Author Topic: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)  (Read 3391 times)

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Offline Anatta

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Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« on: September 29, 2013, 10:33:55 pm »
Kia Ora,

Tis said that those who practice Buddhism are (for the most part)  happy  people… And there are many  articles (including scientific ones)  supporting this…

On a personal level I would have to agree…Since embracing the Dharma(which includes  being mindful throughout the day, as well as daily mindfulness meditation sessions both of a morning and evening) I’m  more relaxed , I guess one could go so far as to say serene… I laugh a lot and tend not to take “my” life too seriously…I focus more on what I can do for others. I’m truly grateful for what I have,  which has lead to a deep felt  contentment with what is…  :icon_chillpill:  :eusa_whistle:

Understandably beginning the path a lot of obstacles(mental baggage) need to be overcome. This can be a drawn out process of elimination, but persistence will eventually reap the reward/s….

So  :eusa_think:  if you are a Buddhist practitioner would you say you are happier(more content ) now  with life than you were before embracing the Dharma ?  (what I mean by this is, do you find life's trials and tribulations less of a challenge? ) 

Here’s a few links that relate to Buddhism and Happiness

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-181801/Buddhists-truly-happy.html

http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/10-things-science-and-buddhism-says-will-make-you-happy

http://www.parami.org/buddhistanswers/buddhists_happy.htm

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/sutra/level2_lamrim/initial_scope/karma/sources_happiness_according_bsm.html

Happy Mindfulness  :icon_flower:

Metta Zenda :)
"The most essential method which includes all other methods is beholding the mind. The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included !"   :icon_yes:

Offline Sandra M. Lopes

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2013, 08:36:01 pm »
My own teacher tends to warn his students by saying, "beware of unhappy Buddhists, they're not really practicing, but just being intellectual". And I have sadly met many unhappy Buddhists, which is indeed a contradiction in terms.

I would also agree that the "mental baggage" has to be overcome, and that takes time, which will be different for each person. But I think that someone who really starts to achieve a little realisation — and not merely intellectual knowledge — will, at least, become easy-going and worry much, much less about everything.

Ironically for me, a few years before I started my first classes, my life was not prone to severe changes. Then an incredible lot of changes happened upon me, and, because I was not prepared to deal with them, I can say that I was extremely unhappy — not depressed, but frustrated, because nothing I tried to accomplish would ever get right, and sometimes I really came close enough... just to see everything slipping by my fingers.

After I started training Buddhism in earnest, things certainly became more interesting. One one hand, the degree of changes (to the worst!) have increased dramatically at all levels — personal, business, family, everything. It looked like after a couple of decades of stability and a relative peace of mind, now everything was striking back with a vengeance!

But fortunately, as my training progressed and became more serious, I just started to take all those things much less seriously. A car that breaks down? Well, nothing lasts forever. Work becoming scarce and payment becoming less and less? It's just how things are. My partner developing three chronical diseases almost at the same time and becoming unfit for work (but also not eligible for an early retirement)? Well, how does constantly worrying about all those things make you more "happy"?

I think that my partner and I are now extremely annoying people to our friends and family, because we don't take anything for granted. We don't make plans. We don't create huge expectations (which will never work out anyway). Sometimes good things happen to us, but we don't get terribly excited about them, either — they will soon fade anyway. Even if they don't, so what? They're just... "things". We just don't take them so seriously any longer. When something good happens, we embrace the moment, take the opportunity to enjoy it for a while, then it fades, but we don't worry — everything fades anyway, and it was good while it lasted. Similarly, even the worse disease or the biggest financial crisis will end, sooner or later, so it's pointless to worry all the way. I understand, from the reaction of some of my closest friends and family members, that we are quite irritating — because we don't let anything affect us so much as before.

