Humans have only two basic wishes in their hearts: they all wish to be happy and they all wish to be free from suffering / Buddha
At first glance, those words may seem simplistic. However, when you think about it, you will see that happiness is the reason we talk to one person but avoid another; it is why we eat one meal and not the other; it is why we want this job and not that one. True, on the face of it all we might say we want money, fame, beauty, and lots more. But deep down, we want all of these because we believe they will make us happy.
A video I found on YouTube, described why happiness eludes us, where to find it, and the role of meditation in finding it. This article explores some of my key takeaways from the video.
HAPPINESS- WHY IT ELUDES YOU
With every decision that we take, we are continually trying to move away from suffering and toward happiness. Yet it eludes us still. Because of this fact, I’ve often heard some say that pervasive happiness such as we dream of is impossible. They say “that’s life,” as if to say that there really isn’t a life without suffering or there can’t be one where we’re always happy.
The Buddhist tradition begs to differ. As shown in the video, Buddhists don’t say “that’s life.” Instead, they say “that’s mistaken life” or it’s “contaminated life.” The happy one we seek eludes us because we are looking for it in the wrong place. But what is the wrong place?
At the moment, we feel that happiness depends on external factors such as which person, which job, which conditions, etc. For instance, we think to ourselves, that person can bring me happiness; if I make a lot of money, I can buy whatever I want to make me happy; if I achieve a certain status, then I’ll be happy.
There’s a fundamental flaw in this thought pattern. If you hang your happiness on externalities, you’ve set yourself up for unhappiness because you can’t control the externals. For example; if you can only be happy when the sun shines, then you are going to be unhappy most of the time, especially if you live in the polar region. If you can only be happy when you’re with a certain person, you will be unhappy whenever you’re not with them. In fact, there is this anxiety we feel when we think about what happens if something happens to that person or they simply go away. This anxiety further rubs us of happiness in the present.
Where, then, does happiness come from if not from the things, people, or conditions around us?
HAPPINESS- WHERE TO FIND IT
In his books Modern Buddhism and Transform your Life, Keshe Cal Tseng defines happiness and suffering as states of mind. This stands to reason because where else do we feel it when we’re happy if not in our hearts? Hence, the causes of happiness must also come from within too, and not from something external. Therefore, Keshe concludes that the real source of happiness is inner peace.
What this means is that whenever we are happy, our mind is peaceful. You may be skeptical about this simple conclusion. However, when you think about it as I did, you’ll see the truth in it. You will see that when your heart is calm and peaceful, happiness naturally follows.
MEDITATION- A WAY TO HAPPINESS
Meditation in Buddhism is a practice that focuses on developing calmness and clarity, usually by fixating on a specific object or activity. Considering the aim of the practice, it came as no surprise to me when the video suggested meditation as a way to achieve a peaceful heart and hence happiness.
I found it quite interesting that the video pointed out that Buddhist techniques, such as meditation, are not just religious but also scientific. This means that you can test this technique and verify for yourself that it’s true.
Try, for instance, this simple breathing meditation exercise the video suggested:
- Focus only on your breathing, just the awareness of inhaling and exhaling.
- Try to allow the awareness to fill your mind moment by moment.
- If you find your mind wandering, as it surely will, bring it back.
It may be difficult at first because, for the untrained mind, you will continually be distracted. Gradually, maybe you’ll discover that you can go 2 or 3 consecutive rounds of breathing without distractions. Although this does not make you a master of the art yet, you’ll find it profound, like I did, that this simple achievement is enough to experience a more peaceful mind.
What this shows is that if we let go of the agitating thoughts that plague us day after day, the mind becomes naturally more peaceful. It’s not like you need to let go of the agitating thoughts and then make your mind more peaceful. It’s like removing the source of agitation from water. It becomes naturally more peaceful.
This indicates that the nature of our mind is peaceful. In other words, when the mind is not agitated, it is naturally peaceful. And if you permit yourself to hang out in this peaceful space, you’ll discover that within that peace is happiness.
It is advised that you carry out this exercise first thing in the morning before the mind gets too agitated with all the things it has to do. Towards the end of your meditation, make a note of that change. That peace you feel. And then give yourself permission to hang out there and feel the happiness. Enjoy it. Realize that this is your nature. You are naturally happy.
I have since realized this basic truth: happiness cannot be found by looking outside. It can only be found by looking within. So, now you know where to search. Seek it. Find that happiness. Don’t just leave it where you meditated. Take it with you everywhere you go, check up on it at intervals, and if you find it missing, bring it back by repeating the exercise. Bring it into your relationships (e.g. Father-Son meditation), your job, and indeed every aspect of your life. With this happiness, you’ll learn to love yourself more and you will open yourself up to the possibility of pervasive happiness, certainly not without challenges but despite them.
Here’s a link to the video. Watch and follow the suggestions therein. Trust me when I say, it will be worth your while.