Steps of happiness | Daily News


Steps of happiness

A few months ago, I had the chance of reading a blissful Buddhist work titled as ‘Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness’ and subtitled as ‘Walking the Buddha’s Path’ written by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. The work underlines the salient interpretations to the Noble Eightfold Path as enunciated by the Buddha. They go as skilful understanding, thinking, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.

The work also can be treated as a simple way of reintroducing the Noble Eightfold Path to the modern day living conditions. Quite recently, I had the chance to discover another book titled ‘Eight Steps to Happiness’ subtitled as the Buddhist way of loving kindness written by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

Different standpoint

Though the titles look similar, the contents vary. Gyasto interprets the concept of happiness from a different standpoint. He was born in Tibet and is a fully accomplished meditation master and a well-known teacher of Buddhism in the west. He tries to visualise the status of mankind in the modern world in the following words by way of an introduction:

Everyone wants to be happy and no one wants to suffer, but very few people understand the real causes of happiness and suffering. We tend to look for happiness outside ourselves, thinking that if we had the right house, the right car, the right job, the right friends, we would be truly happy. We spend almost all our time adjusting the external world, trying to make it conform to our wishes. All our life, we have tried to surround ourselves with the people and things that make us feel comfortable, secure or stimulated, yet still, we have not found pure and lasting happiness.

Taking this as the basic premise, the author takes the reader into eight verses as handed down from the teacher to the pupil lineage in Tibet. The eight verses are titled Eight Verses of Training the Mind. These eight verses are said to be originally uttered by Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa, an 11th century Buddhist master from Tibet. It is also believed that these eight verses tend to express the essence of Mahayana path of enlightenment, interpreting how one can transform one’s mind from its present confused and self-centered state into the perfect wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. As a wish-fulfilling need, I reproduce these eight verses as translated by Kelsang Gyatso.

With the intention to attain

The ultimate, supreme goal

That surpasses even the wish-granting jewel,

may I constantly cherish all living beings

Whenever I associate with others,

May I view myself as the lowest of all;

And with a perfect intention,

May I cherish others as supreme.

Examining my mental continuum throughout all my actions,

As soon as a delusion develops

Whereby I or others would act inappropriately

May I firmly face it and avert it.

Whenever I see unfortunate beings

Oppressed by evil and violent suffering

May I cherish them as if I had found

A rare and precious treasure.

Even if someone I have helped

And of whom I had great hope

Nevertheless harms me without any reason,

May I see him as my holy spiritual guide.

When others out of jealousy

Harm me or insult me,

May I take defeat upon myself

And offer them the victory

In short, May I directly and indirectly

Offer help and happiness to all my mothers,

And secretly take upon myself

All their harm and suffering

Furthermore through all these method practices,

Together with a mind undefiled by stains of conceptions of the eight extremes

And that sees all phenomena as illusory

May I be released from the bondage of mistaken appearance and conception.

These eight verses are reinterpreted resourcefully taking into account various human experiences. As a reader, I felt that the attempt on the part of the learned scholar Kelsang Gyatso is an attempt to spread light on various human tragedies that we encounter over media channels all day to day living conditions. The work too is packed with a number of tales, parables and Zen type of stories. They all go into the making of a delightful contemplative reading session resembling the mood of meditation.

The work carries illustrations of Bodhisattvas like Asanga, Manjusri, Vasubandhu, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirthi, Vajradhara, Tilopa and Morpa. Eight Steps to Happiness includes a glossary that helps the reader to know some of the Mahayana terms, perhaps that lay alien.

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