The Tao of Happiness
Here are three little anecdotes that
I'd like to share with you. They concern three sisters: Arom, Aporn,
You'll get used to it
One day, Arom went to see a
fortune-teller who told her that she would encounter many
difficulties over the following five years.
"Will my situation got better after
that?" she asked.
"No, but you'll get used to it,"
answered the fortune-teller.
It's we who put our ears under this
Aporn attended a religious ceremony at
a friend's house. It was presided over by a
meditation master named Luang Pu Boodda, a very old man.
Afterwards, while the monk was taking a rest prior to returning to
his temple in Sing Buri, loud noises were heard coming from the
shophouse next door; a man wearing Chinese-style clogs was
walking up the stairs. Irritated, Aporn complained to a friend of
hers: "Why does he have to make so much noise?"
Although he had his eyes closed, Luang
Pu Boodda was still totally aware of everything going on around him.
"He's just walking. It's we who put our ears under this wooden
shoes," the monk gently cautioned.
The Wheel of Life in Buddhism
Dealing with the treacherous section
The third story goes back to the time
when the three siblings were children.
One day, their mother sent Arom to the
shop to buy some fish sauce. On the way back, she tripped and lost
her grip on the bottle. "Too bad! I spilled half the fish sauce,"
she told her mother regretfully.
A week later, Aport was sent to buy a
bottle of cooking oil. She tripped and spilled half of it. Despite
the loss she was in an upbeat mood when she reported back to her
mother: "Luckily, I was able to catch it before it broke so we still
have a bottle left."
A few weeks later, it was Arpa's turn
to go to the shop. She bought a bottle of vinegar but tripped on the
way home with it. This is what she told her mother: "I was lucky,
Mum, we still have half a bottle left. And I promise to be more
careful next time."
Then Arpa took it upon herself to go
back and repair the treacherous section of path. She dug out the
protruding rocks and filled in the pot holes to prevent anybody else
Taken together, the trio of anecdotes
tells us how to
cope with problems, how to
turn the negative into
One way to do this is to exercise
Don't fume. We can adapt ourselves to
almost anything over time. No matter how tormented we feel, the mind
has the resilience to adjust itself if given enough time – as long
as thoughts of suicide don't take over.
Here is a pair of mantras that we can
use to strengthen our endurance. As you inhale, think of the word,
"endurable" and as you let the breath out, say to yourself, "very
The second method is to better handle
how your senses – not only your eyes and ears but also your tongue,
perceive and react to things around you.. For, more often than
not, we suffer because our troublesome mind orders our eyes and ears
to pick up the kind of things that annoy us. A noise may be laud,
for example, but it won't annoy us if we don't let it. No matter
what people say about us, it won't bother us if we don't take an
interest in it.
The Dharma Wheel and the Noble Eightfold Path
The rule of thumb is to guard your
mind: Don't let it stray. To prevent it happening we need to
cultivate mindfulness. Alternatively, we can concentrate on
calms the mind, such as a piece of beautiful music or the very
act of breathing.
The third way is to
think in a positive way. When you encounter a
problem, try to
look for the good points. Everything has at least one good
point. Even sickness has its positive side. You get some extra rest
or have more time to spend with your family or you use the period of
recuperation as an opportunity to turn to
dharma. Should the illness
not get worse ... well, that's a good thing already, surely? Loosing
1,000 baht is certainly better that losing 10,000 baht, isn't it?
People may be saying bad things about us behind our back but at
least they're not harming us in any worse ways than that.
Positive thinking is not enough on its own, however. We also
need to fix the problem or prevent it from happening again. Arpa's
positive attitude might have prevented her from getting upset about
the loss of that vinegar. But she
didn't stop there. She took it upon herself to fix the path so
that nobody have a similar accident. Positive thinking might ease
our suffering while we are sick, but we need
prevent ourselves from getting sick again; we may need to
exercise more, perhaps, or
eat more healthily.
We can turn suffering into
non-suffering. We can even turn in into
happiness. Whether we suffer or not
depends solely upon us. It doesn't depend on what happens to us.
Everyone wants to bring nothing but
good. But things will be even better if we can train ourselves to be
more patient and mindful and to
think in a positive way. If we can do that, then we'll have a
definite guarantee that, regardless of what we encounter, we won't
suffer as much or as easily as we did before.
That is our true guarantee of