World Peace Begins in Your Mind
by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche
The mind is the main factor. It moves quickly and is the forerunner
of all acts. Whatever you say or do with a pure mind, happiness is sure to follow.1)
If we are serious about fostering world peace, we must first
understand, generate, and experience real peace in our own mental
stream. Awareness of peace is the foundation and goal of healing
ourselves and the world. If our mind, or consciousness, is enjoying the
awareness of peace, our everyday life will turn into a life of peace.
Whatever we say will resound as the words of peace. Whatever we do will
manifest as the expression of peace. Our mere presence will make the
hearts of many blossom with happiness and harmony. Then we become one
of the true peaceful members of society and a source inspiring others
to true peace, too. Our every word and smile will send a genuine
message of peace to others, and a true cycle of world peace and joy can
be set in motion. So the inspiration of true world peace must take root
in our own hearts.
According to Buddhism, peace is our birthright. It is inherent in our
mind. You see, the mind has two aspects. At the level of absolute
truth, or in its true nature, mind is most peaceful, open, joyful, and
enlightened. It sees all simultaneously and as one, through its
omniscience. Every being possesses such a nature. That is our ultimate
nature, the fundamental basis. Through meditation, we can uncover and
perfect this fully enlightened nature, as the Buddha proclaimed when he
I have realized the ambrosia-like Dharma.
It is luminous, profound, peaceful, uncreated and unstained.2)
The reason we may not always be aware of this peace is that we dwell in
the conceptual aspect of our mind, not in its true nature. At the level
of relative truth or appearance, mind is conceptual, dualistic, and
emotional. It perceives mental objects by grasping at them as if they
have "selfhood," as if they were truly existing entities. That
dualistic concept triggers emotional afflictions such as hatred and
attachment and fuels feelings such as suffering, fear, and excitement.
They become chains of concepts and emotions that tighten mental
grasping and set the wheel of samsaric existence in an endless cycle
and cover up our fundamental nature. So, in order to regain our own
utmost peaceful nature, we must get rid of the mentality of grasping at
the "self." Shantideva (8th century) writes:3)
All the violence, fear, and suffering
That exists in the world
Comes from grasping at "self."
What use is this great evil monster to you?
If you do not let go of the "self,"
There will never be an end to your suffering.
Just as, unless you cast away the fire (that you hold),
You cannot avoid being burnt.
The first step to bringing peace is not to try to eliminate all
external hostile forces, which is impossible anyway, but rather, to
work with our own minds. If we tame our minds, we will enjoy true
peace, as if we have pacified the whole world. Shantideva writes:4)
Untamed beings are as unlimited as space.
You will never be able to overcome them all.
Yet, if you could simply overcome the hatred in your mind,
You will find that it is as if you have overcome them all.
How can you possibly find enough leather
To cover the earth?
But if you could just wear leather sandals,
You will find it to be as if you have covered the earth.
In the same way, you will never be able to change
All external objects.
But if you change your own mind,
There is no need to change anything else.
If we let our minds indulge in three poisonous emotions--hatred, greed,
and ignorance rooted in grasping at "self"--then we will have no
opportunity to foster true inner peace or joy. Shantideva says:5)
If you entertain hatred in your mind
You will never experience peace.
You will never have joy or happiness.
You will never be able to anchor your mind or sleep.
Any action engendered by negative concepts and emotions creates
unvirtuous deeds (karma), which cause suffering in this life and others
to come. Virtuous deeds cause happiness. Nagarjuna (2nd century)
Unvirtuous deeds cause all the sufferings and rebirths in inferior realms.
Virtuous deeds cause all the happiness of the higher realms and all the joys in all successive lives.
Peace is not merely the absence of conflict or war. Relative peace is a
concept generated by the mind and an experience enjoyed by the mind.
Absolute peace is the union of mind and peace, as one, realized through
Meditation is the key to generating peace. It focuses the totality of
our mind from its depth. There are many methods of meditation to suit
different seekers' needs. But all belong to either analytical or
In analytical meditation, you think, analyze, and feel any positive
(virtuous) mental object in detail, again and again, in a prescribed
and systematic way in order to transform your mind from a negative
(unvirtuous) state into a positive state and, in time, to perfection.
In contemplative meditation, you focus on one mental object, feeling,
or idea--one-pointedly--and remain there without wandering. You could
also remain in a non-dual state of awareness without grasping at it.
Tibetan Buddhists usually start meditation with the analytical
approach, meditating on positive images, words, faith, devotion, and
compassion. This accumulates merits, or good karma. They then perfect
their meditation with contemplative meditation and realization of
non-dual awareness. This accumulates wisdom. Nagarjuna writes:7)
With faith you remain in Dharma.
With wisdom you fully realize (the true nature).
Wisdom is the main one of these, and
Faith is the preliminary to it.
