Monday, June 28, 2010

The illusive happiness

Question : (Unedited)
I have a great wife and child, a steady job (in Texas), good health, a nice house, etc. - all the things that should make me happy - and I am satisfied. But I feel a kind of burn-out from work though (as a software engineer for 20+ years and I'm good at my job). I've been reading a lot this last few years on "happiness" which has brought me into more in line with Buddhist thinking. My question is: how do you keep your motivation to do things (working, cleaning house, etc.) when you lose your desires? I just feel like sitting around and thinking - I'm not depressed (on the contrary I'm rather content) but I'm not sure how to keep myself motivated to go to work anymore. I read a statement that I have been pondering - it is that unhappy people are the ones that make the most accomplishments (inventions, new medical treatments, writing books, etc.) in the world because they don't like the way it is and want to change into something "better." What do you think? Is it that I am becoming more happy and losing desires and eliminating negative emotions that make me uninterested in my work anymore? Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.
My comment:
Hi B...,
It's interesting to note that you have everything and yet not very happy.  Just think of those who don't even have the bare essentials to live a decent life.

Happiness is dependent on experiencing something that one desires.  It is conditional, which means some factors must be present before happiness is felt.  Happiness that is dependent on some things cannot last forever. It is a self-fulfilling phenomenon.  Once the person is satisfied and happy with something, immediately that desire for happiness is fulfilled.  Then the next thing you know is that you start a new search for another condition to be happy again.  It is just like hunger.  Once you have consumed the food, the desire to eat no longer exists.  That is why people around the world are acting crazy chasing one thing after the other so as to "stay" happy.  This is what we called uncontrolled desires.  Most people are caught in this quagmire.  It's like a puppy chasing after its own tail.  

I don't think unhappy people are more creative than the happy ones. I would say, unhappy people are unfortunate ones because most likely conditions are not sympathetic to them.  The happy ones are those whose needs are fulfilled and other conditions favour them as well.  Take for example, if one lives in a war torn country, can one be happy?  If one's children are very irresponsible, can one be happy?  Take your case, you should be happy, and infact you are still happy as you said you are only "losing desires".

In Buddhist wisdom, happiness is a bonus.  As I wrote above, happiness is a conditional experience.  If we depend on happiness alone to cheer up our lives, then we are in for disappointment.  At any time those happy conditions may disappear or lose its stimulation.  At best once the condition is right for you to be happy, your desire is satisfied; and you have to search for other conditions to make you happy again.  Then what should we look for?  Contentment and acceptance.  If we can be contented with what we have, there is no crazy desire to chase for more in order to be happy.  Once you are contented, your happiness does not depend on more things.  You are satisfied with what you already have and you experience contentment, inner peace and happiness.  A lot of external conditions are beyond our control.  They can make us extremely unhappy.  But if we understand the real conditions of this existence and this world, then we still can maintain a certain degree of calmness and inner peace, despite being unhappy.  It is the realization and acceptance of those conditions that we cannot control or change.

On another note; how can we be happy all the time, especially if unhappy event happens? If a person’s loved one dies, can that person try to be happy? That would be crazy!

Don't worry be happy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Laughing Buddha, Ha! Ha!

Question : (Unedited)
Hello My name is S....
I am from New Jersey
I'm 20 years old and I have a story.

When I was about 15 years old I decided to skip school. As I was having social problems. I stayed in my room and could not make any noise as I waited for my father to leave for work. Out of pure bordeom I was looking at a picture and saw a buddah. So I got in meditation pose and said to my self "hummm" as if I were meditating. About 5 seconds later I heard an extremley loud deep roaring laugh. It scared the heck out of me!! Not until recently I was at a flea market and saw a statue of a buddah and the lady that was selling it said he was a "laughing buddah" So have you ever heard of this? any idea what this could mean? Thank so much!

My comment: 
Hi S......,

Thanks for sharing your story with me.

What happened during your experience only you yourself can interprete because no one was with you.  Of course, there will be those who will claim that they can interprete what you had experienced.  But be very careful; there are tons of con men around.

There is actually no such person as a laughing Buddha.  This so-called laughing Buddha is supposed to be the personification of the next future Buddha.  It was "created" by the Chinese a long long time ago:  and the Chinese are very clever depicting Buddha's teachings by way of personification.  

Actually the Buddha taught very simple things in life.  It is the people who misinterpret his teachings either through ignorance or through some ulterior motives.  The Buddha taught universal truths and inner peace, without the superstitions and mysticism.  In three short simple sentences, we can sum up the Buddha's teachings:
  Avoid doing evil
  Do good
  Purify your mind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ask your Rabbi

Question : (Unedited)
I'm 16 years old and perhaps some may say I'm too young to think about things like that but I do...lately, I started thinking about life, wondering what the meaning of life...I don't really like my life at the moment and I haven't been happy in a long time, I feel so lost.
than, as a part of my search for a solution to my situation, I started to explore buddhism, I read about it on the internert, I'm from israel and there's not a lot of buddhists in here.
at first, I got really excited since it seems like the perfect thing for me but then I started to think and I realized that although I started to cast doubt in my religion(Judaism), I still connected to I was wandering, is there any way I can combine Judaism and buddhism together? and if not, can you advice me on how I'll be able to make a decision?
thank you so much for your help

My comment: 
Hi N.....,

Thank you for asking me.

