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Thread: To be Happy or not to be Happy

  1. #1

    To be Happy or not to be Happy

    Some years ago, I was at a Kwan Um center sitting. There was also an independent Korean school that many of the Kwan Um members would visit as that teacher was once a student of Seung Sahn Sunim before he passed. The teacher of the independent school was (is) a student of the current head of the Jogye Order; Zen Master Jinje

    I remember over hearing some of the members at the Kwan Um school speaking down about ZM Jinje saying statements such as “ahhh, that guy thinks enlightenment is all about being happy…”


    It was such an interesting thing for me to hear. Because I get their point. A focus solely on happiness and trying to achieve it can lead to a denial of what's happening in this very moment, right here, right now. Also, it can lead to chasing after an experience of happiness…..

    But at the same time ...that mentality can also allow for a rejection of happiness all together….
    Justifying a sense that not only is happiness not what it is about, but I shouldn’t even try to seek out happiness at all and just be ok with my crappy existence.


    What do you guys think?

    The search for happiness and contentment is as old as humanity itself, and it is as part of Bubddhist history as anything else….

    How much happiness is too much?

    How much striving is too much?


    SAT

    Seiryu

    P.S
    Here is a quote I found from ZM Jinje

    “If you realize the truth, you will live in bliss every day. There will be nothing more special than drinking tea when you’re thirsty, resting when you’re tired, or greeting guests when they visit. These everyday acts will be enough.”
    Humbly,
    清竜 Seiryu

  2. #2
    I remember Abbot Muho saying "true happiness is the ability also to allow not to be happy"
    All conditions change sooner or later, so does happiness, in the sense of feeling good, change. When we accept the pain, the discomfort, the age, the sickness and all the conditions in life, our resistance against the conditions will become lesser and also the suffering becomes lesser.

    I don't know, but I cannot imagine always to be in bliss..I don't know if it's possible, but when I see my family, my wife, my kids or my friends, but also other people that are not so close to me suffering, there is no bliss. Yet, I try to accept "bad" circumstances that I cannot change, even if it's more or less hard to do so.
    When a child of me is in hospital, I am concerned for it. Can I drop all the concerns and just be in bliss? I don't think so. But when I accept all the sorrows, the concerns as they appear, it's ok.

    Gassho
    Ben

    Stlah

    Enviado desde mi PLK-L01 mediante Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Always seeking a blissful state seems dangerous and perhaps what the precept on avoiding intoxicants is pointing toward. I mean humans fall for all sorts of tall tales, but there isn't any single state that is permanent; is there a state beyond calm and stressed where we can taste the CALM despite the storm clouds?

    Gassho

    Rish
    -stlah

  4. #4
    Member Onka's Avatar
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    Antidepressants and other pain meds keep me functional. Constant pain keeps me present and grounded. I'm happy with that.
    Gassho
    Anna
    st
    Last edited by Onka; 11-04-2019 at 07:44 PM.
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  5. #5
    Hi Seiryu,

    What I am about to say is by no means an official Zen statement, just a personal comment. I might be totally wrong.

    For what I have learned all this years of practice is that happiness as we know it, is a concept that we have created out of ego. We measure happiness in terms of what we get out of the universe for us. So happiness is about how secure you think you are, how many cars, relationships, collections, titles and money. The more we have of these, the more happy we think we are.

    I think to have stuff surrounding us is important. We need stuff to have a comfortable life. But the thing is we have to practice daily and each and every moment to cultivate equanimity. When you do this you are ready to enjoy pleasant things, but also you are ready to accept conditions you may not like.

    Happiness, joy, fear, anger and sadness may come, but we are able to get back to equanimity.

    Zen practice allows us to be right in the middle of the turmoil of the mind, a demanding society and our needs. Not sure if this is enlightenment but it sure happens naturally after some time practicing.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  6. #6
    Damn Kyonin - well said

    Gassho

    Rish
    -stlah

  7. #7
    So happiness is about how secure you think you are, how many cars, relationships, collections, titles and money. The more we have of these, the more happy we think we are.
    I would just clarify Kyonin's words to "the more happy we think we will be," because anyone opening the Hollywood gossip pages to see how movie stars and princesses live unhappily with all the fame, money and cars will realize that it is not about that. One needs a certain amount of nutritious food, a warm and safe place to live, companionship and love ... and not much more really to be content. The wise are content with or without all those things, and do not cling to any of it even when they have such things.

