‘Ending The Pursuit Of Happiness’ by Barry Magid
How many times in your Buddhist studies have you heard, “May you be happy ” or countless variations. How many of us have struggled attempting to be happy all the time like the the literature and some teachers seem to suggest?
Well relax. You don’t need to be happy every minute of the day. As stated in the quote above, you need to be free; then happiness will pass through your life freely along with sorrow, pain, anger and all the complex emotions that make up being human. To cling to happiness is as much an error as clinging to unhappiness. Neither has any permanence. They come and go.
Using a well known story to illustrate the point.: A husband asked a Zen master to intercede on his behalf with his wife. She had a very uncharitable nature. The Zen master went before her and put his fist under her nose and said “If your hand was always like this what would you call it?” “Deformed.”, she said He then held his hand wide open and again asked the same question. She answered the same, “Deformed” He then said, “If you know that much you are a good wife” and walked away.
It may be that there is a tendency in the teaching of Buddhism to assume that we are all so enmeshed in the First Noble Truth of suffering that we need to be firmly directed to a happier place. This is not without merit as long as we eventually realize that there is no escape from suffering. Life is suffering. We just learn, eventually, not to cling to it just as we learn not to cling to happiness.
Happiness is a byproduct of not clinging. It is not a goal. It cannot be forced by an act of will. Clinging less allows more space in our lives for happiness to enter naturally.