- The number one cause of human suffering according to Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh
- Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh reveals the brutal truth about happiness in less than 2 lines
- 1) They spend quality time with loved ones
- 2) They plan something fun
- 4) They exercise
- 5) They eat something healthy
- 6) They read
- 7) They return calls, emails and texts
- 8) They unplug
- 9) They relax
- Buddhist Nonviolence
- No Mud, No Lotus
- The Key to Success According to Thich Nhat Hanh
- Striving to be Number One
- The True Purpose of Mindfulness
- A Lack of Balance
- The Bottom Line
- A False Way to Happiness
- An Upside Down Society
- A New Definition of Success
- Finding True Fulfilment
The number one cause of human suffering according to Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh
I think we all can agree that emotional suffering is one of the hardest struggles to deal with in life.
Whether it’s anxiety or depression, or a feeling that life is rather meaningless, these negative emotions can make life tough to handle.
It’s even harder to figure out how to actually respond to them. Is it better to embrace them? Or should you just avoid them and get on with your life?
This is where Thich Nhat Hanh takes a different approach. He says that we should instead embrace the present moment fully and honestly.
Check it out here:
“We have negative mental habits that come up over and over again. One of the most significant negative habits we should be aware of is that of constantly allowing our mind to run off into the future. Perhaps we got this from our parents.
Carried away by our worries, we’re unable to live fully and happily in the present. Deep down, we believe we can’t really be happy just yet—that we still have a few more boxes to be checked off before we can really enjoy life.
We speculate, dream, strategize, and plan for these “conditions of happiness” we want to have in the future; and we continually chase after that future, even while we sleep.
We may have fears about the future because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and these worries and anxieties keep us from enjoying being here now.”
Thich Nhat Hanh says that the only way to counteract this is to embrace the present moment fully and openly. Here he explains exactly how to do that:
“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone. Life is that. If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone. You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life. It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it. Worrying is worthless. When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment. Then you will begin to experience joy in life.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh reveals the brutal truth about happiness in less than 2 lines
We’ve all asked the question, “what is happiness?”
Is it a feeling? Having stable circumstances in life? Or is it something that’s deeply personal and can’t be defined?
Well, according to Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, it’s simply a way of being.
In fact, in a simple, but profound quote below, Thich Nhat Hanh says that true happiness is inner peace:
“Many people think excitement is happiness…. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is peace.”
Thich Nhat Hanh says that acceptance is an important part of being peaceful. Yet, in western society, too many people try to change themselves for other people.
However, this is futile to our own inner peace and happiness:
“To be beautiful means to be yourself.You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower.
If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life.
True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.”
Thich Nhat Hanh says that to achieve acceptance, we need to start embracing the present moment and the beautiful miracles that exist around us:
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love…Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere.
Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings.
When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.”
Thich Nhat Hanh goes onto say that this doesn’t mean we never think about the past or plan for the future, but that we do so in a productive way:
“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future.
If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past.
But you are still grounded in the present moment.”
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What do you do after work?
If you’re most people, you eat dinner, watch TV for a couple hours then fall asleep.
However, this isn’t exactly helping us live fulfilling lives.
Even if you love your job and usually look forward to getting back into the swing of things the next day, it’s easy to feel a little bit dread about the stresses waiting for you.
Yet, there are certain things happy people do in the evening to combat those stresses. Here are 10:
1) They spend quality time with loved ones
People who are happy generally love their jobs and are passionate about what they do. They know they’ll ly be pretty busy during the days so they make the most of their nights by spending time with their family and friends.
2) They plan something fun
It’s important to do something that’s fun so that it distracts you from the impending next day. You could watch a movie or partake in an activity bowling.
Some people love to set tasks and goals for the next day. This is beneficial because it keeps you focused and clear with what you want to achieve that day. It also means you can organize your day so that you plan to finish at a reasonable time. The trick is to do this without stressing yourself out.
4) They exercise
Exercise is a great way to lift yourself from the stresses of work. Yoga can also be a great way to relax and get yourself ready for tomorrow.
