Happiness is an opportunity

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Happiness is an opportunity

Postby phil » Tue Sep 29, 2009 4:32 am

Hi all

Interesting experience the other day. My wife was away for the week and I was foraging through the clutter on her desk to look for something. When I saw all her work-related documents, busy schedule etc I was hit by a sudden rush of respect and admiration for her, love etc. And I wondered, in light of how busy she is and in the light of how eccentric I am, if she were happy. So I picked up a book that was lying nearby, called the "Book of Answer" or "Book of Questions", I forget which. It's a book where you think of a question then flip through the pages randomly and the page you land on provides the answer. (For example, let me try one now - "Will the Buddha's teaching thrive in the 21st century?" (flip, flip) and I land on "You must act now." Oh, that's a good one too!)

Anyways, that day the answer to my question "Is she happy?"/"Will she be happy?" the answer was "consider it an opportunity."

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true that is, for two general reasons.

First of all, human rebirth in a time where the Buddha's teaching exists is, as we know, extremely fortuitous. I think there is a sutta in which the Buddha says it is human birth that provides the best opportunity for developing understanding. This is a great opportunity, and we have earned it.

Second, the idea of happiness. We know of the eight worldly vicissitudes, the worldly conditions of gain/loss, praise/blame, fame/disrepute, pleasure/pain that are constantly buffeting us. I was thinking that while there are of course sad and happy moods implied in there, there is an opportunity to find a deeper and more lasting happiness to the extent that wisdom and patience and other wholesome characteristics develop in order to receive the worldly conditions in a way that doesn't just add to suffering. I don't think I'm referring to nibanna, and of course short of nibanna, there is nothing that isn't subjected to conditions, so technically speaking the idea of a deep and lasting happiness subject to conditions is a bit odd, but....

...it does feel to me that there is a happiness that develops in line with a wise processing of worldly conditions (which involve clinging to many things that most uninstructed worldlings take to be "happiness"), and that comes to somehow overcome or override these worldly conditions to an increasingly consistent degree, and that this is "happiness" in a Dhamma sense, and it is an opportunity for us all.( I think there is a sutta passage somehting along the line of "what the world takes to be happiness is suffering, and what we understand to be happiness would be considered miserable by the world, or something along those lines.)

Mind you, at other times I suspect that what I take to be a Dhamma-rooted happiness is just a subtler form of clinging to pleasure through the sense doors, and that it is therefore just adding to suffering in a subtle, pervasive way...

Anyways, just wanted to share that...



Metta,

Phil
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Happiness is an opportunity

Postby zavk » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:57 am

Hi Phil

Thanks for sharing. 'Consider it an opportunity.' That's fantastic! I shall keep that in mind.

On the theme of 'happiness'. I once read an interview with the owner of this chain of not-for-profit restaurants here in Melbourne, Australia. The restaurants are called Lentils As Anything. The restaurants hire new migrants and people from disadvantaged social classes. There isn't a set a price for the food. Customers pay what they wish. You can read about the restaurants here: http://www.lentilasanything.com/projects.htm

The interview I read was part of a feature on young entrepreneurs. A group of outstanding young entrepreneurs were asked, amongst other questions, 'Can money buy happiness?' Most of them gave stock standard responses like, ' Not really..' or 'Yes, but only in a certain sense...' But this Lentils As Anything person said unambiguously: 'Yes, money can buy happiness.' However, he went on to say something along the lines of:

'But in life happiness comes in equal measures as sadness. What I'm after is contentment and that is something else altogether.'

I later learned that he was from Sri Lanka and is Buddhist (he presented a film at a Buddhist Film Festival). I really like what he says about happiness-sadness vs. contentment. I think it is a good way of summarizing the goal of Buddhism.

Thanks again for sharing.
With metta,
zavk
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Re: Happiness is an opportunity

Postby appicchato » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:52 am

Contentment is the Middle Way...
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Re: Happiness is an opportunity

Postby pink_trike » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:18 pm

appicchato wrote:Contentment is the Middle Way...

And there is wealth in the Middle Way, though not necessarily cash which is what most of us have been trained to think wealth means.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Happiness is an opportunity

Postby phil » Fri Oct 02, 2009 10:56 am

Hi appicchato and all

Thanks for your feedback.

appicchato wrote:Contentment is the Middle Way...



Yes, thanks. This is really what it's all about. The experential objects that come at us in the worldly conditions, it's our wise response to them, with neither too much indulgence or too much self-mortification, that leads to an ongoing sense of "happiness", I think, of contentment, as you say. I think we all tend towards indulging in sense objects more than self-mortification, mind you. Moving towards renouncing more and more sense pleasures is seen as excessively puritanical by people, even some Buddhists I know, but it's a part of finding contentment.

I also have come to understand that one of the consistently truest teachings I've come across is soemthing from Thich Nhat Hahn - if you are depressed, it's because of something you've consumed, and of course that doesn't mean food only or even principally. We are all constantly consuming things thrown at us in worldly conditions -inlcding our moods, thoughts, intentions - and it makes us suffer.

Metta,

Phil
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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