Submitted by wings on
Printer-friendly version

This is a spinoff of the "connection between non-orgasmic sex and Buddhism".

Title of post:The quest for spiritual virtues and happiness are the same

"Nirvana isn't up or down the ladder. It is where you are. It is always present."

Nirvana isn't a place, it's a state of mind, a state of being. It is the end result of understanding the world, which coincides with happiness.

"For arguments sake, let's maintain that intoxication and happiness are different. But perhaps we've become intoxicated with our quest for happiness."

Well, first off, intoxication and happiness is definitely not the same. Have we become intoxicated with our quest for happiness? I really can't answer that. I do not feel intoxicated when I think or do things that will make me happier.

"Happiness needs no quest as it is present now. If happiness were elsewhere, how could one make the choice to be happy? "

The choice to be happy is actually a choice to pursue happiness. Happiness is potentially present in every moment, but to feel it, you have to go through a development that makes you see and understand the world in a certain way.

"What purpose would happiness serve for you? Does it serve you or your mind? Does it enhance you or your perceptions of you?"

There are no higher purposes. Everything else takes second place to happiness. Why would you want anything else than happiness? I can't think of anything that I would want more.

Happiness goes hand in hand with all the values you mention. You can't be happy without them. So the quest for spiritual virtues is the same as the quest for happiness.

wings wrote: Nirvana isn't a

[quote=wings]
Nirvana isn't a place, it's a state of mind, a state of being. It is the end result of understanding the world, which coincides with happiness.
[/quote]

That is what I meant by where you are and the present. You can be in nirvana now.

[quote=wings]
I do not feel intoxicated when I think or do things that will make me happier.[/quote]

Does that depend on whether you decide in advance to do something because it might lead to happiness?

[quote=wings]
The choice to be happy is actually a choice to pursue happiness. Happiness is potentially present in every moment, but to feel it, you have to go through a development that makes you see and understand the world in a certain way.[/quote]

The choice to develop seems fine. The choice to pursue happiness is where I'm unclear.

[quote=wings]
There are no higher purposes. Everything else takes second place to happiness. Why would you want anything else than happiness? I can't think of anything that I would want more.[/quote]

Is that not a happiness obsession? Say one were faced with a gun to the head. Would one not choose to live over happiness? One could argue living is happier than dying, but say the choice is momentary Nirvana versus a lifetime at an unknown happiness level or even unhappiness.

[quote=wings]
Happiness goes hand in hand with all the values you mention. You can't be happy without them. So the quest for spiritual virtues is the same as the quest for happiness.[/quote]

Here I'm not sure too. Could one not be enlightened by unhappy? Not all the Buddhas are depicted as happy. Why is that? Why are there clearly happier ones?

enlightened unhappiness?

"That is what I meant by where you are and the present. You can be in nirvana now."

Yes, certainly. You would need the necessary mental development - it's not just something that can happen out of nothing.

"I do not feel intoxicated when I think or do things that will make me happier.

Does that depend on whether you decide in advance to do something because it might lead to happiness?"

No. Doing or thinking things that will make me happier doesn't have to have an immediate effect. There is no intoxication involved.

"The choice to be happy is actually a choice to pursue happiness. Happiness is potentially present in every moment, but to feel it, you have to go through a development that makes you see and understand the world in a certain way.

The choice to develop seems fine. The choice to pursue happiness is where I'm unclear."

Can you explain how it is unclear? The pursuit of happiness is a mental development, and I think it is the same pursuit as the pursuit of wisdom and spirituality in general.

"There are no higher purposes. Everything else takes second place to happiness. Why would you want anything else than happiness? I can't think of anything that I would want more.

One could argue living is happier than dying, but say the choice is momentary Nirvana versus a lifetime at an unknown happiness level or even unhappiness."

I wouldn't call it obsession - I would call it having focus on the important aspects of life, and getting rid of everything that burdens you.

"Happiness goes hand in hand with all the values you mention. You can't be happy without them. So the quest for spiritual virtues is the same as the quest for happiness.

Here I'm not sure too. Could one not be enlightened by unhappy? Not all the Buddhas are depicted as happy. Why is that? Why are there clearly happier ones?"