You are not too young to think about life.  I started searching for spiritual answers when I was about your age.  

First you must realize that you have been brought up in a very homogenous and orthodox society (forgive me if I am wrong), being taught the religious belief that has been part of your race for centuries.  It is already a wonder that you can open up yourself to learn about other religions.  This is a great achievement in itself.  It is when one's mind is open and free, that one can progress and find wisdom.  Albert Einstein was such a person.

It is perfectly natural that you are unable to decide at this point in time.  You are an intelligent person and should not decide hastily on matters of such importance.  Take your time to further study what the Buddha actually taught, then use your common sense and human intelligence to analyze his teachings, and then decide at your pleasure.  This was the Buddha's advice during his time when others wished to follow his teachings.  Only when they are the truths and beneficial, then accept.  Otherwise reject!

As to your question of combining Buddhism with Judaism, you will find the answer when you study more on Buddhism.  If you want a quick answer, ask your Rabbi, and he will give you a piece of his mind!  You know what I mean.

Please take your time to surf through the Buddhist sites below and you will find all the info about the Buddha's teachings.  Then you can decide.  Please come back if you need further clarification.

"What Buddhist Believe" written by my revered teacher, Ven. K Sri Dhammananda.  This book explains the Buddhist perspective on life's general questions.  
(An update:  Another recommended book : "Good Question Good Answer")

Monday, June 14, 2010

Would you like to be hunted?

Question : (Unedited)
I am so glad that I found this site, I have been reading about Buddhism and have been very interested in Buddhist philosophies for a few years. Three years ago I had a child and have been feeling a need to provide spiritual guidance to my son that does not infringe on my scientific beliefs and will help him to become a good and socially responsible individual. One of my main difficulties is this:
I have been an avid hunter for 25 years or so. I never hunt for trophies because I have always believed intrinsically that that is wrong, rather we hunt only for meat and take pride in properly harvesting our animals from start to finish as we believe that this is more healthful meat. I hope you can help me with this, I understand that if I were Buddhist, I could take no part in the killing. Thank you for you time.

My comment: 
Hi R....,

Thank you for asking me.

I am sure you are quite familiar with the Buddha's teachings by now.  The most salient point in Buddhism is the freedom given by the Buddha to live our lives.  He merely pointed out the facts of life and the truths of our existence.  Then he prescribed a set of guiding principles which, if we follow, will generate good and happy results.  Should we choose not to follow or to compromise, then the consequences will likewise commensurate with the manner we lead our lives.  There is free choice.  But the consequences cannot be changed.  It is this universal law of retribution (or cause and effect) that rules supreme.  As intelligent human beings we can make a choice.  Sometimes it seems that we have to sacrifice the things that we like to do, which we have been enjoying eversince.  The fact that you are attracted to the teachings of the Buddha, means that you want to associate with the ideals propounded by him.  You know that there is something beneficial by heeding the Buddha's advices.  On that premise, you should now use your freedom of choice to decide what is good for you, and what is not wholesome.  Only when we can admit and let go of the unwholesome practices that we can better ourselves in our spiritual development.  

It is not a matter of being a Buddhist or not, in relation to your pursuit.  You still can be a Buddhist in name whatever you do.  The Buddha is not going to punish you.  But whatever you do will result in your experiencing the consequences here and now or in future.  In layman's language: good actions beget good results; and bad actions create bad results.  Knowing this universal law, if a person is spiritually awakened, then this person will refrain from doing harm to others, let alone taking the lives of living beings.  Since we are very fearful if someone tries to kill us, it is just common logic and fairplay that we should not do unto others what we wouldn't want others to do unto us. We don't need god or the Buddha to tell us that.

Hope my comments may assist you to make an intelligent decision.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When you're well-informed, no confusion.

Question : (Unedited)
Hi, I am very confused about the religions. First question, is Buddism against homosexuality? My mom is Christian, she always told me how there is only one GOD, God loves you, gay is wrong, blah blah blah...but I found absolutely no reason to believe in GOD. Not only the homosexuality thing, but also there are many other things which make no sense that I don't wanna talk about here. So Buddhism seems pretty logical to me and I was raised by my grandparents who are also buddists. However, I am still wondering if I should become a buddist or christian. Or does religion matter to one person's life?

Hi S...,

Thank you for asking me.

