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Why Is It Important Not To Seek Happiness Outside of Ourselves?

Updated on December 18, 2016

When I hear people say that they have to have the BMW or the Prada or Luis Vuitton bag or a 5000 square-foot house, few can make these kinds of purchases with ease. It appears that you are trying to buy some type of happiness.

Some folks were foolish in believing that they could buy the biggest house on an adjustable mortgage. Nobody seems to have taught these folks the basic concept of ownership. The bank owns the house until the entire loan is paid off. So, if you buy a house that you cannot afford, you are just a glorified renter of a house and not a true homeowner with all of the benefit of ownership.

Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th century Buddhist reformer, stated that a “worthy person” deserves to be called such when they are not carried away by the eight winds: propersity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering and pleasure. He goes on to say that they are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline, according to his writing called “The Eight Winds” in Vol. 1, p 794.

Everyone has moments of mistakes or embarrassment or reward or praise. From a Buddhist perspective, life is long with such highs and lows that are fleeting. In the Nichiren Daishonin’s faith, it is important to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and creating lasting happiness and fulfillment generated from within us.

While I was in a medical coma for 4 days due to septic shock, I had a particular vivid dream that was Matrix-like. I dreamt that all of the best things that make us happy so as spouse, children, job, friends were in these separate cubes that moved constantly on their own course without our control. It seemed unbelievable that my husband was in a separate cube from my children. When I woke up, I couldn’t stop thinking about these boxes and how despite their importance to my happiness they were not within my control.

Here are two examples about the temporal nature of life. In the first example, a person told me today that within this month he lost both a 79-year-old father and a 71-year-old mother. His father was the stronger of the two parents but he had an unexpected aneurysm where his brain was filled with fluid. He lapsed into a coma and passed away. Even though his mother was the one in poor health, having survived a third stroke, she was well enough to leave a living-assist home. However upon facing her husband’s death, she suffered drastic decline in her health by the day and passed away two weeks after her husband. It seems that she lost her will to live.

This is the second time someone told me their family situation where one parent was stronger than the other, but then the stronger one had a sudden medical condition and passed away first. Another person told me that his mother also had an aneurysm while she driving a car, resulting in a very serious automobile accident and soon after death. Meanwhile, his father who was totally dependent on others due to his Alzheimer’s disease continues to live.

If one seeks happiness outside ourselves, such as trying to please the rich or powerful people, you will not overcome the fundamental evil of ignorance or darkness. Take for example, Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s doctor who has been on trial recently. He tried to make Michael Jackson happy seeking illegal methods of putting Michael Jackson to sleep. Had he done the correct thing such as admitting Michael to a hospital and then administering the proper care to put him to sleep, he would not be facing criminal negligence today and would not be accused of setting up an illegal intravenous drip of propofol.

Another example of people trying to find happiness outside themselves is the investors of a Madoff-type Ponzi scheme. The volatility of stocks is like gambling. So, why would there be a person who could guarantee great returns and that these investors can secretly attain a large nest for retirement while other people are constantly losing money in mutual funds and regular stocks? These investors in Ponzi schemes were blinded by greed.

How does one seek happiness within oneself and rid greed, anger and foolishness? A Nichiren Daishonin practitioner would suggest chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and creating lasting happiness and fulfillment generated from within us. The chanting is similar to the polishing of a mirror that you are looking at. The more you polish, you are able to see your life clearly and find wisdom. And you will find that you are building your core of happiness instead of chasing happiness outside of yourself.


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