Finding true happiness that lasts

Minh Tran

One of my friends attained something after reading Zen Master Bon Yeon's great book, "One Hundred Days of Solitude: Losing Myself and Finding Grace on a Zen Retreat." She was so happy after reading Jane's book that she became worried.

"WHAT IS THE CATCH?" she asked me.

"It cannot last," I responded. "Everything is impermanent."

We have all experienced that happiness is fleeting. Even when something truly great happens -- let's say, you find your true love! -- this happiness can last at most a few weeks. It will eventually weaken and wane, until there isn't much happiness left.

Can happiness last forever? If you tend to this happiness, and nurture it with love and compassion, then sometimes it can stay for a while. This is not easy, however! You must practice hard, and by practice, we mean some sort of meditation practice, preferably under the guidance of a keen-eyed teacher. Then perhaps you will be able to attain true happiness.

TRUE happiness does not come and go. How do you get true happiness?

This is what I've learned in my years of Zen training: if we make "happiness" then there's "sadness." If we don't make "happiness" then there's no "sadness." Zen practice is first perceiving that everything is empty -- originally there was nothing. Then with practice, we learn to put down all of our opinions, emotions, and thinking-- these are all delusions that get in the way of a clear mind. When we can truly put down everything, when we can want nothing, then we become a clear mirror that only reflects what is in front of us -- when white comes, only white; when red comes, only red. When someone is hungry, give him food.

With daily practice, our power of perception grows. Eventually we will become better and better at perceiving what is our correct relationship with family, friends, lovers, colleagues, strangers, money, career, society, etc. We will become better at perceiving what is our correct function in each moment. Your correct job as a dutiful daughter, caring parent, star employee or effective manager is different. We must have a very clear mind to perceive what is correct for EACH changing moment. To obtain this clear mind, regular, disciplined, and humble practice is required.

TRUE HAPPINESS comes when we are living a correct life for others. We must first practice hard, save ourselves from suffering, and then share this practice and true happiness with all beings. That is the vow of Zen students:

   Sentient beings are numberless; we vow to save them all.
   Delusions are endless; we vow to cut through them all.
   The teachings are infinite; we vow to learn them all.
   The Buddha way is inconceivable, we vow to attain it.

I hope you will find true happiness and spend your life helping others find it.