All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow that never leaves.
All That We Are
Topic: Joy & Happiness
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow that never leaves.”
Müller F. Max, and Jack Maguire. Dhammapada: Annotated & Explained Translation by Max Muller ; Annotation by Jack Maguire. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002, [Dhammapada 1-2]
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Huston Smith [excerpt from The World’s Religions, Buddhism, the Eightfold Path]
“The West has found the last two steps in the Eightfold Path [Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration] of special importance for the understanding of the human mind and its workings… No teacher has credited the mind with more influence over life than did the Buddha. The best-loved of all Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada, opens with the words, “All we are is the result of what we have thought.” And, respecting the future, it assures us that “all things can be mastered by mindfulness.”
Carl Rogers [Humanistic Psychology] writes, “human behavior is to be trusted, for in these moments the human organism becomes aware of its delicacy and tenderness towards others.” The Buddha saw ignorance, not sin, as the offender. More precisely, insofar as sin is our fault, it is prompted by a more fundamental ignorance — most specifically, the ignorance of our true nature.”
— Huston Smith [excerpt from The World’s Religions, Buddhism, the Eightfold Path, 7. Right Mindfulness and 8. Right Concentration] pp. 109-110.
Buddhism & Happiness
The first and second verses (above) of the Dhammapada, the earliest known collection of Buddha’s sayings, talk about suffering and happiness. So it’s not surprising to discover that Buddhism has a lot to offer on the topic of happiness. Buddha’s contemporaries described him as “ever-smiling” and portrayals of Buddha almost always depict him with a smile on his face. But rather than the smile of a self-satisfied, materially-rich or celebrated man, Buddha’s smile comes from a deep equanimity from within.
— Mark K. Setton [“Buddha.” Pursuit of Happiness, www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/buddha/] p. 1.
Equanimity: Peace of Mind & Happiness
Buddhism pursues happiness by using knowledge and practice to achieve mental equanimity. In Buddhism, equanimity, or peace of mind, is achieved by detaching oneself from the cycle of craving that produces dukkha. So by achieving a mental state where you can detach from all the passions, needs and wants of life, you free yourself and achieve a state of transcendent bliss and well-being.
As described in the first verse of the Dhammapada, for Buddha, mental dysfunction begins in the mind. The Buddha encouraged his followers to pursue “tranquility” and “insight” as the mental qualities that would lead to Nirvana, the Ultimate Reality. As mentioned earlier, the Eightfold Path as a whole is said to help one achieve these qualities. In particular, the areas of mental cultivation, which include right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration, are the mental skills and tools used for achieving happiness.
The Buddha once described the mind as a wild horse. In the Eightfold Path, he recommends practicing “right effort” by first avoiding and then clearing our minds of negative, unwholesome thoughts. Once that is achieved, one perfects a wholesome, tranquil state of mind through the practice of positive thinking. This ongoing effort promotes a state of mind that is conducive to the practice of mindfulness and concentration (meditation).
Mindfulness is one of the most influential teachings of Buddhism and has filtered into popular culture as well as modern psychotherapy. The Buddha felt that it was imperative to cultivate right mindfulness for all aspects of life in order to see things as they really are, or in other words, to “stop and smell the roses.” He encouraged keen attention and awareness of all things through the four foundations of mindfulness:
1. Contemplation of the body
2. Contemplation of feelings
3. Contemplation of states of mind
4. Contemplation of phenomena
In a word, mindfulness is about experiencing the moment with an attitude of openness and freshness to all and every experience. Through right mindfulness, one can free oneself from passions and cravings, which so often make us prisoners of past regrets or future preoccupations.
Right Concentration and Meditation
Right Concentration is a mental discipline that aims to transform your mind. As the core practice of “meditation,” right concentration is a foundational activity within Buddhist thought and practice. According to Buddha, there are four stages of deeper concentration called Dhyana: 1) The first stage of concentration is one in which mental hindrances and impure intentions disappear and a sense of bliss is achieved. 2) In the second stage, activities of the mind come to an end and only bliss remains. 3) In the third stage, bliss itself begins to disappear. 4) In the final stage, all sensations including bliss disappear and are replaced by a total peace of mind, which Buddha described as a deeper sense of happiness.
Stories of Buddha’s compassion and consideration for all life abound. He taught truth and he also taught compassion because he saw personal happiness as related to the happiness of others, humans and otherwise….
— Mark K. Setton [Buddha, Pursuit of Happiness, www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/buddha/] pp. 3-4.
Dr. Rick Hanson, Equanimity [Excerpt from Mind Changing Brain Changing Mind]
Equanimity is a very deep matter in Buddhism. It is one of the Seven Factors Of Awakening, and one of the hallmark characteristics of the jhānas (states of concentration). Notice, for example, the difference between calm and equanimity. Calm is when you don’t have reactions. You’re chilled out. But with equanimity, you’re not reacting to your reactions; they stay in the mudroom. It’s as if the reactions are surrounded with a lot of spaciousness. You prefer the pleasant to continue and the unpleasant to end—that’s OK. But you don’t even react to not getting that preference. You just surround it with space, and that’s where freedom is. I think that’s how people like the Dalai Lama can be sorrowful about what’s happening in Tibet, and yet simultaneously have enormous equanimity around it.
Calm is based on conditions, and thus not that reliable. But equanimity is based on insight, wisdom, and is thus much more dependable. For example, disenchantment is a key factor of equanimity. We start to realize, “Won’t get fooled again.” Ice cream tastes like ice cream, orgasms are orgasms, being angry is being angry. Winning an argument, being right and showing them the error of their ways is just that. After a while you go, “so what?” Wisdom allows you to let go of the lesser pleasure, chasing the pleasant or resisting the unpleasant, for the greater pleasure of equanimity.”
— Rick Hanson, Ph.D. [Mind Changing Brain Changing Mind].