All beings on quest to find happiness

 

The Press
13/05/2010
Mateusz Uzdowski

One of the basic Buddhist teachings is that all beings want to be happy. Look around and you will see we are all essentially in the same situation. The goal is happiness, but sadly not many reach - and keep - that level.

A human being in the quest of happiness is like a blind cripple dropped in the middle of the desert without a compass, given only a hint there exists an oasis somewhere. When born, we have no reference points to rely on, so we cling to what we are told by parents, people around us and television. It might work well for some time, but our western culture has not much to propose in terms of absolute points of reference, hence we never make it to the oasis.

The path has been laid out for us and it's embedded into our mental wiring. We are scheduled to live as follows:

- Obtain a degree
- Secure a job
- Find a partner
- Have a baby
- Reach fame and fortune
- Have a grandchild.

This system is great until you notice this list ends abruptly. As the Danish proverb has it: "the last shirt has no pockets" - you can't take anything with you past the grave (if you are not a pharaoh).

The fundamental mistake built into our lives is the expectation that fleeting achievements will provide us with lasting happiness. This is logically impossible reasoning based on flawed premises. Everything of composite nature will eventually fall into pieces again. Scientists tell us that even universes have beginnings and endings, thus we can be certain our bodies too will follow this pattern.

There is a common misconception that Buddhism is about denial and that we will all fall into a black hole of Nirvana some day. It couldn't be more wrong: we can enjoy life immensely if we learn not to expect external things to make us happy. We can become free people and be happy now, not later. Having a powerful Ferrari or new shoes from Jimmy Choo has nothing to do with it, nor has a better job, one's own flat or offspring.

The only reasonable goal in this context is the state of unconditioned and lasting happiness. The historical Buddha showed it can be achieved and gave advice. He said this state exists - it's called liberation. Once reached it cannot be lost, as it is non- composite and unconditioned. Then he said that human beings can reach it. And being a practical gentleman, added the methods for reaching it - teaching them to anyone who was interested. These methods are still available.

What makes Buddhism fit for our logical and scientific society can best be expressed by citing one of the last pieces of advice Buddha gave: "Don't believe in everything I said just because I said it. Try everything for yourself first".

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