Finding True Happiness is a Risky Business

The importance of taking risks and facing our own weaknesses to achieve true happiness from a Buddhist and psychological perspective as well as my own life experience.

I fell madly in love with my wife when we were just 17 and 16.

Buddhism teaches that we should not shrink from the fact of death but squarely confront it.

Our contemporary culture has been described as one that seeks to avoid and deny the fundamental question of our mortality. It is the awareness of death, however, that compels us to examine our lives and to seek to live meaningfully. Death enables us to treasure life; it awakens us to the preciousness of each shared moment. In the struggle to navigate the sorrow of death, we can forge a radiant treasure of fortitude in the depths of our being. Through that struggle, we become more aware of the dignity of life and more readily able to empathize with the suffering of others.

“Happiness is being able to experience profound joy that comes from never being defeated by any problems in life. In fact, these challenges are a catalyst to deepen and expand our inner lives. Despite a culture of instant gratification that influences so much of modern living, happiness is not a quick fix attained overnight. Rather, it results from our daily efforts to manifest life’s highest potentials — wisdom, compassion, courage and vitality.”

While pursuing happiness, I also used to spend considerable energy trying to reach an elusive “there,” “there” meaning everything “good” — a better job, a more pleasant boss or just a little more money. It was almost impossible to enjoy life as it was, when I was so busy wishing I were somewhere else. This also is not true happiness!

The belief that our happiness depends on some event or situation happening in the future sets us up for unhappiness.

Especially when we consider that we are all bound by the cycle of birth, sickness, old age and death. If we wait for a trouble-free life, our happiness will continue to elude us. Rather, the question is how do we respond when confronted with the problems we will inevitably face? Eventually I came to realize that true happiness is when I strive to do my human revolution — those efforts I make to overcome myself and to help others.

Daisaku Ikeda also said, “The gratification of desires is not happiness. Genuine happiness can only be achieved when we transform our way of life from the unthinking pursuit of pleasure to one committed to enriching our inner lives, when we focus on “being more rather than simply having more.”

In the sixth century, a Buddhist scholar in China, T’ien-t’ai, identified ten worlds — ten states or conditions of life that we experience within our lives, moving from one to another at any moment according to our interactions with our environment and those around us. These conditions, as listed in your program, are hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility, rapture, learning, realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood. Each of us possesses the potential to experience all ten, from the prison-like despair and self-hatred of Hell to the expansive joy and wisdom of Buddhahood. We each usually have one of these states that we revert to when faced with a stressful situation.

In other words, the condition of Buddhahood does not exist separate from our daily life. We can experience joy in a hellish prison or transform our anger to engage in a risky but crucial fight against injustice. We don’t need to be a victim of our circumstances.

The revolutionary aspect of the Nichiren Buddhist practice is that it seeks to directly bring forth the energy of the enlightened nature of a Buddha to purify the other, more superficial layers of our five senses, our subconscious and our karma. It is how, in the words of Nichiren, “We become the master of our mind rather than letting our mind master us.”

In the July 2, 2013 Psychology Today, well-being researchers Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan stated, “While we don’t deny the importance of happiness — we’ve also concluded that a well-lived life is more than just one in which you feel “up.” The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as well autonomy, mastery, and belonging.”

Personally, I believe true happiness is something close to the joy or sense of fulfillment and confidence that arises from our sense of mission to make the world a better place and from the ability to enjoy our life. Being happy is a sense of connectedness with everything around us. And, as Daisaku Ikeda has said, “Happiness is not found in a tranquil life free of storms and tempests. Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realize our goals, in our efforts to move forward.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

Even amidst the most trying times, happiness is not out of reach. By accepting small risks, we can move in the direction of our dreams and face our problems wisely and courageously. We can come to savor the greatest of all joys: the ability to live life with a deeper and stronger sense of confidence, appreciation and hope. We have the power to take charge of our own destiny and become a source of positive change in our family, local community and the entire world.

I write, speak, create art & play music to inspire and give hope to myself and others.

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