Conditions for happiness are relative

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Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby dimeo » Sun Oct 20, 2013 5:30 pm

Can anyone guide me towards a better understanding of this? Any terminology / sutras / teachings would help.

I was trying to express how meditating helps me realize just how much conditions for happiness are relative.
For example, one person thinks that the weather is "really cold" and other thinks it's just a cool breeze. One person is miserable in the same conditions that another is blissfully happy.

I can't find much to express this well. Is it part of how the teachings say that samsara and nirvana are the same?
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:06 pm

I think you expressed it perfectly.

This reminded me of a Chinese story about a mother who was always crying.
Someone asked her why this was.
She said that she had two daughters.
One daughter made noodles
and the other sold umbrellas.
On rainy days, the daughter who made noodles couldn't make them (couldn't hang them to dry)
and on those days she didn't make any money, and went hungry.
On sunny days, the daughter who sold umbrellas couldn't sell any
and on those days she went hungry.
So, the mother was always crying because one of her daughters was always hungry.

It isn't that samsara and nirvana are the same,
but they are two ways of experiencing the exact same conditions.
"One man's trash is another man's treasure" is another way of saying this.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby dude » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:17 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I think you expressed it perfectly.

This reminded me of a Chinese story about a mother who was always crying.
Someone asked her why this was.
She said that she had two daughters.
One daughter made noodles
and the other sold umbrellas.
On rainy days, the daughter who made noodles couldn't make them (couldn't hang them to dry)
and on those days she didn't make any money, and went hungry.
On sunny days, the daughter who sold umbrellas couldn't sell any
and on those days she went hungry.
So, the mother was always crying because one of her daughters was always hungry.

It isn't that samsara and nirvana are the same,
but they are two ways of experiencing the exact same conditions.
"One man's trash is another man's treasure" is another way of saying this.
.
.
.



even hell is enjoyable with the right frame of mind.
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:37 pm

dude wrote: even hell is enjoyable with the right frame of mind.

If you are enjoying it, then it is only called hell. As soon as you stop enjoying it, then it becomes hell.
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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby dimeo » Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:12 pm

I struggle with this concept so much because I think about:

- the millions of people who are starving, cold and homeless begging for something to numb the pain.
- the millions of people who have been tortured over the span of human existence
- the millions of casualties who suffered on battlefields
- the millions of victims of violence and rape
- the millions of people dying from painful diseases who rely on morphine or wish to be allowed to die.
- etc, etc

Sorry for the excessively morbid focus here. But the pain and suffering they experienced was so very real and I shudder at the thought of having to experience that. I have really only known an easy in life in comparison! How can these teachings be true? Isn't it naive to say "it's all in your head".

From what little I've learned, Siddhārtha Gautama was born a prince, was sheltered, and witnessed human suffering later as an adult. But what was the extent of his direct personal experience of suffering? Certainly I intend no disrespect here, but wish to understand better. Before enlightenment he was an ascetic who nearly starved to death.... anything else?

I also have the impression that dukkha is a key central idea to all of Buddhism. Dukkha is the First Noble Truth. The Anuradha Sutta says:
Both formerly & now, it is only dukkha that I describe, and the cessation of dukkha.

— SN 22.86
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby wisdom » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:40 pm

dimeo wrote:Can anyone guide me towards a better understanding of this? Any terminology / sutras / teachings would help.

I was trying to express how meditating helps me realize just how much conditions for happiness are relative.
For example, one person thinks that the weather is "really cold" and other thinks it's just a cool breeze. One person is miserable in the same conditions that another is blissfully happy.

I can't find much to express this well. Is it part of how the teachings say that samsara and nirvana are the same?


How you see the world is the experience you have of the world. Those who say "Its cold outside, this sucks!" have created a reality where cold exists, they exist, and they dont like it! Another person thinks "This is nice, I love fall weather" and a third person thinks nothing of it at all. Each has a difference experience of the same event, based on their own perceptions.

It is in a sense part of those teachings, because the idea that samsara and nirvana are the same is that both are mental imputations upon reality as being good or bad, miserable or blissful, and so on. Once we recognize the mind that generates this dual experience after receiving direct introduction, we can transcend duality and abide in our non-dual Buddha Nature.
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:53 pm

dimeo wrote: Isn't it naive to say "it's all in your head".

Actually, no it isn't.
But Buddhist teaching doesn't say that you are simply imagining suffering, or that you are not really suffering, that it is just a figment of your imagination. That isn't what the Buddha said at all.
The Buddha said that all beings experience suffering (dukkha)
which includes everything from the pain of war to feeling unhappy with life or whatever.
It is a very real, all pervading experience.
In fact, constant dissatisfaction is one of the primary defining characteristics
of what Buddhism refers to as the Human Realm.
Even when we have all that we want, it can be "too much of a good thing'
and we be come dissatisfied.
So, yes, the experience of millions of people suffering in a war is terrible.
But even when millions of people are living in relative calm and safety,
they are still dissatisfied. They still get angry, they still fight with each other.

The point is, if you look for where your suffering is,
and you look outside of your own mind,
you cannot find it.
True, the suffering you experience is often prompted by external conditions.
Quite often, those conditions are so overwhelming, and produce such unbearable pain to the mind,
that it becomes impossible to ignore them.
That is still the activity of the mind.
So, that is why Buddhist practice, meditation and so on, is about working with one's own mind.
There is a famous teaching, that you can't cover the whole world with leather and make it smooth
but if you cover the bottoms of your own feet,
the result is the same.
The causes of unhappiness can come from anywhere
but the causes of happiness can only come from within your own mind.

Recently, I was talking to a friend who doesn't always have time to eat lunch at work. She said that when she feels hungry, it is painful. Her stomach actually hurts. This was new to me. Even when I am very hungry, it doesn't register as pain with me. So, even the thing itself may be experienced differently for different people.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Conditions for happiness are relative

Postby dimeo » Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:21 am

@PadmaVonSamba I just love the allegory of the two sisters. It reminds me of the half full/empty glass idea. Or the 16th Karmapa's dream flag (Namkhyen Gyaldar)
http://www.dharma-haven.org/dream-flag.htm#Overview

But Buddhist teaching doesn't say that you are simply imagining suffering, or that you are not really suffering, that it is just a figment of your imagination. That isn't what the Buddha said at all.
The Buddha said that all beings experience suffering (dukkha)


I think I was also mixing up my understanding of samsara as realms of suffering. It's one thing to say samsara and nirvana are the same, and something totally different to say dukkha and nirvana are the same thing.

@wisdom When you say, "How you see the world is the experience you have of the world." It's like a photographer who sees what he looks for. I need to continually be mindful of what it is I'm paying attention to... because it's what I end up thinking and feeling. If I see only the negative, then I feel negative, when in fact many positive things are going on around me all the time!
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