The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso on Ngondro, given at Kunzang Palyul Choling:
There is not one single sentient being who wishes to suffer. That is very obvious. Even scary animals, ghosts, and evil spirits don’t really mean to harm anybody. They are in search of some kind of happiness. They are looking for some kind of peace. An evil spirit or consciousness wanders here and there and creates some kind of problem for someone. Then that person becomes possessed by the evil spirit and there are lots of disturbances, all due to the search for happiness, but without knowing what the actual cause of happiness is. How can one really have actual happiness? How can one really have a peaceful life? How can one have a happier life? One has to understand the actual cause. Due to ignorance, all sentient beings do not know that. Each and every sentient being wishes for happiness, but not knowing the cause of happiness, all kinds of karma, actions, thoughts, and afflicted mind, arise and worldly things are done which result in problems and suffering.
I think that Americans really don’t like to hear about suffering in the teachings. You like to hear only about having a happy and prosperous life, about enjoyment. You are always trying to find some kind of modern technology, some different way of doing things, because you are really trying to find happiness. Maybe if I climb a mountain, I can enjoy life more. Or no, maybe I’ll go bungee jumping! That may be more enjoyable and will bring some happiness. In that way, everybody is trying each and every thing just to experience happiness, just to experience some kind of peaceful mind. There are so many religions, so many masters, so many yogis who have appeared. When a Hindu teacher comes, then everybody goes there and listens to the yogi teaching about prana, some kind of breathing, some kind of meditation, because they think, “If I go to this teacher, maybe I can get some kind of solution so that I can be happier. Maybe I can have some kind of path. Maybe I can really get something so that I can maintain a happier life.”
So everyone does whatever we do 24 hours a day. And whatever we are doing, whatever we talk to people about, it’s all in search of peace and happiness. Not knowing the actual cause of happiness, one thinks something else may help, so one creates all kinds of karma, causing problems which ripen for oneself. It is like a reflection, or an echo when you shout in a cave. The same ego shouts back to you. When you look in the mirror and make a face, the image makes the same face back at you. In the same way, the actions one has done to other sentient beings, ripen back. This is the cause of samsara, or cyclic existence. Whatever peace or happiness is attained is very temporary and limited. While worldly peace and happiness is temporary and of short duration, at the same time, one experiences lots and lots of difficulties, lots and lots of problems. One experiences suffering and struggles very hard before one can have a little bit of peace and happiness.
So experience one’s own life and others’ lives. Sit aside and watch the universe, watch sentient beings. Watch how all these sentient beings fare. Everything is the result of one’s own karma or whatever action one has done. In this way, when one thinks about the suffering of sentient beings, then one could think, “How can I really apply some kind of method or practice so that I can become fully perfected, so that I may not have any more suffering—no miserable life, no birth, no death, no sickness, no old age? How can I get rid of all this?” There is a teaching which explains how one can really enter into a very strong practice, a practice which would produce results very fast, a practice which may have a very special skill, a special technique, so that one can have realization in this lifetime. If one could really generate Bodhicitta or Awakening Mind, then one would feel like he really needs to get enlightened.