Buddhism is not against anything.  The Buddha taught universal truths.  Truths that you and I can verify by using our common sense and human intelligence.  When certain actions are bad or unwholesome, the Buddha merely pointed out.  If one persists to perform those actions then the one has to bear the bad consequences.  From my personal point of view, homosexuality is a dysfunction caused by psychological problems and/or genes.  (I may be wrong in my opinion.) In Buddhism the word "sin" does not mean a thing.  It is only a Christian concept.  In Buddhism it is a question of either wholesome or unwholesome.  We can use 3 simple logical principles to decide whether a particular action or condition is bad or not:

1) Is it harmful to oneself?
2) Is it harmful to others?
3) Is it beneficial to oneself and/or others?

See? It's that simple.  We don't even have to study the vast volumes of the Buddha's teachings to find out what is good and what is bad.  What we need is common sense, human intelligence, and the willingness to open up our minds to think "outside the box" without fear of the unknown. This was what the Buddha encouraged us to do. As Buddhists we can do just that because we understand the universal truths and we are not fearful anymore of some silly ideas.

Before you can decide on your spiritual inclination, you need to have ample knowledge of the choices that you face.  This means you must know both Christianity and Buddhism quite well to be able to give a fair judgement.  May I recommend that you read this book by my revered teacher who had recently passed away on 31 August 2006 at the age of 87.  After reading this book, please surf through the Buddhist sites below to gain more knowledge.  By then I am sure you will be able to decide.

"What Buddhist Believe" written by my revered teacher, Ven. K Sri Dhammananda.  This book explains the Buddhist perspective on life's general questions.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Life is not a fairy tale

Question : (Unedited)
Dear Justinchoo

I have recently decided to start studying about buddhism and attempting to integrate it into my life, but I have a problem with the precept of non-violence. I understand of course that harming or killing of another being is wrong, but what if a person for example, is attempting to kill your spouse, then under this situation is violence accepted or still an offence?

My second question is that I am in training for join the army as a combat medical technician to try and help people around the world, but my actions could be seen to condone my collegues killing others.

Any advice you can provide would be very appreciated

Many Thanks


My comment:
Hi A...,

Thank you for asking me.

There is this very important concept in Buddhism reflecting the nature of this world.  The three characteristics of existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and insubstantiality.  Everything we experience in this world is subject to these three factors.  The world is full of imperfections and our lives are no better.  It is in this scenario that we are trying to live through our lives and inevitably we will have to encounter situations which make our choice in life difficult.  As such we are faced with the dilemma of making the most favourable choices, but not always the best ones.  

The Buddha advised us to follow certain moral principles which were universal in nature.  We try our best to follow them in the best of our ability, amidst the dangers surrounding us.  The Buddha's teachings were based on universal truths.  He reminded us that our actions will create subsequent reactions.  And that good actions will bring good results.  Whereas bad actions will create bad results.  It is up to us to ensure that we conduct ourselves in a wholesome manner so that our lives will yield good results.  Sometimes circumstances force us to respond in an unwholesome manner, but for the greater good of some other parties.  Although the action per se is not wholesome,  there is a mitigating reason that we are forced to act such.  In this type of difficult situations, we have to use our common sense and wisdom to decide.  Actually in time of acute emergencies, we are spared from the agony of calculated decisions, as we most probably will use our natural instinct to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

As for your second question, again be mindful of the second characteristic of existence, that is, the world is not perfect and we are subject to protect ourselves against the dangers of this imperfection.  As the saying goes: someone has to do the dirty job.  If you choose to join the army then you must also be prepared to be killed.  If you feel that you should not associate with occupation that has to do with killing, then the choice is yours.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Offering to the Buddha (Part 2 of 2)


Question : (Unedited)
I have gone to the temple with him and met the monks he's learning from but am too embarrassed to ask the monks what they do with the offerings. My son feels the offering is for Buddha and Buddha will find a way to remove it and until then it gets to stay. He has 2 youth aged books the head monk gave him to read and he explains to me every night before bed what he has read, and so far nothing about alters.

My comment: 
Hi A....,

Since you know the temple, I may be able to shed some light if you would divulge the name of the temple, its location, and possibly the tradition that is practised.  The name of the monk will also be able to give some clues to its authenticity.  

By referring to your statement which I quote: " My son feels the offering is for Buddha and Buddha will find a way to remove it and until then it gets to stay."
This is a very disturbing piece of news.  Based on this statement alone I can safely say that your son is being misled.  The Buddha is dead and gone.  It is his teachings that we follow to gain results, and NOT praying to the Buddha and waiting for him to send us to heaven or to partake our offerings to him.

Please be careful and not let bogus monks hoodwink your son.  If need be, you may suggest to your son to study the proper teachings of the Buddha and also to find alternative temples which are genuine.  If you need further info, please come back.

Take care.

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