Let all peoples be happy, weak or strong, of high, middle, low estate, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away, alive or still to be born. May they all be entirely happy. Let nobody lie to anybody or despise any single being anywhere. May no one wish harm to any single creature out of anger or hatred. Let us cherish all creatures as a mother her only child. May our loving thoughts fill the whole world above, below, across without limit of boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity.
Early Buddhist aspiration, quoted by Karen Armstrong in her lecture Faith after Sept 11
What are these false beliefs that block you from happiness? Here are some examples: Happiness will come if you manage to change the situation you are in and the people around you. Not true. You stupidly squander so much energy trying to rearrange the world. If changing the world is your vocation in life, go right ahead and change it, but do not harbor the illusion that this is going to make you happy. What makes you happy or unhappy is not the world and the people around you, but the thinking in your head. As well search for an eagle’s nest on the bed of an ocean, as search for happiness in the world outside of you. So if it is happiness that you seek you can stop wasting your energy trying to cure your baldness or build up an attractive body or change your residence or job or community or lifestyle or even your personality. Do you realize that you could change every one of these things, you could have the finest looks and the most charming personality and the most pleasant of surroundings and still be unhappy? And deep down you know this is true but still you waste your effort and energy trying to get what you know cannot make you happy.
We are born with only one obligation – to be completely who we are. Yet how much of our time is spent comparing ourselves to others, dead and alive?This is encouraged as necessary in the pursuit of excellence. Yet a flower in its excellence does not yearn to be a fish, and a fish in its unmanaged elegance does not long to be a tiger. But we humans find ourselves always falling into the dream of another life. Or we secretly aspire to the fortune or fame of people we don’t really know. When feeling badly about ourselves, we often try on other skins rather than understand and care for our own.Yet when we compare ourselves to others, we see neither ourselves nor those we look up to. We only experience the tension of comparing, as if there is only one ounce of being to feed all our hungers.
If we are silly enough to remain at the mercy of the people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us ever to be content with anything. How would they profit if we became content? We would no longer need their new product. The last thing the salesman wants is for the buyer to become content. You are of no use in our society unless you are always wanting to grasp what you never have. The Greeks were not as smart as we are. In their primitive way they put Tantalus in hell. [Advertising]…on the contrary, would convince us that Tantalus is in heaven.
February has begun rainy and very wild and windy here in Ireland. I am reminded of how Ryokan worked with the mental energies, thoughts, feelings and moods which passed through his body-mind. We can learn a lot from these monks on how to work in a practical way with our daily experience:
Not being so attached to our facts, or even our “alternative facts”, and how to let go of certain types of thoughts which are just not important.
If someone asks about the mind of this monk, say it is no more than a passage of wind in the vast sky.
Ryokan, 1758 – 1831, Buddhist monk, hermit and poet.