Saturday, January 13, 2007

Impact of Buddhism on Everyday Life

(Cross-posted to A Pagan Sojourn)

"How has your religion changed your daily, everyday life?"

"As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery…we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger and attachment, fear and suspicion, while love, compassion, and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness." (Dalai Lama)

Buddhism is a religion based upon empirical testing and observation. As the Dalai Lama notes in the quote above, the key to true happiness is inner peace. The primary manner in which Buddhism has changed my life is by showing me the means to obtain such happiness. And by that, I don't mean through pedagogic discourse but through not only giving me the tools to examine myself and my world directly, but also by making it clear that examining the world for myself is the only method by which I can discover the way to happiness--being told about it or reading about it won't get me very far.

In a sense, Buddhism has given me a toolkit with which to examine all aspects of myself and the world around me. Through application of mindfulness, I can slow down and examine the minutest aspects of phenomena. Of course, the ability to do this takes much time to develop--I certainly am not at the point of being able to be mindful to that degree--but the tools allow me to see progress for myself. What's the benefit of mindfulness of this type? As the Dalai Lama stated, anger is one of the primary impediments to happiness. As I slow myself down and look at anger as it arises, I can begin to see it for what it is--a body-less emotion that I, solely, am responsible for generating. Only with mindfulness can I avoid attaching to my anger, which prevents it from controlling me. I can then directly observe its causes, the conditions required for it appear in me, and the ultimate effect it has on my peace of mind and others around me. It is only through this method that I can see for myself the true damage that anger causes me, the effect it has on my inner peace. And it is only through this method that I can observe the true nature of anger.

This same process allows me to examine happiness in life. As the Dalai Lama stated, inner peace is the key to true happiness. But doesn't buying stuff make us happy too? Doesn't a good meal make us happy? Yes, but those happinesses are fleeting, impermanent, and ultimately unsatisfactory. How do I know this? Through mindfulness. Looking directly with penetrating insight at the feelings that arise when I buy something I really want makes it clear that this feeling is based on attachment. I see that after the initial thrill wears off, I need to buy something else to continue the "high." Is that really true happiness?

Buddhism has truly given me the tools to work with my everyday life, to see the true nature of every aspect of myself. It has given me a stronger peace of mind, and I've observed for myself the increase in happiness that comes with such inner peace. I'm thankful for coming to Buddhism when I did because it has allowed me to see for myself the things I do that are wholesome and beneficial, and the things I do that are unwholesome and harmful. It has also given me a 2,500 year old proven process to increase the wholesome and decrease the unwholesome.


Don Iannone said...


Hello and happy new year. Missed you. Sorry I've been scarce. Just finished my second course on Tibetan Buddhism with Alan and Vesna Wallance. Wonderful! Alan's book, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up is wonderful.