Each time I sit down to write and assemble my thoughts together, I will await the important moment when my precious Guru opens up my mind with a ray of blessings. Then my scattered thoughts and ideas which are all over the place will, like pieces of jigsaw puzzle, come together and fall into place. Then will come the exciting part, when I feverishly ‘pen’ my thoughts as they chase one another.
I thank my most compassionate Guru for your infinite kindness in giving me this very rare and treasured opportunity to write reviews on the Gems of Dharma, which are mainly the mind-shaping teachings of Tsem Rinpoche, transcribed into books. I thank kind Dharma friends, like Beatrix Ooi, for your invaluable help in getting my article uploaded as a blogpost, with pictures and all.
A Review of “Be Happy” by H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche
Being Happy is a win-win situation. We must strive to be happy.
In “Be Happy”, Tsem Rinpoche shows us that happiness is a state of mind and we can achieve it, but only after we have determined the causes of why we are unhappy in the first place. He takes us on a journey where he shows us where our mind is coming from when we encounter unhappiness , how we react negatively from our negatively habituated mind , and then he shows how we can retrain our mind to get out of this negative state into a state of peace and quiet, into a state of happiness. Throughout this book, we feel that he is at the heart of each situation and experience and not outside looking in. “Be Happy” carries a strong message from Tsem Rinpoche which will appeal to people everywhere who feel trapped by everyday problems, difficult situations and relationships. The message is “I have been down this road before; I know what it is like to suffer and to feel trapped in the suffering. But look at me: I was able to free my mind by understanding where my suffering really came from and by taking positive uplifting steps to remove it by eradicating its causes. In the end, by applying the Dharma, I won over suffering and not let it win over me and control me”.
The Part of “Be Happy” That Touched Me Deeply.
“I must have made prayers in my previous lives to be in that situation”
The part of “Be Happy” that touched me deeply is the part where Tsem Rinpoche says that he was born into such a difficult situation(to experience incredibly great suffering, particularly from his mother, Dana) because “I must have made prayers in my previous lives to be in that situation . I am not the best person but I did grow up wanting to benefit others”.
“I believe I did prayers to be born into that situation. My whole life, people asked me, “You’re a Rinpoche, why did you have to suffer like that?” I was thinking, “Yeah, why?” I was thinking to myself. “Why?” I kept thinking for years, why? I realised why. I must have prayed to be in that situation”.
“I did grow up knowing about mental pain. I did grow up knowing the scars of war. I did grow up knowing about people who are hurt. I did grow up knowing that we should forgive people like that. I did grow up knowing they suffer more than I do, and that they deserve our compassion and love, not pity. That we should not add on to their pain anymore and by saying sorry, they have one less enemy from our side. By saying sorry to my mother, I was accepting my situation and when you accept a situation, and a very sad one, you transform.”
In Lord Buddha’s time, when he taught the Four Noble Truths about suffering –the truth of suffering, the truth of the causes or origins of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the way out of suffering– people’s minds instantly shifted, they attained realisations and even achieved liberation from suffering and samsara(our cyclic existence of suffering), there and then.
In this twenty-first century, where our minds are mired in strong delusions of attachment and craving, hatred and anger stemming from ego and self-cherishing, the consequence is a painful reality that we are confronted with every day – a reality of anxiety, loneliness, intolerance, depression, low self-esteem, mental anguish and holding on to hate and anger and a lot of hurting and retaliation. Out of the depths of our misery and caught in the “poor me” syndrome, will we listen to a spiritual teacher, who expounds to us the Four Noble Truth? No. Not really. We may even turn around and ask him: “What do you know of pain and suffering? How can you talk about letting go of what causes suffering so that I can be happy, when you don’t even know how much I am suffering, when you don’t understand the nature of my suffering?”
Thus in order to truly benefit the people of this age, in order to help free us from our suffering, a most compassionate being has sought to be reborn in a suffering situation, to be in an environment to experience, or have people close to him experience, the realities of the suffering of this age, so that he can truly identify and empathise with people and teach the dharma of how to eradicate the causes of suffering and how to be happy. People will listen because he has walked down their road of pain and suffering before, and emerged a winner by overcoming the causes of the suffering that they are currently experiencing.
He becomes our source of inspiration. He makes us want to walk the hard road of mind transformation, like him, and gain our mind of peace and quiet – a happy mind.
