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The Nature Of Happiness?
January 21, 2003
6:35 pm
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I love to read and learn. It started for me at a very young age. I had a thirst for knowledge. Two of my first major philosophy books were "Siddhartha" and "The Prophet".
Another notable influence was a book called "Notes to Myself."
I have studied Yoga but do not practice. I have studied Nutrition but Smoke. I journal and read positive affirmations daily. I have read alot of different influences. My last course in college before gradutation was Philosophy 101. From all, I take what appeals to me, and leave the rest. I have a hard time recalling facts but I definitely can recall feelings. I have been in therapy with probably over 7 different therapists. I just know that the combination of my life experience and reading have been combined to create who I am today.

Most people comment on my beautiful, warm smile. I don't even know that I am smiling most of the time. They tell me it is contagious. I hope so 🙂

To spread a little smile outwards must be a reflection of me inwards. I don't know? That is not to say I don't frown because I do. I can feel a frown. I'd rather feel a smile, wouldn't you?

January 21, 2003
7:26 pm
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Tha^y's 14 Precepts:

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"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sound. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.

Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of you life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

Do not maintain anger or hatred. As soon as anger and hatred arise, practice the meditation on compassion in order to deeply understand the persons who have caused anger and hatred. Learn to look at other beings with the eyes of compassion.

Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Learn to practice breathing in order to regain composure of body and mind, to practice mindfulness, and to develop concentration and understanding.

Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest of to impress people. Do not utter words that cause diversion and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things you are not sure of. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice, and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to life. Select a vocation which helps realize your ideal compassion.

Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and to prevent war.

Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others but prevent others from enriching themselves from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.

Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only and instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the Way. Sexual expression should not happen without love and commitment. In sexual relationships be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

Do not believe that I feel that I follow each and every of these precepts perfectly. I know I fail in many ways. None of us can fully fulfill any of these. However, I must work toward a goal. These are my goal. No words can replace practice, only practice can make the words.

"The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon."

Tez, thanks for pointing me in this direction the other day. I found these useful in my everyday practice.

January 22, 2003
6:17 pm
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mj.

Thank you for posting those wonderful precepts for living a happy life. They are indeed full of wisdom.

You said, "... Are we not in control of the thoughts we choose to think? I say "Stop" when I realize that my thoughts are not bringing me happiness. "

Yes ... but the key phrase in your above statement is "when I realize that my thoughts are not bringing me happiness ". The problem is in having this realization!! For example, I may be lusting after the my neighbor's beautiful wife. My thoughts may be centered around how good it could feel to be in bed with her. Our emotions may react in a way that results in pleasant feelings, yet even if I do nothing other than indulge in these thoughts, they often lead to discontent and unhappiness.

Then we have unconscious thoughts about which we know little until they burst into consciousness. Unless we become aware of these unconscious processes what control do we have over them? We are constantly doing battle with the conscious thoughts resulting from the 'cognitive dissonance' within the unconscious.

And you said, " Our emotions are created by the thoughts we think."

Yes, in part this is true. However, very recent research suggests that the emotions are very often triggered directly by sensory data input signals via the 'Le Doux short cut'.

In such cases of direct emotional triggering, we then become cognitively aware of our emotional arousal AFTER the event. Then we struggle to make 'sense' out of our 'feelings'. Therein, our thought processes may lead us into further emotional arousal without our immediate awareness that this is happening -unless of course we are quite adept at monitoring what's going on in our psyche. This is my main point in my 21st Jan 2003 posting.

"If we were emotionless, I don't think we could be happy." I could not agree more. To be emotionally neutered is an awful feeling. 🙂 There's a paradox! Been there under Prothiaden and Prozac. Yuk!!

"... most of my suffering is caused by my own thoughts. Each individual is responsible for their own thoughts and behavior and reactions to stimuli. "

Again I agree with your statement. And from whence do your thoughts emanate? How many people do you think deliberately think thoughts that they know will bring them ongoing suffering and never lead to happiness? Not many, I suspect.

I suspect that it is ignorance of the nature and consequences of peoples' negative thoughts that perpetuates suffering and unhappiness. Wrong attributions as to the causes of their 'feelings' is at the very core of this ignorance - or so I believe.

You said, "I am not a master of my emotions, I am just a seeker of happiness. "

I would say that, "He or she who would seek happiness, must, of necessity, first seek to be master of their emotions."

"The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon." Precisely!!!

Intellectualizing about an experience is not the same as having the experience. Learning about the 'way' is not the same thing as living the 'way'.

Thanks again for posting Thich Nhat Hanh's precepts - they are great 'fingers'.

January 22, 2003
9:13 pm
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What is the Le Doux short cut?

January 23, 2003
6:08 pm
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mj.

The 'Le Doux short cut' is the neural bypass pathway from the Thalamus(Audio, Vidual, Olfactory etc) that conducts sensory signals directly to the Amygdala (the centre of control of our emotional selves).

The Thalamus is a 'relay station' on the sensory signal pathways to the cortex(Audio, Visual, Olfactory, etc) wherein 'interpretation' is performed.

