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Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 29 OUR HUMAN SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS and freedom from suffering expresses itself in everything we do. We emerge from the womb with a primordial instinct to find comfort through suckling our mother’s milk. Our instinct for fulfillment drives us—it is not something we need to cultivate. Throughout our countless lifetimes, we have searched for happiness and freedom from pain. We have always been sentient; therefore, we have al- ways had this longing. It lies at the very core of our being. Animals long for happiness, too. We see it in their propensity to frolic. Play doesn’t simply fulfill an evolutionary function; it is an expression of pleasure and joy. As human beings, we un- derstand the joy and freedom that comes from play. We also wit- ness animals’ desire for freedom from suffering. Animals fight for survival: their lives consist of trying to protect themselves from predators; they move in herds, hide in their shells, or fly off when afraid. When kept in tight cages, mistreated, or about to be slaughtered, animals cry out in pain. The natural principle that all beings long for happiness and freedom from suffering serves as the basis for generating compas- sion. The longing that we share with other beings makes empathy possible—it allows us to identify with their pain and their joy. Ac- cording to the Buddhist view, this natural principle defines posi- tive and negative actions by virtue of how they cause happiness and pain, rather than by morals based on ideas remote from our experience. The path of bodhichitta—the wish for others’ temporal and ultimate happiness—rests upon this fundamental principle. A CHANGE OF FOCUS The longing for happiness and freedom from suffering expresses the great natural potential of mind, which can turn us toward our in- nate positivity and wisdom. Yet we may wonder why, since we have so much longing for happiness, joy is not a consistent experience. We may wonder why we feel like a victim of our own mind and emotions so much of the time. Why is it we are never able to com- pletely fulfill or meet this longing, no matter what we do? This longing remains unfulfilled because we try to centralize it—to territorialize it and use it to serve only ourselves. Day in and day out we tend to the self. In countless ways we try to use the world to cherish and protect only ourselves: we want to be liked; we want to be loved, to feel cozy, admired, appreciated, embraced, cherished, stimulated, noticed, respected, saved, rescued. When we centralize our longing for happiness, everything that happens around us happens in relation to me. If something good happens to someone else, it is always in relation to me. If something bad happens to someone else, it always happens in relation to me. Even when we love someone, it is all in relation to me. If happiness could be achieved through self-cherishing, we would certainly be happy by now. But when everything is in reference to “me,” we naturally become a victim of our own ag- gression, attachments, and fears. How can we succeed in living our lives according to our preferences in the face of the natu- ral laws of change and unpredictability? Since we truly have so little control in this respect, the only logical result of focusing on “me” is to feel distraught, fearful, and anxious. Happiness requires that we change our focus. Changing focus doesn’t mean we have to get rid of our mind; we don’t need to Putting Others in the Center When we put others at the center of our lives, our natural desire for happiness is liberated from self- centeredness and becomes the enlightened heart of bodhichitta. DZIGAR KONGTRUL RINPOCHE says this is the fundamental principle of Buddhism. PAINTINGBYDZIGARKONGTRULRINPOCHE SEPT 18-39.indd 29 SEPT 18-39.indd 29 7/8/08 10:55:18 AM 7/8/08 10:55:18 AM