Is This Happiness?

Is This Happiness?Before asking the question, maybe we should ask … what do we mean by happiness?

There may be as many answers to that as there are stars in the sky, everyone has their own idea of what makes them happy, and what doesn’t.

Maybe it is the love of a partner, being part of a family, the pay cheque at the end of the month or that new car you had always promised yourself. Whatever your idea of happiness, we all crave more of it.

We can probably agree that it is all too often a transitory state, punctuated by periods where we are unhappy, or at least a bit glum. So what would you give to have more of this illusive life-state, and how can you go about achieving a happier life?

Well speaking personally, I can almost guarantee happiness from my Buddhist practice. That might sound a little trite or even rather far-fetched, but for me it is true. My practice helps me see life from all angles, the ups and downs, from my view-point and from that of others, and it ‘smoothes’ out the emotional bumps we encounter each and every day.

The idea at the very core of Buddhism is the removal of suffering, and that in itself helps us to be happier. Seeing the beauty in nature, the best facets of another’s personality, the joy in helping others, happiness is there for us all, all of the time and all around us. Living a life that is more concerned with others than ourselves, giving more than we take, and so on, will also bring feelings of happiness. All we have to do is look out for it.

Living in a society that is more concerned about what we own, than who we really are, we all struggle to put those ideas into action. We hear about people earning ridiculous sums, whilst providing little by way of return, and wonder how they can live with the guilt. If society valued the good in people more than the goods of people, the world would be a much fairer, happier place.

Whatever flavour your own happiness comes in, I wish you more of it, now and in the future. And when it arrives, please make sure that you share it around. That way you will find it grows and grows, and that it lasts just that little bit longer.

Be That Drop Of Sunshine

Be The Sunshine

Life has it’s ups and downs, as we all know. Little things can make friends and family members unhappy or even depressed, so make it your job to make them feel better.

There are so many people, so many lives on this planet, too numerous, in fact, to count.

From this great multitude, we wondrously find ourselves together with those in our families, as parents and children, as brothers and sisters, as husbands and wives.

If we do not live joyfully and cheerfully with whom we share this profound bond, what is life for?

Should the atmosphere at home be sombre, you can be that drop of ‘sunshine’. By being a shining presence, you can cast the light of hope on your mother, father, children and indeed all of your family and friends.

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not TakenAt times it is all too easy to be led by your heart, hoping that the happiness you gain will offset the unhappiness of others. On the other hand, the unhappiness you may cause to others could easily put a dark cloud over your own feelings, not just for the immediate future, but for eternity.

In the end, the final decision may not even be in the individuals own hands, making it doubly difficult. We are all keen to having our destiny under our own control, so relinquishing it to someone else just adds to the feelings of angst.

My gut feeling, and my Buddhist teaching tell me that, in general, we should sacrifice our own feelings so that others do not have to, but time will tell how it is resolved.

Mulling it all over and over in my mind, knowing that whichever way things turn out, we will never know whether it was for the best, reminded me of the poem by Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

The Ride Of Your Life

The Ride Of Your LifeNobody ever said that life was supposed to be a bowl of cherries.

Our journey from birth to death, whichever lap we happen to be on at any one time, is a series of lows and highs, the rough and the smooth, the not-so-happy and the happy, the bad and the good.

So by assuming that even though things may be going along smoothly just now, we should prepare ourselves for the next pot hole, the unexpected hairpin or that most untimely puncture that will most certainly come along, to make that journey even more satisfying. Being prepared, as all boy scouts know, is the trick to reducing the effect that these unforeseen circumstances will have on our progress.

We have often talked about turning poison into medicine, using the difficulties in life as our way of making ourselves stronger, and seeing obstacles as challenges rather than problems. The old adage of ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ is exactly right, if we approach these things in the right manner. Being doggedly determined not to be beaten, to meet the challenges head on and win through, come hell or high water, is a great start and a great way to move on.

Imagine how disappointed we would all be, if the latest ride at Alton Towers was a perfectly straight, perfectly level piece of track, that started slowly, trundled along at walking pace, and gradually slowed to a genteel halt five minutes later. Who in their right mind would queue for something so predictable, so comfortable, so boring? Nobody I know.

The most popular rides, the ones that have the longest queues, and the ones that we want to get back on, time after time, are the ones that scare us witless, the ones that actually make us wonder if we will live to tell the tale. And that is how life can be if we prepare ourselves for the turns, the plunges, the unexpected. The greatest books, films and life stories are all about facing almost impossible adversity, battling against the odds, getting the odd knock along the way, but coming out as the victor in the end.