5) They eat something healthy
While it’s tempting to have a few glasses of wine, alcohol is a depressant which make you feel less energized in the morning. A healthy meal is better.
6) They read
Most happy people read every night before bed, so this is just part of their routines. They also use the time to catch up on reading that’s been neglected.
7) They return calls, emails and texts
The nighttime is an excellent time to return phone calls from friends or family and to respond to text or emails we didn’t have time for during the day.
8) They unplug
After you finish your events or tasks for the day, successful and happy people unplug and do anything but work right before bed. They try not to dwell on work-related issues.
9) They relax
You need time to recharge your body to get ready for the day ahead. A good night sleep and a healthy meal are essential.
Step back and examine what you’re feeling, especially if you hate your work. Writing down your thoughts can help you get to the bottom of what’s bugging you, or give you perspective that things really aren’t so bad. It can provide a valuable emotional release.
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By Paula Green
The Buddha was once asked by a disciple, “Would it be true to say that a part of our training is for the development of love and compassion?” The Buddha replied, “No, it would not be true to say this. It would be true to say that the whole of our training is for the development of love and compassion.”
All of Buddhism is founded on non-harming and the development of compassion and loving kindness. Two thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha taught, “Do as much good as possible, avoid harm, and purify your mind.” Recently the Dalai Lama responded to a question about basic Buddhist practice, saying, “It is best, if you are able, to help others. This is the main practice.”
Thus Buddhism, from its beginning, has had a deep commitment to nonviolence and to caring for others. Buddhism and nonviolence cannot be separated; all of Buddhism is about nonviolence.
The fullness of this belief was exemplified by the Dalai Lama, who said in his acceptance speech for the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, “I speak not with a feeling of anger or hatred towards those who are responsible for the immense suffering of our people and the destruction of our land, homes, and culture. They too are human beings who struggle to find happiness and deserve our compassion.”
For Buddhists, nonviolence is a way of life, born of the fusion of spiritual insight and practical action.
Meditation is at the core of Buddhism and from it comes experiential understandings of the nature of suffering and responses to help alleviate suffering and its causes.
Buddhism is an engaged and active practice: meditation leading to insight, and insight leading to behavior and action on behalf of the happiness and liberation of all.
One of Buddhism's unique contributions to today's nonviolence movement is its emphasis on the importance of spiritual training to develop the self-knowledge and awareness that creates skillful responses in a violent world.
Buddhists understand that to heal self and society are one and the same, that inner and outer work are imperative and interrelated. As one engages in confronting society's violence one must simultaneously acknowledge and tame the violence within the self.
Personal and world peace are linked by the thoughts and actions of every human being; in myriad ways we each contribute daily to a violent or a pleasant world.
A further contribution, and again one that is directly experienced in the meditation practice, is the interconnectedness of all life. In meditation, the concept of a strong, separate self-identity becomes more permeable.
A vision of interdependence arises, in which everything is connected, mutually influenced, and conditional upon everything else.
This deep understanding of the profound reverberations and consequences of every act gives rise to behavior an infinite responsibility for nonviolence, as it is seen that any other behavior produces harm to the self as well as to others.
According to Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy, “This law of dependent co-arising is such that every act we make, every word we speak, every thought we think is not only affected by the other elements in the vast web of being in which all things take part, but also has results so far-reaching that we cannot see or imagine them. We simply proceed with the act for its own worth, our sense of responsibility arising from our co-participation in all existence.”
The clear and direct Buddhist teachings on the causes of suffering, unhappiness, and violence are of great benefit to all people, whatever their spiritual or political orientation. The Buddha devoted his life to the problems of the human mind.
“I teach one thing and one thing only,” he said, “suffering and the end of suffering.
” He identified three root causes of suffering and saw that through meditation and principled conduct the practitioner could develop behaviors to counterbalance each of them.
The three roots are greed, hatred, and delusion; the antidotes for these poisons are generosity, loving kindness, and wisdom. These wholesome and unwholesome conditions of mind exist in all beings, including the Buddha, who noted: “In this fathom-long body, the whole universe is contained.”
Greed, the first of the violence causing mindstates, can also be described as desire, selfishness, or clinging.
Thai meditation master Buddhadasa believes that this state is a spiritual prison and the core cause of misery in individual and communal life.
“The heart of Buddhism is just to uproot or cut off this greed and selfishness; then suffering will be finished. To do so, we must practice, which is to study from inside.”
Generosity, letting go, and being open is the remedy for greed and desire. It is a practice that can be cultivated as a nonviolent way of life, as a statement of personally reversing the global trend toward more wanting in the mind, as a way to create daily happiness for self and others.
Hatred and anger are difficult mind states that are at the heart of violence. The Buddha ned anger to a burning coal, which in the process of picking up to throw at another causes burning in one's own hand. In anger, the mind is contracted and tight, so that one experiencing anger is already suffering very deeply.
In the peace movement, righteous indignation and anger are often used to energize, to propel action.
Buddhists believe that this tempting reflex to create separations and “us/them” must be avoided, as it is a violence that in the end can only beget resentment and thus more violence.
“Anger cannot be overcome with anger,” wrote the Dalai Lama, “and world problems cannot be challenged by anger or hatred. They must be faced with compassion, love, and true kindness.”
Compassion and loving kindness, the fruits of practice, are the antidotes to anger and hatred.
Thich Nhat Hanh believes that, “We are challenged to apply an antidote as soon as anger arises, because of the far-reaching social effects of individual anger.” And Sri Lankan monk/activist Dr.
Rewata Dhamma writes, “The cultivation of universal compassion by every possible means is essential, a compassion that has immediate, practical, and sustainable results in the alleviation of suffering.”
The third and last violence-producing mind state is delusion, or ignorance.
This is born and maintained an untrained, undisciplined mind that has not been penetrated by its “user,” who has not directly experienced interdependence, the consequences of harm and anger, or the roots of alienation and violence within the self. It is the state of mind that most human beings live with: confused, restless, and unhappy.
Through practice in one of the various forms of meditation, insight into the nature of reality can gradually replace ignorance. With devoted practice comes purification, which makes the mind less violent on increasingly subtle levels.
Gross harm is avoided, awareness, and self-control is increased, and with time, wisdom develops.
Ethical conduct, which is itself a foundation of Buddhism, becomes internalized, so that behavioral choices are made with great care and personal responsibility.
The Buddha was asked by his disciple Ajita, “What is it that smothers the world? What makes the world so hard to see? What would you say pollutes the world and what threatens it most?” The Buddha answered, “It is ignorance which smothers, and it is carelessness, and greed that makes the world invisible. The hunger of desire pollutes the world, and the great source of fear is the pain of suffering.”
“In every direction,” said Ajita, “the rivers of desire are running. How can we dam them and what will hold them back? What can we use to close the floodgates?” Replied the Buddha, “Any river can be stopped with the dam of mindfulness. I call it the flood stopper. And with wisdom you can close the floodgates.”
These are a few of the many Buddhist roots of active nonviolence. Violent and nonviolent behaviors arise according to the conditions of the mind and the society.
Purifying and strengthening the mind, cultivating consciousness, acting from awareness, developing abundant compassion, and loving kindness, and understanding the interdependent nature of being and doing in the world, can all contribute to nonviolence within the self and in the global community.
For Buddhists involved in active nonviolence, Buddhism begins but does not end on the meditation cushion. The notion that Buddhism is passive is misinformation.
As Thai scholar/activist Sulak Sivaraksa writes, “Many people, particularly in the West, think that Buddhism is only for deep meditation and personal transformation, that it has nothing to do with society. This is not true.
Particularly in South and Southeast Asia, for many centuries Buddhism has been a great strength for society.” In Tibet as well, a unique and highly principled society arose from centuries of devotion to Buddha Dharma.
Buddhist principles and practices can be applied equally to family/community life and national/international movements for social change. The insight, discipline, and wisdom gained from meditation retreats leads to skillful choices of behavior and action.
The lotus, the symbol of Buddhism, can grow only when planted deeply in the mud.
