----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2004 12:40
Subject: Re: Be
Just one more stab at this "Be Happy" issue because it really is an important one ...
especially for the Western Culture (as distinguished from the Eastern Buddhist \
At issue was the term "Be Happy"
and the question was about what is commonly understood by that term in our
Western Culture (which admittedly may be different from a given individual's
I took the position that -- The notion of "Be Happy" is a human concoction fabricated by the "Doctor
Feel-good" social engineers, who believe Life must, at all times, be a bouncy,
up-beat, jingoistic, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, cheery, rosy, bouyant fun-ride.
When it's not, the subject must be 'depressed' and they've got the meds needed
to make it happen.
I take the position that the term "Be
Happy" inherently contains a positive emotively pumped-up spin and in
Buddhism, this subtle point has great significance which often is missed by
persons 'indoctrinated' in the Western Culture. This important distinction
goes like this...
The Western Culture is, by its very nature, very dualistic,
compared with the Eastern culture. That is to say, we live in a "Two Bin"
sorting & sifting environment. When confronted with any 'thing' or any
'person' we instinctively sort them into one of two bins: 1.
Good, 2. Bad. The third category, "Undecided," gets
wiped out because anything that cannot be judged good is deemed Bad by virtue of
its uncertainty, its unpredictability, its unreliability, its defiance relative
to a "Good" rating.
A "Good" rating, in Western Culture, is invariably derived
from a selfish, i.e., self-centric interpretation of the impact which the person
or thing has had on us. A 'thing' that is deemed useful, helpful,
profitable, functional, decorative, attractive, etc., for one's self is deemed
to have merit which we call "Good." A 'person' who is deemed to be
useful, helpful, profitable, functional, attractive ... someone who is deemed to
make us feel "good," important, loved, cherished, revered, needed, wanted, is
deemed to have merit which we call "Good."
In our Western Culture we are instinctively "attracted to" things and persons who are
deemed "Good." And we are
instinctively "repelled by" things and persons who are deemed
"Bad." That is to say, in our Western Culture we are
instinctively "attracted to"
things and persons who are deemed to fulfill our "self-centric needs and desires." And
we are instinctively "repelled by" things and
persons who are deemed to have an adverse impact or a "zero-sum-gain" impact on our "self-centric needs and desires."
The Tao Te Ching, written 5,000
years ago in China, spends a great amount of time talking about this human
tendency, which has been honed to a razor's edge in the West. The Tao
talks about a great tree that has lived to be thousands of years old ... because
it is deemed by people to be useless. It's branches and limbs are
twisted and gnarled and so it cannot be used for wood. Its leaves are
pungent and poisonous so they cannot be used for food or shelter. Its
limbs and bark give off a noxious, poisonous smell when burned, so it cannot be
used for kindling.
Because the tree is deemed to be utterly useless by human-kind, it has therefore managed to
live to be thousands of years old. Thus it is said in the Tao, That which
is deemed useless by human-kind
"endures." That which is deemed useful by
human-kind "comes to an early end."
Now take this idea and relate it to another important idea
which is universally recognized as central to all major religions on this
planet. That idea is this. That which human-kind deems inferior and
useless, is what God most
cherishes. Christ's and Buddha's and Taoist and Islamic teachings are
steeped in this core teaching. Christ stated it as "Least on Earth ... Greatest in
Heaven." He went on to issue the prescription,
"As above, so below." (Blessed
are the meek... Blessed are the pure in heart ... Blessed are peace-makers ...
Blessed are those who are not clever - smart - and conniving...).
Every major religion on this planet teaches that "Least in
Man's eyes is Greatest in God's eyes." They teach that Everything has
integrity in its own right, by virtue of the fact that its Creator gave it an
existence. Every major religion on this planet teaches that "A person or thing exists FOR ITS OWN SAKE and not for the sake of
something else or someone else." This is the most
fundamental, universal spiritual teaching shared by all great religions.
It is the teaching of COMPASSION and respect for all
things. It is what St. Francis understood so well.