Peace underlies all the virtues and positive states of mind, such as
joy, devotion, and loving-kindness. By cultivating peace, you
automatically cultivate compassion instead of hatred, generosity
instead of greed, and wisdom instead of ignorance. When peace truly
arises in your heart, you can reliably undertake the heartfelt journey
to bring peace to all living beings and you thereby become a
bodhisattva. Shantideva praises thus:8)
If the enlightened attitude is developed, in that very moment,
The exhausted beings of the prison of samsara,
Will become known as the offspring of the buddhas.
Gods and men will bow to honor them.
The following meditation is to cultivate peace and heal ourselves and the world.
Four Positive Perceptions: These are the four healing tools essential
for this meditation.
Positive Images: If we train ourselves in
seeing positive images such as beautiful flowers, luminous lights, the boundless
sky, or a sacred Buddha image, or in visualizing such images, our mind becomes
inspired by and immersed in positive qualities. Then our mind's innate positive
qualities can be awakened. Since we use mental images as part of our everyday
thinking, this tool is relatively easy to use, while offering an amazing way to
heal and arouse peace.
Positive Words: If we train ourselves in
repeatedly saying prayers and positive words, or designating images as positive--our
mind magnifies and enjoys the positive qualities of objects, and the positive
qualities that are inherent in our mental stream awaken. We can hardly complete
a thought without using words, so, converting those treasures into healing words
is a great transformation.
Positive Feelings: If we train ourselves
to feel the positive feelings generated by positive or blessed images and words,
then the healing benefits will not be limited to the surface of the mind. Rather,
they will bring about a unity with the true healing qualities at the feeling level
in the heart--totally and deeply.
Positive Beliefs: If we totally trust in
the healing power of the positive or blessed images, words, and feelings, then
we will be fully open to healing totally and deeply. At the beginning we must
analyze the teachings. But if we decide they make sense, we must pursue them without
doubts, if we are to reach the goal. This is not blind faith, as we use our common
sense--seeking benefits from positive sources in everyday life.
Meditation on the Medicine Buddha: Applying the four healing
tools, you can use your body both as the object to be healed and as the means
of healing. When you enjoy healing energies in your body, your mind will be healed
and peaceful, as the mind is experiencing it. Then, once you gain some healing
experience, you can share your healing energies, peace, with the world. Here is
a meditation in brief:
1. Develop an Enlightened Attitude: Start
your meditation by thinking, "I am going to meditate on the Medicine (or Healing)
Buddha for the sake of healing the suffering of all living beings."
2. Visualization: Imagine that you are sitting
on the top of a very high, firm, solid mountain of rock and earth. Imagine that
you are looking into the open sky. See, contemplate, and feel the qualities of
the sky one by one: experience its purity, clarity, depth, vastness, and boundlessness.
Open your heart to allow the qualities that you are seeing come into you. Empty
all your mental and emotional impurities and awaken boundless peace and joy within
In the middle of this sky, visualize a totally blossoming huge flower
with billions of petals. It is fresh with dewdrops, radiant with light,
resplendent with color, and filled with sweet fragrance. Again, immerse
your mind in the qualities of the flower. On the top of the giant
flower, visualize a shining moon cushion made of white light. Immerse
yourself in its qualities.
Visualize the Medicine Buddha, like a mountain, sitting above the giant
throne of the flower and moon cushion. His majestic body is made of
rainbow-like light. His complexion is deep blue, projecting rays of
wisdom lights in all directions. He is youthful, as if he were sixteen.
He is beautiful, luminous, and radiant. Wearing simple monk's robes, he
sits in meditation posture. His right hand holds a medicinal plant
(arura, or myrobalan); his left, a bowl filled with healing ambrosia.
His face blossoms in a smile of joy. His compassionate wisdom eyes look
at you without blinking. The whole sky is filled with the presence of
his luminous light-body.
The Buddha's omniscient wisdom sees the details of every particle of
your body, every reflection of your mind, every happening of your past,
present, and future and of the whole world simultaneously.
His unconditioned love cares for each being as a loving mother does for
her only child all the time without a break. Buddha's love is always
with us--whether we pray to him or not, whether we are virtuous or not.
However, if we pray, our mind's door opens to welcome his blessings. As
Shakyamuni Buddha said in the Lotus Sutra:9)
Remember the Buddha of Compassion,
Who pacifies all fear and sorrow.
The Buddha is the embodiment of all the Enlightened Ones and is the
manifestation of the universal pure nature. He is not someone else, but
the reflection of your own mind's buddha-nature--it is like seeing your
face in a mirror.