The fruit of awakening, the personal transformations that gradually occur with years of practice, the tools of understanding and compassion that accrue to the mediator, these are for the benefit of all beings and for the implementation of nonviolent changes in our cultures and institutions.
In engaged Buddhism, response to the needs of others comes the practice and becomes the practice. One does not wait until personal enlightenment, or even full moral development, is attained before embarking on the path of engaged Buddhism. Rather, one sees the reciprocal nature of practice in the meditation hall and service in the world.
The contemporary era, as we all know, is one of great and interrelated crises.
To cope with these challenges, we do well to call forth the teachings of the world's spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, for they contain the distilled truths of all the centuries of human experience.
The Buddha's teachings are as relevant today as they were 2,500 years ago, for they are the essence of what the planet needs most: wisdom, love, and compassion.
Buddhist nonviolence training is currently being used by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in the United States, and the International Network of Engaged Buddhist in Thailand, to bring such Buddhist principles as mindfulness and compassionate conduct to further the causes of justice and peace. Thus Buddhist activists add their particular expertise to the growing worldwide commitment to nonviolent social change.
Buddhist poet Gary Snyder writes, “Buddhism's traditional harmlessness and avoidance of taking life has nation-shaking implication.” May the fruits of these trainings shake the nations from their long slumber and create a world where violence ends and love begins.
Paula Green is the Director of the Karuna Center for Social Change, Leverett, Massachusetts. She is also on the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Steering Committee of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.
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No Mud, No Lotus
Healing Begins with Conscious BreathingThe process of healing begins when we breathe in. There is no way to healing; healing is the way. When we breathe in mindfully, we bring our mind home to our body and there is a reunification of body and mind. That can happen in just a few seconds.
When we bring our mind home to our body, we stop our thinking. There is always a mental discourse going on in our mind, which can carry us away from the here and the now. Thinking can be productive, but most of our thinking is not productive. You may be lost in your thinking.
Also your regret and sorrow about the past can stop, as well as your fear, worries, and uncertainty about the future. So just breathing in mindfully brings you a lot of freedom. In just a few seconds you get freedom from the past, from the future, from your thinking and your projects.
If you continue to breathe in and out in awareness, you can maintain that state of freedom. If you have to make a decision, it's much better to make a decision when you are free, rather than to make a decision under the influence of your fear, anger, regret, and worries. Freedom is possible.
And freedom is obtained when you begin to breathe in mindfully.It's difficult for healing to take place when we’re under pressure, tension, and stress in our body and mind. There’s always a kind of energy pushing us to run. Many of us believe that happiness is not possible here and now.
Most of us believe that happiness is possible in the future, so we try to run into the future and get some conditions of happiness that we don’t have in the here and the now. According to the teaching and practice offered by the Buddha, we already have enough or more than enough conditions to be happy in the here and the now.
If you breathe in and bring your mind home to your body, you'll be established in the present moment and you'll recognize the many conditions of happiness that you already have.
Releasing Tension in the Body
The first domain of mindfulness is the breath and the body. Being aware of our in-breath and out-breath is a very simple exercise, but the effect is very great. It can stop our thinking, worries, and fears, and it brings us a lot of freedom. When we focus our attention on our in-breath and out-breath, not only can we enjoy our breathing, but we are established in the here and the now, we can be in touch with many wonders of life within and around us, and the process of healing can start. Next we become aware of the whole body and release the tension in the body. While taking care of the body we produce freedom and joy, because body is linked to mind.
