Buddha laughed

Why the Buddha laughed when he reached enlightenment

By Desmond Yeoh, from his book, ‘Filling our Life with Celebration’

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They said that the Buddha had a hearty laugh when he achieved enlightenment. I have no doubt that its true. In fact, I believe all enlightened beings laughed when they were enlightened and we will too.

You see, our ego is comprised of our mind-body complex. Our conscious minds are the sum-total of all that is taught to us and our experiences. When we were born, our conscious minds were like empty slates which cause us no suffering. Only the discomfort in our bodies brought some suffering. My parents were Buddhist and they used to talk about suffering when I was young. I questioned myself and taught that they were wrong because I felt that life is filled with happiness. I was not yet burdened by beliefs and conditioning. I am grateful that the divine allowed me to remember this clearly. As time passes, we accumulate beliefs and conditioning that burdens us and we long for the peacefulness of an empty slate. It is like we had an empty room and began to fill the room up with things and then we forgot about empty space and start to search for it.

We begin to search for enlightenment with our conscious minds through religions. The paradox is that we are searching for enlightenment using the very tool that is causing our suffering. The other paradox is that the mind is the sum-total of all that it has learnt and therefore, since it has not experienced enlightenment, it can never realise enlightenment. If we have never learned French, our minds cannot dig out a French word out of no where no matter how long we meditate on it. Our religions feed us with certain beliefs and conditioning that add on to our already packed minds which do not bring us closer to enlightenment. Having said that, I need to clarify that I am not against religion. Some of the teachings actually help to remove certain negative beliefs and conditioning for example the teaching of compassion and inter-dependence help to remove the belief that we can be happy as long as we take care of ourselves.

That is why Osho said that once we start seeking enlightenment (with our minds), we will not find it but once we stop seeking, we will make the leap. We need to get behind our mind. In our meditations, we need to watch our bodies, emotions and thoughts. It is better to understand ourselves than to research about how many universes there are out there or what are the various levels of hells. I personally do not care about these things.

One translation of Patanjali’s definition of Yoga is; ‘Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations in consciousness’. I prefer Osho’s translation; Yoga is the cessation of the mind.  We are made up of our mind and body and as such, this would mean that Yoga is the cessation of our ego. Osho also points out something obvious but very difficult to see. It is like trying to see something when it is held very close to one’s eyes. The mind is not an object or organ; it is an activity. It is just like walking or running. This is what it means when the Dalai Lama said that the ‘I’ is merely a concept and not something that exists inherently.

The mind exists only when there are thoughts. However, our train of thoughts moves so fast that it appears to take on an existence. It is only when we meditate that our thoughts begin to slow down and we are able to experience the silence or gaps between our thoughts. Then, we can see that the mind is made up of thoughts; the fluctuations in consciousness.

The thoughts that we have are the combination of thoughts passed on to us by humanity.  We influence one another with our thoughts. News from across the globe can affect us. That is why the great masters teach that we are all One. The ‘I’ exist only as fluctuations of thoughts and mental formations. The ‘I’ is a thought-energy that has never been born and therefore, can never die. This line of thinking either liberates us or scares us. Because we have lived with this ‘I’ all our lives, it is difficult to see if as merely thought forms.

Seeing our mind as an activity helps us to answer a lot of spiritual questions humanity has tried to answer in many ways such as; are we subject to our fate or karma? Can we change them? Well, yes for some and no for others. A person who is a slave to his thoughts and emotions will find it very difficult to change his fate for example, a person with a very short fuse will be fated to get into fights because he reacts based on his anger; something he is conditioned to do due to past experiences. However, if he learns to shine the power of his awareness on his anger whenever it arises, he becomes the master of his mind and does not react to his karmic conditioning of getting angry easily. In this way, he is able to change his fate or karma of getting into fights.

Another question: Is there death? Can ‘walking’ die? No, that is silly. Our mind, our ego, is really thoughts and experiences. These are energy which cannot die. They live on. When the Buddha’s father was passing away, the Buddha consoled him by telling him that he cannot die but will continue to live on in his children and grandchildren. He has passed on his beliefs, perception, knowledge and experiences to them and as such, a part of him will continue to live on in them.

How does knowing that the mind is an activity help us live happier lives? How do we apply this knowledge? This is the question we should ask ourselves whenever we get spiritual insights. If we cannot put it into practical use, the knowledge is useless. It just adds to our accumulated thoughts and experiences, our egos.

This knowledge is useful if we also take into account the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths: Suffering and the cessation of suffering have their respective causes and as such, there is a path towards the cessation of suffering. The Dalai Lama said that the goal of life is to have happiness. To have happiness, we should cultivate the causes of happiness and reduce the causes of suffering.

Seeing our minds as an activity removes the psychological barrier that makes change difficult. The achievement of enlightenment or self-realisation within this lifetime then becomes a possibility.

Some of us may be tempted to say oh I will just start thinking happy thoughts from now on and be happy. We just need to spend a few minutes meditating to see that our thoughts are so random that we cannot say that we control them. We are the sum-total of our experiences and the future ‘us’ will be the sum-total of our past experiences and the new experiences that we will through. We can make changes to our life so that more wholesome thoughts pass through our mind which in turn, contribute to our happiness.

We are now slaves to our mind. Our moods are dictated by the type of thoughts that pass through our mind which in turn is influenced by external factors. We can become the master of our mind and maintain a calm inner-peace irrespective of our external circumstances. The first step is to take responsibility for our own happiness and to take action. If we spend more time with people who are generous or compassionate, we will naturally develop such attributes because such thoughts will arise more frequently in our mind. The same thing applies to reading books and watching movies which encourages such thoughts. In one research, the test subjects showed a significant improvement in their immune system immediately after watching a movie on the life of Mother Teresa. I can only imagine the negative effects on our immune system of watching a violent movie.

We can cultivate generosity by giving away things that we no longer use such as old books that we are unlikely to read again and clothes that we have not worn for more than one year. It is better to give away things when we are alive. This will also remove the clutter in our homes and allow the positive energy to flow more freely.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Eimear Fraid
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 17:53:24

    It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go. Jim Rohn

    Reply

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