So, yes, we're much more easy-going; we worry less; we take few things so seriously as before; but we also enjoy ourselves much more with little things — because we don't "expect" so much of them, and we're aware they cannot last much. And we try to give an example to others, although often we feel they reject our way of reacting to "disasters" and "catastrophes". On the other hand, they're often surprised why we're not constantly depressed and frustrated, because pretty much everything bad happens to us, and we just shrug it off, saying it's not really THAT important.

We're not careless, though. We're just carefree. We're also not indifferent; we just don't worry so much about things and are generally content. We're not saints, though; we still have fears and expectations. It's just that they're less "intense", if that's the right word. They don't feel so solid, so overwhelming. Instead, we are more aware that we create our own suffering because of the terrible things that happen to us, so, because it's our mind that suffers, we can change the way the mind works, and worry less about those things instead.

There are a few sayings that explain that what Buddhists are after is not really "happiness" — in the common sense of the word, i.e., euphoria — but going "beyond happiness" (and beyond suffering/insatisfaction too). I think that my partner and I have had a little taste of what that means. It's not really jumping up and down in excitement all the time, no matter what happens around us. But it's the ability to make jokes on a funeral, because everybody there is so sorry and frustrated and depressed, and someone has to lighten the mood a bit. It's having to stay at home having fun on the Internet because we cannot afford to go out and have some dinner and watch some movies — and actually enjoy staying at home as much. So, yes, I would definitely say that we're way "more content" than before the Dharma, and that we have successfully avoided the two other extremes — euphoria (when good things happen) and depression (when bad things happen) — at least for now.

Life's trials and tribulations are simply less important and less serious. We're still not at the stage where we can laugh at the catastrophes; but we're certainly at the point where we find there is nothing really worth crying about.
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Offline DriftingCrow

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2013, 09:36:02 pm »
You reminded my of this song Anatta:



While not Buddhist, Sikhi seems to have a lot of similarities with it. Since accepting Sikhi, I am a much happier person. I am able to push away things that would normally bother me, realize that being upset isn't going to fix anything, and look at the world in a more constructive fashion. I really noticed the difference a few months ago; I had a really bad start to my day, things just kept going wrong and I started getting really upset. The last straw to break the back was when Au Bon Pain gave me the wrong breakfast sandwich, and I didn't realize it til I was already tucked away in the library. I was totally pissed off, about that and everything else that went wrong that morning. I was about to start to let smoke start rising, but instead I said one of the 5 Vices in Sikhi is krodth (anger), so I sat and meditated for a few minutes, and waalaa, I had a really great day after that! My whole mind set just shifted, and the weight of krodth lifted.

Quote
I think that my partner and I are now extremely annoying people to our friends and family, because we don't take anything for granted. We don't make plans. We don't create huge expectations (which will never work out anyway). Sometimes good things happen to us, but we don't get terribly excited about them, either — they will soon fade anyway. Even if they don't, so what? They're just... "things". We just don't take them so seriously any longer. When something good happens, we embrace the moment, take the opportunity to enjoy it for a while, then it fades, but we don't worry — everything fades anyway, and it was good while it lasted. Similarly, even the worse disease or the biggest financial crisis will end, sooner or later, so it's pointless to worry all the way. I understand, from the reaction of some of my closest friends and family members, that we are quite irritating — because we don't let anything affect us so much as before.

So, yes, we're much more easy-going; we worry less; we take few things so seriously as before; but we also enjoy ourselves much more with little things — because we don't "expect" so much of them, and we're aware they cannot last much. And we try to give an example to others, although often we feel they reject our way of reacting to "disasters" and "catastrophes". On the other hand, they're often surprised why we're not constantly depressed and frustrated, because pretty much everything bad happens to us, and we just shrug it off, saying it's not really THAT important.

I see things the same way. I know I can be annoying to some people (especially during final exam period at school), I still care about things, but I just don't let it to control my life anymore. I care if I fail out of law school, but not enough to make me paranoid, give up my social life to be buried in books 24/7, and cause me to break down and cry during final exams. I see people who let goals, possessions, work, etc. control their lives, and I just don't see the point, because like Sandra says, it's just not THAT important.