Later, in “Be Happy”, Tsem Rinpoche again says that for some people, they actually prayed to be born in difficult situations which will train their mind and accelerate their spiritual progress. Those who were born in very difficult situations and grow up to be great and highly respected people, despite a difficult childhood, become an inspiration to millions of people.
Training the Mind For Happiness.
The mind has habituated itself, unwittingly, over a long period of time, to be unhappy. So now, in order to achieve happiness, we need to take a hard look at why and how we have been making ourselves unhappy until this unhappiness has become so deeply habituated in us. After identifying and determining the reasons why we are unhappy, we can then apply Tsem Rinpoche’s methods of training the mind , in “Be Happy”, to dismantle and shed our unhappiness and replace it with happiness. These methods are described to us in this book, with the force of firm conviction, as Tsem Rinpoche has applied them on himself with great positive effect.
The following are the Five Points I learned from “Be Happy” about how I can make myself happy.
1. Being Happy is About Seeing the Good in Every Person or Situation
Being able to see the good in every person or situation is the result of training the mind to remove a main cause of our unhappiness, and that is wrong perceptions or wrong projections.
We train the mind to focus on the good qualities and not on the faults of another person or situation. We train the mind to discard our deeply habituated way of looking at people and situations from a negative perspective or from negative projections.
The following is an example from Tsem Rinpoche’s own life and experience. In this situation, it was his Guru Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen who taught him to look at his mother from a positive perspective:
When Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen told Tsem Rinpoche to apologise to his mother for hurting her and for running away from home, Rinpoche was at first bewildered. He wondered why he should apologise to his mother. It was not his fault. Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen said he had to do it because he needed to advance in his practice. Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen then explained, “Because you don’t look at the negative things your mother did – you have to look at the positive. You’re here. Someone fed you. Someone gave you a house (to stay). You‘re here in our centre, that’s the result of your mother’s kindness. You call her and you say you’re sorry for the things you said to her and for the things you thought about her.”
Tsem Rinpoche told his teacher that her mother was not going to take his call. But Geshe-la just said, “Never mind, you call her and if she doesn’t pick up, you tried. So, at least when you pray, when you do your sadhana, it comes from your heart, then it’s real.”
Tsem Rinpoche apologised because his Guru had said he should do so. It was difficult for him. There was all the pain he had suffered from his mother’s abuse. There was all the pain he had suffered in running away, because she did not want him to practice the Dharma. Tsem Rinpoche had a lot of reasons to be angry with his mother. However, later he says,”I realised at that time, at seventeen years old, that if I did not apologise to my mother, I would hold on to it. If I held on to the anger, how could I do my sadhanas and retreats? How could I go to India to be a monk? A monk is supposed to be kind. So I did it and have no regrets”.
It is important to train the mind to focus especially on the good qualities of one’s Guru. Our Guru has sacrificed a great deal – giving up his family, his friends, his freedom, his pursuit of personal happiness – and sat through thousands of hours of Dharma teachings, and taken on the vows so that he could bring us the Dharma teachings and be our Spiritual Guide.
When we can train our mind to look at our Guru’s qualities, it becomes easier to also train it to focus on the good qualities of others. This is because our Guru is a beacon of kindness and compassion and only goodness and virtues flow from him.
2. Being Happy is About Changing Perceptions
Our unhappiness comes from our wrong perceptions of other people and other people’s wrong perception of us. so we need to change our perceptions from negative to positive.
- Our unhappiness comes from our wrong perceptions of other people and from other people’s wrong perception of us. As these wrong or negative perceptions of others have been deeply habituated in us, we have to train our minds to let go of them and replace them with correct or positive perceptions. Then our reactions to these difficult situations will be positive and this in turn will invite positive reactions from others, as their perceptions of us will also have changed from negative to positive.Here is an example of how we react negatively from a wrong perception:
A wrong perception arises when someone, in your opinion, makes a negative remark about your dress. She meant it as a suggestion or advice. But you instantly see it as a negative remark, that is designed to put you down. You become very hurt and even angry, because your mind has been habituated to view this type of remark as negative. In the past, you had been made out to be a fashion disaster, as people had been repeatedly making remarks about your poor dress sense, which you saw as criticism. Therefore, in the past, you had always reacted with hurt and danger too. Your wrong perception of others will in turn trigger their wrong perception of you. When you react negatively toward them, they perceive you to be a hostile and aggressive person, especially if you retaliate in anger. Therefore, when you react negatively, as you have been habituated to do in the past, you will lose friends and opportunities and cause loved ones to become estranged from you.
