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All of us have to overcome obstacles in the name of survival. Sometimes we try to deny these obstacles because they’re too difficult to bear. But as hard as they are to face, it is necessary if we want to live a truly fulfilling life.
According to Buddhist philosophy, happiness involves embracing and accepting even the negative aspects of life. With denying any negativity we are essentially turning a blind eye to reality and resisting the natural forces of the universe. Below are 5 truths about life Buddhism says we’d all benefit from knowing.
1. Worrying is useless…
Worrying is simply in the mind and really doesn’t help with any issues in our lives. Can worrying really change what’s going to happen? No, it’s a waste of time. As Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh says below, try to remain in the present moment without putting labels on your “future conditions of happiness.”
“Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile, and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
2. If we want to be happy, we must see reality for what it is…
Buddhism teaches us that we must see reality for what it is if you want to be truly free. Instead of being set in our own ideas and opinions, we need to stay open to and accepting of whatever truth arises. So many of us try to remain positive by avoiding all negative emotions and situations. However, we need to confront them and accept them if we are ever to be truly free. Buddhist master Pema Chödrön says it best:
“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.”
3. We need to accept change actively…
Life is change, you’re born and eventually, you will die. The weather changes every day. No matter which aspect you look at in life, everything changes. Many of us attempt to keep things “fixed” and “constant”. However, this only goes against the true forces of the universe. By accepting and embracing change, it gives us enormous liberation and energy to create the lives we want. Buddhist Daisaku Ikeda says that accepting change allows us to take initiative and create positive changes in our lives.
“Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.” – Daisaku Ikeda
4. The root of suffering is pursuing temporary feelings…
So many of us crave those feelings of happiness. We think happiness includes excitement, joy, euphoria…but these are only temporary versions of happiness. And the constant pursuit of these feelings only turns into suffering because they will never last. Instead, true happiness comes from inner peace. It’s found by being content with what you have and who you are. Yuval Noah Harari describes it perfectly:
“According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness, and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure, it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify. People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings and stop craving them.” – Yuval Noah Harari
5. Meditation is the path to reducing suffering
Meditation teaches us that everything is fleeting, especially our feelings. It teaches us that the present moment is all that exists. And when we truly understand this truth, we become content in ourselves, according to Yuval Noah Harari:
“This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realize how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasizing about what might have been. The resulting Serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it.” – Yuval Noah Harari