Ik ongkar
Henry :)
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Offline Sandra M. Lopes

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2013, 06:41:10 am »
Right, LearnedHand :) I can very much emphasize with what you're saying!

It's no surprise that you find some of the teachings of Sikh overlapping with Buddhism. Before deciding to listen to Buddhist teachings, I did an overview of most esoteric (or esoteric-inspired) religions and philosophies, and found an incredibly vast amount of common ground, which, however, was utterly and unexpectedly radically different from what exoteric religions were proclaiming.

Interestingly enough, though, all major religions in the world have an esoteric aspect, which is not "secret" or "hidden" but known and accepted — it's just a more advanced and more profound view than what the exoteric aspect teaches. Thus, Islam has Sikh, Judaism has the cabalistic teachings (not to confuse with the "Kabbalah" professed by starlets like Madonna!), Hinduism and Buddhism have Tantra (even though they use the same name, it's quite different!), and so forth. Christianism also had esoteric teachings, but they were repressed and eradicated in the 6th century CE. But some of it has still been (fragmentarily) preserved.

If you take any text from these esoteric traditions, you will see that they have similar visions. They sound much more closer to each other than the respective exoteric traditions.

Nevertheless, there are still quite different from each other. What actually drove me to Buddhism, as opposed to other views, were the techniques. Esoteric Christianism, for instance, professes some similar goals — but when it comes to explaining how to achieve them, they're lost. Or rather, if there was ever a practical tradition with actual realisation of those goals, that tradition is now lost. We only know what the goals are but there is no guaranteed mechanism to achieve them — just vague guidelines and ideas, most of them intellectual (not all!), but there is not much more than that.

Buddhism, by contrast, establishes road maps — plural, because there is not One Way, but Several Ways, according to the level of the practitioner. All of them accomplish the same vision, but they can take more or less time, be more or less difficult, and most certainly they will not be appealing to everybody — this is one of the major advantages of the Buddhist teachings: its multiplicity of possible paths that lead to the ultimate result. But it's not merely cheap talk or philosophy; it's a rigorous, very exact and precise set of techniques. And we know they work: people still achieve realisation in our times, using those very same techniques, and are happy to explain others what to do to "get there".

There is a problem with saying "all teachings are the same", though, because it tends to make people believe they can mix and match things together according to their preferences. For instance, in the West, there are lots of people who like the Buddhist techniques, but dislike the idea that there is no Creator God to "serve" and grant them blessings, so they mix up Christianity or Islam with Buddhism. This won't work! That's why people like the Dalai Lama are very open when they say: "We don't need more Buddhists, but we need more people with a good heart. So stick to your own religion and be a good practitioner!"

This is certainly what you should do as a Sikhi :) Fulfill the Sikh vision in yourself; follow its teachings and use its methods to become a better person; from your examples I can perfectly see that you have definitely achieved that, by taking things less serious, being more open towards others, being more understanding of what ails them, but also being able to act in their interest in a more detached way: you can truly tell them not to worry so much about their "external needs" and don't let them control their lives, since you can give yourself as an example — by relying less and less on those common expectations and not taking them so seriously, you're far more flexible and easy-going, worry less, take less anti-depressants, and so forth.

And that's happiness — the happiness that comes from contentment and the realisation that it comes from within, not from external events. This happines sis something people always confuse with euphoria!
Don't judge, and you won't be judged.

Offline Sandra M. Lopes

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2013, 06:49:49 am »
... oh, and if you don't mind explaining that, for mere curiosity, what are the Five Vices in Sikhi?

This definitely sounds very similar to what some Buddhist teachings call the Five Poisons:

- desire/attachment
- anger/ire/contempt/aggression/aversion
- delusion or ignorance (related to not being able to understand one's true nature)
- pride (thinking you're better than others; note also that thinking that you're worse than others is a subtle form of pride!)
- jealousy/envy (being angry when good things happen to others, or wanting what others have because we have a "right" to that as well!)