    The wise are Content (Big "C") to not even be "content" all the time!

    I describe our way as neither running hungrily toward happiness, nor running away from happiness or the natural sadnesses of life. Be happy to be sometimes happy, be happy to be sometimes sad when your dog dies too. (I am not talking about clinical depression or the like, but even then, we can learn to accept the condition when we have such disease, and even as we seek to be free of the disease. On the other hand, when my mother dies, when my house burns down, when I read a sad story in the news, I want to feel sad, I want to cry sometimes. It is okay and human). As strange as it may sound, our Zen practice allows us a kind of Joy (Big "J") that sweeps in both ordinary human joys and sadnesses. It is a Joy that does not even require us to feel joyous (small "j") all or most of the time, and is Joyous to be downright miserable and anything but joyous sometimes!

    Many modern Teachers, if you look closely, are actually doing a bit of "bate and switch" on their use of "happiness," which turns out to be much as the "joyous and content to be joyful, joyous and content to be sad, joyous and content to be healthy, joyous and content to be sick sometimes" aspect that you hear around here quite often. I have spoken about this and all the Dalai Lama's books on "happiness":

    =============

    The Tibetans tend to speak of "Happiness" quite a bit in their books and talks ... but when looked at closely, it is much the same as the subtle Joy and Peace that we speak of in the Zen corner of the woods ... a Joy that holds comfortably the happy times and sad times, a Peace that is wholly all life's many pieces. .

    Frankly, if somebody just wanted to be "happy happy happy", I think there are pharmaceuticals that will do the job faster and deeper than any meditation ... at least for a short time.

    I sometimes think that the Tibetans writers chose the word "Happiness" in their literature to impress Westerners. The problem is that some folks may hear that and think that they are going to find the key to 24/7 "laughing gas" happiness ... and are a bit disappointed when in fact what is delivered is something much more subtle (though fathomlessly richer). I once wrote ...

    Even in Tibetan Buddhism's emphasis on "happiness" ... such words might disguise the real teaching of the Dalai Lama and most Tibetan Teachers I know (same message as here at Treeleaf, in fact) that the point of this Practice is not the attaining of a happy happy ha ha happy happiness all the time (I have never met such a constantly giddy Tibetan teacher, and who would want such a state ... like only watching the comedy movies and never the drama!), but of a certain subtle Happiness (big "H") that transcends AND yet fully contains both the happy times and the sad, smiles and tears, the rainy days and sunny days, as judged by small human eyes in this life of Samsara. I do not think they are teaching people to feel happy that their mother died or tickled that there is a war somewhere in the world ... but a Boundless Joy and Buddha's Smile that shines through all that life can dish out.

    A Buddha's Happiness transcends and holds small human "happy and sad".



    Gassho, J

    Sat TodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-05-2019 at 02:12 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    So much truth here!! Funny we have been purging and getting rid of “stuff” the last 6 months or so, and it’s closer to bliss than acquiring the stuff in the first place ever was!

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  9. #9
    "Sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand." -- Cool Hand Luke.

    gassho
    doyu sat today

    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    So much truth here!! Funny we have been purging and getting rid of “stuff” the last 6 months or so, and it’s closer to bliss than acquiring the stuff in the first place ever was!

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    自己を忘れ、他人のために生きる

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu View Post

    Justifying a sense that not only is happiness not what it is about, but I shouldn’t even try to seek out happiness at all and just be ok with my crappy existence.


    SAT

    Seiryu
    Zazen has changed my outlook on life, happiness, unhappiness, and anything in between tremendously. Whereas I used to ride the roller coaster of happiness and trying to find ideal balances in life, I can now (most of the times) be aware of the fleeting nature of all human emotions and experiences. It all belongs to the scenery of zazen as Uchiyama used to say. This doesn't mean that I am always aware of my state of being in a zen way, but it does allow me to go back to the basic state, or universal self. I never told anyone here but ever since I came to this understanding my quest to read even more works of philosophy vanished completely. Why? Because I live in happiness now? No, not at all. It is just a new way of understanding...of getting a glimpse of how things really are. I quoted this bit you shared because, and I have to be careful here because I know nothing about your life, in zen all these adjectives are labels we give to situations. I hope this make a little sense...it is just my experience.