I don't know for sure, but my guess is no, you cannot be enlightened and unhappy at the same time. I haven't heard of any enlightened people that are not happy, but if you say there are unhappy Buddhas, I would like to hear about them.

I am interested in what you're trying to accomplish - what your path is. Mine has been pretty clear - my aim in life is to be happy.
Do you make a point of not having goals? I get that you're trying to avoid all extremes, and you want a "genuine center" (I would like you to expand on that too, not sure I understand what you mean by it).

Then you are living for the future?

[quote=wings]
No. Doing or thinking things that will make me happier doesn't have to have an immediate effect. There is no intoxication involved.[/quote]

Then you are living for the future? Is that not intoxication with a better future?

[quote=wings]

Can you explain how it is unclear? The pursuit of happiness is a mental development, and I think it is the same pursuit as the pursuit of wisdom and spirituality in general.[/quote]

It is a mental development to be happy. How is the pursuit a mental development?

[quote=wings]I wouldn't call it obsession - I would call it having focus on the important aspects of life, and getting rid of everything that burdens you.[/quote]

Things will be burdens at times. Even if you are happy, those signals sometimes mean you must make changes. I'm unclear as to how one knows when to work on the inner response and when to change their circumstance.

[quote=wings]
I don't know for sure, but my guess is no, you cannot be enlightened and unhappy at the same time. I haven't heard of any enlightened people that are not happy, but if you say there are unhappy Buddhas, I would like to hear about them.[/quote]

A quick search found these. http://www.flickr.com/photos/janed/4343627143/ and http://www.fotothing.com/bushcat/photo/7902df9c2852d6a1548f17da5f27e4cb/ . Someone had to make (and approve?) these. Buddhism doesn't deny unhappiness. Perhaps the artists who are not always monks were themselves unhappy. Or perhaps there is some deeper meaning to the unhappy Buudhas. The existence of the well-known happy or laughing Buddha suggests to me that not all other Buddhas were happy (http://www.saratogaspringsyoga.com/storage/HappyBuddha.jpg?__SQUARESPACE...).

[quote=wings]
I am interested in what you're trying to accomplish - what your path is. Mine has been pretty clear - my aim in life is to be happy.
Do you make a point of not having goals? I get that you're trying to avoid all extremes, and you want a "genuine center" (I would like you to expand on that too, not sure I understand what you mean by it).[/quote]

I'm trying to learn more than accomplish. My path will unfold through growth. Perhaps happiness will come, but in truth I'm pretty happy. I could be happier, but perhaps more importantly I could be at more inner peace. I've not had goals most of my life so making a conscious choice to be more goalless wasn't difficult. I also generally avoided extremes. The choice seems to be to live genuinely. That seems harder to do I think than live happily. People like happy people. People don't like genuine people. It is too intense for them. They don't know how to deal with people like that. But it filters the people well so I know who to continue dealing with.

The Four Noble Truths and the non-existence of the self.

[quote=freedom][quote=wings]
No. Doing or thinking things that will make me happier doesn't have to have an immediate effect. There is no intoxication involved.[/quote]

Then you are living for the future? Is that not intoxication with a better future?[/quote]

No, what I menat by "immediate effect" was that there is no intoxicating. An action or thought meant to make me happier has long term consequences, but that does not mean I am not in the now.

[quote=freedom][quote=wings]Can you explain how it is unclear? The pursuit of happiness is a mental development, and I think it is the same pursuit as the pursuit of wisdom and spirituality in general.[/quote]

It is a mental development to be happy. How is the pursuit a mental development?[/quote]

Yes, to be happy is a development of the mind (happiness is in the mind, even though you seem to object to that). You cannot be happy if you do not understand the world and yourself, and that requires mental development.

[quote=freedom][quote=wings]I wouldn't call it obsession - I would call it having focus on the important aspects of life, and getting rid of everything that burdens you.[/quote]

Things will be burdens at times. Even if you are happy, those signals sometimes mean you must make changes. I'm unclear as to how one knows when to work on the inner response and when to change their circumstance.[/quote]

It's all about the inner response, or how your mind reacts to external and internal phennomena.

