What We’re After

Leaving kyudo for a moment (but not really) sometime yesterday the nickel finally dropped, as it does, and I realized that, all of the wonderful philosophy and terminology aside, the point of Buddhism is just happiness. True happiness, that is, the kind that comes from inside. Such happiness doesn’t depend on outside circumstances, even on whether one lives or dies, and could well transcend death if the traditional explanations are correct.

This struck me because I think we (or at least I) tend to focus so much on suffering, the mind, this problem, that craving… It gets kind of negative. But if you define happiness as total cessation of suffering then happiness and liberation are synonyms, and this brightens things up a bit.

Sometimes students of Buddhism, especially Western ones, look at the garbage in our minds and get kind of depressed, with little old me stuck in the mud while the pure, clean lotus flower is someplace “up there,” far, far away. In fact sometimes it seems like I’m worse than before, though I think it’s just that I’m a little more aware of the gunk. Maybe it would help to remember that the goal is not something so totally ethereal and unfamiliar. Just happiness, albeit of a very specific type.

After that it’s just a matter of being intelligent about how to seek it, or how to transform one’s mind into it. If I think about my life, and the things I have sought because I believed they would bring happiness, what have they been? Not a very edifying list, really. But what now, though?

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