I hope you’re well today and having a good practice day so far
There’s a phrase that has arisen in my mind over and over again these past several weeks. Here it is:
“There is no true worldly happiness.”
This morning after meditation I read the following passage from the introduction to the Dhammapada, by Eknath Easwaran, which explains the phrase in Buddhist terms:
“What people call ‘happiness’ is a house of cards perched precariously on certain preconditions. When these preconditions are fulfilled, the pleasure we feel lasts but a moment, for the nature of human experiences to change. And when they are not fulfilled, there is a longing and a frustratingly elusive sense of loss; we grasp for what we do not have and nurse the gnawing desire to have it again. To try to hold on to anything – a thing, a person, an event, a position – merely exposes us to its loss. Anything that changes, the Buddha concluded, anything in our experience that consists of or is conditioned by component sensations, produces sorrow, not joy. Experience promises happiness, but it delivers only constant change.”
Oh my gosh, that is so it. Isn’t it? Our entire society, and most especially our entire economy, is founded on the illusion that there is such a thing as true worldly happiness, and if only we can line up the preconditions, and maintain the preconditions, then we will be happy forever. People spend their entire lives, and also their fortunes, in order to establish and maintain the preconditions, and yet fail over and over again. That’s what suffering is, folks!
True happiness arises simply out of our capacity to be present to this exquisite world we live in, and to the fabulously beautiful person that we each are. True happiness happens in our relationship with ourselves, in other words. If we can love ourselves, accept ourselves, and nurture ourselves, without any conditions at all, then we will be happy, and that happiness will be independent of our circumstances. That’s what the Buddha taught.
Of course, we don’t want to go from this teaching to the error that so many have made, and within every religion, that we need therefore to reject anything outwardly pleasurable, convenient, helpful, or good. Not at all! We get to enjoy whatever life puts in front of us that is enjoyable. But we must understand that happiness does not derive from these things. Happiness derives from a loving and compassionate independence from these things.
And so, friends, let us be simply present with ourselves in love, and be happy.