Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: On happiness

  1. #1

    On happiness

    The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. #2
    A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr

  3. #3

    the purpose of life and don't know mind

    gassho and hello to kirkmc and paige
    This topic brings me right back to the topic of don't know mind.
    When I sit zazen sometimes briefly (very very briefly) if I'm 'lucky', I will get moments of experiencing life with a mind that has no clue about anything. This clueless mind is a mind naked of thought. Naked of thoughts of happiness, honorableness, usefulness, love, compassion.
    I think these thoughts are like colored gels--the kind which are used to place over stage lights.
    The light itself is white, but put a gel over it, now it appears to be red, add a blue gel and now the light appears to be purple.
    I do not think there is any right or wrong that we do this, we are humans doing what humans do: we add meaning and purpose--we are the gels, but I think we also get to experience the light before it passes through our gel natures--and I think that is what zazen helps us do.
    Compassion sometimes is something I think I intentionally 'do', but more lately I don't think this is true--it is more like doing what the situation calls for (for example) I step into a public restroom and it is messy--on my way out, I tidy it up--just because..., just because.
    But if you were to ask me 'how do you know what the situation calls for?' I don't know that I'd be able to really answer that.
    Now love, I can't do that intentionally, it just naturally arises, or doesn't...maybe that's where being honorable comes in--when love isn't there--.
    I'm curious why it is, when I'm happy--I don't go around looking for what's responsible for my happiness (but when I'm unhappy, I definitely have a lot of 'reasons' why I'm not).
    ooops I've got to run, my son needs a ride to an event...sorry to leave in such haste.
    Thank you thank you, I am so very appreciative for the time I get to think about these different things.
    What a wonderful place this treeleaf zendo is!
    gassho, Keishin

  4. #4


    hellos paige and kirkmc and I'm back here--but as I re-read my entry, for the life of me I can't remember where my thoughts were going when I had to leave...
    I kind of get the light and gel metaphor, but in re-reading it, it makes less sense now than it did when I first wrote it...oh, well...

    I certainly was responding to the grand words in the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Ralph Waldo Emerson quotations. I guess rather than wander down my mental pathways in response to Vonnegut and Emerson, I would much rather learn from you what it was you liked best about these quotations and what you think about them. Most people I have met who are interested in zen are serious minded people who care deeply about the world and who want to make a difference. I could say the same thing about most people I have met who are Christians and Jews and come to think of it, most people.
    That word 'purpose' in both those quotes is the one that's got me going--I guess I just don't think life has a purpose other than just being what it is: life itself.

    Thank you both for getting this middle-aged brain firing (and mis-firing) with thoughts.

  5. #5
    Indeed an interesting topic. One not usually looked at in Zen.

    I can recommend "Happiness" by Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu is a French monk studying in the Tibetan tradition but don't hold that against him. Matthieu looks at happiness from a meditative and scientific point of view and has given me several fresh insights into how I hold my happiness. Matthieu postulates that suffering arises because of our self-centeredness and the antidote for that is selflessness. This sure is true in my experience.

    Happiness is about our inner life not anything external. Being equanimity is being happy.

  6. #6


    Hello Paige:
    You are very right, I did miss the distiction between a purpose and the
    purpose, but the phrase 'no matter who is controlling it' more than made up for it!
    Thanks to you and Kirkmc I have had a most entertaining time of it looking at purpose--and so far (it's not exhaustive yet--I do have other things to do!) it (purpose) is slippery. It seems to appear to make sure something is useful, not a waste (of time, etc), not meaningless.
    The purpose of this forum is to allow various users a place to have a discussion with each other (?) Only, by actually using it, I discover in hindsight what 'purpose' was served. The purpose of a glass is to hold liquids (but a glass can also be used to catch a spider and put it outdoors, a glass can be used to prop up a window, a glass can be used as a cookie cutter). While a glass may be particularly suited for some things, it is not limited--purpose arises through use within circumstances and situation. 'Purpose' implies some kind of knowing beforehand through which needs in possible situations and circumstances can be foreseen and planned for.
    Purpose is like a fortune teller--'predicting' your past, 'remembering' your future. It's a tidy way to have things 'make sense.'
    But like Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, "I really don't know clouds (or purpose) at all."
    Thank you.
    PS my view of zazen to buddhism and other religions too for that matter, is similar to what type '0' blood is to blood donors/blood recipients--everyone can accept type '0'--it is a universal donor!
    I think you can be a secular humanist and still sit zazen.

  7. #7
    Hey Guys,

    Some very beautiful postings.

    I just want to say that, while we may have many purposes and objectives in life, and though we seek to be Compassionate as among the most important, we also live life and sit Zazen with no purpose or objective whatsoever ... all at the same time.

    So, we try to make a plan to get from point X to point Y, and plot a route to get there ... all while knowing that there is no other place to go but here.

    It is a nice way to live by doing things, yet seeking no ulterior motives or profits in the end.

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: happiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    I think you can be a secular humanist and still sit zazen.
    True, but without Zen, zazen is just... uh "za?"

    It took me quite a while to start identifying myself as "Buddhist," but considering the time and effort I'm putting in to sitting and studying (and as I've taken refuge), I guess it's the best label to use. When I feel I have to label myself. For example, if someone asks me point-blank if I'm a Buddhist I'll say "Yes." Also, it was the box I ticked off on my last census form.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I just want to say that, while we may have many purposes and objectives in life, and though we seek to be Compassionate as among the most important, we also live life and sit Zazen with no purpose or objective whatsoever ... all at the same time.
    *Nods* Yes, I think that most people who take up zazen do so because they think it will make them healthier, happier, more focused, calmer, etc. And maybe it does.

    Then there's the period of disillusionment - "I've been sitting every day for 6 whole months and I'm still not enlightened!" Or the new & improved kinder, gentler 'you' still gets its ass dumped by their boyfriend/girlfriend. In my case, I thought zazen would be a panacea for all my health problems, but I still got sick. So I figured it wasn't working, and gave up.

    I can't really say what brought me back. I guess that now I don't know what zazen is, or what it is not. And that seems to be an improvement from when I thought I knew stuff.

    I hope that there really are some benefits to practice. Otherwise I've been hauling myself out of bed an hour too early and missing out on some prime evening TV shows for nothin'. :wink:

Similar Threads

  1. The pursuit of happiness, or not
    By AlanLa in forum Archive of Older Threads
    Replies: 26
    Last Post: 05-03-2012, 12:13 AM
  2. On happiness
    By Ryumon in forum Archive of Older Threads
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 06-19-2011, 07:29 PM
  3. 108 Bows for Happiness
    By Seiryu in forum Archive of Older Threads
    Replies: 41
    Last Post: 03-11-2011, 04:16 PM
  4. Happiness Research
    By Jundo in forum Archive of Older Threads
    Replies: 22
    Last Post: 05-14-2008, 06:31 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts