Once you learn these 5 brutal truths about life, you’ll be a much better person (according to Buddhism) – Hack Spirit

Life is no picnic. All too often, we have to overcome obstacles in order to survive.

Sometimes we try to deny these obstacles because they’re too difficult to bare. But as hard as they are to confront, it’s necessary if we want to live a truly fulfilling and free life.

According to Buddhist philosophy, happiness involves embracing and accepting all the different aspects of life, even if they’re negative. Otherwise we’re turning a blind eye to reality and resisting the natural forces of the universe.

So below, we’re going to go over 5 truths about life Buddhism says we’d all benefit from accepting.

1) Worrying is useless.

Worrying is created in the mind and really doesn’t offer any value to our lives. Will worrying change what’s going to happen? If not, then it’s a waste of time. As Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh says below, try to remain in the present moment without putting labels on your “future conditions of happiness.”

“Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile,and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh

2) If we want to be happy, we must see reality for what it is

Buddhism teaches us that we must see reality for what it is if you want to be truly free. Instead of being fixed on our ideas and opinions, we need to stay open and curious to whatever truth arises.

So many of us try to remain perpetually positive by avoiding negative emotions or situations. But we need to confront them and accept them if we are to be truly free. Buddhist master Pema Chödrön says it best:

“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.”

3) We need to accept change actively

Everything in life is change. You’re born and you eventually die. The weather changes every day. No matter how you look at life, everything is change. However, many of us attempt to keep things “fixed” and “constant”. But this only goes against the true forces of the universe.

By accepting and embracing change, it gives us enormous liberation and energy to create the lives we want. Buddhist Daisaku Ikeda says that accepting change allows us to take initiative and create positive changes in our lives.

“Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.”  – Daisaku Ikeda

4) The root of suffering is pursuing temporary feelings

So many of us crave those feelings of what we think is happiness. We think happiness includes excitement, joy, euphoria…but these are only temporary feelings. And the constant pursuit of these feelings only turns into suffering because they don’t last.

Instead true happiness comes from inner peace – being content with what you have and who you are.  Yuval Noah Harari describes it perfectly:

“According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure, it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear, and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify. People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them.” –  Yuval Noah Harari

5) Meditation is the path to reducing suffering

Meditation teaches us that everything is impermanent, especially our feelings. It teaches us that the present moment is all that exists. And when we truly realize that, we become content and happy, according to Yuval Noah Harari:

“This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realise how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been. The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it.” –  Yuval Noah Harari

A quick message from Lachlan Brown, the founder of Hack Spirit

In 2018, the third year of Hack Spirit, I poured thousands of hours and considerable resources into creating these articles. It’s a labor of love and remains free thanks to your patronage. If you found any value in these articles, please consider supporting what I do with a donation. Your support is what helps me to continue creating more Hack Spirits articles. To make a donation, click the “donate” button below and choose between a single donation or monthly.

Donate to Hack Spirit

Jokhang temple: fire engulfs ancient ‘heart’ of Tibetan Buddhism

Jokhang temple: fire engulfs ancient ‘heart’ of Tibetan Buddhism

Concern over extent of damage to politically sensitive site as Chinese authorities play down blaze

in Beijing

Fire at the Jokhang temple in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Photograph: Twitter

A large fire has damaged one of the holiest and most politically sensitive sites in Tibet, the Jokhang temple, stirring an outpouring of grief and concern among Tibetans.

Dramatic video footage posted on social media showed flames devouring part of the seventh-century Unesco world heritage site in Tibet’s spectacular high-altitude capital, Lhasa, on Saturday.

Robert Barnett (@RobbieBarnett)

Devastating news from Lhasa of the Jokhang temple on fire. pic.twitter.com/LXiIlvc7V5

February 17, 2018

China’s Communist party-controlled news agency, Xinhua, said the blaze started early on Saturday evening “and was soon put out”.

However, Robert Barnett, a London-based expert on contemporary Tibet, said Beijing’s “almost total suppression of information” about the incident meant many Tibetans feared “the heart of Tibetan Buddhism” had suffered significant damage.

