Gyalwa Karmapa Teaches on Happiness on the International Day of Happiness. KIBI (2015)
March 20, 2015
Gyalwa Karmapa teaches on happiness on the International Day of Happiness.
A very good afternoon once again, dear Dharma friends.
I am not sure if the viewers are able to attend this at the moment but nevertheless I would like to wish you a very good day and a very good evening wherever you are and I would also like to welcome all of you today.
Today I would like to begin this session with the way we celebrate, the way we mark, the way we utilize moments, since today it coincides with the International Day of Happiness, of the United Nations, where one celebrates happiness.
I think it is interesting, I think it is positive because we are utilizing a moment, a time to remind ourselves of what is important in our lives and we are trying to, in this case, remind ourselves of one of the primordial wishes or aspirations that we all share, not just human beings and sentient beings, animals, but all of us, all sentient beings, all of us, we all share this, seeking for happiness. Although we might not be very efficient or fluent or experienced in identifying exactly what it is or identifying exactly what are the means, what are the methods but nevertheless that aspiration is always there.
The last few days we were discussing about the Bodhicarya Avatara – a timeless teaching by a realized and an enlightened being, known as the Maha Bodhisattva Shantideva and we were discussing about his teaching. Of course we were only able to just touch the very surface of it but nevertheless we have learnt a lot, in terms of what are the actual causes of happiness, in this case. Since today, throughout our world, we are focusing on happiness; therefore we could describe it in a way that giving rise through inherent timeless qualities such as Bodhichitta or compassion, or loving-kindness is a way to cultivate timeless happiness.
As I said earlier, we may not be that fluent, that experienced, in identifying the methods and even what happiness is really about. We might be naming something that is positive with various labels, with various ideas. In this case, we are labeling something, naming something that is pleasant, that is positive as happiness. Although, in Buddhism, the term happiness may be understood or may be described a little differently, may be understood a little differently, but to put it extremely simple, to put it very practical, you could recently say that happiness is what we are looking for. It may not be the right term, but nevertheless that is what we’re looking for. But since all of us are using this idea, this term, in whatever language, as a way to label and mark something that is suiting us, that is pleasant to us, we could utilize it nonetheless. And but probably we can add something on top of it by simply trying to be more particular, be more clear. For example, we can focus on what it means, what it could mean for all of us, happiness. Is it a glass of water when you’re thirsty? Is it a cup of tea in the noon or a cup of coffee? Yes? Or a cup of butter tea? Maybe not, yes. Buttered and salted tea.
So, you could vary from one individual to another, from one culture to another, from one mentality to another, from one attitude to another, so it varies. But then we have to examine carefully again, is that everything? Or is there something more than that? Or are we just satisfied with that? Are we just content with that? And on top of it, if we can add something like, is it changeable, that kind of happiness? Is it prone, is it vulnerable to change, such type of happiness? And I think this is a crucial question, because then we are asking something quite crucial. If it’s changeable, it means that the energy that we put in to seeking that kind of happiness is repeatable and therefore it could be tiring, after some time it could become a burden rather than happiness itself.
Therefore, we should search once again. If we search outwardly, I think, we would have a tough time in finding out the actual causes for happiness. And at the same time, we might lose our way also, because there are so many fascinating things around the world. And just like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have shared their thoughts to us, shared their experience to us, if you search within then it’s much easier, then it’s less tiring. And personally, I find that extremely beneficial and I’m sure all of you feel the same.
So we shall start examining, we shall start searching within ourselves for what are the exact causes for happiness or recently what is happiness. If you search with the proper attitude, with a proper attitude, it could help us even more. If we examine and search with less emotions, meaning without being judgmental, without being too critical but with a simple calm state of mind, if you search. If we sit down, maybe just take 5 minutes of our time every day and simply looking to ourselves what are the causes of happiness. If you do that, I think the answer will be not so far away from us. And the obvious answers would be something like, it is the positive and kind expressions that is the source of happiness. And like that then loving kindness, patience, generosity, all of these virtuous things, all of these things that we consider virtuous in our lives; virtuous from the beginning, virtuous in the middle, virtuous at the end.
We will find these inherent qualities, qualities that we are not taught, qualities that we are not adapted to but qualities that were already there, as a potential, already there. And always finding ways to express it, but not exactly knowing how. Every time we come across circumstances where someone is in need of support, someone is facing a particular tragedy, someone is facing a particular confusion, there is already that instinct from within, that we feel like we want to do something about it, although we might not know how, although we might not know the ways, the methods or what it is, but nevertheless, already, just by instinct, without having to really examine much, you know. So it is always trying to express, so it is that kind of qualities that could be or that is the source of actual happiness, and that is, I think timeless.