Not Running Away from Pain
Most of us don’t want to be with our pain. We’re afraid of being overwhelmed by it, so we stry to run away from our pain. There’s loneliness, fear, anger, and despair in us so we don't feel it’s pleasant to go home to ourselves and encounter these energies. Most of us try to cover up by consuming. We look for something to eat or we turn on the television. Even if the program isn’t interesting we don’t have the courage to turn it off because we don’t want to go back and encounter the pain inside. The marketplace provides us with many items to help us to cover the suffering inside.According to this teaching and practice, we should try to go home and take care of the pain. There is a way to go home without fear of being overwhelmed by the pain and that is by generating the energy of mindfulness. With the energy of mindfulness you go home to the pain and embrace it, the way a mother holds her baby when it suffers. So the mother represents the energy of mindfulness, and the baby our painful feeling. If we are a beginner in the practice, we may borrow that energy from our brothers and sisters in the practice. “Dear Sangha, here is my pain, here is my sorrow. Please help embrace it for me.” Everyone will be breathing in and out and supporting you in recognizing and embracing the pain inside. That’s why practicing with a Sangha is much easier. The sangha can generate a powerful collective energy of mindfulness that can help you to recognize and embrace your pain. Later on you can do it for yourself when you have got some relief.Practicing mindful walking, mindful breathing, you generate the energy of mindfulness. With that energy you recognize the painful feeling in you and you embrace it tenderly. You lullaby and calm the painful feeling.
Handling Strong Emotions
Most young people haven’t learned how to handle a strong emotion, anger, fear, or despair. So they believe that the only way to end the suffering is to kill themselves or kill someone else. We as parents or teachers can master the practice of handling strong emotions so we can transmit it to the young people.When a strong emotion comes, we should stop whatever we’re doing and take care of it. The practice is simple. Lie down, you put your hand on your belly, and begin to breathe. You may also do this while sitting in an upright position. Stop the thinking. Don’t allow your awareness to be on the level of the mind. Bring your mind down to the level of your abdomen. When you look at a tree in a storm, if you focus your attention on the top of the tree, it seems the tree is so vulnerable and fragile and could be broken at any time. But when you direct your attention down to the trunk of the tree, you see that the tree is deeply rooted in the soil and can withstand the storm. Your belly is the trunk of the tree and your mind is the top of the tree. In the time of a strong emotion we have to bring our mind down to our trunk, our abdomen, and focus all our attention on the rise and fall of the abdomen. Breathing in, notice the rising of your abdomen. Breathing out, notice the falling of your abdomen. Breathe deeply, and focus your attention only on your in-breath and out-breath. If you’re aware of anything, it's that an emotion is just an emotion and that you’re much much more than one emotion. You are body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. The territory of your being is large. One emotion is nothing. An emotion comes, stays for a while, and then it goes away. Tell the young person: “Why should you die just because of one emotion? You can learn now how to handle a strong emotion. Then later on when a strong emotion comes again, you'll be able to handle it.”We shouldn’t wait until the strong emotion comes to begin learning. It may be too late. The emotion will carry you away. So we have to begin the practice today, the practice of deep breathing, stopping our thinking, and just focusing our attention on the rising and falling of our abdomen. As we continue the breathing, the emotion will not be able to push us to do something destructive. When you survive the emotion, you will have confidence that you can handle it the next time. Even if your child is only five or seven, he or she can have a strong emotion. Take his hand and say, “Darling, let's breathe together. Breathing in, you know your belly is rising,” and you create something a guided meditation and the child will follow you. You can channel to the child your energy of mindfulness. Teachers can also do this in school.We are much more than one emotion. Emotion is something impermanent. It comes and goes. If during the time of the emotion, you have that insight, it will save you. If you can remind the young person of that insight, you save his or her life.
The Art of Suffering
When we practice mindful deep breathing that for a few weeks, it will become a habit. And when a painful feeling or emotion arises, we’ll remember to practice, and we will very easily handle a strong emotion or a painful feeling. This is the art of suffering. There are exercises to create happiness; that is the art of happiness. And there are exercises for handling suffering; that is the art of suffering. When you know how to suffer, you suffer much much less. And you can make good use of your suffering in order to create understanding and compassion.
Does the Buddha Suffer?
