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Thread: On happiness

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    On happiness

    I'm reading a book about the four noble truths, written by a Tibetan. I find it interesting that the first two sentences of the book, in the forward, are:

    "The Buddha's message is a universal one. We all search for happiness but somehow fail to find it because we are looking for it in the wrong way."

    This made me think back to how I first got wind of the dharma.

    While I had actually bought and read two books on Zen in the early 1980s, influenced by John Cage's aleatory music and his discussions of Zen (they were Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and Zen Flesh and Bones; good choices, but there wasn't much else available at the time), my first real understanding of the dharma occurred in 1989. I was living in Oslo, Norway at the time, after having moved from New York City, where I grew up, to France. My wife was sent as an expat to work on a project, and I had been teaching English as a foreign language in France at the time, and got some work teaching in Oslo.

    One day, in the largest bookstore in the center of town, which had a fair number of books in English, I came across a book called The Buddhist Handbook, by John Snelling. (I see that there is an updated edition still in print: http://www.amazon.com/Buddhist-Handbook ... 0892817615) It was a simple book discussing the history of Buddhism, but it included a concise introduction to the Buddha's teachings. Now, while I don't remember a lot of precise moments in my life, I do recall sitting near the entrance of Vigelands Parken and reading a few pages of this book, and having a sudden flash of understanding. I don't recall what I read - I think it was a description of the four noble truths - but it lit up my mind in recognition of a truth. (Looking on Amazon at the beginning of chapter two of the book, I see a succinct summary of the dharma that is strongly at odds with the book I cited above. Snelling says:

    "What is the essence of Buddhism?

    Quite simply, it is the great question of who or what we are, right here, now, at this very moment."

    Thats what I've always been attracted to, not some desire for "happiness." Not that I think happiness is a bad thing, but, as the Grateful Dead song says:

    "When life looks like Easy Street
    There is danger at your door."

    I don't search for happiness; I don't think that's what I've ever searched for in the dharma. But I do search for a kind of balance, an acceptance of What Is, the "who or what we are" cited above.

    I've bloviated a bit, and I apologize, but the initial impetus for this post was a simple question. Why does the Tibetan tradition focus on "happiness" so much? (The book I'm reading is far from the only one that does; several books "written" by the Dalai Lama contain the word "happiness" in their titles.) Also, I find it interesting - and reassuring - that the Zen tradition doesn't seem to be fixated on happiness. Because isn't the quest for happiness something that the second noble truth warns us against?

    As for me, I'm not looking for happiness, or enlightenment; I'm just looking for is-ness...

  2. #2

    Re: On happiness

    Hey Kirk,

    Ya know, for the several decades I have been following this Practice, it has made me Happier, more profoundly Joyous, more Peaceful in heart, far beyond what I thought many years ago I would or could ever be in my life (it literally has saved me from a youth of despondency, stress and fear), made this life so good, so rich ... but it has never been about being happy, joyous or peaceful. :shock:

    What's more, it is often a kind of Happiness, Joy and Peace that does not require (and sure doesn't guaranty, believe you me **) that I will always feel happy happy happy-joy joy-peaceful peaceful all the time. Rather, it is sometimes a kind of Happiness that sweeps in sunny days and rainy days, smiles and tears ... a Peace that finds all life's broken pieces still somehow of one piece.

    We recently had a thread on a similar theme ...

    viewtopic.php?p=54558#p54558

    Gassho, J

    ** Just this morning, I am up so early due to some kind of bad dream I had related to the economy and the nearby nuclear reactors. I don't recall the content, but I woke in a sweat. Such is to be human! Going to bed reading headlines like this each night will tend to do that I suppose:

    http://enenews.com/radiation-hot-spots- ... panese-law

    However, just in the space of writing these words to everyone here ... most of all that healed, the fear evaporated! Such is the nature of this Practice. I also recall the two quotes from Joko I posted to today:

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3871

  3. #3

    Re: On happiness

    Here is my view on happiness:

    Never say I will be happy if...the minute that if comes into the picture you lose the causes to ever be happy. Why? because that 'if' can never be satisfied, it will just keep on going.

    Just be Happy

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  4. #4

    Re: On happiness

    Spot on Seiryu, true happiness knows no cause and has no bounds. It is always with you wether it is sunny or rainy.
    And, as I often repeat, this whole Buddhist thing is not about happiness ,although it does come along with it.
    What is it about then? None of my business to answer. Just practice and see for yourself.

    Gassho

    Taigu

  5. #5
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: On happiness

    Kirk wrote:

    This made me think back to how I first got wind of the dharma.

    While I had actually bought and read two books on Zen in the early 1980s, influenced by John Cage's aleatory music and his discussions of Zen (they were Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and Zen Flesh and Bones; good choices, but there wasn't much else available at the time), my first real understanding of the dharma occurred in 1989. I was living in Oslo, Norway at the time, after having moved from New York City, where I grew up, to France. My wife was sent as an expat to work on a project, and I had been teaching English as a foreign language in France at the time, and got some work teaching in Oslo.

    One day, in the largest bookstore in the center of town, which had a fair number of books in English, I came across a book called The Buddhist Handbook, by John Snelling. (I see that there is an updated edition still in print: http://www.amazon.com/Buddhist-Handbook ... 0892817615) It was a simple book discussing the history of Buddhism, but it included a concise introduction to the Buddha's teachings. Now, while I don't remember a lot of precise moments in my life, I do recall sitting near the entrance of Vigelands Parken and reading a few pages of this book, and having a sudden flash of understanding. I don't recall what I read - I think it was a description of the four noble truths - but it lit up my mind in recognition of a truth. (Looking on Amazon at the beginning of chapter two of the book, I see a succinct summary of the dharma that is strongly at odds with the book I cited above. Snelling says:
    Hi Kirk,

    I really enjoyed reading your post here! You know a little more info and you have yourself a great Bio to post over in the Treeleaf Member Directory
    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3519
    No pressure, I'm just saying.....

    Gassho,
    John

  6. #6

    Re: On happiness

    Quite simply, it is the great question of who or what we are, right here, now, at this very moment."
    Bingo. I think as a youth I tied myself in loops over-analyzing. Now when happiness comes it is genuinely happy, and sadness too. Perhaps the focus on happiness is due to dropping the extra baggage, as it feels good to stop banging one's head against the wall.

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: On happiness

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    I really enjoyed reading your post here! You know a little more info and you have yourself a great Bio to post over in the Treeleaf Member Directory
    Done.

    BTW, as you have an Emerson quote in your sig, allow me to pimp one of my websites, dedicated to Emerson, my favorite American writer, thinker, and occasional Zen master:

    http://www.readingemerson.com

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: On happiness

    BTW, as you have an Emerson quote in your sig, allow me to pimp one of my websites, dedicated to Emerson, my favorite American writer, thinker, and occasional Zen master:
    Thanks for the link. Quite the impressive collection. I see your site is soon to have it's 2nd year anniversary. It speaks volumes about your passion!

    Gassho,
    John

  9. #9
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: On happiness

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson

    Thanks for the link. Quite the impressive collection. I see your site is soon to have it's 2nd year anniversary. It speaks volumes about your passion!
    There are indeed many more volumes to read!

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