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Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

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Rapid technological advances. Increased wealth. Stress. Stable lives and careers come under the pressure of accelerating change. The twenty-first century? No, the sixth century B.C.E.—a time of destructive warfare, economic dislocation, and widespread disruption of established patterns of life, just like today. In conditions similar to ours, the Buddha discovered a path to lasting happiness. His discovery—a step-by-step method of mental training to achieve contentment—is as relevant today as ever.

Putting the Buddha’s discovery into practice is no quick fix. It can take years. The most important qualification at the beginning is a strong desire to change your life by adopting new habits and learning to see the world anew.

Each step along the Buddha’s path to happiness requires practicing mindfulness until it becomes part of your daily life. Mindfulness is a way of training yourself to become aware of things as they really are. With mindfulness as your watchword, you progress through the eight steps laid down by the Buddha more than twenty-five hundred years ago—a gentle, gradual training in how to end dissatisfaction.

Who should undertake this training? Anyone who is tired of being unhappy. “My life is good as it is,” you may think; “I’m happy enough.” There are moments of contentment in any life, moments of pleasure and joy. But what about the other side, the part that you’d rather not think about when things are going well? Tragedy, grief, disappointment, physical pain, melancholy, loneliness, resentment, the nagging feeling that there could be something better. These happen too, don’t they? Our fragile happiness depends on things happening a certain way. But there is something else: a happiness not dependent on conditions. The Buddha taught the way to find this perfect happiness.

If you are willing to do whatever it takes to find your way out of suffering—and it means confronting the roots of resistance and craving right here, right now—you can reach complete success. Even if you are a casual reader, you can benefit from these teachings, so long as you are willing to use those that make sense to you. If you know something to be true, don’t ignore it. Act on it!

That may sound easy, but nothing is more difficult. When you admit to yourself, “I must make this change to be more happy”—not because the Buddha said so, but because your heart recognized a deep truth—you must devote all your energy to making the change. You need strong determination to overcome harmful habits.

But the payoff is happiness—not just for today but for always.

Let’s get started.

From Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha’s Path, © 2001 by Henepola Gunaratana. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications.


On the mountain peak of Jimlung Lungdro:
Namo Guru
Watching—watching the khawo glacier in the upper valley,
the meltwater in the lower valley wasn't noticed.
It's too late for cultivation

Watching—watching the clay slopes of Rumbu,
the daisies spread on the valley floor weren't noticed.
It's too ate to tend the herds.

Watching—watching the green rushes in the lower valley,
the yellow meadow of the upper valley wasn't noticed.
It's too late to gaher the autumn harvest.

Striving—striving for the aims of this life,
the body aging and approaching death wasn't noticed.
It's too late to practice the divine Dharma.

—Godrakpa Sonam Gyaltsen (1170-1249)

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John Haspel's picture

This is a very useful article. It points to the necessity to actually engage with the Buddha’s original teachings in order to develop a life of lasting happiness. There is a Right View to develop and the strong determination, Right Intention, to recognize and abandon all craving and clinging arising from self-referential deluded views. There are also moral and ethical behaviors to be mindful of as well as deep and profound concentration to be developed through Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation, Shamatha-Vipassana meditation.

Bhante wrote: “Mindfulness is a way of training yourself to become aware of things as they really are. With mindfulness as your watchword, you progress through the eight steps laid down by the Buddha more than twenty-five hundred years ago—a gentle, gradual training in how to end dissatisfaction.”

The Buddha taught mindfulness in two very specific applications. First he taught the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness, to be mindful of the breath in the body, to be mindful of feelings and how thoughts impact feelings, and finally to be mindful of the present quality of mind. The present quality of mind is the result of a wrong and reactive view to these four foundations of mindfulness resulting in more delusion and suffering or a well-concentrated mind resting in peace and happiness as a direct result of the second application of mindfulness.

The second application of mindfulness taught by the Buddha was to be mindful of each factor of the Eightfold Path.

