Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

When the Chocolate Runs Out - Selections

A “Little Book of Wisdom.”

Salvation Through Chocolate

We love chocolate. Perhaps so much so that on some level we may believe, “As long as I have chocolate, I’ll be happy.” This is the power of attachment at work. And based on this attachment, we create a chocolate-based philosophy and order our life prioritizing chocolate. But sometimes, we can’t get our hands on any chocolate. And when the chocolate disappears, we get nervous, upset: “Oh no! Now I’m unhappy!” But of course it’s not the absence of chocolate that’s making us unhappy; it’s our fixed ideas, and our misunderstanding the nature of chocolate.

Chocolate, like all our pleasures and all our problems, is impermanent—chocolate comes, chocolate goes, chocolate disappears. And that’s natural. When you understand this, your relationship to chocolate can change, and when you deeply understand this, you will truly have no fear of anything at all.

Ultimately, you can’t rely on chocolate. Chocolate isn’t always with you—when you want it, it’s not there and when you don’t feel like it, there it is in front of you. All such transient pleasures are like this—and if your search for happiness causes you to grasp emotionally at the sense world, you will find so much suffering—because you have no control of the sense world, no control of impermanence.

But take heart! There is another kind of happiness available to you, a deep abiding joy of silent experience, a joy that comes from your own mind. This kind of happiness is always with you, always available. Whenever you need it, it’s always there. And you can discover this happiness by studying your own mind. Observing and investigating your mind is really very simple, so simple. With practice, wherever you go, at any time, you can experience this happiness.

And after all, all beings want happiness. The desire for happiness drives so much of the world. From the manufacture of the tiniest piece of candy to the most sophisticated spaceship, the underlying motivation is to find happiness. Beneath the entire course of human history is the constant pursuit of happiness, or, in a sense, the pursuit of more and better chocolate.

Of course we all know that it’s impossible to find lasting happiness and satisfaction through chocolate. We know where to find chocolate— but what about deep and lasting peace?

In all the material that follows, I hope to provide the perspectives and tools—the wisdom and method—to help you understand the root of suffering and find a truly indestructible happiness, a happiness available in all times, places, and circumstances—even when the chocolate runs out.

Sources of Dissatisfaction

The sense world alone
cannot satisfy
the human mind.

When we experience pleasant feelings, emotional attachment ensues, and when that pleasant feeling subsides, craving arises: the desire to experience it again. When we experience unpleasant feelings, aversion arises: we automatically dislike and want to get rid of the unpleasant feelings, again disturbing our mental peace. And when we feel neutral or bored, ignorance arises: we ignore what’s going on and don’t want to see reality.

The nature of this mind of attachment, aversion, and ignorance is dissatisfaction.

 When you were a child maybe you loved and craved ice cream, chocolate, and cake and thought, “When I grow up, I’ll have all the ice cream, chocolate, and cake I want; then I’ll be happy!” Now you have as much ice cream, chocolate, and cake as you want, but you’re still unsatisfied. And so you decide that since this doesn’t make you happy you’ll get a car, a house, television, a husband or wife, you’ll have children and a good job—and then you’ll be happy.

Now you have everything, but your car is a problem, your house is a problem, your husband or wife is a problem, your children are a problem. You realize, “Oh, this is not satisfaction.”

So you seek a cure for this dissatisfaction. But while modern medicine can definitely help alleviate physical ailments, it will never be able to cure the dissatisfied, undisciplined mind. No medicine known can bring satisfaction. What’s more, even if you go to the moon, you can’t escape your problems.

Wherever you go
your dissatisfied mind is still there.

We’re dissatisfied with ourselves. We’re dissatisfied with others, we’re dissatisfied with the outside world. This dissatisfaction is like an ocean.

Our problem is that we don’t accept ourselves as we are and we don’t accept others as they are. We want things to be other than they are because we don’t understand the nature of reality. Our superficial view, our fixed ideas, and our wrong conceptions prevent us from seeing the reality of what we are and how we exist.

We must learn to recognize that we create all human problems ourselves. We should not blame them on society; we should not blame our mother and father or our partner or our boss or our friends; we should not blame anyone else.

Just as we are the creator of all our own problems we are also the creator of our own liberation, our own joy, and everything that is necessary for attaining the blissful liberation that is contained in the body and mind we have right at this very moment.

