Gateway to Heaven
Creative Commons License photo credit: oneilkwangwanh

This article follows on from my post yesterday regarding Why Meditate? If you haven’t read it already you might like to start there first.

Today we are going to talk about happiness. The two prime goals of our existence are happiness and peace. Fundamentally what drives and underlies all our behavior is our wish for our own happiness, regardless of how contrary our behavior my superficially appear to be. This statement is much like the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) premise that behind every action is a positive intent.

What then is happiness? Ask yourself – what would make you perfectly happy? Your answer, and the answer most people will give, is likely to be along the lines of having everything you want and to be in control of everything. Now, these might not be the precise words you thought of when you answered the question. That doesn’t matter. What matters is what your answer really is below the surface of its particulars.

Even if the things you would like that you feel would make you happy may be simple and perhaps even non-material such as love you are still dependent upon phenomena external to yourself for your happiness. Unfortunately, as we covered yesterday, the world does not work in this way. You will not always get what you want and even if you do for a time the world is constantly changing. Nothing remains the same.

The things you feel today that once possessed will make you happy may not be the ones you feel will make you happy next week. Even more certain is the fact that after you possess the things that you feel will make you happy they will quickly lose their luster. We’re like a monkey that has fought over a bauble. After beating it against a tree and turning it over in its hands a few times the monkey grows tired of the bauble and uncaringly throws it away into the mud.

It is a fact that you will never possess all that you want. Nor will the world or other people ever be the precise way you want them to be. Lucky for you there is another option. Through meditation you can learn to control your mind. You can step outside the endless unhappy cycle of desire and aversion and simply watch it.

This doesn’t mean you have to give all your things away and move into a cave in the mountains. Your life will probably look very normal and mundane from the outside. However, on the inside you will be operating from a completely different point of view. By practicing the skill of detached observation when you want something you wont need to obsessive compulsively chase after it.

I wont lie and say it will be easy. In fact it will be very hard and will take years. However, in the words of Gunaratana: The difficult is preferable to the impossible.

The very first step in changing the one thing you do have control over is to look inside yourself. Out of meditation comes the ability to watch ourselves. So, watch yourself as you lose it in an ineffectual and childish fit of road rage. Watch yourself as you come home tired and stressed from work and take it out on the ones you love most after spending a whole day being professionally courteous to a bunch of people you can’t stand. Observe in a manner that is truthful and objective without condemnation. Do this and you are already on your way to transforming your behavior away from this sort of thing.

The beauty of meditation is nothing need be forced. There is no struggle. It is in fact just the opposite. It is about letting go more and more. When I’ve used the word “control” above I don’t mean it in any tense or rigid sense. That will surely lead to failure and frustration. In meditation you attain control by letting go and stepping back. It is somewhat of a paradox. So the personal transformation that comes as a result of meditation is not achieved by force. It just happens.

Meditation will allow you to be more understanding, tolerant and compassionate of others. Through meditation we all come to know the rafter in our own eyes. Then the straw in the eye of our neighbor is seen for what it is. You come to understand others because you have come to understand yourself. Through meditation you will have seen your own delusions and egocentric failings. You will come face to face with your own humanity and learn to forgive and love yourself. Only then can you truly have compassion, forgiveness and love for others.

It has long been considered by Buddhism that what we are today is the product of what we were. What we will be tomorrow is the product of what we are now. So today meditation may seem difficult and a thousand unwanted thoughts might flood your mind. Today you may discover yourself full of greed, hate, jealousy and anger. These things are the product of all your yesterdays. You are not doing them as such. Thus if you persist with meditation today, in the future you will enjoy freedom from such mental irritants. Peace and happiness can be yours.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Gunaratana:

“The purpose of meditation is personal transformation. The “you” that goes in one side of the meditation experience is not the same “you” that comes out the other side. Meditation changes your character by a process of sensitization, by making you deeply aware of your own thoughts, words and deeds. Your arrogance evaporates, and your antagonism dries up. Your mind becomes still and calm. And your life smoothes out. Thus, meditation, properly performed, prepares you to meet the ups and downs of existence. It reduces your tension, fear and worry. Restlessness recedes and passion moderates. Things begin to fall into place, and your life becomes a glide instead of a struggle.”

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