Welcome to Mangala Shri Bhuti’s Dharma Blog
Welcome to Mangala Shri Bhuti’s Dharma Blog, where we explore the dharma, which we have been fortunate to come into contact with. In a word, what is “dharma”? We can say it is the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. We can also say dharma represents certain truths or “the facts of life”. But most essentially, we’ve found that dharma comes to mean an awakening of our own active intelligence about the causes of suffering and happiness. This process is ignited by the teachings we hear and catalyzed further by our contemplation and practice. Join us in appreciating and deepening our understanding of dharma through these excerpts by Mangala Shri Bhuti’s teachers and senior students.
What is it that we long for every day? What are we longing for when we want a big house, or a beautiful companion? What is it we really desire when we want a great job, a really nice car, lots of wealth, or success in our work? We want one thing: happiness. The happiness we seek gets translated into all those things.
Happiness is what we want, and we’ve decided that the big house or great success or making a big name will bring us happiness. There’s nothing wrong with wanting happiness. It’s just that we must examine whether a big house, or great success, or a big name will produce a deep sense of happiness and contentment. Isn’t it intelligent to question this? Since we’re caught up in speeding toward what we think will bring us happiness, it doesn’t work for someone to just come along and say, “No, these things won’t bring you happiness.” That would be jarring, and too disappointing to hear. But we should at least question whether we will really find what we want through these means.
Let’s consider how many things we’ve wanted in the past which we actually got. Have they brought us happiness and satisfaction? Perhaps they did, but only for a little while before we moved on to something else. Will it be the same thing this time?
Questioning yourself like this, without the pressure of religious beliefs, or pressure from a teacher, or friends, doesn’t mean you have to renounce everything or become uninterested in everything. That is not the goal here. We’re not trying to make anybody renounce anything. We’re not encouraging anybody to become monks and nuns. All we’re trying to do is make people question their own mind.
We all want happiness. That’s a noble thing. We all want freedom from suffering. That’s a noble thing. But how will we achieve this happiness and this freedom from suffering? This is what we have to understand. Even though we constantly fantasize and are fully occupied with our attempts to fulfill this desire for happiness and freedom from suffering, we see that it doesn’t work for others, and hasn’t worked for us in the past. Happiness didn’t come from our earlier attempts or didn’t last for long even when our desires were fulfilled. So we need to have another alternative, another approach. To have no alternative when we’re constantly failing in our endeavor is just indulging in something fundamentally hopeless, and not a good reflection on our intelligence.
In this spirit, we may decide, “I need to do what I do to live productively in the world, to fit into society, to support myself or my family in the ways that conventional people do.” I understand that. I have similar responsibilities and I very gladly take on those responsibilities. But I don’t completely believe this is how I can fulfill my destiny or my deep desire for happiness. It is not how I can fulfill my desire for freedom from suffering. So therefore I must balance my life, outwardly doing what I am doing while inwardly adopting a different discipline. That other discipline is the discipline of Dharma. In this, I mean the discipline of changing our physical, verbal, and mental states; becoming more and more gentle, kinder, more compassionate, and really learning how to cultivate a deep sense of affinity with others.
I think developing our affinity with others is very important. If we have no affinity with others, we are bound to be isolated in our own world, even within our own family. In our own world we’re caught up in our self-absorption. When we feel affinity with others we’re bound to share our life with others. Though of course we each come into this world with our own karma, nonetheless we can share our lives with others when we feel connected. So learning how to feel a strong sense of connectedness or affinity with others is very important.
In the Buddha’s teachings, the basis of this affinity is that we all desire happiness and freedom from suffering. So we are all in the same boat, trying to cross the same ocean. There is not much separating us other than our own little self-absorptions. In reality, our happiness and others’ happiness, our freedom and others’ freedom from suffering could be more easily achieved if we did not live within our own small self-absorption, but instead reflected on the need of happiness and freedom for everyone, and learned how to foster a sense of deep rejoicing.
For example, if I’m to become successful, finding my happiness and therefore my destiny, I must work really hard. Right? Alone, I have to work very hard to reach that destiny, to achieve that happiness and deep satisfaction. Who knows how long that will take, maybe forever. Even spending my entire life working toward that, there’s no guarantee in the end. However, if I can be happy for your success, satisfied and fulfilled by any of you reaching your destiny, then I can share that satisfaction and happiness. Since there are so many of you, my chances of happiness are then much greater, as your success and fulfillment also becomes mine. So without having to do much work, I can have that happiness and my own deep satisfaction.
This kind of sympathetic joy and the resulting happiness doesn’t require any grinding work of your mind or body. So the Buddha has said that this sympathetic joy and what you gain from it—a deep sense of satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment—is the purest kind of happiness that exists in samsara. If it is my aim to fulfill my dream of happiness, and I can get there in this way by just training my heart and mind to be supportive of my well-being, then why not choose this path over one requiring hard, dirty, grinding work without guarantees?
Our problem with this is having too many negative habits from past lives, our mind conditioned by deadly self-absorption. We’ve become caught in a rut of inflexibility. Even seeing the wisdom in something different, we remain inflexible due to our habit of thinking that our own happiness is much more important than that of others. Seeing no way to make others’ happiness our own is simply due to ignorant habit, and is a rut that we can’t seem to change for the better. We’re possessed of a certain rigid reaction to happiness in general. When happiness conforms to our own sense of self-importance, we think it is happiness, yet when that happiness does not belong to our own self-importance, we conclude we have little to gain from it. Right? If we cannot change that attitude, how could we ever imagine finding happiness? How could we imagine becoming a spiritual person? How could we ever imagine looking to the very trait that has brought us so much suffering—our self-importance—to provide us happiness? This is like expecting a poison to provide us medicine.
When we’re so caught up with ourselves, so much in the grip of our own agendas and wishing to change the world through an all-pervasive feeling of our own self-absorbed mind, there’s really no intelligent way to proceed on the path toward happiness. We see this. If there were some way to proceed toward happiness in this manner, then the most materialistic people, the most greedy people, the most unwholesome people, the most shrewd people should be the happiest, and we see that is not true. Those who are the most greedy, most shrewd, most unkind, are totally fixed on their own agendas and not at all concerned for others. Others have no respect for them, and they have no respect for themselves at a deeper level.
So the point here is first to become really clear in your view of how to obtain happiness, and gain confidence in that. Secondly, try to change your habitual pattern, no longer following the same rut, while trying hard to truly embrace others as the source of your happiness.
Taken from NSS 2005 Talk 1