Meditation brings satisfaction to the dissatisfied mind and explodes the idea, or belief, that happiness depends on circumstances alone.

If you understand spiritual principles correctly and act accordingly, you will find much greater satisfaction and meaning in your life.

 

Attachment and Release

No matter how much of something you get, it never satisfies your desire for better or more. This unceasing desire is suffering; its nature is emotional frustration.

You can see for yourself
that the way attachment works is silly.

Consider this: Imagine we’re in a room and a friend comes in with a delicious cake and gives it to only one person, who then sits there eating it without sharing it with the rest of us. We’re going to be upset, aren’t we? We’re going to be completely jealous and angry. That’s how our minds are. Instead of rejoicing in another’s joy—“Isn’t he kind? He brought a delicious cake all this way for that person. I really hope she enjoys it!”—we feel hurt that we missed out. Check the psychology here. On the surface it looks as if our reaction is all about the cake, but if we go into it more deeply we’ll find that our minds are really thinking, “What I want is for me to be happy. I don’t want her to be happy.” When you see this clearly, just as attachment, it has less power over you.

When you recognize the energy force of attachment, pure thought—the kind of thought that points the way to liberation— follows automatically. You don’t have to strain yourself: “I want pure thought! I must have pure thought!” You don’t have to cling to having pure thought. Just clearly see the way attachment gives rise to ideas in your mind; pure thought will come of its own accord.

When pure thoughts come, your life naturally becomes positive.

If you make yourself deeply familiar with the attitude of attachment, with the attachment trip and how the mind of attachment interprets things, you’ll find your life becomes much easier and your mind becomes much less unwieldy.

Even if you flee your own country for a cave in the mountains, attachment will come along. There’s no way you can leave it behind.

Giving in to the mind of attachment is like prostrating in gratitude to somebody threatening to kill you with a knife. Just as that would be absurd, so is being nice to your attachment.

Decide once and for all to stop bowing
down before attachment.

To overcome your suffering you don’t have to give up all your possessions. Keep your possessions; they’re not what’s making your life difficult. You’re restless because you are clinging to your possessions and pleasures with attachment.

But don’t go throwing all your furniture into the street: “Lama Yeshe said I have too much attachment! I’d better get rid of all my stuff!”

Contrary to what some people might believe, there is nothing wrong with having pleasures and enjoyments. What is wrong is the confused way we grasp on to these pleasures, turning them from a source of happiness into a source of pain and dissatisfaction.

Enjoy your material life as much as you can, but at the same time, understand the nature of your enjoyment—the hallucinatory, impermanent nature of both the object you are enjoying and the mind that is experiencing that enjoyment and how the two relate. This is the renunciation of becoming more reasonable through knowing the characteristic nature of pleasure and of the objects of pleasure.

Understanding all this deeply is the true purpose of religion.

The truly rich person is the one who has a satisfied mind. The affluence of satisfaction comes from wisdom, not from external things.

If you are truly free from the mind of
attachment, you’ll see that nothing
really belongs to you in the first place.

The reality is that you get attached to any idea that you think to be good, so even though the teachings of your spiritual path might in fact be good, try to practice them without attachment.

It is possible to get enlightened without desiring it. The main thing is not to cling too much. If you cling with attachment to the idea of enlightenment, it can become negative instead of positive. Do try to be free, but do so by simply acting consciously and correctly with moment-to-moment awareness of the actions of your body, speech, and mind.

You can’t stop attachment by generating
some kind of radical, rejecting mind.

In the arising of attachment, it’s ego that comes first. Delusion starts with ego; attachment follows. The concept of ego builds a projection of “I” and paints that hallucinated projection with a veneer of qualities. Then, when the I—superficial, artificial, and illusory— starts looking at the pleasures of the sense world, it labels certain objects as desirable. From this, attachment arises, sticking, or clinging, to these attractive objects. This, very briefly, is the evolution of attachment.

Fundamentally, not only are we wide open to whatever intellectual garbage comes our way, but we’ve got a big “welcome!” sign out.

It’s important to realize that others’ words can’t change your reality—there’s no need to go up and down when people praise or criticize you. This up and down happens because of your attachment, your clinging mind, your fixed ideas. Make sure you’re clear about this.