Of those, anger is usually the easiest to figure out (it's a strong emotion!) while jealousy and pride are often very subtle to catch. For instance, when you're standing in a queue and someone passes in front of you, and you think, "it's unfair, I have been standing here for hours, at least that person should have asked permission", that's jealousy!

These Five Poisons can be further condensed in three — ignorance, desire/attachment and anger/aggression — but ultimately it all comes to ignorance of one's true nature. Once we realise that, all other "poisons" will disappear. But of course that's the hardest thing to do!!
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Offline DriftingCrow

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2013, 07:01:44 am »
Hi Sandra,

Thanks for the lovely response, your posts always puts things in a new light.

The Sikh five vices are anger, lust, greed, attachment, and ego. http://www.realsikhism.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1250025675&ucat=5
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Offline YBtheOutlaw

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2013, 09:01:33 am »
i've been a buddhist all my life, but there's a big difference in being born buddhist and being a buddhist yourself. i started looking deep into the religion assigned to me at birth when i was 13, around the time i started questioning the gender assigned to me at birth. my memory is kind of blurry before that, it feels like it was somebody else who lived that life for me. so i don't know if i were happy or worried before that, but after, i've lived a very happy life. there are times i get various emotions, but it's the outer part of my mind that deals with it. there's a calm inner core in my mind that not even a gamma ray can break through. i might feel upset over something, but there's the core inside watching over everything and learning about life, and i'd forget all about the upsetting thing when i want. it has helped a lot in dealing with dysphoria, where you're supposed to have many heartbreaks. i'm not saying i'm all happy with the everything i have, but i can keep myself happy for the time being.
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Offline Anatta

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2013, 01:35:37 pm »
My own teacher tends to warn his students by saying, "beware of unhappy Buddhists, they're not really practicing, but just being intellectual". And I have sadly met many unhappy Buddhists, which is indeed a contradiction in terms.

I would also agree that the "mental baggage" has to be overcome, and that takes time, which will be different for each person. But I think that someone who really starts to achieve a little realisation — and not merely intellectual knowledge — will, at least, become easy-going and worry much, much less about everything.



Kia Ora Sandra,

Sadly what your teacher said is so true, especially in the West..I've found that some Westerners who come from an Abrahamic religious background, tend to have the hardest time "de-programming" their minds...I have two friends who share a similar religious background, one Catholicism and the other Anglicanism (High Church)... They are in their 60s and have been interested in Buddhism for a number of years, one at least 40 years the other around 10, they struggle coming to grips with the Dharma, often "make a mountain out of a mole hill" with over intellectualising=taking their life way too seriously...

Metta Zenda :)
"The most essential method which includes all other methods is beholding the mind. The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included !"   :icon_yes:

Offline Anatta

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2013, 01:47:43 pm »
i've been a buddhist all my life, but there's a big difference in being born buddhist and being a buddhist yourself. i started looking deep into the religion assigned to me at birth when i was 13, around the time i started questioning the gender assigned to me at birth. my memory is kind of blurry before that, it feels like it was somebody else who lived that life for me. so i don't know if i were happy or worried before that, but after, i've lived a very happy life. there are times i get various emotions, but it's the outer part of my mind that deals with it. there's a calm inner core in my mind that not even a gamma ray can break through. i might feel upset over something, but there's the core inside watching over everything and learning about life, and i'd forget all about the upsetting thing when i want. it has helped a lot in dealing with dysphoria, where you're supposed to have many heartbreaks. i'm not saying i'm all happy with the everything i have, but i can keep myself happy for the time being.

Kia Ora YB,

Glad to hear that the Dharma is helping you, and more importantly, that you actually took the initiative/time to explore more in depth the spiritual practice you were born into, and not just 'believe' what you were told...

