July 27, 2011

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo on Happiness

From chapter 3 of our current Tricycle Retreat leader Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo's new book, Into the Heart of Life,

We’d all like to be happy. And we expend a great deal of effort trying to make ourselves happy. Through the centuries people have pondered this dilemma of how to be happy and stay happy. So how is it that most people are so unhappy? Not only are they miserable, but they make the people around them miserable, too. Many people have a great deal of pain in their lives, which they try to alleviate in whatever way they can. Others, however, on the surface at least, feel quite content with their lot. The issue of contentment is a very important one.

After his enlightenment, the Buddha started teaching from exactly where we are. He said, “Life the way we lead it is not satisfying. There is an inner lack, an inner emptiness, an inner sense of meaninglessness which we can’t fill with things or people. What is the cause of this inherent unrest, this inherent sense of dissatisfaction which eats at us?”

The Buddha taught that the essential reason for this dis-ease within us is our grasping, desiring mind, which is based on our essential ignorance. Ignorance of what? Basically, the ignorance of understanding the way things really are. That can be explored on many levels, but we’ll deal with it first of all from the point of view that not only do we not recognize impermanence, we also don’t recognize our genuine nature. Therefore, we’re always grasping outwards. We don’t realize our inner interconnection, and we identify always with this sense of self and other.

Now, as soon as we have the idea of self and other, we therefore have the idea of wanting to acquire that which is attractive and to push away that which we want to avoid. Then this sense of inner emptiness has to be filled up, and we give in to grasping, clinging, and attachment. And of course we think in our delusion that our grasping, clinging mind, our attachment to things and to people, is what will bring us happiness. We do it all the time. We’re attached to our possessions; we’re attached to the people we love; we’re attached to our position in the world, and to our career and to what we have attained. We think that holding on to these things and to these people tightly will give us security, and that security will give us happiness. That is our fundamental delusion, because it’s the very clinging which makes us insecure, and that insecurity which gives us this sense of dis-ease, this unease.

Nobody binds us with chains to this wheel. We clasp it; we grip it with all our might. The way to get off the wheel is to let go. Do you understand? That grasping, clinging mind is the cause of our suffering, but we’re very deluded because we think that our greed and our lusts and our desires point toward the sources of happiness. However much we deny it, we really believe that somehow or other, if all our wants are fulfilled, we will be happy. But the fact is that our wants can never all be fulfilled. Wants are endless. The Buddha said that it was like drinking salty water—we just get more and more thirsty.

What does Buddhism mean by non-attachment? Many people think the idea of detachment, non-attachment, or non-clinging is very cold. This is because they confuse attachment with love. But attachment isn’t genuine love—it’s just self-love.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo's Tricycle Retreat is currently in session.


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kaneki's picture

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Jomer K's picture

All of us are looking for happiness. Do you believe that contentment is happiness? By the numbers, Drs. Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University think they know the reply to the question of what contentment is. Using Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (GHWBI) numbers, they found out that homes in the United States making exactly $75,000 per year scored highest for emotional well-being. Source of article: People are happiest at $75,000 per year, says study.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Happiness seems to be an effect of one's own efforts. The study notes several factors contributing to this phenomenon: our ability to adapt, our perceptions of relative wealth, the stress of success compared with the stress of deprivation, the quality of our relationships with others, our individual temperaments.

buddhabrats's picture

One of the core dzogchen Buddhist beliefs is to give up the disease of effort, once this is engaged it becomes a lot easier to be happy, to not force oneself to do things that are really against ones essential nature. One cannot stop thoughts from arising, as this is the nature of the mind, the perpetual arising and ceasing of thoughts and it is only the attachment to these thoughts that cause us to suffer.

Once we make peace with our essential nature which in reality covers everything and is and has always been pure from the start we go a long way to just accepting our own ceaseless arising and making peace with it. Once we have accepted that all thoughts that arise from the mind are pure there is no need to be in conflict with thoughts and this acceptance leads us very quickly to happiness. Things can only be what they are and if we are not fighting them we do not generate the karma of opposing them, and just this simple practice ensures that we are not in constant conflict with ourselves..Attachment and aversion to things is still the cause of suffering but if the non dual nature of the mind renounces nothing as being impure what is there that can really cause us to suffer. My view is that one has three choices at any and every moment, to be happy, to suffer or to remain indifferent and if one ensures that at every moment one makes a conscious decision to enjoy that moment then everything is taken care of in that moment.
i will not allow myself to spoil my own enjoyment of this moment and it is this commitment that ensures my own happiness independent of whatever is going on.

Too put it simply be happy or suffer, and since all is self and self is empty and what we looking at at any moment is just of conglomeration of the five lights why should we ever suffer. I have taken the vow of not suffering to myself and apart from a few lapses uphold this commitment religiously, one might even say pathologically.

It is generally our holy cows and opinions that cause us to suffer and i find that if my opinions are causing me to suffer then the opinions must go. I have literally slain whole fields of my own holy cows, an experience at times intensely painful but deeply rewarding as after that I cease to suffer the tyranny of my own mind and its precious attachments. Check out my blog on my site at http://www.buddhabrats.com/adamantine-awareness/ or even better read my book at www.buddhabrats.com, to see how i went about destroying my own holy cows.