In our case, of course, when we study, contemplate, reflect, meditate, the various guides and methods that are available within our practice of the Buddha Dharma, all of them are actually offering the very thing, the very same thing, the very same guide to search exactly what are the causes of happiness, and nothing more. There is no other purpose, it truly focuses on that. It may have elaborated ritual aspects to it, aspects of ceremonies and so on, but those are only skillful means, skillful means to inspire us, skillful means to bring lightness, bring very simply, inspiration. So we as practitioners, I think, we are quite well aware of the benefits of it and the reasons why we utilize such methods, but even if we are not practitioners, even if we are coming from various different cultures, and even if we are coming from very different backgrounds, still the search of happiness can be applied without a religious or a philosophical approach, you know, it can be approached by anyone. And not just approachable but also, it’s also practiceable, let’s say, if that’s the right word in English, it’s attainable. And therefore, I would like to encourage everyone to do so, to encourage others also by yourselves, to those who you know, to those who are around you, and the way, I think, we should also encourage others is by living as an example for them, you know. If we ourselves take the time, utilize the time to focus on cultivating happiness, that itself is an example for others and without having to actually do much; already there is an impression. An impression is created in the minds of those who are around you, be it families and friends.
So therefore, it’s first of all, we are able to create inspirations to others and now to ourselves. When we practice also we must do it with the attitude that it is obtainable, for example such as Buddha Shakyamuni, such as the various realized Bodhisattvas, they are all our inspiration, they are all the true examples that one can achieve it. So in the same way, we shall try to implement and follow the same example. One of the main reasons why they are the ultimate examples, is not because of where they are right now such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, where they are right now. That’s obvious, of course, if you look at their result, of course it is inspiring, but nevertheless I personally feel that the reason why they are great examples is because from where they began, that is what is inspiring. Where they began is exactly the same as ours. They began very simply, without much experience but with again the same attitude, meaning somehow there is, somehow experiencing that there is happiness, that it is obtainable, but how? With that curiosity. So they all share the same curiosity and interest like we all do and I think that is what is inspiring.
So if you think in that way and if we look around ourselves then there will be a lot of sources of inspiration, you will be able to relate probably to your families, your friends, your colleagues, your acquaintances. You will see so many visible signs that each and everyone that you know, are always trying to find some way to express compassion, express generosity, patience, all of it but time and again not exactly knowing how. Maybe it’s not the best of the examples but it’s almost like someone, who cannot speak, is trying to say something, wanted to get some message across but cannot, something like that.
So by examining like that, by sort of recording those experiences and memories that you know, then, it can truly help us, it can truly inspire us to cultivate happiness. So, of course, those of us who know the ways, the methods, the textbook methods, that are taught by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, won’t need that much of an explanation other than practicing the same method continuously with diligence, with enthusiasm but surely not know meaning that we are simply learning from the beginning, that we are curious, that we are interested but not knowing exactly how to go about it.
Then, in this case, I would simply suggest to use a method where you simply reflect, where you are simply reflect using your own logics, sound logics, in terms of not being compromised, not being influenced by one’s kleshas, meaning disturbing or afflictive emotions like anger, not out of anger. We won’t be able to do it out of anger at all. We will not be able to do it out of attachment as well, because we will be too distracted and we will not be able to do with lack of awareness or ignorance but probably that’s not the right term. Or lack of understanding. So if we just calm down our minds, a state where the mind is kind of relaxed, kind of cooled, let’s say, cooled, in terms of not heated by emotions, you know, for example, like anger, it can really heat up not just our mind but our physical state as well and therefore, it will have a sort of negative expressions, you know.
So, therefore, if you just simply calm down by means of sitting comfortably, with a good posture, taking a bit of time, 5 or 10 minutes every day and not distracting oneself with unnecessary thoughts, unnecessary speech and just taking that little amount of time, which is hardly anything. We all use 5 minutes or 10 minutes of our daily schedule, many times, over and over again, for a lot of unnecessary things. So we are just trying to spare just one of those 5 minutes. So within that time, then all we need to do is simply reflect, doesn’t require for us to focus on something supernatural, something mystical, something exotic, nothing at all. We just simply reflect on what we have done, what we have experienced, what we have felt in the last 24 hours, let’s say, just to begin with, without being judgmental. So that we are able to capture exactly what happened, we are able to capture exactly what occurred. And in doing so, both directly and indirectly, we will touch the surfaces of the causes and conditions for identifying what happiness is, identifying what are the methods, and at the same time also understand what are the hindrances, what are the obstacles. And therefore, it’s like a self-teaching, self-realization, without being dependent basically, to something or someone but be yourself, like self-awakening.
So this is what I would like to encourage to all of you, to all of ourselves. If I am able to express this to all of you, it means that such practice is effective, is working. If it wasn’t working, I won’t be able to convey this to all of you, you know. At the same time, if it is not true, none of us would be able to relate with also or understand. And for the fact that I can convey and that all of you can understand, means that it is effective, that it does work. So I will offer my prayers, aspirations, so that all of us would be able to achieve, attaining timeless happiness.
Transcript: Maria Nikandrova
Proofreading: Amelia Choon