For almost four hours after the fire began, he said, it was not even acknowledged by China’s heavily controlled media, “even though you could see it from miles away across the whole city”.

“This has increased the fear of people that something really serious has happened,” said Barnett, the author of a book about Tibet’s ancient capital called Lhasa: Streets with Memories. “People are hugely concerned, rightly or wrongly, that the damage might be much more severe than the media is letting on.”

Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer, told the New York Times: “I pray that the fire isn’t serious and that the old buildings haven’t suffered too much damage. For Tibetans, the Jokhang is the holiest of holy sites.”

Barnett said the limited information emerging from the region – from which foreign journalists are barred – meant it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage. But as images of the conflagration spread on Saturday the academic recalled receiving calls from distraught Tibetans mourning the apparent destruction of one of their most sacred sites.

“It’s devastating for people seeing this … [At first] it looked like it was impossible anything would survive … Now there is this uncertainty,” Barnett said. “Nobody knows quite what to believe … It could be less dramatic than people feared, but there is a big information vacuum about what has happened.”

China’s efforts to control the narrative surrounding the fire underscores the Jokhang temple’s huge political as well as religious significance. In recent decades the 2.5-hectare (6.2-acre) complex has been the site of repeated protests against Chinese rule, including one “astonishing act of defiance” witnessed by foreign journalists during a rare 2008 propaganda tour.

Barnett predicted China’s bid to suppress news of the blaze – by censoring online posts and forbidding locals to broadcast images of the fire or gather near the temple – would further hurt relations with Tibetans. “It has restimulated the dominant tone in Tibet … which is intimidation really.”

Falling in love (again) according to Buddhism – Kadampa Life

I’m continuing with the subject of love, desire and attachment started in this article.

Our attachment can be very strong. We’re in love with the idea of love in this society. It sometimes seems as if our whole society is focused on finding the right person — we need someone to complete us. We can’t be happy on our ownsome. “I need someone to give me that security, to hold my hand in the movies. That person is waiting. I know there’s happiness waiting somewhere for me. The credits will roll for me.” (Don’t you find it interesting how the credits roll just at that point when people have finally landed in each other’s arms – they have to be quick about it, too, before the story proceeds any further.)

As time goes on in our search for the ideal partner, we are often willing to settle for less. This is because when we are young, half an hour in front of the mirror can make us look like a million dollars, but as we get older we need that half an hour just to make ourselves look vaguely presentable. In an article about baby boomers not too long ago, the implication was that we are not allowed to get old or stop searching for the ideal partner. No, we are simply “seasoned”, like a well cooked leg of lamb or a rusty frying pan. Apparently there are umpteen books explaining how you can attract someone even into your sixties, seventies, eighties… It isn’t all on the outside, but it does help if you take care of your appearance and, if you can afford the nips and tucks, go ahead! It doesn’t ever stop! You’re not even allowed to relax when you’re seventy, much less when you’re under forty. According to this article, you’re not encouraged to recall that you’ve already had a partner (or five) and don’t want to go through all of that again.

What might Buddha say about this? Not that people should never partner up, or should be scared away from love. Perhaps that seeking happiness so desperately from outside in any form is a fool’s game as it is incapable of giving us real or lasting happiness. Especially if the other person is as neurotic as we are!  How are they going to give us security when they can’t even find it themselves?

Falling in love (again)

So let’s look at the kind of thing that happens when we fall in love. If our attachment comes on strong, it is like falling in a ditch — completely out of our control.

Let’s say we’re hanging out with good friends. We’re having a whale of a time, joking, affectionate, enjoying a great night out, until suddenly a really attractive person (to our eyes) walks into the restaurant. Suddenly our happiness is over there. We’re feeling a bit bereft. We’re fast forgetting about our friends because now it’s, “I’ve got to meet that person!” Then they walk out the door, taking our happiness with them!

