Monday, November 26, 2012
Happiness and Peace by Venerable Master Hsing Yun
On Sunday, 18 November 2012, ET, PY and I attended the Fo Guang Shan Refuge-Taking and Five Precepts Ceremony cum Prayer for the Public at Kallang Indoor Stadium. Venerable Master Hsing Yun came to witness the ceremony, talked about the Dhamma (about Five Precepts), and did the prayer for public.
I attended this event because I wanted to see him. All this while, I only heard about his name, but never met him in person. He is 85 years old this year. My friend told me that he might not attend this type of event anymore in the future due to his age. Even when he came, he came sitting on wheelchair.
I was so glad to be there with my two best friends. Both of them are free thinker and have brief knowledge about Buddhist teaching. After hearing about five precepts, they have become clearer about what the five precepts are and corrected their wrong view. E.g. First precepts is not to kill. Both of them thought if they want to do five precepts, they must be vegetarian.
Below was taken from the program book given to us on that day. The title of the article is "Happiness and Peace". I put this here, to remind myself on how to achieve happiness and peace, just in case one day I might forget about it... hehehe... Happy reading :)
In today’s world, technological and medical advances have prolonged the human lifespan. However, such advances have also led to increasing estrangement and apathy among people. More and more people are feeling the lack of happiness and peace in their lives. Hence, the theme of this year’s General Conference is “Happiness and Peace,” through which I hope all of you can take home the essence of happiness and peace and spread it across the world, apply it to your daily lives, and be free from sorrow, worries, suffering, and trouble. At the same time, may happiness and peace broaden your minds and raise the standard and quality of your lives to higher levels.
Speaking of happiness and peace, what is the purpose of our existence in this world? Is it to find happiness? Or to experience suffering? Of course, most people would say, “Happiness!” In reality, how many people actually enjoy happiness and peace? What we hear and see most often are the wails of grief over the catastrophes of this world. These include natural disasters and man-made calamities such as war, violence, famine, poverty and various stresses and anxieties experienced in everyday life. Very few people think of life as truly happy.
The average person is committed to become famous and rich, but is happiness and peace found within fame and fortune? The answer is not entirely yes. In general, people like to pursue money and love, but can happiness and peace be found within money and love? Again, the answer is a bittersweet yes and no. As for those who pursue freedom and democratic, without inner peace and ease, life is still without true happiness and peace. Therefore, it can be said that the happiness and peace that have been sought by people for so long are in fact in the possession of very few.
How do we attain peace and happiness in life? I offer the following four suggestions:
1. Happiness and peace come from detachment and contentment
In this world, some people pursue material happiness and others pursue nature’s tranquility and peace, while some pursue material transcendence and spiritual happiness attained from detachment and contentment. So what type of happiness should we be pursuing? Material life may satisfy our daily needs, but it does not bring sustained happiness; only detachment and contentment allow us to enjoy lasting happiness.
As the saying goes, “a mind without desires makes a character noble.” A person may be without glamorous outfits or sensual enjoyments, but as long as he or she is not greedy for anything, he or she will naturally be noble in character. A person who is detached and without desires does not get jealous or compare himself with others, does not oppose or fight with others, and does not treat people or matters with arrogance and insolence, but follows any conditions with perfect ease. Take the many eminent and virtuous people throughout history, for example. They earned the respect of others not because of their wealth, but because of their moral integrity nurtured through living simple but content lives. They are the true models of living the philosophy of emptiness.
While most people pursue wealth and fame, they need to know that a beautiful life with a broader vision can be attained by “enjoying” instead of “possessing.” For example, although I do not own the mountains, rivers, lands, flowers, and trees, I can still wander through them in a carefree manner. Is this not happiness? While someone else may own the entire world and I do not, I can still enjoy the cool breezes and the bright moon. I can still care for the world I live in and regard all people as my brothers and sisters. To be able to enjoy the entire universe and the vast emptiness makes my world bigger and broader than owning a town, a city, a country or immeasurable wealth. Hence, life is not about the pursuit of what we can own, because no matter how much we have, we can never satisfy our greed. Enjoy life with a detached mind and happiness and contentment will be found everywhere.
Detachment and contentment give rise to the strengths of concentration and wisdom. The more detached you are, the more concentrated you can be, and thus, the more you are able to redefine the meaning and value of life.
Detachment and contentment means: there are things we should do, things we should not do in life; there are things that we should desire, things we should not desire in our minds. When we can be content, we will not be enslaved by life and will be able to settle both body and mind to enjoy the wealth and happiness of contentment. Therefore, detachment and contentment are true wealth, and people who understand detachment and contentment will naturally have happiness and peace in life.
