Being Happy Now
For no small matter is at stake. The question concerns
the very way that human life is to be lived.
—Plato, The Republic, Book I
“Come and See”. What is the essential truth of human happiness? It is this: both happiness and unhappiness arise from our present mindstate. Our happiness lies not in the future; nor in the past. The past is gone. The future has not yet arisen. Everything happens now—in this present moment! Therefore, we cannot become happy later. But we can be happy now—this present moment here and now.
Please consider this great primordial wisdom teaching: within the vast empty space between our incessant stream of thoughts and feelings abides perfect peace. Upon each breath in this luminous natural space of mind-nature abides a bit of happiness. And it accumulates with each mindful breath—not toward some future happiness mind state, but happiness here and now. It’s always already present within, this ultimate happiness that subsumes our relative conventional happiness and human flourishing. It’s present even when we forget. Remembering this great truth, more or less moment to moment, is our awakening to Happiness Itself—the happiness that cannot be lost. But don’t just believe this. As Buddha told, “Come and see”.
Therefore, the essential question of human happiness is this: if happiness is a state of the mind, how shall we accomplish a continuity of such positive mindstate moments while simultaneously surrendering the negative mindstates?
Clearly, the “wild horse of the mind”—our self-ego-I—requires a bit of training in order that we may choose the positive stuff while releasing the habitual nasty stuff. And how, pray tell, shall we accomplish this rather spooky state of pure being itself, Hamlet’s “consummation devoutly to be wished”.
Hence, we gently train the mind in peace. We learn a bit of basic mindfulness—”mindfulness of breathing”. For over 5000 years, in both the West and the East, human beings have learned to rest in this always present bright basic wakefulness. All of the wisdom masters have taught it.
Human happiness is inherently a skill set! It’s almost too simple to believe.
Perhaps the most ludicrous fiction of the human self-ego-I is the certainty that the cause of our ever-present dissatisfaction with our arising and appearing realities is always some external person, group or condition. The cause cannot be within us. The cause of our adversity is always outside, in someone or something else; never the result of our own thought, intention and action (karma).
The true demon of our continuous dissatisfaction with the inevitable adversity of being here in time is the demon of our ego created failure of recognition of our indwelling bodhicitta—our enlightened heartmind/Wisdom Mind that is the thought, intention and action for the benefit of “other” beings. Understanding this ignorance (avidya, hamartia-sin) we take full responsibility, each moment, for our present mindstate, and the inexorable “karma”—both good and bad— that it bestows upon us.
We accomplish such an enlightened mind state by: (1 inner subjective mindful breathing, and (2 outer objective skepticism as to our own well defended web of concepts, beliefs and biases.
We cannot control the past, nor the future, nor the actions of others, nor the near continuous adversity that besets us being here in time. But we can control our reactions and responses to what happens to us, and within us now. We can, with a bit of mindfulness practice control the reactionary, impulsive wild horse of the mind. We can train obsessive “monkey mind” to choose selfless, kind, compassionate thought, intention and action for the benefit of other beings, which of course benefits ourselves. Thus do we imperfectly control our karma. What we express is what we receive. Clearly, such mindfulness has everything to do with our happiness.
Have we not by now, at long last learned that we cannot trust the bogus, reactionary negative thoughts and ego-projections of our nearly always present narcissistic, frantic mind? Unless it’s kind compassionate action for the benefit of beings—bodhicitta, the primary cause of human happiness—it’s likely just narcissistic ego self-stimulation; is it not?
All the happiness in this world comes through
compassionate service for the benefit of others;
and all the suffering comes from serving oneself.
Thus do the wise aspire to help human, and other beings. And, wonder of wonders, such conduct makes us happy. We accomplish our own happiness, not so much through acquiring material things and relationship benefits for ourselves, but by helping to lessen the suffering of others—family, strangers, animals—and to help to bring others to their own happiness; even those who, in our self-centered judgment, will not help themselves; or may even harm us. Real jerks need love too. No big news here. We already know this.
It is this aspiration, then action/conduct that is the primary cause of a happy mind state. And mindful breathing makes it present to us right now, and motivates such kind compassionate feeling and action. “Mindfulness (shamatha) is the foundation of peace and all higher knowledge” (Gautama Shakyamuni, the Buddha).
Even if for the moment you cannot actually help
a sentient being in an external way, meditate on
love and compassion until compassion is knit
inseparably into the very fabric of your mind.
—Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
In Buddha’s Mindfulness Sutra, “The practice of full awareness of breathing”, with its four “foundations of mindfulness”—body, emotion, mind, and appearing objects of mind—gives us “letting it be as it is”, prior to self. Such self-surrender, letting go of narcissistic self-ego-I finally bestows upon the practitioner “complete, unsurpassed” liberation from suffering, and ultimately enlightenment—Happiness Itself, “full bodhi” realization of our inherent Wisdom Mind. Almost too simple to believe. So, what’s the problem.