In his latest book, "The Art of Happiness" the Dalai Lama outlines the four elements necessary to achieve happiness in life. These four elements are:
The definition of wealth that each of us carries around inside of our mind is strictly personal. For one person wealth is making twenty thousand dollars a year; for another one that's failure. In some third world countries people make a dollar or two a day, and if they were to make twenty thousand dollars a year, that would be success beyond their imagination. Others feel that making under five hundred thousand a year is a terrible year.
When I was in India studying with Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I was living in his ashram. An ashram is a spiritual community, similar to a monastery. When I was in the ashram, there was an old man who would come in every morning to pick up the laundry. They don't have washers where you can do your laundry. Instead, they have people who take your clothes down to the river and wash them for you. Anyway, this old man was always happy. He had a gentle smile and a great disposition. I talked to him many times, and one day I asked him how much money he made. He said that he made about 10 to 15 dollars a day. I was very surprised to hear that. I mean, how can you be happy in life if you are only making about 15 dollars a day? He said that that was enough money for him and his wife, and that he was happy to be of service to others. He had found the thing in life that he was really good at, and he was happy to do it.
So the first step in achieving happiness is to define the level of wealth that you need. People who are always broke are never happy. You have to decided how much money you need, and then go out and make it. This is why your career is so important. If you have a good career, you can make good money, and that fulfills the first step towards happiness.
The next step is "personal satisfaction." Personal satisfaction can be achieved in two ways. One way is to go out and get whatever it is you want. Cars, clothes, electronics, etc., for that of course you would need a lot of wealth. You can gain personal satisfaction from material objects. For example, you would probably feel more satisfaction from driving a new Mercedes than you would from driving an old beat up Toyota. Now, there has to be a reasonable limit. You can't go out and buy 100 Mercedes. Wisdom is the ability to tell when you have gone too far. The secret is to really ask yourself to differentiate between the things you want, and the things you really need.
For example, the Dalai Lama loves to go shopping at grocery stores. Once in there, he wants everything in sight. When he leaves he only takes with him the things that he needs to achieve personal satisfaction. Just like with wealth, your definition of personal satisfaction is very personal. Only you can define how to achieve your own level of personal satisfaction.
The secret has been well summarized by Ziggy, the cartoon character, when he said, "Happiness does not depend on how many things you have to enjoy, but how much you enjoy what you have." If you learn to appreciate and enjoy the things that you have, then you might not need to have so many new things, although new things can be fun too. The key is not to become attached to things. As a Buddhist, you can have anything you want, as long as you don't get attached to it. Once you are attached, then you will start to worry, and this will bring your level of personal satisfaction way down. So as long as you are not attached, then go ahead and get that new Mercedes, and draw a high level of personal satisfaction from it. High levels of personal satisfaction equals high levels of consciousness.
Once you have taken care of your material world: your career, clothes, and personal belongings, then you can start a well balanced spiritual path. It is very hard to venture into the spiritual world if you have not taken care of the material world first. At this point, you are ready to explore your inner nature. You can learn about meditation, religion, spirituality, power places, etc. Because you have built a strong physical base, and you can move on into the spiritual realm. Spirituality is important to achieve happiness, because it gives us a sense of direction and fulfillment in life. Material happiness is only temporary. Spiritual happiness is something that we take from one life time into the next.
The ultimate goal is to achieve Enlightenment. This is when true happiness is achieved. Enlightenment is achieved by going through the process of meditation and life/systems-analysis, by following a spiritual path, and by bringing every aspect of life into perfection. Once your career is in place (wealth), and your material life is in place (personal satisfaction), and your meditation practice is in place (spirituality), only then, you can jump into Enlightenment.
"You're alive, so come on and show it,
You've got a lot of living to do!"
>From Bye Bye Birdie
Buddhism is a way of life. Throw out everything Rama taught in "classes". Observe how he lived. He modeled the "way". He loved, he laughed, he suffered, he danced. He was a snowboarder, a diver, a producer of computer software, electronic music, and video. He was a teacher of English, and meditation and career development. He did everything with intensity! Extreme sports, extreme career development, extreme meditation. Radical! He became one with his snowboard, and took it to the limit, and beyond. Because that is the Buddhist way. Every moment is lived purely and completely. If that moment is career, or play, or meditation, it is the same. It is a way to approach life.
Buddhists also have an understanding of the mystical practices that move consciousness into higher and lighter awareness. Power or energy levels are a very important part of the practice. Returning to the light, enlightenment, is the process, and it requires very high levels of awareness. A serious student learns how to increase their power levels. Careers provide students a place to practice their zen practice. Powerful careers pay well, and that allows the serious student to live in powerful places. Land has power and people pay high prices in the west to live in those places of high energy. Dressing impeccably is part of the practice, and provides students with a high level of inaccessibility. People respect name brand products, and they respect the people who can afford them.
