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People usually ask the following questions: “What is the purpose of this life?” the worst answer is that: “We must survive to avoid death”, it means that this person could do anything, even evil things, as long as they could live. This belief is very dangerous. However, if the mindset is not too average, and we have knowledge and good values, and we would not accept the above belief, our purpose in life is to find happiness.
What is happiness and who will have happiness? Well, the purpose must be : to live a meaningful life. It means not only we live to find happiness, but also we must choose to live a deserving and noble life. If we just focus on our own happiness, our life may be better, but that is not meaningful. Thus, as Buddhism disciples, let’s promise ourselves, promise to each other and promise to the
Sakyamuni Buddha that we will live with the aim to find happiness for others. It is the noble objective that would make our life more meaningful.
However, happiness is in various shapes and forms.
In discussing the happiness, we would not discuss the eternal happiness at Nirvana because that is too ideal, we would focus on the happiness that is close and ordinary in our lives.
We know that the happiness is fragile because our life is always filled with mixture of cheerfulness and sadness. Since we were born then grew up, no one dares to confirm that their whole life have been filled with happiness.
Sometimes we would meet someone who had good fortune and have always been happy and successful in everything they do, as if they had never suffered from pain or sadness. However, in exploring further, we knew that they also encountered unpleasant events, frustration throughout their live. Birth and death events are unavoidable. Even for those, who were greatly blessed, could not be excluded from the sadness of losing someone they love.
However, that is the case of people who have a lot of blessings; most of our normal lives are in mixture state of happiness and sadness every single day. Today, we may feel happy, but tomorrow we could fell depressed; or we are joyful in the morning, but the sadness may be filled our soul in the evening; or as falling a peaceful sleep, we could get a nightmare in the early morning; this time, we fell healthy and cheerful but the serious disease could be rushed down in the next month; you could be successful now but you could face failure one day.
We have to admit that happiness in this world is very fragile. It is quite simple really. For example, when being hungry, we feel sad; and we are happy again as being full; it is quite obvious. We experience these feelings at least three times a day; it means the sad and happy feelings change constantly. One other example, we have just been praised and that made us happy although we did not know that if that was sincere, we still held on to the comments; however, when we were defamed or misunderstood by others, we felt depressed. The happiness and the sadness just comes and goes.
In this world, the greatest and most meaningful happiness towards all of us is to be loved. To be loved is happiness. The meaning of love is quite considerable. We will be suffering pain even we would die if we are loved by no one.
In theory, we have three types of people: good, bad, and moderate people.
The bad one always tries to receive a lot from others but give away just
Happiness is to be loved. This type would know about this concept, but they would not do it. They would never know how to share their love with others or do not know how to make others happy. They only cared about their own happiness and asked for happiness from others. They gave away nothing. Their parents or siblings must love them more and more, never enough. When being married, they would ask their spouse to love and sacrifice for them. When they were with their friends, they would not treat their friends with kindness and generosity, and they would be angry with their friends if they were not satisfied with the relationship. This type is very bad type because they only care about themselves, their interests would be above everyone else’s.
The moderate type always consider before they offer their love to others. They always want something in return.
This type of people would treat the others more equally. They would always take notice how much sentiment they have received, they would respond with the same affection. For example, if you gave me a present worth about 20,000VND on my birthday; you would be received another present back with the same value, or at most close to 20,000VND, no more no less. When being praised by the other, they would praise the other, in return. If someone smiled at them, they would respond similarly; if there was no smile given, they would turn their back and never responded with a smile.
The third kind of person is a good one. A good person would love others immensely regardless of the situation and what or how much they would receive in return.
Parents would love their child unlimitedly in spite of their child’s negligence; or a friend who knows that his friend having no compassionate and not benevolent, as well as not aware of karma law, and never giving alms…..but he would commit himself to love his friend with no returns, no matter what. This person would always wish their friends would understand more about Buddhism, live a happy and meaningful life, live for others but demand no return. This person is the one who would always smile first, or give out his hand when seeing other before he knows who the others were. This person always give but do not take, always love even though others treat him badly, always love to live a meaningful life even though life is unfair.
It is very difficult though to find the fourth and the fifth kinds of person.
The fourth kind of person is the one that loving others in spite of the fact that he doesn’t know them, or they having little affection to him.
This kind of person is prepared to be a saint. For example, this person would help his neighbours when they had troubles in spite of the fact that these neighbours were indifferent, or did not know who he was, however, his heart was full of love and affection for others, hence his action. This type of person would think about how to be compassionate and benevolent, praying in front of Buddha every day, placing an oath to love all creatures. This prayer is reminded to him daily. This kind of person usually does charity work as they love help people that they don’t know anything about.
