Happiness – talk by Chick Lindsay, 19 Oct. 2014


Part I ‘Ezra Bayda on Happiness’
Part 2 Discourse on Youth and Happiness
Discourse on Happiness

Part I ‘Ezra Bayda on Happiness’

‘Happiness†seldom†alights†upon†the†desire†that†calls†for†it’…†Marcel Proust†

My understanding is that Proust was known for his hypersensitivity to pollen allergies, but more importantly, perhaps he is best known for his sensitivities and reflections on the passage of time.

Perhaps Proust could be corrected to say that ‘ Happiness never alights upon the desire that calls for it.” What strikes me about this passage is that his statement is another way of noticing that we are mistaken if we believe we can summon forth the conditions to bring about our happiness.

Ezra Bayda The Authentic Life

Here is a portion of what Ezra Bayda says about happiness:  One behavior
that always increases our suffering is our ‘expectation’ that we be happy; he calls this the ‘happiness problem’ saying the source of much suffering is that “we†firmly†believe†we†should†be†happy.” Then he uses the word ‘entitlement’… that really hit home, I know how quickly I go to anger and discomfort when things are not as I expected them to be… when things are as they are.

Let’s be reminded that whatever arises from moment to moment, whatever we judge to be good or bad, is fodder for realizing the way — as opportunities to see things as they are, and to see how ‘desire’ works in our mind’.

I woke up thinking about the time I sacrificed yesterday to try to implement a tech-based learning tool. I spent a lot of time castigating myself for the hours I worked on the task. After thinking I had ‘wasted’ precious time, I then realized that when I labeled time as ‘wasted’, and connected to the feeling of regret …†this reaction was akin to shooting the second arrow.

Had I been successful in making the time work to my desired outcome, I may have had a different reaction and attitude. But as it was, I felt unhappy, disappointed, exasperated—annoyed with the sense of having burned too much time. With further insight, I remembered Ezra Bayda’s reflection that I, as is conditioned, I have a sense of entitlement to having things ‘go my way’, of having things go as we plan them, or go ‘as we imagine they should go’. This is the unhealthy sense of entitlement to outcomes as we imagine them. This is part of the significance of Warren’s oft repeated phrase “weeds flourish despite our loathing, flowers fall in our grasping.” When weeds flourish despite our loathing, we feel ripped off. We think something is wrong. …. But really… things are as they are.

All of which reminds us that our real happiness can never depend on external conditions…conditions we don’t have any control over.

We’ve repeated this refrain from one of the Mindfulness trainings countless times: “Happiness†does†not†depend†on†external†conditions.” Happiness does not depend on controlling†outer conditions.

Too often, I have a felt sense of entitlement when living life amidst all its stressors and demands and suffering, that I am entitled to happiness now, well, at least after I do all that work, after I do something for you. After I do all this preparation for…preparing for whatever needs to be done. Maybe I expect a pay-back in happiness. … I expect things to be different than they are.

Part 2 Discourse on Youth and Happiness

I want to share a sutra I found on a webpage offered by a Montreal Sangha. The sutra offers a teaching on how the link between desire and happiness is misunderstood, and leads to unfortunate consequences for us all. LINK

Discourse on Youth and Happiness

{Near the Bamboo Forest Monastery, in the time of Buddha} there was a bhikshu who, in the very early morning, came to the banks of the river, took off his upper robe and left it on the bank, and went down to the river to bathe. After bathing, he came out of the river, waited until his body was dry, and then put on his upper robe. At that time a goddess appeared, whose body, surrounded by light, lit up the entire bank of the river.

The goddess said to the bhikshu, “Venerable, you’ve recently become a monk. Your hair is still black; you are very young. At this time in your life, shouldn’t you be perfumed with oils, adorned with gems and fragrant flowers, enjoying the five kind of sensual desire? Why have you abandoned your loved ones and turned your back on the worldly life, living alone? You’ve shaved your hair and beard, donned the monk’s robe, and placed your faith in monastic practice. Why have you abandoned the pleasures of this moment to seek pleasures in a distant future?”

The bhikshu replied, “I have not abandoned the present moment in order to seek pleasures in a distant future. I have abandoned pleasures that are untimely for the deepest happiness of this moment.”

The goddess asked, “What do you mean?”

And the bhikshu replied, “The World-Honored One has taught: in the joy
associated with sensual desire there is little sweetness and much bitterness, tiny benefits, and a great potential to lead to disaster. Now, as I dwell in the Dharma that is available here and now, I’ve given up the burning fire of afflictions. The Dharma is available here and now. It is outside of time, and it always invites us to come and see it. It is to be realized and experienced by each of us for ourselves. That is what is meant by abandoning untimely pleasures in order to arrive at the deepest happiness of the present moment.”

The goddess asked the bhikshu again, “Why does the World-Honored One say that in the untimely pleasure of sensual desire there is little sweetness and much bitterness, [and] its benefit is tiny but its potential to lead to disaster is great? Why does he say that if we dwell in the Dharma that is available here and now we are able to give up the flames of the afflictions that burn us? Why does he say that this Dharma belongs to the present moment, is outside of time, always invites us to come and see it, is available here and now, and is realized and experienced by each of us for ourselves?”

The bhikshu says he is too young to answer this, so he suggests they go see the Buddha.  (So they goto  see the Buddha.)

The World-Honored One immediately offered this gatha:

Beings produce wrong perceptions
concerning objects of desire.
That is why they are caught in desire.
Because they do not know what desire really is,
they proceed on the path to Death.

The Buddha then asked the goddess, “Do you understand this gatha? If not, please say so.

The goddess addressed the Buddha, “I have not understood, World-Honored One. I have not understood, Well-Gone One.”

So the Buddha recited another gatha for the goddess:

When you know the true nature of desire,
the desiring mind will not be born.
When there is no desire, and no perception based on it,
at that time, no one is able to tempt you.

Then Buddha asked the goddess, “Have you understood this gatha? If not, please say so.”

The goddess addressed the Buddha: “I have not understood, World-Honored One. I have not understood, Well-Gone One.” So the Buddha recited another gatha for the goddess:

If you think you are greater, less than, or equal,
you cause dissension.
When those three complexes have ended,
nothing can agitate your mind.

Then Buddha asked the goddess, “Have you understood this gatha? If not, please say so.”

The goddess addressed the Buddha, “I have not understood, World-Honored One. I have not understood, Well-Gone One.”

So the Buddha recited another gatha for the goddess:

Ending desire, overcoming the three complexes,
our mind is stilled, we have nothing to long for.
We lay aside all affliction and sorrow,
in this life and in lives to come.

Then Buddha asked the goddess, “Have you understood this gatha? If not, please say so.”

The goddess addressed the Buddha, “I have understood, World-Honored One. I have understood, Well-Gone One.”

Samiddhi Sutta, Samyukta Agama 1078

(Corresponds to Samyutta Nikaya 1.20. Also Taisho 99)

When talk gets too philosophical
I vow with all beings
To recall that challenge of Buddha:
What is life? What is death? What is this?
–Robert Aitken

Discourse on Happiness


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