When I was a young monk, I believed that after enlightenment the Buddha didn’t suffer anymore. So I naively wondered, “What’s the use of becoming a Buddha if you continue to suffer?” The Buddha did suffer, because he had a body, feelings, perceptions, just all of us. Sometimes he had a headache or suffered from rheumatism. If he happened to eat something that wasn’t well cooked, he might have idigestive problems. So he suffered physically. And when he saw the suffering of his disciples or when one of his beloved disciples died, of course he suffered. How can you not suffer when a dear disciple has just died? The Buddha was not a stone. He was a human being. But because the Buddha had a lot of insight, wisdom, and compassion, he suffered much less. He knew how to suffer. We have learned that if we know how to suffer, we will suffer much less. This is a very important lesson.The second question I had was, “Why did the Buddha continue practicing sitting meditation and walking meditation after enlightenment? He was already a Buddha, so why did he need to practice?” When I grew up I discovered the answer. Happiness is impermanent, everything else. And in order for happiness to last you have to learn how to feed your happiness. Because nothing can survive without food, so your happiness can die if you don't know how to nourish it.
Suffering and Happiness Inter-are
There is a deep connection between suffering and happiness. Happiness and suffering inter-are. They’re the left and the right of this sheet of paper. The left is not the right, but without the right, the left cannot be. You cannot remove the left from the right. They inter-are. They cannot be by themselves alone. They have to inter-be with each other. That is the teaching of interbeing. You cannot be by yourself alone, you have to inter-be with everything else.This flower is teaching us interbeing. She is giving a Dharma talk. If you look deeply into a flower you see that a flower is made only of non-flower elements. In this flower there is a cloud. A cloud is not a flower. But without a cloud, a flower cannot be. There is no rain and no flower can grow. You don't have to be a poet in order to see a cloud floating in a flower. It's really there. And there is sunshine. Sunshine is not flower, but without sunshine no flower is possible. Anmd if we continue to look, we see many other things the earth and the minerals. Without them a flower cannot be.So it is true that a flower is made only of non-flower elements. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with non-flower elements. You cannot remove the sunshine, the soil, and the cloud from the flower.The same thing is true with suffering and happiness. When you grow lotus flowers you know that lotus flowers need to grow in mud. You can’t grow lotus on marble. When you look into the lotus flower you see the mud inside. Smile to the mud in the lotus.We know that happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Happiness is a kind of flower. She is made of non-happiness elements. It's a lotus is made of non-lotus elements, including the mud.
The Goodness of Suffering
When we get in touch with suffering, understanding will arise. Understanding suffering will bring about compassion. It’s understanding and compassion that can heal you, that can make a person happy, that can make a person a real human being. A human being without understanding and compassion cannot be a happy person. Without compassion and understanding you are utterly alone, cut off. You can’t relate to other human beings. Understanding and compassion are possible only when you come in touch with suffering. Without the mud, there is no lotus flower. Without suffering, there can be no understanding and compassion. You can make good use of suffering to generate these two energies. Understanding means first of all to understand suffering—the suffering inside and then the suffering of others. It with the mud of suffering that we can create the lotus of understanding and compassion. No mud, no lotus. This is very clear.
The Key to Success According to Thich Nhat Hanh
There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Zen Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh has a very different theory about why our ecosystems are dying and our financial systems are crumbling.
The Vietnamese monk credited with bringing mindfulness to the West believes that our desperation to succeed at all costs fuels our voracious economic system.
An innumerable number of worldly “sicknesses” come from this singular philosophical vice.
On one of Hanh’s posts he said:
Each one of us has to ask ourselves, What do I really want? Do I really want to be Number One? Or do I want to be happy? If you want success, you may sacrifice your happiness for it. You can become a victim of success, but you can never become a victim of happiness.
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us how to find zen even when you’re at work.
Striving to be Number One
Thay – as his followers call him, is no stranger to the ideology of the movers and shakers in our world economy. He was invited to speak in Silicon Valley by Steve Jobs once, and has met with the World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.
He has also met with senior Google engineers to discuss how they could develop technologies which could be more compassionate and bring about positive change, instead of increasing people’s stress and isolation, taking them away from nature, and one another.
He recently explained his concern with how people pin their happiness on success in an interview with the Guardian:
If you know how to practice mindfulness you can generate peace and joy right here, right now. And you’ll appreciate that and it will change you.
In the beginning, you believe that if you cannot become number one, you cannot be happy, but if you practice mindfulness you will readily release that kind of idea.
We need not fear that mindfulness might become only a means and not an end because in mindfulness the means and the end are the same thing. There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.