Attachment to the nice clothes, houses, and cars is not a good idea, but it is an easy trap! The point is to live in a manner that is most beneficial to your own enlightenment. At some point, or along the way, students will share that light with everyone they touch. And those people who students touch, well Jewel says it best:
if we are surrounded in beauty, we will become what we see, I'd
rather see the world from another angle, we are every day angels,
be careful with US, cuz we'd like to stay that way."
Buddhist detachment means only that you are unattached to the results of any particular action. It does not mean that you fail to act or try to avoid life.
If you look at the world around you, you will see that money is a tool that you need in life. Nothing more, and nothing less. And yet there seem to be a lot of hangups that people have about money in this world.
If your teacher said to you that you should become physically healthy, and exercise regularly, then there is little doubt that you would believe that the teacher knew what he was talking about.
If your teacher said to you that you should become spiritually healthy, and read a lot of spiritual books, then there is little doubt again that you would believe that the teacher knew what he was talking about.
But if your teacher says to you that you should become financially healthy, and make a lot of money, then in a lot of cases that will cause the student to rebel.
A lot of the reason for that is that there are a lot of people in the world who might be described as "financial bullies"--rich folks who enjoy throwing their financial weight around and making life miserable for those who have less money.
And yet the way to deal with a bully of any kind is never to deliberately make yourself weak--rather, it is to become stronger so that you can stand up to the bully.
Sometimes Rama was misunderstood as being a "financial bully" himself. Not so. In the financial arena, Rama was like a fifth degree black belt who, yes, would throw his students a lot in order to teach them how to deal with the world out there, but he always did it in such a way as to cause his students an absolute minimum of pain.
So don't run away from the world of money--instead, learn it and have fun with it!
Rama said that his nature was Tantric. By his definition, Tantra is the reconciliation of opposites. Most people see life as opposite: good and bad; light and dark; love and hate; ying and yang; and so on. Rama was a Tantric Buddhist Master. He saw that all things are one, that God is in everything. It is only our state of Awareness that separates us. Rama was able to reconcile this apparent opposition and see God in all things .... “.. the shopping mall is just as holy as the meditation hall”. Rama said that if you seek Enlightenment you have to work very hard and perfect your meditation. And, since Enlightenment is in all things, you have to perfect your physical being also, or as best that you can.
So, career becomes a form of meditation as you perfect your job, whatever that may be (the physical, mechanical functions are important but you work on perfecting your attitude or Awareness). Rama recommended certain careers as being very much like performing certain meditation techniques. And, these careers happen to be the ones that are very much in demand right now, and therefore pay quite a bit of money. Money gives you options. Plain and simple. Options to live in high vibe areas. Options to travel to Power Spots. Options to distance your self from the low vibe elements of the world.
Like it or not, people will judge you by the way you look and the way you present your self. So if you look scruffy and don’t pay attention to the details of your appearance, people will send negative energy towards you. And, you will be affected by it. Your level of awareness will drop. Besides, it just feels good when you know that you have dressed your self well and you are looking ‘HOT’.
Tantric Mysticism, Tantric Buddhism, Zen and other paths all express these concepts. If your basic nature isn’t Tantra, then there are other forms of study that may be suitable for you. Rama taught many different paths. Some of which are: Bhakti (yoga of Love), Kharma (yoga of Selfless giving), Jhana (yoga of Discrimination or Knowledge). All of these yogas are learned in the Tantra paths also, but the emphasis is on the reconciliation of opposites and seeing God in everything. If your nature is not Tantric, then one of the other studies will work for you.
It's easy to say you're not attached to money when you don't have any. Once you start making an excess of money, however, you quickly find out what's really important to you.
Many of Rama's students were struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, when they first met Rama. Rama then showed them how to use their practice of mindfulness to create high-income careers in computers. Suddenly, all of the energy that was going into plain survival became available for other uses. Some students used the energy to enjoy expensive toys and homes, others used it to improve their meditations and teach others, and some used it to do both.
Detachment comes naturally through the practice of meditation. It cannot be forced. However, if you're constantly scraping money together just to eat, it's difficult to determine what you're attached to. In this survival mindset, it's very easy to convince yourself that you have no attachments, simply because you can't afford any.
By using career as yoga, you blend more with the current society while practicing self discovery. Part of the yoga of career is figuring out the most appropriate clothes to wear and asking for (and getting) fair compensation at any job that you take. As you progress along almost any career path, you will need to be fluid enough to transform into whatever is required to make the next jump, including educating yourself in new technologies and changing your clothes.
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