As expected, Oscar Wilde made a joke out of it: “The happiness of a married man depends upon the people he has not married.” As expected, ancient Greek philosophers like Epictetus made a profundity out of it: “The way to live a life free from sorrow, think of what is about to happen as if it had already happened.” As expected, the lust-for-life Ernest Hemingway simply addressed it this way: “What is moral is what makes you feel good after, and what is immoral is what makes you feel bad after.”
As it turns out, virtually everyone repeats the same mantra that happiness is an inner experience not to be found in money and things. We say this while busy trying to accumulate both. Why the contradiction? Perhaps because we simply don’t understand the inner-us as well as we do the world outside us. A world which in the West is more glittered with more money and things than ever in the history of humanity.
This is one reason for the marked spike of Buddhism in the West where the restless rich often see in it the secret solution to their earthly restlessness. Buddhism — ironically on the decline in India and banned in China — has had 170% growth in the United States since 1990. There are now 2 million Buddhists in the country, 4th largest religious association after Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It speaks of serenity, not happiness. It seeks a contentment found only when one is in harmony with their world. Athletes use it to sharpen their game…corporate executives to handle their stress…chronic pain sufferers to find relief…mental health specialists as a form of therapy.
Buddhism is now out of the monastery and into the living room!
The question here is this: Does it have a place in your living room? For instance, how will you be processing the bad news from the media this week? the power-on-power violence of NFL football this week? the chaos of children and family and neighbors this? Enjoying the Dali Lama’s gentle smile is one thing; living it is very much another.
Peace be with you.
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