2. Happiness and peace come from compassion and tolerance
Compassion is an asset jointly owned by all living beings; it is not exclusive to Buddhism. Only when there is compassion can humanity coexist in mutual prosperity.
Compassion is not a demand on others, nor is it a standard by which we judge people. It is a way to discipline ourselves. Compassion does not mean blind tolerance to physical attack or verbal abuse. When justice is threatened or when good people are being slandered or attacked, we should stand up bravely for them. Compassion is not a momentary emotion, but a persistent service for others. Compassion is not just being kind only to our friends and family, nor does it mean we are to expect anything in return. Compassion is not always about praises and encouragement. Sometimes, in the interest of common well-being or to subdue the head-headed, an angry expression is required to subdue villains. This is actually the greatest and most difficult form of compassion.
There are no enemies in the eyes of compassion. Compassion brings good affinities. Compassion harmonizes self and others, and is one with the universe. As the saying goes, tolerance fosters greatness; with compassion and tolerance, we can naturally unite people and create many supporting conditions.
However, compassion and tolerance alone are not enough. They need to be supplemented by wisdom. In this world, the meaning of compassion is often distorted, leading to excessive indulgence and turning a blind eye to what is wrong. When applied inappropriately, compassion can become the source of crimes and wrongdoings. For instance, the common practice of freeing live animals actually causes harm to more animal lives. Inappropriate and lavish giving of money only nurtures greed and corruption. Therefore, true compassion and tolerance must be supplemented by prajna wisdom to prevent traveling down the wrong path, rendering the initial intentions futile.
Looking at the conflicts in this world, they are usually caused by intolerance between different nations, cultures, races, and religions. Poverty gaps and social stratification are the causes of various conflicts, a problem faced by humanity as a whole. If we wish to be free from these dilemmas, compassion and tolerance are the only solution. Only compassion and tolerance can help to resolve conflicts, prevent wars; only compassion can enhance and sustain world peace.
3. Happiness and peace come from letting go and picking up with perfect ease
Very often, we hear people complaining about the stresses and anxieties of life, and relationships that become too much to bear. Exactly what is causing this lack of peace for the body and mind? When we feel too much pressure in this world, it is usually due to our lack of willingness to let go. Unable to let go, the human mind is constantly worried about all kinds of interpersonal problems, troubled by disputes over right and wrong, and plagued by all types of comparisons.
I often use the suitcase as a metaphor for life: we pick it up when we need to, and we let go of it when it is time to do so. When we pick up something, we should be able to shoulder the responsibility with courage, with the resolve and sense of mission in serving. When it is time to let go, we should also follow conditions and let go in a calm and composed manner. The ability to let go makes it easy to pick up again. When you are willing to take a step forward, there will be hope for the future.
In picking up, we are picking up right mindfulness, right actions, right speech, right thought, compassion, morality, good conditions, and diligence. In letting go, we should have the flexibility to be big or to be small, to give or to take, to have or not to have, and to stay high or to lie low.
We should let go of our greed for fame and gain as well as attachment to troubles and defilements. We should even let go of the delusive thought of having to let go of something. Picking up and letting go are two sides of the same coin; they are equally important. To pick up does not mean to fight for something; it is a resolve, a form of tolerance, and wisdom. To let go does not mean to ride on a loose rein and indulge oneself; it is the bodhisattva spirit of giving, only making contributions and not expecting anything in return. Knowing to let go allows us a much bigger world; being brave to pick up permits our short and limited life to be more at ease. Because we learn to give, naturally, happiness and peace will follow us.
4. Happiness and peace come from altruism and selflessness
No man is an island. We all must rely on various causes and conditions to survive. In other words, the life of a person is closely tied to all walks of society. However, the greatest flaw of humanity comes from selfishness and attachment. Only within simplicity can the greatest truth be found; only within the most ordinary can a longstanding path be found.
People who only think for themselves will not only lack the affinity and support of others, but will also encounter difficulties in accomplishing tasks without the strength afforded by teamwork. Being selfless and altruistic expands our hearts and saves us from being self-centered.
In daily life, each and every thought can be a point for cultivation. If we can face the world with selflessness, altruism, detachment, and no desires, then we will naturally have respect and tolerance for everything. As such, our lives will benefit so much more, and happiness and peace will come naturally.
To sum up, happiness and peace are what everyone seeks and the vision all humanity strives to attain. A happy outlook in life brings peace in living. It is my hope that everyone can nurture a character of contentment and detachment, have a mind of compassion and tolerance, learn to pick up and let go with perfect ease, and achieve a character of selflessness and altruism. Let us work together, contribute to the happiness and peace of humanity, that is filled with happiness and peace here and now.
Last but not least, may you hearts be filled with Dharma joy, and may each and every one of you live a life of happiness and peace.
Posted by Rima Reyka