The mindfulness of the Dhamma is to develop understanding of The Four Noble Truths and the complete cessation of stress. Mindfulness is to recollect or to hold in mind.

The Buddha taught to recollect or to hold in mind each factor of the Eightfold Path:
• Be mindful to abandon wrong view and enter and remain in Right View
• Be mindful to abandon wrong intention and enter and remain in Right Intention
• Be mindful to abandon wrong speech and enter and remain in Right Speech
• Be mindful to abandon wrong action and enter and remain in Right Action
• Be mindful to abandon wrong livelihood and enter and remain in Right Livelihood
• Be Mindful to abandon wrong effort and enter and remain in Right Effort
• Be mindful to abandon wrong mindfulness and enter and remain in Right Mindfulness
• Be Mindful to abandon wrong meditation and enter and remain in Right Meditation (Samyutta Nikaya 45.8)

These are the tasks associated with Right Mindfulness. The refined mindfulness that is so effective in developing the entire Eightfold Path is simply to remain mindful of the Eightfold Path as your life unfolds, moment by moment. Holding in mind the Eightfold Path is bringing the framework of the Eightfold Path into your life. As the path becomes integrated into your life, your life becomes an expression of heightened wisdom, heightened virtue, and heightened concentration.

Despite modern adaptations to the Buddha’s Dhamma where there is "nothing to do" or endless rituals and practices used to "gain merit," there is a very specific path to liberation. Bhante writes very clearly that “If you are willing to do whatever it takes to find your way out of suffering—and it means confronting the roots of resistance and craving right here, right now—you can reach complete success.“

Strong determination, holding in mind Right Intention along with the other seven factors of the Buddha’s path will develop lasting peace and happiness.

John Haspel
http://CrossRiverMeditation.com
http://MindfulnessBasedRecovery.com
http://Shamatha-Vipassana.com

dragonjuice9's picture

Jah Love protect us all as we move Towards the One, the perfection of Love, Harmony, Beauty & Truth...om tat sat ommm

" Try not to seek after the True...only cease to cherish opinions"- guess who is rumoured to have uttered this upon Samadhi ???

Before enlightenment...chopping wood & carrying water....after enlightenment...chopping wood & carrying water

Chop chop...Pour pour...Aqua Agua

"The world is perfect as it is...having nothing to do with acceptance or rejection...so one may as well burst out in Laughter"....any guesses here???

Peace be with you all...we be jammin...we hope you like jammin too

mralexander99's picture

Root Rock Reggae it's a Reggae Music, Yes Bob Marley was NOT necessarily a Buddha but he was a Prophet - his "pointing out instruction" to free our minds from mental slavery and none but ourselves can do it is insightful and his joy of singing songs of "Redemption" is uplifting. Listening to the music of Bob Marley has led me to recognize the power and beauty in The Buddha's Way......Alhamdulillah !

wilnerj's picture

Neither difficult nor easy. It is not a task with a goal in mind. Hence no meditation and not sitting. Just this arising from sleep, brushing one's teeth, washing or showering, and tending to one's other needs - all of this while awake.

lytrammck's picture

practicing mindfulness takes a life time - I am grateful that I learned this years ago and still I practice - it is a long but rewarding journey with many discoveries along the way - am about to enter my 87th year.

wilnerj's picture

And the roots run very deep.

buddhamouse's picture

Striving—striving for the aims of this life,
the body aging and approaching death wasn't noticed.
It's too late to practice the divine Dharma.

—Godrakpa Sonam Gyaltsen (1170-1249)
This last stanza is like an Almond of awareness......Namaste to all who percieve and those yet to percieve

Lshreve's picture

Yes.

wendyyee's picture

the divine is at our fingertips.

jshanson's picture

And within the Buddha's guidelines for happiness there is also room for individuality and the individual's innate wisdom to craft and follow those guidelines from the context of their lives and to the context of the life they aspire to live. It is not a one size fits all approach - a tree is more beautiful than a telephone pole because its a self creating sustaining system. The Buddha's teachings, one would hope, will never lead to the production of telephone poles.