Consider this story: On one occasion some delicious yogurt had been offered to the monastery and a certain yogi was there, sitting down the line a bit. As the yogurt was being sloshed loudly into the bowls of the monks up ahead of him, he was sitting there worrying, “They’re giving those monks too much! There won’t be any left for me!” Suddenly he became aware of what was going on in his mind, so he meditated on how powerful attachment is and how it creates fantasies that have nothing to do with reality. Then he turned his bowl upside down. When the server reached his place, the yogi said, “No thanks, I’ve already had mine.” This is a good example of how to practice an antidote to attachment.

 It would be wonderful if you could recognize that your own attachment is the cause of every single problem that you experience.

Liberation means a mind that has reached beyond attachment, beyond the dualistic mind—and it means that your heart is no longer bound by the uncontrolled, unsubdued, dissatisfied mind, not tied by attachment. When you realize the absolute nature of your mind, you free yourself from bondage and are able to find enjoyment without dependence upon sense objects.

Dharma practice is a method for
totally releasing attachment.

The experience of an atom of honey on your tongue is much more powerful than years of listening to explanations of how sweet it is. No matter how much I tell you about the wonderful sweetness of honey, you’re still going to be thinking, “Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” The truth of the indestructible happiness of liberation is like this.

 

Inner Psychology

The Buddha’s idea is that everybody
should become an inner psychologist.

When you study Dharma and learn how to meditate, you are the main topic. When we study Dharma, we are studying ourselves, the nature of our own minds.

To liberate yourself,
you must know yourself.

Watching your internal world is much more interesting than watching TV and certainly more worthwhile. What’s more, if you watch your mind with skillful wisdom you will never get bored.

Buddhist psychology describes six basic emotions that frustrate the human mind, disturbing its peace and making it restless: ignorance, attachment, anger, pride, deluded doubt, and distorted views. But it’s essential to remember these are mental attitudes, not external phenomena.

If you don’t know your own mind,
your misconceptions will prevent you
from seeing reality.

The Western view of what constitutes mental illness is far too narrow. The Dharma view of mental illness refers to a mind that does not see reality, a mind that tends to either exaggerate or underestimate the qualities of the person or object it perceives—this mind always causes problems to arise.

When your negative mind arises, instead of being afraid of it or pushing it away, you should examine it more closely.

Digesting your emotions with wisdom
is really worthwhile.

Once you realize the true evolution of your mental problems, you’ll never blame any other living being for how you feel. That realization is the beginning of good communication with and respect for others.

 If you know the nature of your own mind, instead of being enemies and strangers, all living beings become your friends, your teachers.

Looking deeply at every aspect of your own mind will help you be more integrated and you’ll see everything more clearly— whereas a partial view of yourself will only make you insecure.

As you become more aware of the nature of your own mind, you will also be more sensitive to the minds of other people.

Meditation helps you understand your
mind and put it in order.

To gain an understanding of the totality of your being, you have to look compassionately at your negative characteristics as well as your positive ones, and not try to cover them up, sweep them away, or ignore them.

And yet, if you have a bad opinion of yourself, it’s not a true picture, and you will only make your life difficult. As soon as you start accepting yourself as you are, you begin to transform—but even so, be aware of areas of unskillfulness, room for growth. In a reasonable way, bring your good qualities to mind and try to develop a positive attitude toward life. With this as your foundation you will be more successful, more positive, and more realistic. This will lead to spiritual growth. It’s a very practical way to be.

Try to be reasonable in the way you grow—and don’t ever think it is too late.

Your bad is bad for you because
your mind calls it bad.

Whatever you consider beautiful, ugly, wonderful, tasty, or aromatic is simply a projection of your superstitious mind. In this way, what your mind believes becomes reality for you, whether it is reality or not.

It is never too late to pay attention.

If you stop paying attention to your own actions of body, speech, and mind and focus instead on some lofty idea—like “What is Buddha? What is enlightenment?”— your spiritual journey becomes nothing more than a dream, a hallucination.

We don’t have to look outside for gold.
We all have a bounteous mine within us;
we just need to tap into it.

 

How to cite this document:
© Lama Zopa Rinpoche, When the Chocolate Runs Out (Wisdom Publications, 2011)

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