[quote=freedom][quote=wings]I don't know for sure, but my guess is no, you cannot be enlightened and unhappy at the same time. I haven't heard of any enlightened people that are not happy, but if you say there are unhappy Buddhas, I would like to hear about them.[/quote]

Someone had to make (and approve?) these. Buddhism doesn't deny unhappiness. Perhaps the artists who are not always monks were themselves unhappy. Or perhaps there is some deeper meaning to the unhappy Buudhas. The existence of the well-known happy or laughing Buddha suggests to me that not all other Buddhas were happy [/quote]

Okay, I think I know what's missing in our discussion. The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism are:

1. Life is suffering (this is up to interpretation: You could also say "there is suffering in life"
2. Our suffering comes from attachment to phenomena we perceive as permanent.
3. If we realize that nothing is permanent and understand the world as it really is, we can avoid suffering
4. The way out of suffering is the 8-folded path.

To me, suffering and unhappiness are close to being synomynous. Buddhist have been accused of focusing too much on suffering, when in fact Buddhists focus on how to avoid suffering. Avoiding suffering is one of the most basic idea in Buddhism.

[quote=freedom][quote=wings]
I am interested in what you're trying to accomplish - what your path is. Mine has been pretty clear - my aim in life is to be happy.
Do you make a point of not having goals? I get that you're trying to avoid all extremes, and you want a "genuine center" (I would like you to expand on that too, not sure I understand what you mean by it).[/quote]

I'm trying to learn more than accomplish. My path will unfold through growth. Perhaps happiness will come, but in truth I'm pretty happy. I could be happier, but perhaps more importantly I could be at more inner peace. I've not had goals most of my life so making a conscious choice to be more goalless wasn't difficult. I also generally avoided extremes. The choice seems to be to live genuinely. That seems harder to do I think than live happily. People like happy people. People don't like genuine people. It is too intense for them. They don't know how to deal with people like that. But it filters the people well so I know who to continue dealing with.[/quote]

So by genuine people, you mean people who never lie to please others, and always do or say what they feel? I get how that can be very rewarding if you seek spiritual growth. It is certainly a way of life that is full of conflict, if not anger.

My concern is that we do not really have a genuine center. Buddhism teaches us that there is no self. The self is a concept, not a real thing. All we have is the mind, which is ever changing, a stream of consciousness that does not have a center.

Is your quest for a genuine center based on the notion that we have a self?

If we are brave enough to face silence

directly we will see, clearly, that the mind has a lot of thoughts and that YOU are not those thoughts. Authenticity is not about the "notion of a self." Since the Self is an illusion and "not real" - then NO, that would not be the definition of genuineness. (As IF it needs defining or can be defined with words, anyway) We are addicted to dialogue about how separate we all are because we would be bored and perhaps anxious if we didn't make that distinction. From the place of our distinction we constantly seek the connection that was lost when we started looking. If we would stop. If we would rest, exhausted, we would see... that we are already in relationship. We are already genuine.

Namaste - brother.

The insufficiency of language

[quote=Yin Moon]directly we will see, clearly, that the mind has a lot of thoughts and that YOU are not those thoughts. Authenticity is not about the "notion of a self." Since the Self is an illusion and "not real" - then NO, that would not be the definition of genuineness. (As IF it needs defining or can be defined with words, anyway) We are addicted to dialogue about how separate we all are because we would be bored and perhaps anxious if we didn't make that distinction. From the place of our distinction we constantly seek the connection that was lost when we started looking. If we would stop. If we would rest, exhausted, we would see... that we are already in relationship. We are already genuine. [/quote]

I am not sure who you are addressing, but I do agree that language is insufficient, and always will be, when you try to understand yourself and the world (which is basically the same, as you mention - we are all connected.) Language is a complex way of signaling ideas, but nevertheless, it is nothing more than just that - a sign language. Language has become much more important than it is, mostly because it really is our only way of communicating. That communication is insufficient when you talk about concepts such as spirituality and self.

Our language is build on the notion that we have a self, that we are individuals, and there really isn't anything to do about it, except reinvent the language.