And so we are impaled on the horns of this harsh reality ...
that which is "Least in Man's eyes and which is Greatest in God's eyes" is
deemed useless ... worthless ...
without intrinsic value --- and so it does NOT
endure. And that which is "Greatest in Man's eyes and which is Least in
God's eyes" is deemed useful ... valuable ... beneficial ... advantageous ...
auspicious ... expedient --- and so it DOES endure, like
a juggernaut, crushing all competing values. Yet at the same time, all
great religions teach us that, in reality (ultimate reality), that which is
"Least in Man's eyes and which is Greatest in God's eyes" is the only thing in
all of reality which "IS" enduring ... the only thing which is "real" and which has "intrinsic value" in this
So, now we return to the Western Culture environment with its
propensity for the "Two Bin" self-centric sorting system. It is inherently
antithetical to the spiritual notion that "A person or thing
exists FOR ITS OWN SAKE and not for the sake of something else or someone
else." So now we can readily see why the western model is deemed to
be truant and dishonest. That which fails to put a smile on our face,
fails to give us an erection or an orgasm ... that which fails to subordinate
itself to our every whim and desire, is deemed to be worthless ... having no
intrinsic value. This Western Culture environment has trashed a lot of
good people and a lot of good things because of its self-centric
Now we come around full-circle to the term "Be Happy" ... with its Western Culture background.
This is the "Dr. Feelgood" society, owned by the Pharmaceutical Industry, which
has a monkey on its back by way of a fairly serious drug & alcohol
problem. Given this unmistakable Western influence, I am simply advocating
that we refrain from legitimizing the use of the term "Be
Happy" ... as it is likely to be molested by the self-centric
connotations of a Western Culture steeped in its commitment to Ayn Rand
devotional anthems touting the virtue of "egotism" ... and "narcissism" and
hedonism and the self-centric World View.
The problem with the term "Be
Happy" is laid bare by considering the spate of Buddha statues that
abound around the World. There are an incredibly wide variety of Buddha
statues. The India statues tend to always depict Buddha as rather gaunt,
with a slight pained grimaced expression on his face. Perhaps that is
because many Indian cultures emphasize the ascetic nature of the Buddha's life
(Actually Buddha often warned of the dangers of Asceticism).
The western Buddha statues tend to always depict Buddha as
quite "Happy" ... usually reflected in a cherubic
body with an avuncular smiling face. But the "Truest" depiction of
the Buddha in a Buddha statue is reflected in the gigantic Japanese statue of
the Buddha sitting in a full lotus posture, holding the mudra with both hands,
just below his naval. The expression on the Buddha's face is
astonishing. It is not smiling in any way. It does not express pain
or sorrow. Neither does it express sadness or joy. When you examine
the face carefully, it has absolutely no emotive expression whatsoever.
And what is remarkable about this Buddha expression is that it is NOT devoid of
expression, even though it does not express joy, pain, happiness, sadness or
The Buddha's expression in this extraordinary Japanese statue
expresses pure "Serenity." Pure "Peace" and "Serenity" ... which
Shunryu Sazuki best described as "Imperturbable
Composure" (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," by Shunryu Sazuki).
There is no 'strain' in the face. A face that is smiling or is grimacing
or is sad ... is strained. If ever there was a pure, faithful
artistic depiction of pure, undiluted, uncontaminated "Peace" and "Serenity" this
statue is it. Who ever was responsibly for creating this remarkable
Japanese statue surely understood the full meaning of the Buddha's
And so, to understand this extremely subtle distinction being
made regarding the term "Be Happy" ... is to
understand the most vital teaching of the Buddha, which teachings are shared by
every major religion in the World. To depict Christ or Buddha as extolling
the virtues of pain and suffering because of the pain and suffering they
endured, is to misperceive their teachings. To depict Christ or Buddha
extolling the singular virtues of joy and happiness because of the pain and
suffering they sought to transcend, is to misunderstand, entirely, the meaning
of their lives as teachers.
The Heart of their teachings is that midway between the
Yin-Yang positions of Joy and Sorrow is something
which is neither. And that "something" which is
neither is ... Pure "Peace" and "Serenity" ... which Shunryu Sazuki described as "Imperturbable Composure." It is only from within this
subtle 'place' that all of reality, as it is given to us by the Creator, can be
accepted without question, as having its own integrity for its own sake, not for
the sake of something else or someone else.