The fifth kind of person is actually a saint. This kind would deeply love others relentlessly in spite of the fact that others hate him, or feel hatred towards him, or speak badly about him or even plotting attempt to harm or killing him. For example: when hearing one speaking ill of him such as he was thick-skinned, and had a limp …this person would just smile, and would not get furious towards the others but being compassionate towards the bad person. As he knows that the person who was speaking ill of others would have bad karma. These bad people are also human being, and need to be loved. Only so, he can overcome the bitterness and let the affection always shines.
Buddhism always emphasises on love because it has the power that makes people happy. But why is it said that happiness in this world is fragile? The reason of that fragility is because our love could not last long due to the fact that we do not know how to self-improve and live peacefully by ignoring selfishness, greed, and jealousy. It is very easy for us to be upset and hate each other. For example, when we treat people well, they will love us back. But sometimes we forget or make mistake, it will be very easy for them to hate us. Or maybe because of past lives incarnations that make people resent and hate us.
One more thing we need to know that is our love is not usually strong and stable. The more we are happy when we are loved, the more we are upset and miserable when we are despised. Human beings are very emotional. Love is not material and tangible like food or water but if we do not have them, we would die. Without love or emotions, we could not survive, even some could commit suicide because of this very reason. It is also because since we were born, we needed love to nurture us and help us grow up.
It is the same with a monk. When we are deep in religious meditation, we feel happy, but when our soul is troubled again, we are very upset and concerned. Why? Because a stable and strong soul would not be impacted in religious meditation, however, it can be sometimes become unstable for some unknown reasons. So, happiness of practicing meditation is also fragile and unstable. Only those who have lots of blessings and practised Buddhism throughout many lives would have a strong and unstable soul.
Similarly, when we did a good deed, we would be happy, but if we did an evil or sinful thing, we would be sad. For example, we helped reconcile two people who used to hate each other. We asked them to sit and talk cordially, analyse clearly the issue for them. After listening to our analysis, they knew that they misunderstood each other and the issue was not that serious, they would forget about the issue and reconciled with each other. Our help then was a good deed. Our heart would be happy because we just did a good thing.
But when we were at home, if anyone said something bad to did something that makes us angry, or upset, we could say back harshly. However, after that we would feel terrible because we did not say the right things, and those words made people feel painful and we ourselves feel sadness, regretful, and restless. The feeling still was with us until we remorsed with Buddha, we would feel slightly better but the wound would still be in our mind. Therefore, being a Buddhism deciple, we should try to do a lot of good deeds, avoid making mistakes or committing sins. Although we might not be able to make life perfect for others, we must not hurt others at all.
However, there are many strange things in Buddhism though, for example, there are some moral principles that can be very difficult to comprehend. But when we could understand its meanings, we feel very happy. For some people this joy can last a very long time because they understand that Buddhism principles are real, and those principles actually work in our life. There would be no word to describe how joyful it is if you can comprehend Buddhism principles and actually apply it in your life and it works.
For example, there is a verse: “Material things can be just immaterial; immaterial thing can just be just as material“. The first part of the phase means that even when we have something material, it could be nothing. The second part of the phase has an opposite meaning, which we may have nothing, but it could be material. It is hard to explain its meanings properly here and it is hard to comprehend as well. We then started questioning why it says what it says. When we could not find the answers, we would keep thinking about it. We then eventually realise its meaning. This joy can last throughout our life.
We always look out for pleasures and happiness and never wish for troubles or worries. But our happiness usually does not last as long as we would like it to. For example, after being full from eating, we would be hungry again; many couples would end up in divorce despite the fact that they vowed to be together forever; a cosy home was destroyed due to hurricanes or tsunami; bankruptcy happened to a popular company. When everything went smoothly, we usually would be optimistic, but only one bad event could ruin the happiness.
According to Karma Law, happiness depends on blessings. The more blessing we have, the more stable our happiness would be, and the less blessing we have, the more fragile our happiness would be. Indeed, if we tried to continue doing good deeds and for a long time, our happiness would last long and very stable even when we had challenges in live. That is karma law. If we helped someone and even though he was ungrateful, and even worse he would harm us, however, if we persisted to help him, we then did a very good heed.. Therefore, our happiness would become more stable and last longer.
For example, if we were a director of an organisation, we would meet a lot of people, some even did bad things to us because of their jealousy. However, they would fail and the question was why they failed so easily. It was because we persistently did good deeds throughout many lives regardless of the conditions and in any situations, which helped us earn a lot of blessings for ourselves.
