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Extracts from the book "A Monk's Guide to Happiness (Meditation in the 21st century)"

1. One of meditation's deeper benefits is the unlocking of creativity. Even those of us who are not artistic would like to be more creative, in terms of how we live our lives and also in how we solve problems.

2. Our survival, as well as our happiness, relies on others. The food we eat and the clothes we wear, in fact our very existence, depend upon others. If we don't respect this fact, we cannot find true happiness.

3. Our happiness, survival and very existence thus depend on others, and others depend on us, no matter who we are. If we can tap into, acknowledge and understand this interconnection, then a positive feeling can arise towards the world at large, and that feeling is gratitude.

Our culture does not particularly promote gratitude. We are conditioned to look at what's missing in our lives, so that we will feel compelled to try to obtain more, rather than being content with and grateful for what we have. We are encouraged to compete and win, through which our relationships can become quite transactional, constantly assessing what others can do for us. By not recognising how much others have contributed to our very existence, we easily fall into the traps of selfishness and unkindness. If, on the other hand, we begin to feel grateful, it can make us feel closer to everyone else, and that will create a sense of responsibility, just as in a family unit.

4. We do feel empathy for strangers, but generally only when their suffering is obvious enough. Again, we feel connected, with empathy, only towards certain individuals, or when people are in specific situations. As we walk down a busy street, the people rushing past us are simply nameless objects and we don't have any particular feeling for them. If one of them, however, especially a child or an elderly person, trips and falls, then we do feel something and hopefully we might reach out to hlep them. Sadly, they've had to present a strong enough case to trigger our empathy, it's almost as if people have to buy our empathy by deserving it, through exhibiting obvious symptoms. But his empathic response is short sighted and is simply reactive. Until they fall over, are they not worthy objects of our love and kindness? Are they only suffering when they fall?

5. All suffering, without exception, is born from a mind which seeks happiness for oneself, whereas perfect, enduring happiness arises through a mind which seeks to benefit others.

This statement suggests that true happiness will only arise through compassion. The more we grasp after personal satisfaction, wanting to feel good, the more our expectations lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. The compassionate mind, on the other hand, moves away from that grasping and enters a more spacious mentality.

6. The last step is to take a few moments to mentally dedicate your meditation training to the happiness of all beings. You are reminding yourself of the deeper reason for meditating, which is to eventually be able to help others in the fullest way possible.

7. The things which normally bring up resistance in us are the very things that make us stronger, just as when we go to a gym, we need to lift weights in order to build muscle. An effective method for training in resilience is to mindfully relax when you're standing in a queue, are stuck in traffic or whenever you feel tension or discomfort in your body. This kind of training produces deep benefits, as you're reprogramming the usual tendency of pushing things away, the habit of rejecting discomfort. From a deeper perspective, in the same way that a traffic jam can help us to grow, so too can our worst enemy.

8. Would this attitude make us into a passive doormat, allowing everybody to abuse us, simply turning the other cheek? No, it would not, and although there will be situations where we do need to stand up for ourselves, we don't need to then walk away with toxic anger and hurt festering within us.

What usually holds us back from forgiving is that we fear it means somehow condoning the actions of others, letting them get away with it, making us into a victim. Perhaps we see forgiveness as a weakness rather than a strength. But in truth, they have got away with it if we don't forgive, as we are now perpetually in pain. If, on the other hand, we train in forgiveness, then the very things which have hurt us have become the greatest aids to our journey of meditation, making us stronger. So everybody wins. Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you. 

9. What you might discover is that the compassionate mind feels more spacious, less tight and not so self-absorbed. Problems feel smaller, as you put them into perspective, seeing how others suffer too and that you are not the only one. You can gain more objectivity and become more interested in the happiness of others and how to improve that. In many ways, our problems have a lot to do with how much we obsessively dwell on them. When you are kind and compassionate, the feedback you get from others is usually positive, people love to be around you, and you feel a sense of connection. Compassion is therefore a win win situation.

10. As well as practising regular meditation to loosen up our mental attachment, we can take a series of intelligent steps in our thinking, which will more quickly free us from resentment. The first step is to ask: who is the real enemy? Is it the person out there or is it our reaction to them? Instead of remaining stuck in our perpetual stories of how terrible that person is and ruminating over all the things they have said or done, we could instead examine our habits of mental reactivity. We can look at the anger itself. When we do this, it opens up the possibility for change. Our true enemies are the anger and pain that we carry inside us, and those are what really damage us.

11. If we view things in that light, where everything is a projection of the mind, then we might have a different attitude towards happiness and suffering. It is all our minds' perception.

Everything we experience is filtered through our mental conditioning. In a sauna, for example, the same intense heat that we find oppressive outdoors on a very hot summer's day is now something we have paid money for. Maybe we go to work everyday, to the same office, with the same people, on some days it's heaven and on other days it's hell. In a relationship, the same person can feel different to us everyday, sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them.

It is all down to mental attitude, there is nothing out there which makes us happy or unhappy. If that were true, then it would mean that happiness and suffering actually reside within the fabric of the physical objects around us and then everybody who comes into contact with those objects would have identical reactions.

Thinking in this way can strongly motivate us to train our minds, as we see that the mind is the souce of happiness.

12. Everything changes. This step helps you to become aware of impermanence. Reflect upon the fact that absolutely everything changes, there is nothing which remains the same forever. Living a life where happiness depends on impermanent things means that the happiness itself never lasts. If you learn to turn within, you can find enduring happiness. This is why meditation is so important.

Comments

mun said…
Thank you. May this sharing enlighten everyone on how to be happy.
Rose world said…
It all come down to the mind. Mind is a powerful thing. I agree that meditation is a good exercise for mind, body as well as the soul.
Twilight Man said…
This book is good and helps one to achieve enlightenment.
Libby said…
Mun, rose, TM: this book is a very good read, I bought it @ S$9.90.
PH said…
I must explore meditation.

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