I really don't know what the word "authenticity" means, beyond the dictionary's definition. Is it synonymous with genuineness? Can you be anything but authentic, since our thoughts are not our own, as you say?

Edit: Actually, since language is so insufficient, I think it's important that we acknowledge that when we write posts. Sometimes I read posts and have no clue what people are saying or referring to. In order to make ourselves more understandable, we should simplify the way we use language. There is a tendency to write very cryptic posts in these forums, perhaps because of the insufficiency of language, but we cannot escape the fact that language isn't suitable for this kind of discussion.

There's no solution to it, but we can take the time to make our posts as understandable as possible. Complexity does not make up for the insufficiency of language. so simplicity is key.

Unquestionably there is

Unquestionably there is suffering. I'm not certain that our widespread bias that there should be a path away from suffering is correct. I accept that many wise people came to that conclusion over the years. However, in a time of suffering if we focus only internally, we might not make the external moves we need to make. Balancing that inner versus outer change make me question the wisdom traditions as a whole. Perhaps I've not yet gotten something.

With genuine people there is little conflict. You can feel some internal conflict, but it doesn't manifest externally. The conflict is between the non-genuine and genuine people. That is a challenge for the genuine person. It can be overcome, but it isn't easy.

Genuine center doesn't require a self. It is the alignment of that stream of consciousness. Thoughts are not here when they want to be there. The natural flow is aligned without what we might call mental suffering. The mind response to stimuli and the stimuli for the most part support and sustain alignment, presence, etc. That at ease mind can then focus more closely on further alignment.

My understanding is the self is the more or less the body. The body can watch the mind, quite the mind, etc. The self/body is arguably just an energetic form that is here today and gone tomorrow.

Buddhism focuses on the indivdual

[quote=freedom]Unquestionably there is suffering. I'm not certain that our widespread bias that there should be a path away from suffering is correct. I accept that many wise people came to that conclusion over the years. However, in a time of suffering if we focus only internally, we might not make the external moves we need to make. Balancing that inner versus outer change make me question the wisdom traditions as a whole. Perhaps I've not yet gotten something. [/quote]

My interpretation of Buddhism is that it is a religion of the individual and his world. Buddhists do not have causes - they are separate from society and the lives of others. That's why you don't see Buddhists involve themselves with social causes or politics. Buddhists acknowledge that the most important way of being generous and compassionate is on a personal level, not on an organized level.

Buddhists get a lot of flack for this. But here's the basic idea behind focusing on one's own development and individual circumstances: If everyone learned the way of the Buddha, we wouldn't have any problems in the world. There would be no war, no misunderstandings, no reason to worry. This is of course an ideal,, but if you ask me, I don't see other religions doing more for peace and happiness than Buddhists.

Back to happiness:

I have a simple question for you, if I may: Why would you not want to be happy and free from suffering?

If I'm suffering, it might

If I'm suffering, it might be important to suffer to force a change. If I'm happy, I might not suffer to force change. Of course, one can make choices for more happiness. Still there is value to suffering at times. I see no point in masking or denying one's reality. That is part of what I mean by genuineness. If one were always happy or always suffering, that would be bad unless that is one's genuine experience. It's hard to know what is a genuine experience versus some form of skewed perception.

I don't have the power to change much of the world despite many ideas to do just that. That means my only option is to accept the world and my response to it and steer for environments that work for me. Part of the reason I got into this PMO mess is trying to fit my unique self to a paradigm I'm not aligned with. That leads to a lot of pain and the attraction of numbing is powerful. Being genuine mindfully acknowledges the reality, tries to change the self if that seems possible, or moves elsewhere. You don't try to push the tree over with the car. You drive around it. Most people seem like they are hyper-focused on trying to push the tree over and thus don't see the way around.

I'm happy to be happy and happy to be suffering as long as the feelings are mindful, genuine, and not masked by what you might call intoxication. Perhaps we should speak of soberness in a broad sense instead of happiness or genuineness. For me happiness doesn't require freedom from suffering, but it does require sobriety because otherwise it's the illusion of happiness. I'm not referring to permanent sobriety or the denial or pleasure.