On the contrary, if we did not create a lot of blessings by not doing a lot of good deeds, our current live happiness could be very fragile and unstable. For examples, we often gave out rice and food to poor people, however, over time they would publicly criticised us because we did not give out clothing as well. When we knew about that, we became upset and stopped our good deed by stopping giving out rice and food. So we were not persistent in doing good deeds. Therefore, in our future lives, we could be wealthy and living a comfortable life, but that happy life could not last long and we could become poor again.
It is important to understand this principle. We should be open-minded and be more understanding. We should ignore bad things that happened to us which were caused by others, and should keep helping them. If we do so wholeheartedly, we would help improving and strengthen our happiness in our future lives.
So, when we comprehend the above principle and karma law, we would realise that nothing last forever. Because our happiness relies on how much blessings we have, if we understand that rule, we would be less painful when our happiness ends. So if we lost everything, or we lost someone we loved, we would then understand that we did not do enough good deeds in our previous lives so our happiness did not last long. We would then be more accepting about the sad fact and move on to rebuild our live again.
We must love all existing creatures, must continue doing good deeds in our life to earn more blessing in order to be strong in this life.
Why do we have to do all of the above? The question is: what does our life depend on?
- Depending on our standing position on the ground? The ground
- Depending on our parents’ love? Our parents will pass away
- Depending on our money? It is absolutely unstable because we can lose all one day
- Depending on our husband or wife? It is not guaranteed because they can betray us at any time.
We realised that what we have in our live are so unstable and could not be taken for granted. Karma law directs events in our life. We sometimes were so clouded in our thinking so we kept holding on to everything. Only very few people knew that life is short, life is fragile. We should consider the fact that we are nothing and nothing is ours.
Nothing is permanent. Therefore, if we want to be strong in this life, we have to continue doing good deeds. When we do good deeds, it help unstable things naturally become more stable. Stability is created from our accumulated blessings and good deeds instead of wisdom. Finally, it is blessings that would make our life stable and happy.
When understanding that happiness is unstable and fragile, it is easy to come and go, we should love all people around us because their happiness is also fragile and short lived. We therefore have to respect, preserve and appreciate every little of happiness, every bit of fun that we have at this moment. To do this, we should have a good will and an affectionate heart.
However, the question is how to not create unhappiness to others, or stop making people happy. Firstly, we should know what happiness means to other so that we can respect and preserve them. Because we did not understand that we could break it easily by accident. It could be simple like we ran into someone who was holding his favourite cup of tea. Because we only were care about getting our job done, and we were not careful about our surroundings, hence we caused the accident unintentionally. We then made the other person unhappy.
So when people are living peacefully and happily, we should not barge into their lives. We must be always aware of this because we often do not pay enough attention to it. When we fought with someone or said bad things, we caused unhappiness to others; they would become emotional, then their lives could be very unstable. When we picked up a quarrel with somebody, it meant that we had taken their peace away; the peace was their fragile happiness. Just like a peaceful country, when the war happened it caused extreme unhappiness because of deaths, family separation, collapsed economy then people experienced the fear and were miserable. So when the country is peaceful people shall make best effort to keep their happy and peaceful life.
For example, when two people are a relationship, we should not speak ill of them or try to separate them. In the case of Mr. A and Mr. B, they had a very good relationship, so we should not gossip or speak ill of either of them. If we did, they would not ask for clarification and simply accepted what we said. As a result they no longer liked each other as before, even hated each other. Our actions made others unhappy. So, if someone out there is happy because of our love to them,
please do not stop giving your love, please continue treasure and keep it last as long as you can … never stop loving.
So when you practise Buddhism, and you follow a Master, please always try to respect him, even you no longer have any more compliments for him. Maybe the Master has not yet successfully completed his practise, but he has been very patient, and trying to do his best, so it would be very good for his followers to learn from him. Sometimes if we knew or heard bad things about this Master, we should ignore and should not bother him with this nonsense. Only when this Master clearly went against Buddhism principles we should take actions to stop these wrong practice.
This is another example. If you knew someone who had their own way of adapting Buddhism principles, then you should only provide more advice to the person in order to help them be better, and earn more blessings. You should not criticise how they practised their Buddhism. We should only advise him to do more good deeds. So we only provided additional help and did not impact their happiness and peace. Or, if you knew someone practise mediation really well, you should encouraging the person to do it better i.e. try to hear or follow your breaths, if you need help, pray with Buddha and remorse your sins… By doing that, you were helping the person to be better at practicing Buddhism.
