, as is our ability to help others. Our ability to see the future is also very limited. We can’t tell what is going to happen next year, next month, next week, or even tomorrow, let alone what will happen next life.

The power of our body, speech, and mind is limited because of our mental obscurations. When we free our mental continuum from all gross and subtle obscurations, however, there will be no limitation of our power. Not only will our mind be able to directly see all the past, present, and future, but it will pervade everywhere. Without any resistance, our mind will be able to go to any object that we think of. When our mind is fully enlightened, which means free from all gross and subtle obscurations, we will be completely free from both the gross mind and the gross body. At that time we will not be limited by anything. This is ultimate freedom.

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When the sun rises, it is spontaneously reflected everywhere. It is reflected in every uncovered body of water on the earth—in every ocean, stream, lake, and even dewdrop. In a similar way, since all the gross and subtle obscurations are eliminated, the omniscient mind naturally pervades everywhere. Whenever the positive imprint of a living being ripens, the omniscient mind can immediately manifest in a form that suits the level of mind of that particular being. If they have a pure mind, it manifests in a pure form to guide them; if they have an impure mind, it manifests in an impure form. Because the omniscient mind sees all existence at all times, whenever a positive imprint ripens in the mind of a being, it can manifest at once to help guide that being from happiness to happiness, to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. This is the meaning of perfect power.

Knowledge and power alone are not enough, however. Compassion is needed. Even though an omniscient mind sees everything, the main source of help for living beings is compassion. For example, even if someone is very knowledgeable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will use their knowledge to help others. Knowledge and power can even become obstacles to helping others if the person has no compassion; even if they know how to help and have the power to do so, there is a possibility that they might not help you even if you ask them. Someone with compassion, on the other hand, will always help you when you ask them for help...

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