Meditation is all about changing from within. Usually we’re busy trying to change things out there, but in meditation we go inward to look much deeper at the causes of happiness, suffering, sickness, and health. We learn to transform our own mind — cultivating causes of happiness and overcoming causes of suffering – and let our words, actions, and world be a reflection of that.
We like change, don’t we? We think things like, “It would be nice if this was different. It would be really nice if you were different. And if I was in charge, I’d make the whole company/relationship/family/organization/country/world different, I tell you! It would not be like this!” We’re constantly trying to control the world in one way or another. But the interesting thing is that even though we’ve been doing this for an awfully long time, like mini-Mussolinis or something, control freaks, trying to control everything around us, we’re in just as much a mess as we ever were, both individually and collectively as a society. The world as a whole is still full of suffering and problems. We ourselves still have problems and suffering in our life. It looks like on the whole we’ve barely scraped the surface, if that, of finding solutions to everyday pain. Tell me I’m wrong! Buddha’s point is not that there is anything wrong with change per se – in fact, our potential for change is our ticket to get ourselves out of this mess. However, we have to figure out where happiness and suffering actually come from and then work to change our hearts and minds, not everyone else.
I was watching a TV show called “Rome” at a friend’s house the other day, and found myself thinking: “Really, nothing’s changed since ancient Rome! There’s still the greed and the attachment, there’s still the hatred and the annoyance, there’s still the scheming and the attachment to reputation. It’s all there. We haven’t changed much.” On the way home that evening I saw a sticker on someone’s bumper: “EVOLVE!” “Good idea!” I thought.
But we’re only going to evolve into better people if we get rid of our uncontrolled and unpeaceful minds. While they remain, we’re no better than the ancient Romans. We haven’t changed at all. Humans are still yelling at each other, still hurting each other, still scheming, still deceiving, still attached to possessions and position, still trying to find happiness outside of the mind, and still failing. Nothing’s changed in that department for hundreds or thousands of years. This is why we learn to meditate, because if we still have anger, jealousy, pride, greed, and ignorance in our minds, nothing is ever going to change much for the better. The furniture of our lives may look different, sandals and togos may go out of style and suits come in – but it’s the same old, same old, isn’t it?
But if we change our minds, then we change our world, we actually start to inhabit a better world, a purer world, and help others do the same.
Over to you. Do you agree that internal change is most important, or do you think that this can be overstated and that, in terms of helping others, for example, external change is where it’s at?