Jan 12, 2010

How to Create Happiness


Psychological research has identified various external circumstances ( living in a wealthy democracy, being married or in a romantic relationship, having a rich social network, being religious or spiritual, avoiding negative events and emotions) and internal cognitive, motivational and personality processes that contribute to establishing happiness. Several happiness researchers' have found that the following external circumstances support the condition of happiness:

  • Having a rich social network of close, supportive relationships (including intimate friendships, a satisfying marriage or romantic relationship)
  • Being part of a faith community that provides connection, purpose and hope.
  • Experiencing flow-through work or leisure activities that produce an optimal state of absorption in which one's skills are engaged to the point where consciousness of self and time greatly recede
  • Having a mentor

 The SGI organization has been found to provide three of the four external circumstances associated with happiness. This rich supportive community of believers-with the SGI being noted as the most ethnically and racially diverse sangha of all American Buddhist schools- represents a unique strength of the SGI.  Another distinctive feature lies in its commitment to achieving world peace. Lastly, having a mentor forms the essence of Buddhist practice. 

(ed note- The only thing that I take a different stance on is using the term mentor-disciple. For me personally, President Ikeda is an example of what is possible, but he is not better than any of us. We are all Bodhisattvas. We may follow the teachings but I believe Ikeda also learns from us.

The same studies that determined the four external circumstances that support happiness point to the following internal traits that support the building of a happy self and life:

  • Positive view of the past (gratitude for all events)
  • Optimism about the future (includes hope, faith, trust)
  • Self-esteem (or esteem from others in collectivist cultures)
  • Sense of control over one's circumstances
  • Commitment to good character (traits such as wisdom, courage, humaity, justice, temperance, kindness)
  • Contributions to a higher purpose (transcending self-centeredness)
While embracing the internal positive traits identified by psychologists, Nichiren Buddhism goes beyond the mere structural components to articulate a more encompassing view of the processes involved; it defines what happiness is and how to create it.

  • the indestructible life-condition of Buddhahood. As stated in the Lotus Sutra, Buddhahood is a potential within all people, a state of life " where living beings enjoy themselves at ease" (The Lotus Sutra, p.230). In his letter "Happiness in this World" (WND-1,681), Nichiren speaks of the "boundless joy of the law," which springs from the innermost place in life, a state of happiness nothing can disturb.
  •  a state of complete by freedom and fulfillment and the ability to truly enjoy living, free of control by craving and delusion.
  •  knowing that we possess the power to manifest our innate Buddhahood through chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, studying the Buddhist teachings so that we can make them manifest in daily life, and courageously and compassionately sharing them with others.
  • the profound joy that comes from never being defeated by problems, instead using the challenges we face as a catalyst to strengthen our faith in ourselves and our wisdom to overcome our circumstances (also known as changing poison into medicine.
  • not having a problem-existence. Avoiding difficulties is not possible. The important thing is how we face our problems.

  • not a quick fix attained overnight; rather it results from sustained committed, daily efforts to manifest life's highest potentials-wisdom, compassion, courage and vitality.
  • the ability to live life with a deeper and stronger sense of confidence, appreciation and hope
  • knowing that we have the power to take charge of our own destiny and become a source for positive change in our family, community and society.
How do we create this kind of happiness?

It already exists within our lives; it is our inherent potential for Buddhahood, achieved by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, studying to apply the teachings in oir daily lives and teaching others to the best of our ability. To achieve such happiness, we have to focus more on the internal factors that contribute to it rather than the external ones.

(Source: Living Buddhism- What is Happiness, May-June 2008, pg 21-24;tumblr,Loflo)

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