Suffering is unnecessary

[quote=freedom]If I'm suffering, it might be important to suffer to force a change. If I'm happy, I might not suffer to force change. Of course, one can make choices for more happiness. Still there is value to suffering at times. I see no point in masking or denying one's reality. That is part of what I mean by genuineness. If one were always happy or always suffering, that would be bad unless that is one's genuine experience. It's hard to know what is a genuine experience versus some form of skewed perception.

I don't have the power to change much of the world despite many ideas to do just that. That means my only option is to accept the world and my response to it and steer for environments that work for me. Part of the reason I got into this PMO mess is trying to fit my unique self to a paradigm I'm not aligned with. That leads to a lot of pain and the attraction of numbing is powerful. Being genuine mindfully acknowledges the reality, tries to change the self if that seems possible, or moves elsewhere. You don't try to push the tree over with the car. You drive around it. Most people seem like they are hyper-focused on trying to push the tree over and thus don't see the way around.

I'm happy to be happy and happy to be suffering as long as the feelings are mindful, genuine, and not masked by what you might call intoxication. Perhaps we should speak of soberness in a broad sense instead of happiness or genuineness. For me happiness doesn't require freedom from suffering, but it does require sobriety because otherwise it's the illusion of happiness. I'm not referring to permanent sobriety or the denial or pleasure.[/quote]

First off, I think our discussion has moved very close to some sort of agreement regarding focus, terminology and what's important. That's a great thing!

That being said, I have some comments... :)

Saying that you are happy even when you are suffering is an oxymoron. It is not possible. I get that you feel that you are on the right track and learning something when you suffer, but you cannot be happy. Happiness is, amongst other things, the absence of suffering.

I agree that suffering can be a way of growing spirituality, but I also see it as unnecessary. You do not have to suffer to grow, and there is no real valid reason why you should suffer to learn, because you can learn everything you need elsewhere, for example meditating.

Suffering as a way to force change does not seem necessary either. Relying on suffering to make important changes in one's life does not sound like a good idea.

I have encountered this argument a couple of times (suffering is important, because it teaches us something), and while it is a true statement, I think that when people hold on to the idea that suffering is necessary, it is because of personal circumstances. I have seen the argument being made in order to validate staying in a relationship that was full of suffering. It becomes an "excuse" for doing things that are not wholesome. Not saying that that's your situation, but you might want to reflect on it.

One does not always suffer.

One does not always suffer. Nor is one always happy. Sometimes one is neither or is neutral. You can be happy, suffer some, be happy, etc. You can change at a moments notice. You are not committed to either state. To be always happy and deny getting to the heart of the suffering doesn't make sense to me. You can work on yourself so the suffering might be just momentary. From there you can happily try to work out what triggered it. But total denial? That seems extreme. Just as extreme as the denial of pleasure. Perhaps it's like touch. Gentle touch in case it hurts and then one can increase the pressure if it doesn't.

I agree!

I am completely with you on this one. Everything you said in this post I agree with.

...Well, except the "total denial" part. I am not sure what you are referring to there.

I haven't denied that we suffer, quite the opposite, in fact. I've made a point of focusing on suffering - it is the first Noble Truth of Buddhism, after all.

The pursuit of happiness is a direction for all your thoughts and actions, so that you may reduce the amount of suffering. Naturally, as you point out, the journey changes constantly, and suffering and happiness come and go.

Oh, maybe you're referring to Nirvana, where suffering ends - don't you believe that Nirvana is free from suffering? I have no firsthand knowledge about Nirvana (duh!), but I certainly don't think it includes suffering.

By total denial I was

By total denial I was referring to total denial of suffering.

Isn't Nirvana enlightenment? Why can't there be suffering after enlightenment? Say you injure yourself post-Nirvana? No suffering? No pain? Suffering is only impossible at death. Until then it is avoidable. Time is probably a bigger devil than suffering anyway as without time, I'm not sure one could suffer as much as most people do.

What is Nirvana?

[quote=freedom]By total denial I was referring to total denial of suffering.[/quote]

I can't relate that to our discussion. I have never been in denial of suffering.

