Updated: Feb 7
For this week's Dharma talk, those in attendance had been previously been directed to Plum Village's podcast "The Way Out Is In: Zen and the Art of Living" episode #35. In the episode, the presenters, Zen Buddhist monk Brother Phap Huu and journalist Jo Confino discuss the art of happiness according to the Maṅgala Sutta, Sutta Nipāta 2.4, from the Buddha’s time. Where a sutra is a written recording of what was said as observed first by oral history. Their conversation explored the many layers of the Discourse on Happiness, each of the 11 causes of ‘the greatest happiness’, as shared by the Buddha, and how these ancient texts help us create the conditions in which our own happiness can ripen today.
The Sutra opens "... Late at night, a deva appeared whose light and beauty made the whole Jeta Grove shine radiantly. After paying respects to the Buddha, the deva asked him a question in the form of a verse:
“Many gods and men are eager to know what are the greatest blessings which bring about a peaceful and happy life. Please, Tathagata, will you teach us?” During our Dharma talk we focused on the first two: 1. “Not to be associated with the foolish ones,
to live in the company of wise people,
honoring those who are worth honoring —
this is the greatest happiness." 2. “To live in a good environment,
to have planted good seeds,
and to realize that you are on the right path —
this is the greatest happiness." Each of these has many points, and the other 9 are similar, which is why we will be taking a couple each week to focus on as a Sangha. As they did in the podcast we looked at That Nich Hanh's (aka Thay) teachings "There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way";
happiness IS different for everyone. We often look for it externally and suffer because it can not be satisfied through anything external. Not on the wheel of the rat race. Not in buying the thing or things. Not in attaining the next big life event.
It can not be grasped. We each acknowledged that our search for happiness, in some ways, brought us to Buddhism. Here we have learnt (and for our lifetime will continue to re-learn): those moments of happiness are what we grant ourselves. They are fleeting and savoring them; being fully with them, makes them more enjoyable. Those in attendance agreed that it is important to nurture the observation of and gratitude for simple joys. So as to water the seeds of happiness in us.
Over time these offer us roots of resilience.
Observing these simple joys and practicing gratitude is important at any time; we each reflected that we're finding it especially important as we hear the news: updates on the war in Ukraine, the oppression of women in Iran, and as we face the economic and political states we find ourselves in, in our own countries as we continue in the shadow of the pandemic. Which though sounding pessimistic, is far from the truth. There's an abiding with what is and an understanding that life continues, and a deep respect for the life around us. If you want to find out what we think the Buddha meant by "foolish people", "wise people", "those who are worth honoring"in verse 1, and also what we think "a good environment" is, how to know if you have "planted good seeds, and how "to realize that you are on the right path" in verse 2,