    Gassho,
    Jack
    Sattoday/lah

  11. #11
    I do not sit zazen to make me happy. But in the long run I think happiness is a byproduct of sitting. I think zazen may lower my blood pressure too but that's not the reason I sit. So I don't get too hung up about if this sitting makes me happy. One thing I've learned is that when I am not happy, then for that day or hour, I am not happy. So what? Be unhappy. Later is usually different.

    I am suspicious of people who have some kind of religion or philosophy or whatever that makes them walk around in a constant state of bliss. In my experience they are either hiding something or are on some chemical supplement.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    I am suspicious of people who have some kind of religion or philosophy or whatever that makes them walk around in a constant state of bliss. In my experience they are either hiding something or are on some chemical supplement.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James
    I want to look at this a bit. because it may be true that people who are in a constant state of bliss are hiding something and using the Bliss as a cover or they're on some some chemical substance that is keeping their mind at a certain place

    But there may be an assumption within your suspicions, that being in a constant state of bliss or being in Bliss majority of the time is simply impossible and the only way someone is there is either by lying or by taking something.
    but I think we need to be careful in comparing someone else's state and our state.

    Because from what I have observed it seems a lot of people who are born and have been raised in this world, this modern consumer-driven productivity driven world, their constant default state seems to be one of melancholy. Or a more flat "meh' type state.

    One from which if one has an emotional Rising we call that happiness and if one has an emotional drop we enter into more depression or sadness or the usual.

    But just like we can have a default state that can line itself up in melancholy or something more flat it seems very possible that through some type of meditation practice people can have their default state shift and land most of the time on states of happiness and Bliss.

    I'm more cautious of assuming that the way in which I view the world is the way the world is...

    Sat

    Seiryu

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
    Humbly,
    清竜 Seiryu

  13. #13
    Seiryu,
    Very good points. I agree that the way I view the world is not necessarily how it is. Also about being careful in comparing our states to others. I just spoke about my observations about people in my experience. It always turned out to be drug use, insecurity, some kind of fake front, etc. I have not conducted any studies. I don't spend a lot of time delving into what makes other people tick.

    I guess zen practice has made me happier. I don't really think too much about striving for happiness. But more directly it has softened my edges, made me see clearer, thought about things less from a me at the center way, made me consider how the result of things and actions will affect something other than me, made me more accepting of things without anger and frustration. Usually anyway.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James
    Last edited by Shoki; 11-06-2019 at 08:32 PM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by hishiryo View Post
    I remember Abbot Muho saying "true happiness is the ability also to allow not to be happy"
    I like this and I agree.

    One can be happy while not experiencing things that aren't pleasant. I think the ability to dissociate the idea of happiness from pleasant is worthwhile. I also think that, like the Buddha, if you along the road you meet happiness you should kill it.

    I believe a common mistake most of us make at one point or another is in conjuring an idea of what happiness is in our imagination, then using our energy to pursue that thing that we imagined and just assume must exist exactly like we imagined it. Instead of allowing things to come and go as they are and learning to find happiness with the natural flow of life, we become a bit neurotic about our pursuit of happiness. We end up mistaking happiness as something conditional, that exists "out there".

    If only I had the right toothpaste then I could be happy like the people on the TV!

    Happiness arises all on its own, right here. All we need to do is get out of its way (easier said than done, I know). Also: Gratitude is an important part of happiness, perhaps the most important part.

    Gassho
    Sen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by hishiryo View Post
    I remember Abbot Muho saying "true happiness is the ability also to allow not to be happy"
    Although I think this is also profoundly wise, it does seem to confuse Happiness for a state of mental equilibrium. That mental state that allows whatever to arise to arise without being bothered one way or another.

    Sat
    . Seiryu

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
    Humbly,
    清竜 Seiryu

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu View Post
    Although I think this is also profoundly wise, it does seem to confuse Happiness for a state of mental equilibrium. That mental state that allows whatever to arise to arise without being bothered one way or another.

    Sat
    . Seiryu
    I would disagree. There is a difference from mere dull or unemotional equanimity and not being bothered one way or another.