Our habituated wrong perception arose from narrow-mindedness, which Tsem Rinpoche says is due to lack of exposure, study and mostly due to lack of the application of Dharma. Correcting our perception will lead us to face ourselves and not run away or hide, and we will transform and move in the direction of happiness.
- Correcting wrong perceptions of one’s Guru who is our spiritual guide and who will lead us to ultimate Freedom and Happiness.
When we project our habituated negative perceptions and expectations on to our Guru, they will become severe obstacles for us in our spiritual path, and will block our chances of gaining attainments and of progressing.Great Masters of this age will employ unconventional methods to teach us and train our minds to let go of wrong perceptions. For instance, teachers who are monks, know that their lay students usually have very fixed (wrong) perceptions and projections about how they should speak and what they should wear. If these teacher do not follow conventions, then their students will immediately criticise them and see them as misbehaving, because of their wrong perceptions. The teachers will still risk their censure because they want their students to let go of their wrong perceptions and move to a higher level.When Tsem Rinpoche did not shave off his hair, and when he wore lay clothes for a period of time in the past, he was severely criticised. They said he was sneaky because he had worn robes in the monastery and now outside the monastery, he was wearing lay clothes. There was even a rumour that he had disrobed! Yet, this was all done with the approval of his Gurus because of special circumstances then! By criticising him from their wrong perceptions, they were actually putting down Tsem Rinpoche’s Gurus, all of whom were highly realised masters!
3. Stop the Blame, Face Yourself, Be Happy!
Being Unhappy and Running Away
Every time we encounter a difficult situation and we cannot cope with it, it seems alright to run away from it. When we examine the reason behind our running away from the situation and our inability to cope with it, we will usually be able to trace it back to some ‘cause’ in our past.
In the past, we might have had a doting mother, who had rescued us from all the difficult situations. So now, even though the situation has changed, and there is no mother to rescue us, we still continue to expect people around us to ‘rescue’ us, by giving us the solution. We still remain, in our perception, the little boy or girl who had always been rescued. We remain helpless, and do nothing. We then become bewildered when the person with us in the situation doesn’t rescue us, because in our mind, we are still the same person, who used to be rescued. On the other hand, the person with us has the perception that we are lazy, selfish and unmotivated and a loser because of our negative reaction!
What is even worse is when we actually know that the situation is different and that we now cannot get what we want. However, we are so habituated in our “helpless, poor me” state of mind that we will not do anything about it.
Stop the Blame!
At the ordinary psychological level, we will probably be able to trace the source of our unhappiness and our running away to our mother, who, in the past, had time and again rescued us. Then we will be directed to shift the blame to our mother. But this will not help us in the long run. We will not heal. So we should stop the blaming.
However, when we move to a higher level to determine the truth of the situation (that is, when we apply Buddhist psychology), we will see it as the truth of people having lived their lives, as they grew up, based on ‘wrong’ experiences and wrong perceptions . The ‘wrong’ experience is that they had always been rescued in the past by a doting mother. The wrong perception is that in every situation they encounter now there will always be a person like their mother to rescue them. The reality is that, now, the situation and the people they encounter in the situation are different. So, when they continue to have such wrong perceptions, not only do they suffer, they make other people around them suffer as well.
Therefore, when we apply the psychology of this higher level, we will let go of our wrong perceptions and expectations and correct our perceptions. When we correct our perceptions, our reactions will be positive and will lead to positive reactions from others.
If you train yourself not to blame , even if someone else is at fault, you do not blame, then when you come across someone who is right, you will train yourself not to blame. Sometimes, when someone is right and you are in the habit of blaming, you will end up hurting them.
From a psychological perspective, as long as we keep silent about our faults and continue to hold them within us or hide them, and not acknowledge and confess them, the faults within us will fester inside us like a cancerous growth, while we continue to run away from difficult situations.
From a psychological perspective, we need to open up and face ourselves. When we open up and talk about what we did wrong, we are actually facing ourselves and thus coming to terms with ourselves. We will acknowledge and confess to someone – a teacher, a close friend, parents – that we are wrong, which itself is therapeutic, because we are not hiding anymore. As our habituated wrong perceptions and faults have been ‘exposed’, they will no longer fester within us as they would have been if we had still kept them hidden within us.