Thich Nhat Hanh met with The World Bank to discuss the state of the economy.
The True Purpose of Mindfulness
Thay warns, however, that practicing mindfulness just to be more productive at work, or only to enjoy more material success will leave the practitioner with a pale shadow of awareness compared to what true mindfulness can provide. He suggests:
If you consider mindfulness as a means of having a lot of money, then you have not touched its true purpose. It may look the practice of mindfulness but inside there’s no peace, no joy, no happiness produced. It’s just an imitation. If you don’t feel the energy of brotherhood, of sisterhood, radiating from your work, that is not mindfulness.
As company executives in banking, oil production, agriculture, manufacturing, tech, and other fields strive to be successful, are they missing out on the true peace that might come from preserving an ecosystem, or helping to protect biodiversity? Are these titans of industry reflective of our social and political slant toward ever-increasing spending, a lack of accountability fiscally and environmentally, and the disassociation workers feel from their families and friends while constantly trying to work harder and earn more?
There is a true difference between a full mind and being mindful.
A Lack of Balance
Thay says that all businesses should be conducted in such a way that all the employees can experience happiness. He says that helping to change society for the better can fill us with a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t come from focusing purely on profits.
When top CEOs make 300% more than their workers, and include stock incentives, luxury cars, and healthy expense accounts, how can balance truly be upheld?
When the world’s top 3,000 firms are responsible for over $2.2 trillion in environmental damage, how can we find joy from nature?
When even cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, who now heads up the software firm Asana calls out the tech industry for a lack of work-life balance, how can anyone find time to practice mindfulness or meditation?
Finding balance between work and life can be challenging.
The Bottom Line
Furthermore, even loss of life is acceptable in the name of profits. The “business” of war has allowed the 100 largest contractors to sell more than $410 billion in arms and military services. Just 10 of those companies sold over $208 billion – while providing the means to kill millions.
Is it any wonder employees are broke, stressed out, and burned out from a lack of balance, no connection with other people, and an incessant work flow that promises very little reward, either financial or otherwise, from their toil?
Then there is the debt-based financial system of the Federal Reserve, propping up this entire show.
It is no wonder that people at work are stressed and burned out.
A False Way to Happiness
But the truth is that we don’t actually need the Federal Reserve. In fact, the greatest period of economic growth in United States history happened during the decades before the Federal Reserve was created.
We also don’t need CEOs who make 300 times what their employees do, or ridiculous government policies which allow the notion of corporations as people, while ignoring the basic needs of real people.
Our courts have extended constitutional protections to the most unconscious among us, preserving a way of life that does not allow true happiness. Our constant aim for success has warped our original goal – to be happy. Isn’t that why people want more money, more power, and more “things”. But as Thay says, this is a false way to attain happiness.
Getting success at any cost is a false way to achieve happiness.
An Upside Down Society
What this quiet Zen monk is trying to tell us is that our entire society is upside down. Our economic system protects mindlessness, not mindfulness.
He says that the primary affliction of our modern civilization is that we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and so we attempt to cover it up with all kinds of consumption.
What this quiet Zen monk is trying to tell us is that our entire society is upside down. Our economic system protects mindlessness, not mindfulness.
Retailers peddle a host of devices to help us cover up the suffering inside. But unless and until we’re able to face our suffering, we can’t be present and available to life, and happiness will continue to elude us.
Our entire society is upside down with its focus on mindless achievement.
A New Definition of Success
How do we change our economic policies so that all employees can be happy? It might help to look at our true goals. It might help to acknowledge the pain we’ve caused thousands of people by perpetuating war for the sake of profit. Success doesn’t automatically equal happiness, not if the definition of success only includes the bottom line.
We can measure success by our fulfilment in life, by the people we’ve been able to touch with our good deeds, or a mindful interaction, by having friends, experiencing love, being able to walk in a forest, or learn how to play a musical instrument.
The true goal of success is finding happiness in your work and life.
Finding True Fulfilment
Perhaps the true goal should be peacefulness instead of happiness, even. As Hanh has said:
If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society will benefit from our peace.
This could be our new definition of success.