[quote=freedom]Isn't Nirvana enlightenment? Why can't there be suffering after enlightenment? Say you injure yourself post-Nirvana? No suffering? No pain? Suffering is only impossible at death. Until then it is avoidable. Time is probably a bigger devil than suffering anyway as without time, I'm not sure one could suffer as much as most people do.[/quote]

I don't know what Nirvana is for sure. But it is more than just enlightenment. My guess is that Nirvana is free from suffering - even physical suffering. Not by metaphysical means, but by the sheer power of the mind. When the mind is completely free of all unskilled thoughts, and it is disciplined and flexible, the illusion of self will finally be gone, and there is no more distinguishing between the world and the mind or anything else.

Maybe happiness and suffering become meaningless concepts when one enters Nirvana. Everything is possible.

Well....

[quote=freedom]If you blur happiness and suffering into each other, is that some form of center? Or a bending of the spectrum extremes into a closed circle?[/quote]

As I understand it, that sounds contradictory to what I know. But who knows. I'm still waiting in that long queue for Nirvana.

Let me know

So, where did you land after our rewarding and entertaining discussion? Has anything changed for you - did we find that we actually have the same ideas - or are you still thinking about the implications of the discussion?

I would like to hear what you think. :)

I'm not sure. I'm still not

I'm not sure. I'm still not convinced that there is a state of happiness or that is a goal. We're so used to intoxication, that it is hard to know. The most inner peace seems to come from stable neutrality. That stability can get stronger and deeper and that seems to be what is bring called happiness. It isn't up as much as in. If you attain happiness and lose it, even for a moment, you become unhappy.

I'll have to ponder these thoughts over time. Perhaps my views will change.

Compassion is the way to happiness

I have seen the original Google Tech Talk, where the monk himself talks about the science of happiness and many other aspects. You can find it on Youtube by searching through the Google Tech Talks (They are usually very interesting).

I haven`t read the entire

I haven`t read the entire thread but I think the articles I mentioned by shinzen young in the last thread are very valuable here. The point of them is that you can not eliminate all physical pain and you can not eliminate all emotional pain. You will have reactions to emotional events, even if you get enlightened. THere is no way around pain. What you CAN strive for is to eliminate suffering. Suffereing is the secondary reaction to pain. First you hurt because of something and then you sort of say oh this is bad why must I feel this way and THAT is what REALLY makes you unhappy not the original pain. I have sat through horrible pain in meditation. When it started coming I had a lot of resistance towards it and suffered a lot. After refusing to fight the pain and bringing my attention back towards what i was experiencing without preference for god or bad, including the pain, I eventually accepted it to a degree it did not bother me at all. The paradox is that it was still nearly as painful (a little less as I relaxed more by accepting it) as it was before I accepted it. IN s certain way you could say it was more painful because in stead of trying to numb the pain away and run away from experiencing it by putting distracting thoughts and tensions between myself and the pain, I now was fully present in it and so able to feel it more clearly. Still it was just like a postcard. I was seeing pain but it wasn`t a problem. THat is because I had temporarily eliminated suffering with regards to this pain.

The exact same can be done with emotional pain. It is more tricky though to understand because we are all so lost in are added suffering we have no clue what only the initial pain would be like. But from experience, those times I have been able to separate the two what was perceived to be a whole range of negative emotions becomes cleansed out into a few basic reactions and even though they hurt they are still not much more bothersome than a postcard of your own pain. It takes time to be able to achieve this well in meditation and even more time to achieve when not doing formal meditation. My goal is to spread this mode of experiencing to eventually become a 24/7 thing. (You can do it in dream time as well).

When suffering is eliminated to such a degree you automatically get a lot of happiness and bliss. It is kind of like polishing something beatiful that is covered in dirt. You couldn`t see the good because of what was in the way.

Incidentally this does not come from trying to be happy but from just staying with what is experienced and not adding anything to it. In that sense it comes about from seeing truth.

very insightful

You obviously know a lot about suffering and happiness, and I think your post is inspiring.

I would say, though, that "trying to be happy" is exactly what you did, even though it may not have been the conscious goal. By understanding your reactions and the relationship between your mind and the world, you became happier. As far as I know, there are no other ways to become happier than to increase your understanding of the mind and how it works.