What is the secret to a happy life?
While we definitely use our mind each and every day, very few of us have taken time to cultivate a deep understanding of its nature and function. Chances are, unless we have studied and trained in Buddha’s teachings, we probably know very little about the different types of mind, how they are generated and what impact they have on our lives. It is quite difficult for most people to recognize states of mind as they arise, and especially to distinguish between those that are virtuous and those that are non-virtuous. Moreover, we are often at a complete loss as to how we might cultivate the former and abandon the latter. What does understanding the mind have to do with creating a happy life? Happiness and suffering are both merely states of mind. Therefore to truly be free from suffering and enjoy happiness in every moment, it is imperative that we possess a thorough and profound understanding of the mind and how to maintain control over it. This is the best, most reliable way by which we can greatly improve our quality of life both now and in the future.
Sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to. Sometimes we feel inundated with challenges and difficulties. Out of habit, our normal reaction to these events is to regard the situation itself as the problem. Happiness and suffering only exist within the mind.In reality, however, all of our problems arise from our own mind. To those unfamiliar with their mind, this sounds counter-intuitive or completely false, but if we take the time to investigate deeply we will discover this truth for ourselves. When we can respond to life’s difficulties with a positive and peaceful mind, they suddenly seem to melt away into nothing right before our eyes. Indeed, we may even come to view them as exciting challenges for personal and spiritual growth. Problems only really arise when we adopt a negative state of mind in response to a difficult or unexpected situation. Because of this, if we want to free ourselves from all our problems, we must gain control of our mind.
It is true that this modern world continues to discover new knowledge and develop new ways to influence our surroundings. Recent years have especially born fruit to extraordinary developments. Progress marches on! But if we look carefully, we will find that suffering around the world has not decreased, and there are no fewer problems to be found. One could say, in fact, that even greater and more varied problems exist today than ever before. Clearly, true happiness cannot be attained by ever increasing control over our external world. Happiness and suffering only exist within the mind, and so their origins cannot to be found outside the mind. In order to really achieve permanent happiness and freedom from all suffering, we must first achieve a thorough understanding of the mind.
The Source of Our Problems
Why it is so hard to maintain a continually happy and peaceful mind if we have all this potential for peace and happiness within us? The answer is because we habitually succumb to deluded thoughts that consume our mind and destroy our inner peace. There is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person.Delusions are distorted, deceptive ways of viewing our own self, others and the world around us. Anger, for example, corrupts our view of others so that they appear intrinsically bad. However, there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person. Desirous attachment, on the other hand, sees its object of desire as intrinsically good, beneficial or absolutely necessary. If we have a strong desire for chocolate cake, then to us that chocolate cake appears intrinsically, irresistibly good. But after the third piece we begin to feel sick, and then it no longer seems so delicious — we may even find it repulsive! This clearly shows that, like all things, chocolate cake itself is neither delicious nor disgusting. Rather it is the deluded mind of attachment that projects all sorts of attractive qualities onto whatever we behold and then relates to them as if those qualities come from the object itself.
All delusions function in this way, within our mind as well as the minds of others. They project their own distorted version of reality onto the world, and we become convinced that this projection must be true. When delusions arise within us we have lost our grip on reality and cannot see things as they really are. Because our mind is always under the control of, at least, subtle forms of delusion all the time, we should not be surprised at our seemingly never ending stress, anxiety and confusion. It is as if we are continually chasing mirages, finding only disappointment when they don’t seem to fulfill our desires or pacify our frustrations.