True Happiness in a World of Change

Happy day, everyone!
This is a follow-up to the post I made a couple days ago, in which I suggested that there is no such thing as true worldly happiness. I included a passage from the introduction to the Dhammapada, by Eknath Easwaran, in which the author describes the teachings of the Buddha on suffering and change. We tend to cling to transitory things, said the Buddha, and to the pleasures we derive from these things, in an attempt to live happily, but this doesn’t work. This doesn’t work because an effort to derive permanent peace and fulfillment from things that are constantly changing is doomed to fail. This also doesn’t work because no outside thing can provide true happiness or fulfillment on its own; true happiness and fulfillment can only come from presence, from the natural capacity we have to live in the flow of Life Unfolding, and from a compassionate relationship with ourselves and others. The author goes on to say:

“Ordinary experience is a void that cannot be filled by anything; it is nothing but change. Yet the Buddha, with his characteristic twist, proclaims that real joy can be found within that very stream of change. If one truly understands that life’s very nature is change, then the burning desire to wrest permanence from the world of passing sensations begins to die; and as it dies, the mind begins to taste its natural state, which is joy: not a sensation, but a state of consciousness unaffected by pleasure and pain.

This is decidedly not a negative realization. Once we know for certain what can give joy, we are ready for a nirvana, the highest joy. The path to joy lies not in depending on external conditions, but in undoing the conditioning of pleasure and pain which excites the mind to search for satisfaction in the world outside. When the mind is still through meditation, one drinks the joy of dharma, which lies beyond the scope of anything conditioned.”

That is the teaching, friends, and, in my experience, that is the reality. It’s a hard reality to accept sometimes, for me as much as for anyone, because it means letting go of the things we believe will cause us to be happy. But in order to be truly happy, this is what we must do. We don’t have to let go of the natural, healthy enjoyments that Life puts in front of us every day, but we do need to let go of the profound attachments we are conditioned to feel towards outside things that we see as a substitute for the pure experience of Life Unfolding. For those who are willing, this is the noble aim of life as a human on this earth: to let go of clinging, to be present and open in this world of change, and to be happy.

Be well, friends, and have a beautiful day.

In peace,
David