The scheming begins. How to get their number, set up a date, have their kids. There seem to be three stages to this kind of desire—scheming, indulging, and recovery. Scheming – they are going to complete me, this is it!  Maybe we’re lucky enough and we do get their phone number, their email. We wait by the phone – are people still waiting by the phone now?  Well, in the old days, before we were plugged 24/7 into the cloud, it went something like this: “I’ll just go buy some groceries, I’ll be away for an hour or so, then by the time I’ve got home they are bound to have called.” But no messages. No emails either. Nowadays, maybe no texts, or FB messages. This is painful. We get a call from our best friend, “No, I can’t talk just now, I can’t tie up the line”, then another from our mom, and we try not to sound too disappointed, “Yes, I know you gave birth to me but ….” Any addiction we had to email and Facebook is now really overpowering, but at the same time none of our messages is of the slightest interest.

Then maybe the right caller ID or a relevant email does show up, and, ecstatically relieved, we do manage to hook up. We take a thousand photos of our happiness on our Smart phone, from every angle. Everything about them is delicious and special – their perfume, their eating habits, the way they drive… They can do no wrong. The fact that others don’t get it, or even see faults in our angel, is just a sad indictment on their lack of discrimination.

This phase of romantic indulgence goes on, they tell us from studies, for about six months.

Then at some point we say to this person, “Honey, I really love you and want you to be happy.” And they reply, “I’m really glad to hear you say that because I’ve been taking ballroom dancing classes and I’ve fallen for Giovanna, she’s Italian.”  Suddenly everything goes pear-shaped. That wasn’t what we meant.  We say, “But I didn’t want you to be happy if you’re not giving me happiness!”

Now all the objects of happiness are causes of suffering. The same perfume is now unbearable, the same car is a horrible reminder. All the things that seemed causes of our happiness are now causes of our pain. Maybe we take all their stuff and throw it out of the window. “Take all of your stuff and get out!”  We think it’s all their fault, but really the scales have fallen from our eyes and we are realizing that they weren’t the source of our happiness to begin with.

With attachment, we are set up from the get go for disillusionment when that person inevitably cannot deliver the happiness we sought in them, when they cannot live up to our hype. We need time to recover because thwarted attachment is very, very painful. It can make people feel down for months. It can drive people to kill themselves. And it is very dangerous because when we’re in the indulging phase it can look so good that we forget its outcome and fall for it time and time again.

As mentioned, attachment is called “sticky desire” If you have hairy arms, you can try this experiment, if not you’ll just have to imagine it. Plaster a sticky band aid onto your arm, leave it for a bit, and then tear it off. How does that feel? At some point also we are separated one way or another from our object of attachment, and it hurts. Tears. We often want to lash out.

In Transform Your Life, Geshe Kelsang says:

“If we are skillful, friends can be like treasure chests, from whom we can gain the precious wealth of love, compassion, patience, and so forth. For our friends to function in this way, however, our love for them must be free from attachment. If our love for our friends is mixed with strong attachment, it will be conditional on their behaving in ways that please us, and as soon as they do something we disapprove of, our fondness for them may turn to anger.”

Honey on a razor’s edge

Buddha used an exquisite analogy for attachment: it is like licking honey from a razor’s edge. If we want just the honey, we need to get rid of the attachment. But we don’t need to get rid of the intimacy or closeness. We can have that closeness without attachment. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be close to others but there’s everything wrong with trying to be close to others through attachment. In fact, strong attachment actually makes us hungrier, we can never get enough.

It is only with love that the gap between people is bridged. In attachment, it’s all about a dualistic “me and you”; we’re not actually in union. Because the object of attachment is necessarily “out there”, and we are “in here”, we can never get close to it any more than a donkey can catch up to the carrot on the stick. True intimacy, true “us”, comes from love – affectionate, cherishing, and wishing love.

Your turn: what do you think about Buddha’s analysis of love and attachment from your own experience?

Like this? Please share it:

Based on 37 years’ experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to our everyday lives, and vice versa. I try to make it accessible to everyone who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I’ll write you back!

These 10 lessons from Buddhism will help you get your shit together

 

What’s the secret to happiness?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

If you listen to mainstream media, you might think it’s money or fame. We’re taught to believe that “celebrities” have the perfect life. 

But are they really happy? Not exactly.

In fact, according to Buddhist philosophy, attaching our happiness to outside factors like material objects and money will actually make us unhappy.

So, what can we do?

According to Buddhism, we need to focus on our inner peace first, and then everything else will fall into place.