On a spiritual level, if we can face ourselves, we will not push the blame on others. We will not run away when we encounter a difficult situation. We will begin to take responsibility for ourselves. We will not end up losers.
Face Yourself and Stop Blaming Others
Being habituated in blaming others and not facing yourself can even be a reason for people turning into criminals. Even serial killers blame people in the past for their criminal behaviour! In hypnotherapy, they trace the source of their ‘psychological’ problem to an uncle or neighbour who had ‘touched’ them!
4. Being Happy is About Letting Go! We Let Go Because We Realise it’s Karma!
Letting Go of Anger
Tsem Rinpoche had learned to hold on to anger because he had grown up with a lot of anger in his life. When he was a child, he had watched his mother go coldly silent for days and weeks because she was angry with him. She just ignored him. It was very scary for Rinpoche to live in a house with someone, like her, with so much anger and so much silence. His mother lived for many years holding anger in her heart. So Tsem Rinpoche learned from his mother that when he was angry with someone, he should ignore that person, not talk to them, not look at them and wait for that person to go to him first and apologise. He was repeating exactly what his mother had done.
For years, he ignored and avoided people he was angry with, sometimes for as long as six months. He kept blaming his mother for this and would tell others it was her fault. He would tell them that she had trained him to hold on to anger. This showed that he was far from being healed.
Only after he learnt Dharma with his teacher, Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen, did he move on to the next level, and that was to recognise that he himself had created the karma to be born in this kind of environment and to experience this kind of experience. Only then did he begin to heal.
He later came to understand why his Guru had made him apologise to his mother. ”I realised at that time, at seventeen years old, that if I did not apologise to my mother, I would hold on to it. If I held on to the anger, how could I do my sadhanas and retreats? How could I go to India to be a monk? A monk is supposed to be kind. So I did it and have no regrets”.
Only, when we let go of our anger with others, can our Dharma practice, retreats and Dharma work be meaningful and lead us to gain results. Only when we let go, by letting go of all wrong perceptions and projections and by recognising that we had created the cause for our difficulties and suffering, can we transform.
Unfortunately, for Tsem Rinpoche’s mother ( who had grown up with so much anger from a horrifying girlhood spent in a war zone and in a concentration camp) that anger stayed with her until her death. She went to her death holding all that anger in her. How sad.
When we still hold on to anger, and ignore those we are angry with, we will make many enemies. We will bring our spiritual energy down. We will become depressed, we will be left alone to ourselves and no one will respect us. No one will come near us.
The next time someone hurts you or disappoints you, let go. Letting go is recognising that we created the karma for it to happen. We let go as we have experienced the karma. By letting go, we will avoid creating more negative karma or causes for future suffering.
5. Being Happy is About Taking Responsibilities
Buddhist psychology – Knowing that we had created the karma to be born in a certain situation that has brought much unhappiness, we accept the situation and take responsibility. We let go of blaming others.
Buddhist psychology: If you are a failure and a loser, don’t blame your mother, brothers and sisters They were the environmental causes, which is the temporary cause. The real cause is your karma to be born into that situation.
Taking Responsibility and Healing Anger
After recognising the workings of karma that created the source of his suffering, Tsem Rinpoche took responsibility and said “sorry” to his mother. He realised that it was not her fault that he was born into a difficult situation. He was sorry for thinking that she was to blame for his unhappiness and suffering. In fact, he had created a lot of suffering for her shouting back at her when he ran away. His running away must have hurt her quite a lot. Being unwell, she was not responsible and not to be blamed for her actions. His saying sorry to her was a Buddhist way of healing. By taking responsibility he gave himself a chance to heal his anger.
Stop blaming others because they are environmental causes. The real cause is the karma that you created to be born into a difficult situation.
Taking Responsibility Whether You are Born Into a Wealthy or Poor Family.
People who are born into a wealthy family, and do not take responsibility, will live frivolously and waste the wealth by having a good time. They will not make an effort or push themselves to realise their full potential. They will end up being losers, and waste their lives away.
People, who are born into an environment of poverty or adversity, but who take responsibility by taking charge of their lives, have often transcended their adversity to become great successful people.
So, for some, the positive experience of being born into a wealthy family can turn into negative karma, when they do not take responsibility and become losers. For others who are born into a situation of poverty and suffering, it becomes good karma, when they take responsibility and turn their lives around and become great or successful people.
