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the gates of happiness

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gerald_jpg-sizedA door is only a door if it is open. Saying in India.

This post is by Gerald Virtbauer, a doctoral candidate at Vienna University and current resident at Upaya Zen Center near Santa Fe, NM.

Happiness and Buddhism have a tricky relationship. Many people consider the aim of Buddhist practice to be a neutral equanimity and calmness. Being happy contrarily is in our culture very often connected with deep emotions and feelings. Indeed, what the Buddha taught is mainly detachment from all kinds of inner reactions and the ability to watch whatever is going on inside without the need to immediate reaction—whether positive or negative. Clarity is based on the ability to neutrally observe everything in life.

The question seems to be what happiness in a deeper psychological sense really means. I like the picture of buying food in a grocery store. In a way we are aware of the whole selection, but we choose the things we suppose to be important and nourishing for us in the present moment. The mind works in a very similar way. There are uncountable things going on in every instant in our consciousness and it seems quite a strange and huge task to choose the waves to ride on which lead to an unfolding of the deeper qualities of life and happiness.

‘Choosing’ from a Buddhist point of view mainly means letting-go, because there is in a deeper sense neither a chooser, nor something to choose. It is the connection—the mutual interdependence between all living beings—which becomes the main power in the life of each individual, as soon as one is able to really let go into an experience beyond words and conceptions. The interdependence itself chooses and the person becomes the choiceless receiver of a deeper truth which includes and transforms the whole personal history and possibilities in this moment.

open-doorTo become a choiceless receiver requires the courage to really listen deeply and develop the skills to find a personal way out of conditioning into a truth beyond words—in short, from a Buddhist point of view, ‘ongoing faith into the Buddha way’, referring to Dōgen [Japanese Zen scholar, 1200-1253]. From my point of view this surrendering and letting everything fall into place is the greatest happiness which is possible for human beings. I also think that this is completely compatible with different cultural approaches to happiness.

In this sense, Buddhist practice is not entirely about detachment, but more about finding a skillful way to forcelessly let the gates to happiness in life open by themselves, which are already there. The Dharma gates to liberation and happiness are the constant partners in our lives. They open by themselves moment by moment and invite each one of us to enter.

source: Upaya eNews. Reprinted here with the author’s permission.


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