Happiness is all in your mind: Gen Kelsang Nyema at TEDxGreenville 2014

Happiness is all in your mind: Gen Kelsang Nyema at TEDxGreenville 2014

Translator: Adrienne Lin
Reviewer: Hannah Ximenes Alright, my friends. Hello. (Audience) Hello. So I want to start off
with a few questions. And I know a lot of other presenters have already asked you questions, and they’ve been kind of hard questions. But the questions I’m going to ask you are very, very simple. And I promise
you’ll be able to answer these. Alright, are you ready?
For your first one? Okay. Your first questions is — you don’t have to answer out loud: Are you having a good day? Okay, got your answer? Alright. My second question for you is: Why? If you’re having a good day, why are you having a good day? Or if you’re having a bad day, why are you having a bad day? So I have one more question for you. This should be the easiest one of all. My last question is: Tomorrow, would you rather have a good day, or would you rather have a bad day? Do you have your answer for that one? What about the day after tomorrow? What about Sunday? Let’s see. Yeah, that’s right. Tomorrow’s Saturday. Sunday. How about Monday? Would you like to have
a good day or a bad day on Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? Friday? This time next week? A good day or a bad day? So that last question, like I said, is probably the easiest one for us to answer, because we know
the answer to that, don’t we? We want to have a good day, everyday. Did anyone in the room answer, “Yes, I want to have a bad day on Monday”? Of course not. We all want to have a good day everyday. So this is really speaking
to the type of happiness that we all wish for in our heart of hearts. We have a good day when we’re happy, and we want to be happy everyday. There’s never a day when we don’t want to be happy. But whether or not
we have good days or bad days really depends upon how we answered the second question. Do you remember the second question? What was the second question? “Why?” Why am I having a good day? Why am I having a bad day? So one thing that my teacher says — his name is Geshe Kelsang Gyatso — and he says that, “Much of the time our mind is like a balloon in the wind, blown here and there by external circumstances.” Do you know that feeling? He says when things are going well, when they’re going our way, we feel happy. But then if something goes wrong, for example, he says, “If we’re forced to
work with a colleague that we dislike,” but I’m sure none of you
have colleagues you dislike, right? (Laughter) He says if we’re forced to
work with someone we dislike, or if something doesn’t go our way, then our happy feeling disappears. So as long as our answer to the question “why am I having a good day?”,
or “why am I having a bad day?” Because you know,
this is a question people ask us like, maybe when you get home today, someone will go,
“So how was that TED thing?” “Did you have a good day?” And we’ll say, “Yeah, I did.” “There’s this lady,
and she talked to us about how we need to be compassionate
towards former inmates, and there’s this performer who did this
awesome beat-boxing thing with his mouth, you know, this person, and that person.” As long as our reasons for why we had a good day are
a list of external conditions, then we’re not going to have this stable happiness that we all want. Does that make sense to you? Because if that’s what our happiness
depends upon — because we cannot control people and circumstances every single day — then our happiness will
be in the hands of others, won’t it? It’ll be at the whim of our circumstances. So if you really wish to have a good day everyday, we’ve got two things we need to do. So the first thing that we need to do is we need to stop outsourcing our happiness and outsourcing our unhappiness on the people and circumstances. In other words, we need to stop attributing our happiness to what’s going on externally, and we need to stop blaming others, — especially blaming others — for our unhappiness. So for as long as we do that, as long as we’re making it the job of people and circumstances to make us happy, or as long as we’re making it their fault
when we’re unhappy, our happiness will be very unstable, and illusive. Our second job is to actively cultivate a source of peace and a source of happiness coming from inside our own mind. So here’s something I want you to
commit to memory. Are you ready? This is another line from one of my teacher’s books, where he says, “Happiness and unhappiness are states of mind; and therefore their real causes cannot be found outside the mind.” So if we have a peaceful state of mind, we will be happy regardless of people and circumstances. If our mind is unpeaceful or agitated, then even if we have
very good circumstances, we’ll find it impossible to be happy. So, in other words, it’s not what is happening that is making us happy or unhappy; it is how we are responding
to those things that determines whether
we’re happy or unhappy. It is what our state of mind is like that determines
our happiness or unhappiness. So how are we going to do this? So we can all
understand this intellectually. It’s not rocket science, is it? It’s not hard to understand. And maybe, to a certain extent, as I tell you these things, you’re like, “Yeah , I knew that already.” “I knew that already.” But how do we actually do it? How do we actually cultivate this stable peace of mind that we can rely upon, regardless of the external circumstances? So this is really where meditation
comes into play. And I would say I would need
a whole other TED talk — hint, hint — (Laughter) in order to really
do this subject of meditation justice. But for our purposes today, we can say that meditation is a mental action. It’s the mental action of concentrating on a peaceful positive state of mind. If we do that, we concentrate on a peaceful positive state of mind, then we can say we’re meditating, whether that’s like this, right? See, actually, you don’t know
if I’m meditating or not, because I could be thinking
about my grocery list. (Laughter) It’s only meditation if I’m actually focusing
on a positive peaceful state of mind. But the trick is, I can do it like this. This is called formal meditation. But we can also learn to do this
all the time in our daily life. See, here’s a perfect opportunity. (Laughter) We concentrate on a mind of patience. We’re not disturbed, not unhappy. So why don’t we try it now? Are you up for it? Just a short meditation. According to the clock,
I’ve got three minutes left, so this is going to be a very brief one. But let’s actually try it, let’s try to tap into our own potential for a peaceful positive state of mind. So now, I’ll ask you
to just sit comfortably, and place your feet flat on the floor, and your hands within your lap. And then you can lightly close your eyes and become aware of
the sensation of your breath, at the tip of your nose. And as you breathe out, you can imagine you’re breathing out any agitation, any mental busyness, any frustration or unhappiness in your life. Breathing it all out, like dark smoke. And as you breathe in, you can imagine and believe that you’re breathing in
a clear, bright light, which is a very nature of inner peace. And you can imagine that
this clear, bright light fills your entire body and mind. And for a few seconds, simply enjoy this inner peace coming from within. And now, as we finish, just be determined to
bring this inner peace with you into the rest of your day to benefit yourself and others. So now, we rise from meditation. Thank you very much. (Applause)


  1. There are two ways to be happy. Either take your body where your mind is, or bring your body where your mind is. Happiness is the harmony between mind and body.

  2. I totally get where she comes from and totally respect her, BUT… try keeping this this peaceful attitude when not living in a temple surrounded by peaceful smiling fellow monks. This talk is a one or two day vacation to her and the she probably goes back to that silent environment.

    I feel like a modern day monk living in the west and lets just say… a temple to me would feel like an eternal holiday. Then again, would my state of being mean anything when I can only maintain it while I'm surrounded by smiling and agreeing people?

  3. We have minds like a baby .he will believe all you tell to him. So you should tell it only the positive things every time for keep your happyness

  4. I have a question…what do you do when you KNOW that the unhappiness is within you and you are not blaming outsiders for it? When you know it’s within you because of how you perceive an aspect of your life or many..how do you fix that???

  5. the thing is I can't stop outsourcing my happiness , even when I think I should be happy now and I ask myself why , I start looking for reasons and those reasons are always outside of me

  6. She scares me.. It seems to me, that she can't stand long contact with people & reality. And she is forced to go inside, because reality destroys her illusive happiness. Therefore she always close her eyes like in meditation while speaking with people. I don't feel she is happy. I feel she is in one coocon& scares real emotion, real contact & real life…

  7. This is just a walking corpse! They wanted to surpass their being, they became not even humans anymore. You can be happy without being such a zombie!!!

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