How to Be Happy - Selections
Every one of us wants happiness, and not only in each moment of our daily life: we want an unchanging, ultimate happiness that can be experienced forever.
Every one of us is trying to stop our problems and find peace. No matter where we live, what race or culture we belong to, what religion or philosophy we follow, or what language we speak, we all wish to be happy and not have problems. Truly every living being has the basic wish to experience happiness and avoid suffering.
But so often, our attempts to find happiness end up only causing more pain.
We need to understand the full potential of our mind, and we need to understand the importance of loving-kindness for our own happiness and for the happiness of the world. We need to learn how to transform our daily work so that it becomes the cause of happiness rather than problems, now and in the future. And we need to learn how to transform every single experience—health and sickness, wealth and poverty, living and dying—into happiness. Meditation is the most powerful tool we can employ to do this. Through the power of meditation, we can find lasting peace and happiness and, more importantly, we can bring peace and happiness to others.
Cultivate the thought that everyone
you meet—in all circumstances—
is fulfilling all your wishes.
This is the gate to true happiness.
The sun of real happiness shines in your life
only when you start to cherish others.
Problems and the absence of problems do not come from outside. Problems and the absence of problems, as well as all peace and all happiness, only come from your own mind. Your mind has the potential to stop the problems that come from your mind. And yet the same mind that brings the problem doesn’t stop the problem, but another mind—another thought, another attitude—can stop all problems and bring peace and happiness.
The mind of a buddha or some holy being
can’t be transplanted into you.
Peace, happiness, and satisfaction
have to come from your own mind.
As long as we believe that happiness has to come from outside, from other people or from the external environment, we will always blame something outside whenever we have a problem. Many people, for example, think that their problems come from their parents. They say, “I’m like this because of my mother and father. My parents are to blame.” In a way, Western culture as a whole teaches children to blame their parents for their problems, rather than emphasizing how kind parents are in giving life to their children. But real happiness has nothing to do with the past, with our history, or our upbringing. Real happiness comes when we free ourselves from the dissatisfied mind of desire. Satisfaction comes when we give ourselves freedom from the always unhappy mind of desire.
Suffering is the broom that
clears away negative karma.
The happiness of material progress is artificial, just some kind of external excitement—the briefest flash of lightning in the dark. True joy, lasting joy, comes from the depths of the heart.
Renounce the happiness that produces suffering;
cherish the true happiness that
can come from suffering.
You cannot make your body flexible just by thinking about making it flexible. You can only do that by training it; the body has to make the body flexible. Just as physical flexibility has to be created by our body, mental flexibility— which is another name for ultimate peace and happiness—has to be created by our mind, through mental training.
Meditation is mental training.
Meditation is a profound psychological technique to stop wrong conceptions and to start the correct way of thinking that leads to peace, happiness, and harmony. Meditation sounds like some kind of religious term, but it is actually the deepest practice of inner psychology. Meditation protects the mind, and keeps it aware of reality. Meditation also helps you keep your mind in a state of loving-kindness by training you to be aware of all the ways in which others are kind to you; and it helps you maintain compassion by being aware of how others are suffering.
How do we fill up the emptiness in our heart?
The answer is meditation.
To take up real meditation, real spiritual practice, is to transform suffering into happiness—and that depends on transforming your mind, your attitude.
You have to work to gradually develop your mind from day to day, and year to year. It might even take eons. Ultimately this kind of mind-training is a practice of patience.
Certain kinds of meditation practices are like destroying the root of a poisonous plant so that it cannot produce seeds and grow again and again, causing a lot of harm: you destroy the root of suffering-causing karma so that that seed cannot grow to produce problems.
A meditation teacher is part of an emergency rescue operation, like when police, paramedics, and rescue workers go in with sirens blaring, red and blue lights flashing, helicopters whirling overhead with searchlights— to help people drowning in danger and distress.
The Dharma itself is like a life-jacket. But it’s up to you to wear the life-jacket as you cross the perilous sea of suffering; it’s up to you to practice.
Meditation is the way to make your mind calm, clear, and stable; it is the way to stop creating harm. Meditation is the way to have peace; ultimately it is the way to stop creating problems. But just to have peace of mind yourself is not sufficient. The most important purpose of practicing meditation is to develop the good heart, bodhichitta—the aspiration to give others less harm and more benefit. But even though you might not have yet developed your mind to the point where you have completely stopped harming others and only benefit them, you should still strive to cultivate bodhichitta.
Always strive to improve your mind, improve your attitude. Rather than using your intelligence and the vast potential you have as a human being to create more problems for yourself and for the world, cultivate the good heart, bodhichitta, and cultivate wisdom. Train your mind to become less and less angry and more patient, less selfish and more loving, more compassionate and more concerned with the happiness of others. Without actively working to do this, however, your mind will remain just the same, or more likely become even worse, building up more anger, more pride, more desire, more dissatisfaction. This is how all violence happens.
