Buddhism seeks to explain suffering in life

Daily Express, April 14, 2012

New Delhi, India -- Some people view Buddhism as pessimism. They call it the "religion of misery," because the word "suffering" or "unsatisfactoriness," which the Buddha taught in his first four noble truths, sticks in their minds.

Actually, Buddhism is not pessimism nor optimism. Buddhism is realism, a way to see things as they really are. The Buddha taught us about life from our birth till death. It covers many areas of life, such as how to live wisely and happily, how to win friends, how to accomplish our goals, and even how to die peacefully.

Why is Buddhism always talking about suffering? That is the truth of life we all have to accept and recognize in order to cure it. The Buddha did not speak about suffering only, but how to overcome suffering. That is happiness in life.

Let me share with you the secrets of happiness. There are three steps to follow.

The first step is to be happy or to enjoy whatever you do.

Abraham Lincoln said, "My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it." Most of us do not enjoy what we have and do, especially our work. Sometimes we depend on our like or dislike emotions too much. We do things because we feel good or like it. A lot of times we refuse and suffer if someone forces us to work. The problem is how are we going to love or be happy with the things we do.

In Buddhism, "Kuttukammayatachandha" means the willingness to do things. If we don't enjoy whatever we're doing, imagine what's going to happen. We will work eight hours a day and not enjoy it. Instead, we will hate and suffer, which I think is not healthy for body and mind.

Why don't we train ourselves to take pleasure in everything we do? There is the saying, "If you do not have the thing that you like, you have to like the thing that you have."

We have to train ourselves to love and see the positive side of things that come toward our everyday lives as a lesson. When you wake up in the morning, think that it is a great day and I'm still alive. I have a chance to do good and enjoy one more day. When you are having breakfast, enjoy that, and try the best you can to apply that to each daily moment. This is the first step to happiness.

The second step is mindfulness.

There is a saying, "The lights are on, but nobody is home." We are all in the information technology era and have a lot of convenient tools that make life easy. Sometimes we aren't even aware of doing things and we behave like a robot. We live by our old habits and are not mindful.

When you are eating, make sure you are enjoying your food, not thinking or planning. We must change our old habits, especially the natural habits in which we do things in life automatically.

If you are walking, do you know right now you are walking. In a practical way you have to know each moment, whether it is good nor bad. If you are angry, know that you're angry; if you're happy, know that you're happy. Whatever you do — sit, stand, shower, have coffee, talk, and so on — add knowing or mindfulness.

Where is your mind? Is it absent? In order to gain happiness, you must bring our mind back to the here and now, and be mindful of each moment in life. Our mind and body are together, so try not to let your mind wander often. In the Buddha way, mindful action is the most important training. All teachings of the Buddha sum up to mindfulness. Be mindful, then you practice all the Buddha's teachings.

The third step is concentration.

In Buddhist countries, there are a lot of Buddha statues. One of the statue postures that is very famous is the meditation posture. In Pali, we call it the "Samadhi posture," which means concentration. When Buddhist followers see this statue, it reminds them that you should concentrate and focus on whatever you do. When you sleep or when you eat, concentrate on eating or your mind with that eating.

Do you observe yourself doing things? Can you really focus or concentrate ? It is difficult, right ? Sometimes we do a lot of things at the same time. We ponder that we are smart, that we can do a lot of things such as watching a TV show and calling our friends at the same time. Is there a quality of doing like that? I think it is not such a good habit to be like that, especially when you drive and text or drive and talk. It can cause problems. Concentration is another key to happiness and success in life.

These are the secrets to happiness; enjoy, be mindful, and concentrate. If you follow these steps hour by hour and day by day, your practice will get stronger and strongerBut you have to begin right now to change and start new way.

Enjoy the journey to happiness.

Tawachai Onsanit is one of the founding members of Wat Pasantidhamma temple in Carrollton. Inquiries may be addressed to Ajaan Piya at p_kind_j@yahoo.com.