It is very important to recognise that criticism makes others feel insecure. Therefore, we should be very careful when speaking up. When we criticised someone, we would make him/her sad or bothered for the whole day or the whole month or even for a longer period of time. The sadness could be so strong that they would remember it for the rest of their life; except for those who were successful in mediation. A wise person would ask himself “Is this wrong that I was criticised? If after trying and he would find no answers, he would accept the criticism and move on. If he found the criticism was correct, he would then take actions to correct the mistake. In an opposite way, an unwise person would first feel sad, then would think about it later. Therefore, we should be subtle, and careful in talking about others because we could easily make other people sad, and as the result, we have bad karma.
Our ancestors used to say: “God who punishes should avoid the meal time”.
This means the god also knows how to keep happiness for other people. He has the heart to care for human being, but we are, human being ourselves, do not often think about keeping others happy. When other people are happy, we should respect and help maintain it; simple as if you knew someone was in deep sleep, you should
not be careless and make too much noise; if you needed to do some work, you should be gentle in moving around, avoid to wake the other person from their peaceful sleep… Please always remind ourselves that we should always keep happiness for others, even from a simple thing.
We know for the fact that happiness can be very simple, we should be considerate to keep the simple happiness. Please keep making others smile, keep caring for others, and keep others happy… Please continue doing that because happiness is fragile, once it is gone, it is hard to get it back.
Please keep in mind that keeping happiness for others means you earn blessing but if you help increase others’ happiness, your blessing will be much more.
For example, our neighbour family was normally quite safe and sound. They went to work during the day, when they were at home, they watched television with the family. When it was a holiday time, they went to see their friends and family. They lived a very ordinary life. Although they lived quite happily, but not entirely satisfactorily. We would ask ourselves how can we make them even happier? Would money be the answer? Probably not. They may need to know more about Buddhism principles. Money can only help for a limited period of time, but when you know about Buddhism principles, your life would be much more fulfilling. Happiness is not absolute without Buddhism because without Buddhism happiness could come and go within just a short period of time, very fragile.
It is very common that everybody lives normally, and has not yet been exposed to Buddhism. When it is convenient for others, we should introduce them to Buddhism and its principles, help them to understand and practise, where possible. Only Buddhism could help us be strong in life. When we lived without believing in Buddhism, it was like we had no direction and no purpose to live our life.
Therefore, as a Buddhist, with the good will wanting help and wish for others happiness, we should know when it is the best time to introduce others to Buddhism. After a period of time getting to know more about Buddhism, they may subsequently go to temple and pray to Buddha by themselves. They would then feel more happy and joyful. They recognise that even though their life is peaceful for now, but it is so much better if they have spiritual support from somewhere, it would increase their happiness. By doing the above, we not only keep others happy, but also we respect and help increase their happiness.
It is important to understand that we should avoid criticising others, when they are happy. For example, someone was so happy about their new car, and then we said: this car looks beautiful but it is not that expensive. This would make others upset and immediately would be very unhappy. But if we would have said: this car is not that flash but is a good one, and you should be careful when driving, and always follow Traffic Rules. So the later helped the other person feel that we cared about them, and advised them about safety, to avoid unnecessary accidents. They would feel that we cared about their happiness.
We have been discussing a lot so far, we now must realise that we should try to live a meaningful life, so that other people feel happy when they are around us, not the coldness. We must be the person who live a meaningful life, who know how to make others happy and even increase happiness for everyone.
On the contrary though, there are cases that we must do the opposite. There are people out there that are happy, but they are not safe, and we must take actions to stop it from progressing further. We should not encourage these types of behaviour, and we must stop these behaviours because we knew that the consequences would not be good. These kinds of happiness can eventually make people be sinful and suffering later on. For example, some people would go to night clubs, involve in gambling and socialise with bad people, we then must stop them from doing it further because their current “happiness” would make them suffer later on.
However, in the interest of making people happy, in reality, we could only help those moderate people, and not really bad people. Why? Because for those selfish people, happiness would be easily lost. They are always frustrated, annoyed, jealous, and want to have all for themselves. When they knew about our love, they would want us to love them only, nobody else. It was because of their narrow-mindedness and selfishness. If they knew that we favoured someone else, they would be very annoyed and feel uncomfortable. This is not at all acceptable. Buddhists must love all beings, and help everyone. For selfish people, happiness often comes and goes quickly and even our love would only help maintain it for a very short period of time. Therefore, we must not to live selfishly, always love others regardless. Our happiness would last longer.
However, above all, happiness in meditation is the true joy without any conditions. For other happiness, we would have to try hard to find them. Only the joy of meditation is always there in our mind, and we sometimes forget about it. We reached this happiness, we could then overcome our sins, overcome worthless hopes and dreams. When we let go, we would find ourselves satisfied and happy. It means the less our ego is, the bigger our happiness is.
Meditation is a true and sustainable happiness.
Namo Sakya Muni Buddha.