This is the True "submission"
being asked of us us by teachings of Islam, and Buddhism and Christianity, and
by the teachings of all great religions which have graced this planet from time
immemorial. It is the surrender of the small "self" ... the "ego self" in
deference to the higher "Self" which includes all things in its
This, I believe, expresses the supreme difference between the
term "Be Happy" versus the alternative known as pure
"Peace" and "Serenity" ...
which Shunryu Sazuki described as "Imperturbable
Composure." The latter is not leaning against anything. It is
not 'engaged' but rather is completely and totally "disengaged." It is not
grasping for something or clinging onto anything. The latter expresses
that which is already enduring, complete and self-sufficient unto itself, while
the former suggests that which is transitory, ephemeral and fleeting ... that
which is grasping for something ... clinging onto something to maintain and
perpetuate its existence ... The former is dependent on
something outside itself to maintain its existence ... it is that
which rises and falls with the tide and fluctuates with surrounding
events. The latter is sufficient unto itself. Simply contemplating this vital distinction ... this subtle nuance
is, itself, enlightening beyond description.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2003 11:04
Subject: Re: "Be
I think the two messages are similar --
what are you waiting for? It' now/today -- and yes, the animals are dealing with
the present moment, mostly. The word "happy" can certainly mean "content" ; I
don't think happy is the same as manic, ecstatic, excited, etc. I think
it's serene. I think it means acceptance. At least, that's how I took it. I
liked what you wrote. Thanks. Rosie.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2003 12:29
Subject: Re: "Be
Take the typical
Cow. Is a Cow "Happy?" How about your average Cat or Rabbit?
Is a Cat or Rabbit "Happy?"
The notion of "Being
Happy" is a human concoction fabricated by the "Doctor Feel-good" social
engineers, who believe Life has to be a bouncy, up-beat, jingoistic,
bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, cheery, rosy, bouyant fun-ride. When it's not,
they've got the meds needed to make it happen.
The notion of "Being
Happy" is alien to animals. It's alien to the Cow and the Cat and the
Rabbit. They are not driven to "Be
Happy." Their lives are not defective or stunted or incomplete if
they are NOT HAPPY.
It's a little more Zen
than that, I submit. The notion of "Contentment" ... "Contentedness" comes
to my mind when I think of the Cow. "Here & Now Contentment" has that
quality that best describes the Cow, the Cat, the Rabbit. It doesn't have
the positive spin that's embedded in "Be
Happy." Nor does it have a negative spin. It has no 'spin' at
all. It is neutral.
It is acceptance of
the Here & Now . . . in the Here & Now. That is not to say one is
joyful about it or ecstatic about it or elated about it. It's a complacent
acceptance of the Here & Now that best describes the Cow. Perhaps that
is why I feel so natural and comfortable around a Cow or a Cat or a
Rabbit. It's their utter honesty and sincerity, effortlessly expressed
without overstating the case. It just feels so real, so comfortable, so
I do not need to
"Be Happy" any more than I need to "get high."
Let me be content to be in the same peaceful space that I discern when I look
into the calm face of an unfettered, unpretentious Cow.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2003 9:49
Subject: "Be Happy"
We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get
married, have a baby, then another.. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't
old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that, we're frustrated
that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are
out of that stage.. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our
spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, when we are able
to go on a nice vacation or when we retire. The truth is there's no better time
to be happy than right now. If not now, when? Your life will always be filled
It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy
anyway. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have and
treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to
spend your time with ... and remember that time waits for no one.
Until your car or home is paid off.
Until you get a
new car or home.
Until your kids leave the house.
Until you go back to
Until you finish school.
Until you lose 10 lbs.
gain 10 lbs.
Until you get married.
Until you get a divorce.
you have kids.
Until you retire.
Until you die.
There is no better time than right now to be happy. Happiness
is a journey, not a destination. So work like you don't need money, love like
you've never been hurt, and, dance like no one's watching.
If you want to brighten someone's day, pass this on to someone