The way to happiness
The world we live in today can be divided into two parts - the world
of plenty on the one hand and the world of deprivation on the other. In
the former material wealth with excessive consumption signifies the good
The occupants of this world have plenty of everything they feel
necessary for the good life - the choicest food and drink, fashionable
clothes of special brands, modern housing, powerful and extra
comfortable vehicles, and all manner of entertainment with many channels
that can be changed with the touch of a button.
The children of this world are inundated with plenty of food,
clothes, toys that donít hold their interest for long. Yet they lack
creativity and are often bored.
In this commercial culture the search for pleasure and entertainment
has become an intimate part of their lives. The insatiable craving for
luxury, power and status are the driving forces of this urge. And behind
this, creating the wants are the promoters of commercial advertising.
They entice you not to buy what you need but what they want to sell.
They are guided by the profit motive.
Money is king in this world. The mass of people not aware they are
being led astray take unnecessary loans they are incapable of paying
back, indulge in shopping sprees and social activity led by their
ignorance of what constitutes the good life. They crave to satisfy their
mistakenly thought of pleasant experiences.
Craving or Thanha increases but this gives no satisfaction. There is
physical as well as mental suffering. Boredom sets in. There is
competition and a ruthlessness to achieve a position of power by means
that are not fair but foul.
On the other side of the scale is the world of deprivation, occupied
by millions who do not have even the bare essentials of living. In
certain parts of the world there are millions with no water which is a
basic need of life. They have no food, save a few scraps that do not
satisfy their hunger, no fuel to cook their scanty meal, no shelter from
sun, wind and rain and worst of all ethnic violence leading to bloodshed
Corrupt leaders of these countries have not attempted to solve the
peopleís problems. They are more occupied with their search for power.
Opposition is not tolerated, violence erupts, terrorism rears its ugly
head and innocent people are killed.
Furthermore, nature has been violated resulting in floods, drought
and natural disasters.
In both these worlds if one were to look at closely there is
suffering - both material, physical and mental.
Even the youth of the former group, following in the footsteps of
their parents and leaders resort to means that are neither fair nor just
to achieve what they consider are essential. Those on the other side who
lack the basics of life naturally feel envy and resentment.
Unsatisfactoriness in various guises
Greed for the mundane things of life and the craving for power are
built upon illusions and ignorance, known as Avijja, and hatred and
greed. All this leads to the breakup of family ties and a society whose
members suffer due to greed and selfishness.
This unsatisfactoriness has gone on from the beginning of time, in
various guises. It is not just a feature of this century, or these
times. Fortunately for humanity there came to this earth a human being
who showed us the way to end this suffering. He was no ordinary person.
He was a prince of royal blood, Prince Siddhartha, of India. He was
born on the auspicious day of Vesak, a little over 2,500 years ago.
Although he was provided with all worldly comforts and sensual pleasures
that a prince was heir to, he realised that wealth, pleasure and worldly
comforts do not provide happiness. He understood the realities of life,
that all existence is suffering or Dukkha for we are all subject to old
age, sickness and death.
After a great deal of consideration and contemplation he renounced
all worldly pleasures. By his wisdom he understood that the root cause
of suffering was craving. He was able to point to his followers - who at
first disbelieved him - that to overcome suffering one must abandon
craving, selfishness and greed, and to achieve the highest bliss of
Nibbana one must understand the Four Noble Truths he enunciated after he
himself realised the truth. It was on another Vesak day that he attained
Enlightenment and delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics
with whom he had associated.
He was called the Buddha, the Enlightened One. His teaching is known
as the Dhamma. It teaches us that nothing is permanent. It helps us
reduce our desires. He helped us to gain insight into the constantly
changing world. He showed us the way to let go of all that we cling to
and find ultimate peace.
He gave us a formula to be followed, the Four Noble Truths. They are:
1. The Noble truth of suffering - Dukkha
2. The Noble truth that suffering arises because of craving - Tanha.
3. The Noble truth that suffering ends with the removal of craving -
4. The Noble truth that there is a way, a path to be followed to
release us from suffering.
The Enlightened One pointed out that our suffering is due to our
clinging not only to worldly things but also to persons due to our
ignorance that all things are permanent. We must cleanse our minds of
wrong ideas and beliefs and get rid of defilements and delusions. Then
only can we lead a life free of anxiety.
He showed us how to avoid extremes of pleasure and indulgence on the
one hand and self mortification and denial of essentials on the other.
He showed us a clear cut path, the Middle way - Majjima Patipada. He
practised this for he himself realised on his own that both excesses are
He showed us that we undergo physical and mental suffering due to
birth, sickness, old age and death. Due to ignorance-Avijja - we donít
understand the reality of life- that no condition is permanent.
The way to end suffering is to eliminate the causes of suffering -
the defilements in our life, which are desire- Raga, anger, hatred and
illwill-Dosha, and ignorance- Moha of the transitory nature of
conditions and life in this world.
By leading a life of good conduct and morality - Sila, mental
development by the study of the Dhamma - Samadhi, and Wisdom - Pragna
and finally meditation - Bhavana - we can get rid of the fetters that
bind us to worldly things.
We shall gradually get rid of greed, vanity, heedlessness and
jealousy. We can let go of our desires and replace them with generosity,
love, kindness, equanimity, truthfulness, humility, patience,
compassion, crowned with the knowledge of the sublime Dhamma.
It is the destruction of these fetters that lead us to the final
blissful state of Nibbana. When we have achieved spiritual development
we will realise the bliss of Nibbana that can give inner happiness,
peace and contentment in this existence itself.
Courtesy - Daily News Vesak Annual 2008