Monday, November 2, 2009

Sukhavagga: Happiness

The focus of the Sukhavagga is the happiness one feels when living according to the Dhamma. It’s a very straight-forward chapter that doesn’t take a lot of contemplation. It’s simplicity and clarity helps deliver the message that life is filled with all kinds of discomfort, but this can be avoided by living skillfully in the Dhamma.

“How very happily we live,
free from hostility
among those who are hostile.
Among hostile people,
free from hostility we dwell.

How very happily we live,
free from misery
among those who are miserable.
Among miserable people,
free from misery we dwell.

How very happily we live,
free from busyness
among those who are busy.
Among busy people,
free from busyness we dwell.

How very happily we live,
we who have nothing.
We will feed on rapture
like the Radiant gods.”

These first verses can strike one as being so childlike that it almost sounds like a vicious tease. “I know you’re miserable, but what am I? I’m happy!” But the Sukhavagga really isn’t leading with the chin. It’s just a simple message: there’s a lot of pain and suffering in the world, and you can live among it without being of it.

The competitiveness of the world is laid out clearly as well in the next verse.

“Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set
winning & losing

Achievement is not the same as winning, and if I can learn how to view accomplishments as achievement rather than winning, which implies somebody losing, I don’t fall sway to my ego. This is a tough attitude to develop because the business world is all about winning.

I don’t see the need to spend a lot of time on this chapter, so I’ll skip to the last set of verses.

It’s good to see Noble Ones.
Happy their company — always.
Through not seeing fools
constantly, constantly
one would be happy.

For, living with a fool,
one grieves a long time.
Painful is communion with fools,
as with an enemy —
Happy is communion
with the enlightened,
as with a gathering of kin.

the enlightened man —
discerning, learned,
enduring, dutiful, noble,
intelligent, a man of integrity:
follow him
— one of this sort —
as the moon, the path
of the zodiac stars.”

What I get out of these verses is how important it is that I surround myself with good people, with true friends. It may mean that I don’t surround myself with a lot of people; in fact, I might have very few close friends. But the Buddha in many teachings emphasized how important is the company we keep in terms of staying on the path. And the further along the path we go, the more discerning we become.

Not every moment is filled with happiness for me. In fact, right now is a very difficult time for me. But I would never abandon my practice because it is the one thing I can count on to help me get through all this.

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