Taking Responsibility and Transforming Ourselves.
When we take responsibility, we will transform ourselves by letting go of grudges, anger, expectations, projections, ignorance. Don’t expect others to transform. We transform because we have the Dharma and our Spiritual Guide.
The Benefits of Reading “Be Happy”
For me, reading “Be Happy” took me on a personal journey into myself and my past. I found a parallel situation to Tsem Rinpoche’s experience with his mother. Only mine took on a different form. My childhood was traumatic because of an identity crises. “Be Happy” showed me that I cannot blame my parent who precipitated the crisis. I take responsibility because I had created the cause to experience this situation of great pain. It was coming into Kechara and meeting my Guru, Tsem Rinpoche, and listening to his teachings that caused me to start seeing this traumatic past as what it is. My healing began there and then. Reading “Be Happy” is a happy reminder that I was saved by the Dharma and my Guru from spiralling into depression and living a lonely and unhappy life.
“Be Happy” is a must read book for every one of us, as we all wish to live our daily lives peacefully, being able to cope well with whatever difficult situations that arise. This book will benefit everyone if we realise that to be happy and to be able to cope with difficult situations with a calm and peaceful mind, we need to train our minds to develop certain qualities. The benefits will come if we put our mind to it and develop these qualities and propensities for happiness in our minds.
- Train our minds to be happy by focusing only on the good qualities. If we apply this principle of focusing on only the good qualities to every person or situation we encounter daily, we will definitely reap the benefit of getting along very well with everyone, and being calm and peaceful, no matter what situation arises.
- Train our minds to let go of wrong perceptions about people and situations in our daily life. The benefit is we will react positively from a correct perception, and we will thus have the benefit of people around us being friendly and respectful towards us. We will not suffer disappointments or become hurt from wrong perceptions and wrong expectations.
- Let go of anger by correcting wrong perceptions, and by seeing that our anger creates hostility towards us and causes others to stay away from us, no matter how good-looking or pleasant we are in other ways. Ultimately, we let go because we recognise that we had created the cause for the situation that is the source of our anger, to arise. The benefit is that we will not push people away, and those people we had pushed away in the past, will return to us.
- Stop complaining and blaming others – face ourselves and acknowledge our faults and how we had acted wrongly. The benefit is we will not run away from every difficult situation and we will not hide our faults, which otherwise will fester inside us and create psychosomatic problems for us. We will transform and become nicer people and people will be more friendly and helpful towards us.
- The Law of Cause and Effect is not a law created by Lord Buddha. It is a natural law that governs every sentient being. Lord Buddha discovered this Law on the night of His Enlightenment, together with discovering that reincarnation exists, and that each of us has had countless past lives. Buddhist Psychology revolves around accepting this Law as an ineluctable Truth. Hence, the most liberating step to take, for the mind that has been habituated in unhappiness, is to accept the Law of Cause and Effect and to accept that we are born into an unhappy situation because we had created the cause for it. With this acceptance, we let go of all the hurts and the pain seemingly inflicted on us by others, and we move on with our lives, taking responsibility. We will transform ourselves for happiness and reap all the benefits of a positive and peaceful mind.
We all want to be happy. There is no short cut to developing a happy state of mind. As Tsem Rinpoche shows us here so clearly and convincingly, by using his own life and experiences, we have to train our mind in the way he has prescribed for us here. That happy mind that we achieve will be a wish-fulfilling jewel, yielding optimum benefit to others and ourselves.
When we have the Dharma and our Spiritual Guide to help train our minds toward happiness, what are we waiting for? Life is short. Karma does not wait for any man or woman.
READ “BE HAPPY”, TRAIN OUR MINDS FOR HAPPINESS AND BE HAPPY!
About the Book
Author: H.E Tsem Rinpoche
Publisher: Kechara Media and Publications
Paperback: 160 pages
ISBN: 978 967 5365 75 1
Product dimensions: 12.5cm (H) x 10.7cm (W) x 0.8cm (D)
You can purchase the book here.
For more interesting information:
- Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale– A Review
- Nothing Changes, Everything Changes Book Review
- Reasons Why You Should Read This Book!
- Finding Bigfoot
- Faces of Death
Please support us so that we can continue to bring you more Dharma:
If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team