So face up to the rigours of life, meet those challenges head on, stay strong, be brave and make your life the subject of the greatest story Hollywood has ever told.

Karmic Recycling

Karmic RecyclingGoing back over our errors,  asking ourselves painful questions and giving honest answers is a difficult experience.

We’ve all made mistakes in life, some more serious than others, but talking them through, trying to explain why you made this decision at that point in time, makes you re-examine your own values.

Our history is set in stone, we cannot go back and make those decisions anew. But we can try to make amends, apologise for any hurt we have caused, and, above all, be honest with ourselves and others.

We can also learn from mistakes, to do anything else would be considered foolish, but sometimes those mistakes are not as obvious as we might think. If you find yourself in a repeating cycle of events over time, it is definitely worth taking a long hard look at why that appears to be happening.

Karma, the law of cause and effect, will be behind the cycle somewhere, so we need to examine the causes and change them if we are to break the merry-go-round of sadness, and move onto pastures new.

Some people fear change, but if life is just not working the way we want it to, then we have to make changes. Embrace the opportunity to make life better, examine the causes that need to change and make those changes whole-heartedly, you will not regret it once the effects, and the happiness, start coming through.

Crash, Bang, Wallop …

Thunder and LightningThe thunder, lightening and rain was biblical on Friday morning, not the kind that wakes the odd person, the kind that wakes everyone, amazing. So having been roused from our slumbers, we stood at the window watching natures incredible light show and marvelling at the rain falling vertically in huge droplets.

If we are unprepared for it, the weather can cause us all manner of problems, as witnessed by the floods in and around Somerset earlier in the year. But problems, or challenges as we prefer to refer to them, can be seen in many ways …

There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry.

When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbours could not console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.”

One day, she met a monk. He was very curious as to why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”

The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”

The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s instruction. After a while, she did not cry anymore; instead, she was smiling everyday. From that day on she was known as “the smiling lady.”

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be DeceivingA wise man once said, “There are people who are happy just drinking water. On the other hand, there are some who sink into sorrow and despair while surrounded by pure luxury.”

Whether a person is happy or not cannot be judged solely by their appearance.

When you take time to look back on your life, sometimes you realise that the toughest times were the most fulfilling and happiest moments.

Less Is Surely More

Less Is Surely MoreSo many of the ills in modern society are driven, if not caused, by our insatiable desire to earn, to own, to use, more and more.

Companies spend millions creating adverts to reach our deepest psyche and flick on the basest of urges, often I suspect, without us even realising the manipulation we are undergoing.

Aside from our own mental suffering, our cravings are having disastrous consequences in third world countries, the collapse of the clothing factory in Bangladesh being an indirect result of our need to ever cheaper garments.

Nichiren spoke of earthly desires being used as fuel for the flame of Wisdom.

Buddhism teaches the converting of personal ambitions and desires, even base ones, into good traits like Wisdom, through altruistic living. A Buddhist doctrine that earthly desires are enlightenment, indicates that greed, anger through violence, and egocentricity can be transformed into altruistic traits such as compassion, trust and nonviolence.

The underlying delusions that drive our desires, including the desire for the development of science and civilisations, can be essentially transformed in a way that changes selfishness into altruism, violence into nonviolence and suspicion into trust.

The Western exploitation of emerging countries, for cheap labour and materials, simply to satisfy an ever growing market is totally unsustainable and must change. Until we can stop enriching certain groups at the expense of others, and concentrate on enriching all people by our actions, there will never be a sustainable peace, economy or even happiness in the world.

What A Joy

Cultivating The MindWhat is true joy in life? This is a difficult question to answer, and one that has occupied the time of a great many thinkers and philosophers.

Joy is transitory and can quickly give way to suffering. Joy is often short and suffering often long.

Also, what passes for joy in society is superficial. It cannot compare with the joy derived from the Mystic Law. The key therefore, lies in cultivating a state of mind where we can declare without reservation, that life itself is a joy.

This is the purpose of our Buddhist practice.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Life’s Ups & Downs

The Ups and Downs Of LifeMany things happen in life. There are joyous days and times of suffering. Sometimes unpleasant things occur. But that’s what makes life so interesting. The dramas we encounter that are part and parcel of being human.

If we experienced no change or drama in our lives, if nothing unexpected ever happened, we would merely be like automatons, our lives unbearably monotonous and dull.

Therefore, it is important to develop a strong self so that you can enact the drama of your life with confidence and poise in the face of whatever challenges you may encounter.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

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