3. Prayer: Imagine and feel that your mind and heart are
filled with the energy of devotion, joy, trust, faith, and confidence
in the Buddha. Infinite beings on the earth are looking at him. Their
hearts are also filled with devotion. Their faces are blossoming with
smiles, their eyes wide open with joy. All are joining you in the
prayer, the vibration of devotional energies. The whole universe is
filled with the sound of prayer, like a vast symphony hall. Every sound
in the world turns into the sound of prayer. Prayers open your mind and
body with the energy of devotion, making you an open vessel to receive
blessings. Prayers invoke the Buddha's compassion for healing and
peace. Thinking thus, repeatedly sing the prayer-mantra of the Medicine
Buddha (given here in Sanskrit pronunciation):
Tadyatha: Om Bhaishajye, Bhaishajye, Maha-Bhaishajye Raja samudgate svaha.
Thus: Hail to the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha: the King of
Healing, of Healing, of Great Healing, the Fully Exalted One.
4. Receive Blessings: According to the sutra, the
Medicine Buddha vowed, "May the lights of my body fill an infinite
number of worlds fully and vividly. . . . May every being become
(healthy and enlightened) like me."10)
So, imagine that, as the result of your prayers, the Buddha's
omniscient wisdom, unconditioned love, and boundless power come to you
in the form of numerous beams of blessing lights in multiple colors
(mainly blue) with blessing energies and blissful heat.
Blessing lights flood into you through every pore of your body. Every
particle of your body fills up with light. Feel the Buddha's wisdom and
love, the intimacy of the Buddha. All negative states of mind and
emotions, all karma and all ills are purified--see them as areas of
darkness that are dissolved by the touch of the bright blessing lights
without leaving a trace. Finally your body becomes a bright and radiant
body of blessing light.
5. Sharing with Others: Imagine that the Buddha's
blessing lights fill every being and the whole universe. All are
healed, purified, and transformed into beings and worlds of Buddha
lights of wisdom, compassion, and power.
6. Contemplation: Finally, recognize and enjoy the
positive experiences generated by the meditation. Then recognize the
feeling of peace that pervades your awareness as the foundation of any
other healing experiences you might have. Then rest in that "awareness
of peace" without grasping at it or conceptualizing it. Rest in it
again and again.
7. Dedication and Aspiration: Dedicate all the merits and
wisdom that you accumulated in the meditation to all living beings as
the cause of their peace, healing, and enlightenment. Pray, "By the
power of the Medicine Buddha and this meditation, may all beings and I
be healed from all suffering and attain ultimate peace and
Sarva mangalam! May all beings find happiness!
1) Ched du brjod pa'i tshoms, Dode, Vol. Sa, in: Kangyur,
Dege edition, Vol. Sa, f244a/1. This work is known as the Udanavarga
(Special Utterances). It consists of a collection of verses from the
Buddhist Canon, compiled by Dharmatrata, being the northern version of
2) rGya cher rol pa, Dode, in: Kangyur,
Dege edition, Vol. Kha, f187b/5; also known as the Lalitavistara sutra,
it is called the Sutra of Extensive Sport in English; it is a Mahayana
3) Byang chub sems dpa'i sPyod pa la 'jug pa (BP), bDu Ma, in: Tengyur, Dege edition, Vol. La, f28b/6. This is the famous Bodhicharyavatara,
or "Engaging in Bodhisattva Conduct," by Shantideva; it is an
8th-century verse treatise on the outlook and practice of Mahayana
4) BP, f10b/4.
5) BP, f14b/4.
6) Rin chen phreng ba (RP), sPing yig, in: Tengyur, Dege edition, Vol. Ge, f107b/5. This is the Ratnavali, or "Precious Garland of Jewels," by Nagarjuna. Dating from the 1st-2nd century, it focuses on bodhichitta and is one of the six logical works (rigs tshogs drug) of the Madhyamika by Nagarjuna.
7) RP f107a/4.
8) BP, f2a/5.
9) Dam pa'i chos Padma dkar po, Dode, in: Kangyur,
Dege edition, Vol. Ja f168b/7. This is the celebrated Mahayana
scripture known as Saddharmapundarika sutra, or Sutra of the Lotus
Flower of the Wonderful Law.
10) De bZhin gshegs pa bdun gyi sNgon gyi sMon lam gyi khyad par rGyas pa, Gyudbum, in: Kangyur,
Dege edition, Vol. Da, f261b/1. This is the Sapta-Tathagata
Purvapranidhana Visesa-vistara sutra, or the Sutra of the Aspirations
of the Seven Tathagatas. It is a text that was taught by Shakyamuni
Buddha about the Medicine Buddha, the seven tathagatas being the seven
Ven. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, born in Golok, Eastern
Tibet, was a visiting scholar at Harvard University (1980-83) and has
since been living in the United States, engaged in scholarly work on
Tibetan Buddhism. He travels in North America, Europe, and Asia,
teaching Buddhism and leading workshops on healing and dying. He has
published more than a dozen books on Tibetan Buddhism.
This article was originally published in the April-June 2007 issue of Dharma World.
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