    I like to speak of a Bliss (Big "B") so Blissful that one does not even need to feel blissful (small "b") in human terms, or even happy ... and can be downright Blissful to be sometimes unhappy and downright miserable ... as life sometimes is.

    It is a mistake to confuse this Buddha Bliss with the "la la land" "walkiing on clouds" shot of opium "just fell in love" Christmas morning presents under the tree feeling that human beings usually consider "bliss." Perhaps such a person would "blissfully" walk right off a cliff, and would miss a good deal of the richness of this human life like a fellow curled up in his opium bed so "blissful" that he forgets to eat. Even if that were possible, who wants to live (or can live) like that? Does one only like comedies, and forgets the rest of the drama?

    Better is this all encompassing JOY that is thoroughly Joyous (Big "J") to be joyous and pleased sometimes and Joyous to sometimes cry and moan with a toothache too. The Buddha, I feel, knew such Joy based on all the old stories where he was complaining about the pain of his body growing old and falling apart, and the disappointments that he encountered even in trying to deal with other people (as when he could not prevent war despite his trying to stop marching armies, or disease even among his ailing monks). Samsara (this world) is sometimes hard and painful and sad too ... and that's okay, because this is not the only way to view things.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-07-2019 at 01:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I would disagree. There is a difference from mere dull or unemotional equanimity and not being bothered one way or another.

    I like to speak of a Bliss (Big "B") so Blissful that one does not even need to feel blissful (small "b") in human terms, or even happy ... and can be downright Blissful to be sometimes unhappy and downright miserable ... as life sometimes is.

    It is a mistake to confuse this Buddha Bliss with the "la la land" "walkiing on clouds" shot of opium "just fell in love" Christmas morning presents under the tree feeling that human beings usually consider "bliss." Perhaps such a person would "blissfully" walk right off a cliff, and would miss a good deal of the richness of this human life like a fellow curled up in his opium bed so "blissful" that he forgets to eat. Even if that were possible, who wants to live (or can live) like that? Does one only like comedies, and forgets the rest of the drama?

    Better is this all encompassing JOY that is thoroughly Joyous (Big "J") to be joyous and pleased sometimes and Joyous to sometimes cry and moan with a toothache too. The Buddha, I feel, knew such Joy based on all the old stories where he was complaining about the pain of his body growing old and falling apart, and the disappointments that he encountered even in trying to deal with other people (as when he could not prevent war despite his trying to stop marching armies, or disease even among his ailing monks). Samsara (this world) is sometimes hard and painful and sad too ... and that's okay, because this is not the only way to view things.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    I see what you are pointing out, and I am not even in disagreement with it.
    I guess I'm simply trying to define our terms.

    For, at least to me, this type of Bliss and happiness that is normally associated with enlightened beings seems to fall more in line with the description of the highest aims of yoga as depicted in the Bhagavad Gita.

    One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom. ~B.G 2.56

    Happiness and sadness and any other emotional wave that arises is one thing...and that which is ok and not disturbed by that is another.

    That which is spacious enough to hold both Happiness, sadness, bodily aches and pain, with a "Joyous attitude" doesn't seem to be the same as "happiness" the way it is normally thought and used.

    Gassho,

    Seiryu



    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
    Humbly,
    清竜 Seiryu

  18. #18
    What a great thread! So many wonderful answers.

    A few years ago I went through a fairly deep depression. I had lost a large number of loved ones in a very short time, including my first teacher, and my wife and I had experienced our first miscarriage. It was rough and happiness really began to seem like a fantasy.

    I was wise enough to know I need some counselling to deal with the grief I was experiencing. My psychologist asked me a question that I will never forget, and that has helped me through all of the rough times since.

    He simply asked, "Why do you need to be happy?" When he asked this I was absolutely floored. I just could not come up with a good answer! With one simple question he caused all of my ideas of how things should be to implode.

    Now anytime I am having a tough go of things, and I ask that age old question of "Why can't I just be happy!?" his question of "Why do you need to be happy?" rises up and I remember that I do not "need" to be happy. I can simply just "be".

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Junkyo View Post
    What a great thread! So many wonderful answers.

    A few years ago I went through a fairly deep depression. I had lost a large number of loved ones in a very short time, including my first teacher, and my wife and I had experienced our first miscarriage. It was rough and happiness really began to seem like a fantasy.