Wisdom simply means
awareness of reality.
Like boiling water, our mind is bubbling with superstitions, hallucinations, and many unnecessary and wrong views, which bring only harm and no peace in our life.
By learning methods to pacify our disturbing thoughts, to cool our boiling mind, we are taking the opportunity to free ourselves from the causes of problems and unhappiness.
Meditation is the unfailing way
to get free from problems.
When any of the five delusions arise—ignorance, anger, attachment, jealousy, miserliness—look at them as completely pure minds of wisdom. When strong desire arises, just concentrate on the nature of desire, thinking that it is the transcendental wisdom of discernment of a buddha’s pure holy mind, a manifestation of the dharmakaya, ultimately pure in nature. When you look at the pure nature of any delusion, the delusion is stopped. When you meditate like this, even for a moment, the five delusions disappear, and you also leave a positive imprint on your consciousness, which can ripen into that transcendental wisdom.
Subduing your own mind is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching—and the basic method for subduing the mind is meditation. Yet even though we can accomplish so many other things in our life, we find it very hard to develop our mind. When a problem comes, our mind reacts the same way it did before we learned anything about meditation—our mind becomes disturbed, and we are dissatisfied and angry. This happens because we haven’t done the real practice of watching and, most importantly, working to subdue our mind. If subduing our mind had been our main practice, our mind would definitely have developed year by year, month by month, week by week, and even day by day. With the necessary causes and conditions—diligent practice of meditation, of mind-training—the mind surely develops. Please see for yourself!
Right now, why not take the opportunity
to enjoy your life with the Dharma?
The ultimate goal of meditating, of practicing Dharma, is to bring happiness to every living being, now and continuingly into the future. Our aim is to bring all beings happiness until we and they together end the cycle of death and rebirth into problems and suffering.
When your mind is overwhelmed by strong desire, it interferes with your seeing reality clearly. Desire clings to the exaggerated appearance of the object of desire as permanently, truly, self-existently good. After you exaggerate the good qualities of the object and label it “good,” you hallucinate that it appears as something good from its own side—and you then cling to that. Clinging to that exaggerated appearance interferes with the ability to see the ultimate nature of the object.
When this happens, rather than looking at the object, the person or thing you desire, you should look at the subject, your mind. Simply watch your mind. Change the object of attention from outside (the thing you are hallucinating about) to inside (the hallucinating mind itself). Instead of thinking of that external object, look at the mind that is thinking of that object. When you practice even this simple meditation there’s immediately a change. Overpowering desire suddenly has the potential to be stopped. There’s space in your mind to see the true nature of yourself and of the object of your desire. If you do this even for a moment, the desiring mind starts to become controlled, pacified, subdued.
The dissatisfied mind of desire
is one of the main causes of stress.
Letting go of attachment is not a loss;
you are not losing anything.
Truly, when you let go of suffering you
gain inner peace and deep satisfaction.
You follow desire with the aim of getting satisfaction. Your aim is worthwhile and you are right to wish to obtain it—but the method is wrong and results only in dissatisfaction.
Following desire cannot lead to satisfaction.
You follow desire and you are not satisfied. Again you follow desire, and again you are not satisfied. Again you try, and again you are not satisfied.
Clinging to a small pleasure becomes
an obstacle to obtaining the great pleasure
of ultimate happiness.
When I say that you should give up desire, it might sound as if I’m telling you to give up your happiness—but this isn’t so! If you ever really look deeply at desire and the objects of desire, you will see that even though such things appear as pleasures, there is no real pleasure to be found there. Cutting off desire, however, doesn’t mean that you cut off all happiness—far from it! Truly, when you renounce desire you open yourself in the only way possible to true happiness. Because you may not have experienced this true happiness yet, you mistake the subtle suffering of desire for true peace—but once you realize the infinite benefits of renouncing selfishness and desire, this kind of renunciation is a joyful act.
Attachment is like honey on a razor’s edge:
it looks like pleasure but offers only pain.
Often, before the benefits of renouncing desire have completely become clear to you, it’s as if there are two warring parties in your mind: the party of desire and the party of wisdom. You have to take the side of one of them. Rather than taking the side of desire, choose to take the side of Dharma wisdom. This simple act is like choosing reality over hallucination.
Any samsaric pleasure is nothing new,
only more suffering.
Samsaric pleasure, which is dependent on external things, is only suffering. When one problem stops and another problem has started but is still small, we call it “pleasure.” We project the appearance of pleasure and believe in that. And in this way we see the unbearable prison of samsara as a lush, beautiful park—which is, after all, a hallucination.
As long as you follow desire you will never find satisfaction.
How to cite this document:
© Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, How to Be Happy (Wisdom Publications, 2008)
This selection from How to Be Happy by Lama Zopa Rinpoche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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