Tonight, I want to talk about seeing this path of practice as a path of happiness. We’ve heard talks on the noble truths, and it’s so profound what the Buddha shared, of course. He had the wisdom and courage to start off the teaching with just naming that fact that there is suffering in life. But sometimes, when we hear the four (4) noble truths, there is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, there is an end to suffering, and there’s a path leading to the end to suffering. That’s a lot of suffering, and sometimes, we can forget that he taught us so that we can experience the highest happiness.
He said, “Go for the highest happiness that all the other beautiful happiness is along the way.” And he was called the happy one. But sometimes, we forget this, and I wanted to point out his teachings on happiness and what made sense to me as a direct way to not only understand conceptually, but to practice this in mind. And I think I’ll start off with a quote from Thomas Byram’s translation of The Dhammapada. He says, he’s quoting the Buddha: “Live in Joy, in love, even among those who hate. Live in joy, in health, even among the afflicted. Live in joy, in peace, even among the troubled. Look within. Be still. Free from fear and attachment, know the sweet joy of living in the way.”
We, most of us are motivated to practice, because we are looking for an end to suffering. And, perhaps, the promise of deep well-being. I know, that’s what motivated me. But sometimes, the messages that we hear of the way certain teachings are understood or misunderstood can hide the fact that this is about opening up to joy and the highest happiness. I started practice many years ago, I mentioned there was some, my own inner angst and pain, and I thought there was something really here that moved me right away, but I’m also a very, I can be a very passionate person.
Intense, sometimes, my friends says. Although, my relatives says, “Gosh, you’re so boring and calm,” you know. It just depends. You know. They don’t usually say boring, but that’s what I sometimes project.
Underneath, “Oh, you’re so calm. You know, is there some life in there?” (people laughs) But I can get very intense and passionate. And when I started practice, I had a crisis early on. That very first summer I mentioned in 1974, I came in to the class one day, and I was wearing my New York Knicks t-shirt. For those who are uneducated in that field, then New York Knicks is a basketball team.
I’m a big basketball fan. Most people know me knows. And I was, at that time, living in New York, this is in the early 70’s for you basketball fans. At the height of the New York Knicks, incredible team, I was a season ticket holder, when I was in Square Garden. So, I was sitting there one afternoon in my New York Knicks t-shirt, and as much as I was falling in love with the practice, this disturbing thought came to me as I realized I was wearing my Knicks shirt, and I said, “Hold on a moment.” My thinking was in my mind.
“Am I going to Madison Square Garden, the scene of some peak moments in my life? And watch a game and be going” (people laughs). Because I was not ready to sign for that if that’s what it meant. And it’s actually the first time that I had enough nerve to go up to and say “Listen, I need to talk to you.” And I presented him my concern. You know, I don’t know if.. where is this leaving?
Will I go to the game and be like that? And he gave me a great answer. He assured me.. No, you’ll still probably feel that intensity, but you’ll probably get over a loss sooner. I said, okay, I’m in! (people laughs)
So, I did go in, and I was completely into practice and had what’s called a long honeymoon period where I just fell in love with the Dharma, did a lot of retreats, really, those first 10 years. I kept my life going on the outside, but it was more my inner life was what was really pulling me, and maybe some of you know that feeling. But at some point, I became very serious about my practice—dead serious about my practice. Emphasis on the dead. And I lost my joy.
And I misunderstood some very profound teachings. Non-verbally, and internally that can be misunderstood or interpreted in certain ways.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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