By Vendela De Scheemaecker


For a number of years I had searched for a deeper meaning of life – a way to inner peace, to true happiness not based on egoism and the superficial world of kicks and rushes – when his holiness the Dalai Lama came to speak in Belgium. It was truly impressive. He taught that happiness was something to be found not outside of ourselves, but inside, in our minds.


The Dalai Lama believes that happiness can be achieved through compassion and training of the mind. From his perspective, there is an inextricable link between personal happiness and kindness, caring, and compassion for others. He made me realize that one needs fundamental changes to one’s mind to attain true happiness:


“The first step in seeking happiness is learning. We first have to learn how negative emotions and behaviors are harmful to us and how positive emotions are helpful. We must also realize that these negative emotions are not only very bad and harmful to us personally, but are also harmful to society and the future of the world.”


His teaching intrigued me, and I wanted to experience it more profoundly. This took me to the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India – at McLeod Ganj, his seat in exile. I wanted to return to the source of the Buddha’s teachings and his as well. At the Tushita Meditation Centre for the study and practice of Buddhism, I took part in an eight-day retreat on “The Mind and Meditation.”



Everyone wants happiness, and yet few of us seem to find it. In our search for satisfaction, we go from one relationship to another, one job to another, and one country to another. We spend our money on stereo systems, computers, comfortable furniture, and vacations in the sun. Or we try to get back to nature, eat whole foods, and train to be healthy. Just about everything we do is an attempt to find real happiness and avoid suffering.


There is nothing wrong with any of these things. The problem is that we see them as having some inherent ability to satisfy us, as the cause of happiness. But they cannot, simply because they do not last. Everything by nature constantly changes and eventually disappears – our body, our friends, all our belongings, the environment. Our dependence on impermanent things and our clinging to rainbows bring only disappointment and grief, not satisfaction and contentment.


We do experience happiness with things outside ourselves, but it can never truly satisfy us or free us from our problems. It is poor-quality happiness, unreliable and short-lived. This does not mean that we should give up our friends and possessions in order to be happy. Rather, we need to give up our misconceptions about them and our unrealistic expectations of what they can do for us.


Our problem is our fundamentally mistaken view of reality. We believe instinctively that people and things exist in and of themselves, from their own sides; we believe that they have an inherent nature. We see things as having certain qualities abiding within them – that they are by their nature good or bad, attractive or unattractive. We rarely question whether the way we see things is the way they actually are, but once we do it will be obvious that our picture of reality is exaggerated and one-sided. We will see that the good and bad qualities we see in things are created by us, in our mind.

According to Buddhism there is lasting, stable happiness, and everyone has the potential to experience it. The causes of happiness lie within our mind, and methods for achieving it can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, in any lifestyle. Through meditation, we can learn to be happy at any time, in any situation, even difficult and painful ones. Eventually, we can free ourselves of dissatisfaction, anger, and anxiety until finally, by realizing the way things really are, we eliminate completely the very source of disturbing states of mind so that they never arise again.


It is said that all happiness, both ordinary and sublime, is achieved by understanding and transforming our own mind, and the key to the mind is meditation. The Tibetan term for meditation means “to become familiar.” There are many different meditation techniques, and each is a part of bringing us to a realistic view of the world. Although the best results usually come in a quiet place, we can also meditate while working, walking, riding on a bus, or cooking dinner. Meditation is being totally honest with ourselves – taking a good look at what we are. We can then become more positive and useful, to ourselves and others.


There are both positive and negative aspects of the mind. The negative aspects – our mental disorders or delusions – include jealousy, anger, desire, and pride. These arise from our misunderstanding of reality and habitual clinging to the way we see things. Through meditation we can recognize our mistakes and adjust our mind to think and react more realistically and more honestly.


As our concrete picture of reality softens, we develop a more positive and realistic self-image and are thus more relaxed and less anxious. We learn to have fewer unrealistic expectations of the people and things around us. We can therefore meet them with less disappointment, so that relationships improve, and life becomes more stable and satisfying.


Transforming the mind is a slow, gradual process. It is a matter of ridding ourselves, bit by bit, of instinctive, harmful patterns and becoming familiar with habits that bring positive results – to ourselves and others.


The final goal is Enlightenment, which is a state of mind in which all negative, harmful qualities – such as anger, hatred, greed, pride, and ignorance – have been eliminated, and in which all positive, beneficial qualities – such as universal compassion and love, generosity, patience, and wisdom – have been perfected. Someone who has attained Enlightenment is free of all problems and suffering, whether pain, sickness, death, fear, sadness, or loneliness. All of us have the potential to obtain Enlightenment.



I came to the Tushita Meditation Centre to learn about Buddhism, but I learned more about my own mind. Buddhism to me is about learning to know one’s own mind and how it works. It is about how to make the mind work in the way that is most beneficial and brings most happiness to oneself and others.


For more information: www.tushita.info