Metta Zenda :) 
"The most essential method which includes all other methods is beholding the mind. The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included !"   :icon_yes:

Offline Sandra M. Lopes

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2013, 06:37:52 pm »
Kia Ora Sandra,

Sadly what your teacher said is so true, especially in the West..I've found that some Westerners who come from an Abrahamic religious background, tend to have the hardest time "de-programming" their minds...I have two friends who share a similar religious background, one Catholicism and the other Anglicanism (High Church)... They are in their 60s and have been interested in Buddhism for a number of years, one at least 40 years the other around 10, they struggle coming to grips with the Dharma, often "make a mountain out of a mole hill" with over intellectualising=taking their life way too seriously...

Metta Zenda :)

You're quite right!

A few of my teachers, no matter if they're Western or Eastern, tend to report the same obstacles in each hemisphere: Easterners have no problems with generosity and devotion, but it's difficult for them to understand that there is a bit of Buddhadharma that requires studying; Westerners, by contrast, are great at studying, but terrible at understanding why generosity, rituals, and some forms of devotion are necessary at all — because they have been taught all their lives that everything you need to learn is in a book.

Then, of course, there is the additional baggage coming from one of the Abrahamic religions. A typical example: some forms of Christianity are all about equanimity, but they also say that, as an individual, you have to pick your own way to relate with your deity (among the "allowed" choices): basically, so long as you do a few prayers and come to the church once in a while, it'll be all right. When one starts to learn the Buddhadharma, some things sound similar — like the idea of "picking your own way" — and they get hopelessly tangled. For example, it's pointless to pick a teacher, listen to their suggestions for practice, and then just do whatever you wish — letting your ego decide what is best, thus, reinforcing it, because that's what the Abrahamic religions also tend to say. Then Westerners are surprised that things don't work and their teachers tell them that that's not what was meant.

I forgot if I ever mentioned this story, which happened by the end of the 20th century. A great master was doing a series of short interviews, and a Westerner comes to him, and complains that meditation is not working for him. He said that he was meditating for twenty years several hours a day and didn't see any improvements. Patiently, the teacher asked him how he started the meditation sessions — did he take refuge in the Three Jewels? The Westerner got a bit irritated and said that he was not interested in those ritualistic superstitions, and wouldn't wish to waste his precious time with that — he went straight into meditation. The master just shrugged and told him to come back in another hundred years.

The point made there is that, although there is a huge flexibility and lots of choices in terms of paths, it's important to understand what is absolutely essential in the Buddhadharma — and why it is so essential. Sure, the rituals might put some people off (but there are so many different ones to choose from, so one's spoilt for choice :) ), but that's because they haven't understood — or haven't been taught properly — why they are "more than important", they're fundamental to get the technique to work correctly.

And while I haven't asked a lot of people, I have found that most of my fellow Westerners who report the same thing ("I tried Buddhist meditation but it didn't work for me") simply picked out the bits that they liked and dropped the rest, because, well, that's the example they have from the more tolerant Abrahamic religions...
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Offline Sandra M. Lopes

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2013, 06:38:33 pm »
... oh btw, I love your profile pic. A classic! You should put up a poll to see what feature of the picture people see first, the finger or the Moon :)
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Offline Anatta

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Re: Buddhism And The Art Of Happiness (Are Buddhists Happy ?)
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2013, 01:15:16 pm »
... oh btw, I love your profile pic. A classic! You should put up a poll to see what feature of the picture people see first, the finger or the Moon :)

Kia Ora Sandra,

Yes it is a classic , but for the most part we already know the answer...A common mistake (mindtrap) that most starting out on the path tend to make... When first starting out it took me a while before I started to look beyond the finger that points...

The Zen saying is similar (perhaps a little more profound) to the Western saying of  "Can't see the forest for the trees"

Metta Zenda :)
"The most essential method which includes all other methods is beholding the mind. The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included !"   :icon_yes:

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