When will you finally be happy? Isn’t that what we are all working toward? It’s that carrot tied at the end of a stick just out of reach of the donkey as he pulls the cart trying too get closer to the carrot. But every time the donkey moves, the carrot moves, too.
We pull our carts as well. When was the last time you said to yourself, “As soon as . . . . . . . . . happens, I will be happy? And when . . . . .happens, we are happy for a moment, but the happiness is always temporary, as a whole set of new situations confront us. So what happens in those long stretches between the illusive and rare happiness’s?
A famous Buddhist monk in Australia, Ajahn Brahm, tells the story of a monk friend of his that experienced ten past lives in one evening’s meditation session. When Ajahn Brahm asked him about the past lives, the monk said that they were completely absorbed in trying to be happy and make his family happy, but no matter how hard or long he worked to achieve that happiness, it never lasted very long even when he was able to achieve it, which was not very often. And he was so tired of trying to be happy. Of course, he also told Ajahn Brahm that he finally was happy, now that he was a monk!
I read an article the other day about a teenager who won several million dollars in the lottery some years back. That should make us happy! But she said that it ruined her life.
“I honestly wish I’d never won the lottery money — and knowing what I know now I should have just given it all back to them,” she told in an interview published in Sunday’s News of the World. Rogers said she spent the money on homes for herself, her parents and her grandmother. She bought expensive cars and gifts and lent money to relatives. She spent more than $ 730,000 on designer clothes, partying and having her breasts augmented, according to the Daily Mail. And she estimates she spent $ 400,000 on cocaine — most of which went to a boyfriend.
Many lottery winners and celebrities seem to hit that wall where the pleasures of the world begin to ring untrue and their promises turn out to be lies. The last days of Michael Jackson’s life sounded like a nightmare – unable to sleep without a cocktail of drugs that eventually killed him. Yet he appeared to have it all.
How much will make us happy? Or does the true happiness, the lasting happiness, have nothing to do with toys or relationships? When were you last contented? Not “happy” but contented; peaceful, no worries or concerns? No ambitions or aggressive feelings of drive and goal objectives? Does this kind of contentment have anything to do with achievements or possessions?
An easy mind is difficult to find these days. People don’t talk about these things. This is not carped about on TV. There is no profit from a contented mind. A mind has to be dissatisfied in order for the hucksters to make money off of us. With a contented mind, we can live wherever we find ourselves and completely at ease. (This is what the Buddhist monk alluded to; Possessionless, homeless, and content with solitude, aloneness, poverty, and seclusion).
How many would think that true contentment would be found in these things that offer no apparent pleasure? Although we have sought pleasure all of our lives and have found not one pleasure that sustains us, we cannot see the obvious; seek pleasure and find pain. Michael Jackson perhaps began to understand this when he had nowhere to turn, and so did the teenage lottery winner.
And yet, as a meditation teacher, when people ask me what they will “get” from meditation, and I reply, “nothing,” I always get the blank stare. It’s not easy to understand that true contentment comes from a mind not caught up in endless thought, plans and ambitions, but comes from a mind empty of all that.
An empty mind has the connotation of ignorance and stupidity, but the opposite is true. Only when the mind is emptied of all it’s programming and habit patterns is there the possibility of true contentment, which is the ultimate freedom, the ultimate creativity.
anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary (http://www.dhammarocksprings.org), and author of “A Year to Enlightenment.” His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.