In The Dhammapada the Buddha includes an important section on the topic of happiness. How to be happy in a life of changing joy, suffering, and neutrality? How to be happy in a world of attachment/craving for desired pleasures and avoidance of all suffering? Attachment, impermanence and unhelpful experiences – all cause suffering. It is quite difficult to overcome these worldly realities. The only way to overcome negative reactions is through the knowledge and use of the mind. The difficult practices of mind over emotions, compassion over self-interest, and equanimity over dysregulation are set up as comparisons between how an enlightened person lives versus how an unenlightened person lives. Each of the Buddha’s statements below includes the fact that enlightened beings do not do what is typical in the world of samsara. In fact, enlightened beings have life-long practices so they will not be typical. So, remember that each statements noted comes with the suggestion that the enlightened person will be without a trait or tendency that is highly common in the world and its people.
Enlightened people who wish to be happy with live: without enmity, hatred, affliction, defilement, restlessness, sensual obstructions, dis-ease, unpleasantness, victory or defeat, fire-like passion, ill will, misery, distress, craving, grief, unwholesomeness, and foes. Therefore, to be ultimately happy you must do your best to attain these outcomes of practice. Consider these statements: Working on attainment of these conditions implies true happiness via the path to enlightenment – The Way. Or, as Buddha called it, the “pathway to the stars.”
The section ends with statements about the importance of personal health (psychological and physical implied), personal contentment with what is, and personal attainment of nibanna (enlightenment). To live in the ways described above results in “world-transcending insight” on how to be in your life. The end product of these efforts is true happiness – an un-attached, un-craving, un-avoiding happiness.
Refer to Carter, J. R. and Palihawandana, M. (Trans.). (1987). Sacred Writings, Vol.6, The Dhammapada, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 254-261.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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