Dhammapada, a collection of verses of Shakyamuni Buddha
Walking Buddha, India, Kashmir, 8th century Cleveland Museum of Art
Just like a blossom, bright colored but scentless: a well-spoken word is fruitless when not carried out.
Just like a blossom, bright colored and full of scent: a well-spoken word is fruitful when well carried out.
Trap to Break Your Heart
Trap: A stratagem for catching or tricking an unwary person.
Unwary person: Me and you...
A few weeks ago I sat in my car in my driveway to finish hearing Dr. Sandeep Jauhar speak on a radio program about people who die of a broken heart. I thought that was the stuff of 1950s movies but nope, it happens and it is real.
We don’t hear about it too often because it isn’t something doctors can objectively measure or cure with a pill, surgery or other medical intervention. This is the stuff of the mind, a mind that perceives and reacts to our life as it unfolds. The medical term for broken heart syndrome is takotsubo cardiomyopathy - named after the trap used by Japanese fishers to catch octopus. The shape of the trap resembles that part of the heart that “breaks.”
The effect on the heart is rarely fatal and symptoms usually go away in a short period of time. According to the American Heart Association*, it can be caused by “…an emotionally stressful event. It could be the death of a loved one or even a divorce, breakup or physical separation, betrayal or romantic rejection. It could even happen after a good shock, like winning the lottery.”
But what about all the years of little stresses? What happens then? Things we experience and then forget almost immediately, like our impatient reaction when the car in front of us doesn’t move after the light turns green? These are the little traps we fall into. We may not like them, but what if we begin to think little irritations are normal? When they escalate we may not notice them as such and get into the habit of thinking these too are normal. What is the toll they take on us? The toll is both emotional and physical. The toll is giving away the present time when we could be living this life instead of being attached to our ego attachments.
Most of us just don’t seem to have the tools to not let the stressors of life entrap us in the first place. In other words, prevention. Is it even possible? The more common way is for us to process experiences that don’t fit with how we want the world to be as stressful. Then we try to find ways to reduce or eliminate that stress. Some ways include meditation, hiking, or quietly enjoying nature.
But what about seeing the world as it is, awakening to its reality? This doesn’t mean accepting the status quo or being passive. What it does mean is dropping the ego attachments that land us in the traps so we may have the wisdom and compassion to see how we can make a difference, and then do it.
We each have our own reasons for coming to Buddhism as a way of living this life, a philosophy we understand and a belief we come to accept only after our own evaluation of it. One aspect of Buddhism is the perspective it gives us on life. It is these perspectives, as we make them our own that offer the key to prevention. It is a key to not experiencing events as stressful in the first place.
Bishop Marvin Harada wrote a piece on the Buddhist View on Happiness that is included in The Nightstand Buddhist below. Happiness or the trap of broken hearts? It isn’t always easy to choose. Most times we figure it is easier to stay the way we are and demand the “other” to change But if we can practice not letting that car that doesn’t move at once when the light turns green to upset us, then we know we can avoid all the other traps too.
Excerpts of Buddhist voices across teachings, across continents, across time.
A Buddhist View of Happiness
by Rev. Marvin Harada
All people seek happiness. No one wants to live a miserable, unhappy life. But how can one live a life of happiness? What is the source of happiness? Where can one find happiness? Although this question is a simple one, it is not easily answered. Many religions, teaching, philosophies, and also contemporary self-help methods and gurus all claim to know the way to happiness. What is the Buddhist perspective on happiness?
The Buddhist view of the world
When the Buddha became awakened, or “enlightened,” he saw that we humans are living in a world of delusion, which we cannot see or are aware. The metaphor for this world of delusion is like being lost in the forest, and to think that you know your way out, but you really don’t. You wander around and around, and eventually end up where you started. This is called a world of “samsara” or delusion. To make matters worse, you don’t even realize or admit that you are lost.
Humans are notorious for hating to admit that we are lost. I don’t know how many times I have been driving with my wife looking for a restaurant or some location that I think is, “just around here, somewhere.” My wife suggests, “Why don’t you stop and ask for directions?” My reply is always, “no, I know is right around here… somewhere.” 30 minutes later, I give up and stop and ask for directions. Buddhism says that we are lost and in delusion and we don’t even want to admit that we are lost. Being in delusion, we seek for happiness in all the wrong places.
Inner Happiness vs Outer Happiness
Normally, we pursue happiness in things external to us. We seek to increase our wealth. We seek to buy a new home. We seek to buy a new car. We seek the perfect job or position. We even seek a spouse to complete our life and to make us truly “happy.” But even if we are fortunate and able to have wealth, a nice home, a nice car, and the nice partner, we are only, “somewhat” happy. We are not “deeply” happy, or we find that our happiness is brief and fleeting. The new home is nice for a while, but quickly means “too small.” The new car is nice but as soon as we get a scratch or a ding, we suffer. Even our spouse or partner may not bring the kind of happiness that we thought it would.
Buddhism, first of all addresses how we seek happiness outside of ourselves, and turns the direction around, to seek a sense of inner happiness, happiness that comes from a fulfilled life, happiness that comes from the giving of oneself, the happiness that comes from living beyond the ego centered life.
The Happiness of the Awakened Person
How does an awakened person live a happier life compared to an un-awakened person? First of all, the un-awakened person seeks happiness outside of themselves. Second, an un-awakened person is always looking for the gratification of one’s own needs and desires. The un-awakened person discriminates between the positives and negatives of life and thinks that positives are only meaningful. The un-awakened person thus rejects and tries to avoid or escape from the negatives of life.
The awakened person does not seek happiness outside of themselves. The awakened person finds deep gratification in making others happy, and serving others, rather than finding gratification for one’s self. The awakened person embraces both the positives and negatives of life. The awakened person embraces fortune and misfortune, hope and sickness, success and failure. Nothing in life is an obstacle for the awakened person. No matter what one faces in life, there is something to learn, something to realize, and something to reflect on.
For such a person, happiness does not go up or down depending on external circumstances. Happiness does not come and go. Happiness is not a mirage in the desert that disappears as soon as you get there.
The awakened person has a different sense of happiness. It is not something that you can grab onto. It is something that unfolds from life itself. It has an unending source, like a fountain that eternally bubbles forth water from deep within the earth.
This sense of happiness is accessible to anyone. It is not dependent on age or gender. It is not limited to any particular ethnicity. It is the deepest wish and aspiration of the Buddha that all people live a meaningful, fulfilled, and happy life.
We can find such a sense of happiness through listening to the teachings, studying the teachings, discussing the Dharma with others, and by reflecting within ourselves in our daily life.
Published by: BCA, Southern District Ministers Association
9:45 AM: Sitting mediation, all levels, including beginners
Shin Buddhist Service: Rev. Anita Tokuzen Kazarian
November Memorial Service
To include the name of a loved one or friend in the November Shin Buddhist Monthly Memorial Service, please email Rev. Anita with their name. This is an expression of gratitude for those who have come before us and does not require they be Buddhist.
If you know a person in assisted living, a nursing home or hospital that misses hearing the Buddha Dharma, please contact us.
We welcome your comments and questions. Let us know what you think
Center for Buddhist Education - September - November