His Holiness the Dalai Lama (as cited in Jirel, 2009) articulated:
The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy.
Happiness must come from within and for that to happen; it is essential that we start loving our selves first. If we do that, we will be filled with positive attitude since respecting ourself and accepting that fact that we are not perfect would lead us to focus on the positive path of the life rather than on negativity, anger and hatred.
Happiness is a broad term that cannot have an absolute definition. In the Buddhist teachings, happiness forms a central theme which focuses on obtaining freedom from suffering by following the eight fold path which talks about the ways to end suffering and achieve self-awakening. Different people have different concepts of happiness and different ways to attain it. A teacher may experience happiness by imparting knowledge to the students. A student may experience happiness by topping the class. For me, happiness is about living a good life.
Our mind is our friend but at times it could be our enemy. When under control, it is our friend. When it gets better of us, it is our enemy. Those who have control over their minds are at peace. They are truly happy. It is imperative that we master our mind because if we analyze ourself carefully, we will find that the mind is the source of all our difficulties. Sharma (2007) says,"some of them worry about failed relationships or financial problems. Others fret over their less-than-perfect childhoods. Still others brood over more trifling matter: the way a store clerk might have treated them or the comment of a co-worker that smacked of ill will.(p.37) Those of us who run our mind in this fashion are allowing worry to rob us of our life.
The way we think stems from habit. It is important for us to do regular disciplined practice to condition our mind. We should develop positive, serene and inspired attitude. The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. If we have become a negative thinker, this is because we have not cared our mind and taken the time to train it to focus on the good. Through meditation, we strengthen the mind and do not allow it to be affected by outer things. His Holiness Sogyal Rinpoche (1992) articulated:
|The pursuit of Happiness|
The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you give to yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment (p.57)
The source of happiness lies in meditation. Meditation gifts us with a peace of mind enabling us to discover our true nature and ignore the negative thought that pops up now and then. If we achieve the task of mastering our mind through meditation, we will be filled with positive thoughts that will make our life wonderful.
After having mastered our mind to think positive, we should inculcate self-discipline. If we train ourself and our own conduct, for personal improvement, we would be filled with satisfaction and on the other end; our families and colleagues would hold us in high esteem. This would in turn make ourself important and a sense of respect and happiness would be bestowed upon us. The important pillar of self-discipline is willpower without which self-disciplining is futile.
There are some people who possess addiction or habit that they wish to overcome. Drinking, smoking, laziness, procrastination or lack of assertiveness is some of the habits that make their life miserable. They may have overcome it for a short while, but then they are back again because they lack inner power and persistence to change. To overcome it, one needs to have willpower. Self-discipline with willpower helps us to choose our behaviour and reaction, instead of being ruled by them. Their possession won't make our life dull or boring. On the contrary, we will feel more powerful, incharge of ourself and our surrounding. These instill in us a sense of responsibility and self-worth that lighten up our heart and fills it with joy.
There is a famous saying in English, "Time and tide waits for no man". This reminds us that time is the most precious commodity and it is non-renewable. It is very true that, by the time most of us figure out what we really want and how to go about attaining it, it is usually too late. Time management helps us to set our goal before hand which results in achieving our goals and objectives. This provides us with satisfaction, happiness and success that we want out of our life.
To lead a good life, we must be time conscious. We should plan our days and take the time to ensure that we are balanced in the use of time, if we could do so; we would be far productive and happier. Sharma (2007) says, "Time slips through our hands like a grains of sand, never to return back again.Those who use time wisely from an early age are rewarded with rich, productive and satisfying lives" (p.172). So, a person who values time from an early age is bestowed with the skill to set his goal and means to achieve it. This in turn would make him happier and content.
There is a saying in Chinese, "a little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you rose". This mean, when we work to improve the lives of others, we indirectly elevate our own life in the process. This gives us a sense of satisfaction as we go on helping others. Here, the sense of satisfaction that we derive is the fragrance that will cling to our hand and the help that we offer to improve the lives of others is the rose that we give. And we know that a content mind is always happy.
We should serve others because we genuinely want to. Our wish to use our life to serve others naturally ensures that we do not harm others. When we think of ourselves, we become tense and prolonged tension is stressful. Our tension is released, as soon as we stop thinking about ourself and become concerned about others. We should be a volunteer. It builds self-worth. The process of giving without having expectations or getting anything in return raises one's self-esteem. The giver derives good feeling and the receiver of the good deeds. As we help others, it will be a gift to ourself as we enjoy a boost in self esteem for making other's live better. We will feel more worthy of good deeds and it will reinforce our trust in the decency of people. This is inturn will make us feel more connceted to others and to ourself. When we practice the random acts of kindness daily, our life becomes far richer and more meaningful.
A famous saying in English goes, "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." We should make the best of now and utilize the present to the fullest. If we utilize the present to its fullest, we are sowing the seeds for a better future. A good life is when we stop spending our time fretting over past events and learn to adapt the process called "living in the now". Since we do not have the power, past events cannot be changed and we need not worry about the things to come, since future is full of mystery, so we must live the present to the fullest with good attitude. This brings in us a sense of satisfaction for, truly joyful and rewarding life comes only through "living in the present."
Benjamin Franklin said, "Never leave till tomorrow, which you can do today." When people say, "I will do it one on these days," or "I will be more loving and giving husband when my organization takes on a few junior to ease my burden". We can be sure it means none of these days. We should build positive attitude, learn the phrase, "do it now" and stop the habit of procrastination. Khera (2002) says, "The saddest words in life are: 'it might have been.' 'I should have.' 'I could have.' 'I wish I had.' 'If only I had given little extra.' (p.22)
For me, happiness is all about being content in life, understanding that life is not ideal. Our happiness is our responsibility, we should not blame outside condition or other people if we are not happy. While things around us could change and go bad, it is we who decide how to respond to them. We can decide to be happy.
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Rinpoche, S. (1999). The Tibetan Book of living and dying. HarperOne
Sharma, R. (2007). The monk who sold his Ferrari, a fable about fulfilling your dreams and
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Zangpo, S. (2004). Releasing life: An ancient Buddhist practice in the modern world.
Taiwan: Buddha Education Foundation