    I was wise enough to know I need some counselling to deal with the grief I was experiencing. My psychologist asked me a question that I will never forget, and that has helped me through all of the rough times since.

    He simply asked, "Why do you need to be happy?" When he asked this I was absolutely floored. I just could not come up with a good answer! With one simple question he caused all of my ideas of how things should be to implode.

    Now anytime I am having a tough go of things, and I ask that age old question of "Why can't I just be happy!?" his question of "Why do you need to be happy?" rises up and I remember that I do not "need" to be happy. I can simply just "be".

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT
    Boy, whatever you do, don't let go (pun intended) of that psychologist!

    As a counselor, it is easy for we who provide psychotherapy to feel that it is our job to help people be happy.

    It is not. Even psychotherapists are sometimes not happy.

    We sometimes help people cope with very shi**ty situations. To be OK with and accept the situation, or in more Buddhist flavor, the universe as it is.

    Gassho

    klb

    sat today

  20. #20
    My unhappiness always was coupled with two things-- anger and its repercussions. My whole life until I was about 60 had been the result of what people thought of me. I had some friends who I thought were always thinking of me. My life had also depended on these five people, not my wife, daughter, brother, or dad. My mom had been dead for almost 25 years, and still I believed they were concerned about her death at age 68 from breast cancer. I kept thinking they knew parts of my life totally personal, and I would sometimes call them up to find out why they hadn't called me. I explained on Facebook, and I was a hybrid of believing Christian, and practicing Soto Zen Buddhist. This is acceptable here on Treeleaf Zendo, and in my Unitarian Universalist church, but suddenly they began posting in the negative. I called up two of them, "Don't you see! We cannot tolerate any Christianity! They have done horrid things and by posting this, you force your beliefs on us." I took a deep breath, and I unfriended all five. At first, I was frightened, and tried to befriend them only to learn they had blocked me, and then they would not answer my calls. One person blocked my calls. I thought hard, "I regret this, but isn't anger, and (unhappiness) fear a fiction. I had learned this from my therapist. I have excellent friendships here in my home area, I'm close to my family, what need of I of people who haven't called me in many years, who hadn't been friends since college. I realized my therapist is right. Anger is a fiction, and at any time I can rewrite my own story. I regret that some are intolerant. I posted in my bio on Facebook, "I believe in religious freedom, and I love my family." This took courage, courage to finally realize that I am a strong and happy man.
    Tai Shi
    sat/lah
    Gassho
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 11-14-2019 at 11:01 PM. Reason: punctuation
    "As the Buddha designed it, the Sangha's responsibility is to keep their vows, learn and practice the Dharma, and teach and guide the lay people. The lay people in turn, provide the requisites for life..." So are not the lay people the Sangha? Thubten Chodron.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Tai Shi View Post
    My unhappiness always was coupled with two things-- anger and its repercussions. My whole life until I was about 60 had been the result of what people thought of me. I had some friends who I thought were always thinking of me. My life had also depended on these five people, not my wife, daughter, brother, or dad. My mom had been dead for almost 25 years, and still I believed they were concerned about her death at age 68 from breast cancer. I kept thinking they knew parts of my life totally personal, and I would sometimes call them up to find out why they hadn't called me. I explained on Facebook, and I was a hybrid of believing Christian, and practicing Soto Zen Buddhist. This is acceptable here on Treeleaf Zendo, and in my Unitarian Universalist church, but suddenly they began posting in the negative. I called up two of them, "Don't you see! We cannot tolerate any Christianity! They have done horrid things and by posting this, you force your beliefs on us." I took a deep breath, and I unfriended all five. At first, I was frightened, and tried to befriend them only to learn they had blocked me, and then they would not answer my calls. One person blocked my calls. I thought hard, "I regret this, but isn't anger, and (unhappiness) fear a fiction. I had learned this from my therapist. I have excellent friendships here in my home area, I'm close to my family, what need of I of people who haven't called me in many years, who hadn't been friends since college. I realized my therapist is right. Anger is a fiction, and at any time I can rewrite my own story. I regret that some are intolerant. I posted in my bio on Facebook, "I believe in religious freedom, and I love my family." This took courage, courage to finally realize that I am a strong and happy man.
    Tai Shi
    sat/lah
    Gassho
    Wow! Deep bows Tai shi

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

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