The Dhammapada exploration – part 15: Happiness

So we talked about death earlier, and you know you’re gonna die, you’re already dying right this very minute. A cheerful thing to know. But there you thought Buddhism is all about serenity and happiness. “What use is this Buddhism crap if it doesn’t make me happy?”

An excellent question. The Buddhism crap is useful, but only in order to realize that you produce your own suffering. So stop doing that, and you will be happy. Here’s how:

197. Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.

198. Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the afflicted (by craving). Amidst afflicted men we dwell free from affliction.

199. Happy indeed we live, free from avarice amidst the avaricious. Amidst the avaricious men we dwell free from avarice.

200. Happy indeed we live, we who possess nothing. Feeders on joy we shall be, like the Radiant Gods.

This points to hard work! We aren’t friendly amidst the hostile because we love being with enemies. But because we learn to know of non-aggression, non-hate. We follow the ruminations of our minds to see that hate is originating, fading and disappearing, and ultimately empty.

We feel that craving for anything just makes us more miserable. The craving must be satiated, but then the next craving is just around the corner. Feeding the fire will not make it go out.

Avarice was also translated as “busyness” (not business!). The people as busy people, frenzied people, anxious people. I’m crushing your balls (or eggs) with this, but I have to stress once again that even multiple translations can only give you a vague idea of what the original Pali term meant. But I think we get the picture: Those people so stressed, so glued to their smartphones and news feeds, so busy. We are not like them. We will not get pulled into this stream.

201. Victory begets enmity; the defeated dwell in pain. Happily the peaceful live, discarding both victory and defeat.

If only every warchief knew this. In this context, I’ll bring in the history of San Marino, a micronation enclaved inside Italy. It’s been a thing for almost 2000 years now, started no wars, defended against no wars. When Napoleon conquered the territory he offered to give the Sanmarinese more land. But they declined and said “Nah, thanks, we’re fine. Growing will just cause ill will”. Thanks, Redditor grabpot for pointing this out.

202. There is no fire like lust and no crime like hatred. There is no ill like the aggregates (of existence) and no bliss higher than the peace (of Nibbana).

203. Hunger is the worst disease, conditioned things the worst suffering. Knowing this as it really is, the wise realize Nibbana, the highest bliss.

The hunger in Buddhist doctrine is what makes you be reborn. To give it up means to end the cycle of samsara, to cease rebirth, to attain Nibbana.

204. Health is the most precious gain and contentment the greatest wealth. A trustworthy person is the best kinsman, Nibbana the highest bliss.

205. Having savored the taste of solitude and peace (of Nibbana), pain-free and stainless he becomes, drinking deep the taste of the bliss of the Truth.

206. Good is it to see the Noble Ones; to live with them is ever blissful. One will always be happy by not encountering fools.

207. Indeed, he who moves in the company of fools grieves for longing. Association with fools is ever painful, like partnership with an enemy. But association with the wise is happy, like meeting one’s own kinsmen.

We have heard that earlier in the Dhammapada. Don’t surround yourself only with fools. Of course nowadays we have the Internet, so finding fools and wise people has become easier. We can read stupid vitriol on Twitter (or even take part in it!) or we can choose to read smart stuff by smart and wise people.

We can watch YouTube channels with real depth or we can spend hours on empty makeup advice. In the former category I’d put Kurzgesagt, Wireless Philosophy, The School of Life and Crash Course. If you know of others, do comment.

208. Therefore, follow the Noble One, who is steadfast, wise, learned, dutiful and devout. One should follow only such a man, who is truly good and discerning, even as the moon follows the path of the stars.

I think it’s great that Buddhism never got attached to the figure of the Buddha. Don’t follow him, follow “such a one”, man or woman, born 600 BCE or in 2016. That’s not to say that some people in the Buddhist community don’t have an unhealthy reverence for Gautama Buddha, that can certainly be found.

Are you happy now?

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

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