Here are 10 lessons from Buddhism that will help us achieve true happiness. 

1) Never lose hope

According to Buddhist philosophy, it’s crucial to keep hope, even in tough times.

Buddhism says that change is built into the nature of things: nothing is inherently fixed, not even our identity.

Therefore, no matter bad the situation, it’s important to remember that change is only the law in the universe and it will eventually pass.

According to Buddhist monk, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the nature of karma also gives up hope:

“In the five reflections, the reflection on karma is the one that gives hope. You realize that you’re in charge of your actions. You’re not simply a victim of fate or of the stars or of some other being acting through you. You’re the one who’s making the choices. That’s what gives you hope.”

2) Help others as much as possible

Beautiful words from The Dalai Lama. Sometimes it can help to stop focusing on your own problems and instead help people with theirs. Not only will you help them out, but it might just make you feel better about yourself.

 

Compassion is one of the most revered qualities in Buddhism. Compassion is also about understanding the basic goodness in all people. It helps you connect wholeheartedly with others, which can be a great source of joy.

Seek to live in a way where you treat everyone as you would yourself. Once you begin doing this, you’ll realize the true power of compassion.

Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh offers some great advice:

“When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”

3) Letting go gives us freedom

We don’t need to rely on outside factors to make us happy. By clinging onto anything, we remain fixed and unable to change. True freedom means accepting the transient nature of everything. 

Only then can we understand the liberating notion that it’s impossible to hold onto anything. What we can do is embrace the present moment as best we can and allow ourselves the opportunity to grow and improve.

Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh says it best:

“Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go… There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.”

4) Progress can only occur through understanding

Brilliant words from Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. There’s a huge divide in society because opposing sides refuse to listen to each other. But this has no positive effect at all.

We need to understand and show compassion for people who have different views than us. Progress will only come from dialogue and understanding.

The Dalai Lama also says that understanding is critical for our own happiness as well:

“Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.”

5) If we are going to change our life, it’s up to us

 

Your life is yours, and yours alone. There is no way for anyone to experience the world from your unique perspective. Instead of leaning on others to guide you through life, be brave and blaze your own path.

The Dalai Lama offers some potent words on this point:

“There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?”

6) Trust your own common sense


In a world of fake news and algorithmic newsfeeds we have no control over, it’s more important than ever to exercise our critical thinking skills.

We don’t need some expert to tell us what to think. We can think for ourselves.

7) Holding onto anger isn’t useful


Buddhism teaches us that directing anger at others doesn’t really lead to anything positive. There are better ways to get your point across.

Take a step back and act with reason and common sense. You’ll thank yourself later.

According to the Dalai Lama, instead of getting angry, we should use it a stepping stone in our own development:

“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”  

8) Don’t stoop to anyone’s level


Buddha was one of the first people to teach that you can only conquer hate with love.

So, remember, you don’t need to stoop to someone else’s level if they’re acting toxic. By upholding our values, we will get the desired result we’re seeking and keep our integrity intact. 

9) To be beautiful means to be yourself


We can all agree that the most awesome people are authentic people. They are who they are and they know what they want in life. There’s no BS. You can feel comfortable around them because they’re not trying to be manipulative. 

Buddhism teaches us that through self-compassion and acceptance of ourselves, we’re able to become the beautiful human beings we know we’re all capable of being.

10) The moment is the only thing that exists

One of the cornerstone teachings of Buddhism. The future hasn’t arrived. The past is over. The only thing that matters is the present moment. It’s the only place where happiness resides.

Looking to reduce stress and live a calmer, more focused life? Mindfulness is the easy way to gently let go of stress and be in the moment. It has fast become the slow way to manage the modern world – without chanting mantras or finding hours of special time to meditate.

In Hack Spirit’s new eBook, The Art of Mindfulness, we explain how you can use mindfulness practically to help you clear your mind, let go of your worries and live peacefully in the present moment.

By devoting full attention on what we are doing in the moment, we can alleviate suffering, fear and anxiety.

With the power of mindfulness at our fingertips and the beauty of looking deeply, we can find insights to transform and heal any situation.

Check it out here

 

Lachlan Brown