It seems that nature has evolved this short cut to ensure as fast an emotional response as possible to a threat of harm. Thus we jump in fright at walking on a hose at night long before 'thinking' that it might be a snake and then realizing that it is not.

Apparently it takes 10 times longer for the sensory data signals to reach the cortex than it takes to reach the Amygdala. - Le Doux (1996, 2002), NYU

I'm sorry that I cannot present graphic images of the above here. See LeDoux's web site for further info of a graphic nature.

January 23, 2003
8:04 pm
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Thanks Tez, I will check it out.

January 23, 2003
8:20 pm
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Tez, You have once again opened my eyes to a vast world where I am just an ant. Your critique of my writings make me realize that I would probably benefit from keeping my mouth shut and listening to the teacher.
I am listening and learning.
Thank You.

January 24, 2003
5:14 pm
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mj.

"... I would probably benefit from keeping my mouth shut and listening to the teacher... "

Here I have to vehemently disagree with you.

Firstly, I have absolutely no illusions about my present state of learning. I am a very novice student of life not a teacher. Any great master would confirm that, I feel sure. (Not false modesty, but conviction.)

Secondly, from what I read of your postings I am stimulated to think at depth. This is undoubtedly the very aim of most good teachers - to evoke in depth thoughtfulness in their students.

A couple of years ago, someone on this site suggested that I should start my own religion - 'Tezism'. 🙂 I was appalled by the suggestion. The last thing that I would want is to have a whole lot of people abnegating their responsibilities for thinking for themselves by getting me to do their thinking for them. It is sad that many religious people do exactly this - getting their minister, priest, guru or spiritual leader to tell them what their 'reality' is, for the now and in the hereafter.

January 24, 2003
5:51 pm
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Thank You for vehemency 🙂

I enjoy talking with you also.
So is that why you would not contribute into my curiosity about you on the general site?

I mean't no harm but felt like I had overstepped your boundaries with openly asking about you.

I admire your mastery of the english language. I find myself with dictionary in hand, quite a bit.
In all honesty, I have been intimidated several times by our postings and felt uneasy sharing my thoughts. I am glad that you are YOU. Whomever you are 🙂

January 25, 2003
5:55 pm
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mj.

" ... So is that why you would not contribute into my curiosity about you on the general site? ... "

???? I really don't know of the posting or the thread to which you refer.

Regarding my English language usage, I am, through experiences gained on this site, very aware of the necessity to:

(1) Keep postings short or few will persevere in reading the posting carefully.

(2) Avoid ambiguity.

The result of not observing the above is that many misconstrue the meanings and then wrongly attribute intentions to boot. Emotions are then aroused and flame wars can result.

Writing succinctly often demands using words that say a lot within the constraints of a few words. That means searching for words that convey exact meanings and without ambiguity.

However, even this technique causes some people emotional problems. Let me explain how:

Some women have had very uncaring and distant fathers. Such fathers may have been very 'rational' and 'left brained' in how they spoke to their family. Love may have been lacking within the father daughter relationship and deepseat emotional pain may have been embedded within the young girl's psyche as a result.

Now a grown woman in pain over some shattered relationship, the daughter comes to this site and reads my posting.

Without my knowledge or intent, because of my seemingly 'unfeeling' postings, she projects the image that she holds of her father onto me. The next thing that I know, I am being challenged in the most irrational way. Realizing what has happened, I back off. But this is what dad probably did also! Now I really am 'dad' to her.

Phew! I'm dammed if I do and dammed if I don't.

So... I avoid the 'phantoms' of the past within these many postings on the general site and leave the nurturing to the many willing 'mothers' therein.

I believe that nurturing is essential. However nurture alone is only one half of the emotion/cognition equation.

I like to support what I consider to be the more productive side of the equation that led us out of the notorious 'garden of eden' of neanterthal man; namely the development of cognitions within myself and others.

Therefore I generally avoid the 'general' page and stick to the 'social' page where I can best serve the interests of both myself and others.

I am sorry to have been so verbose in trying to succinctly explain why I have no awareness of the posting of which you speak. 🙂

January 25, 2003
7:16 pm
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Hi Tez,
Your rationalization made sense.
My father was one of those male types 🙂 I don't think of you as a father to me consciously nor would I want to. I prefer a professor type!

And correct me if I am wrong but you actually posted on the thread "Curious about Tez" that I started Jan.11 but as a reference to Bel and your emailing. I assumed that you read all the postings but did not care to acknowledge or satisfy my curiosity. I just thought that curiosity killed the cat and let it drop until now.
Please do not misinterupt my curiosity and pardon my intrusion.

Happiness is being able to learn to communicate freely and without worry!

January 26, 2003
6:19 pm
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mj.

"...I don't think of you as a father to me consciously nor would I want to... "
I wasn't inferring that you did.

I was explaining my rationale for avoiding posting on the general threads these days. I'm sure that the women with whom I've experienced problems in the past never thought of me as a father figure either.

I am talking about my words re-triggering emotions that they felt as children towards their father. Some, if not all people when they read text, unconsciously project 'sounds' into the words inside their heads. They actually 'hear' my words!!!

It is the loud 'volume' and negative 'intonations' of these 'projected sounds' that can trigger their negative emotions. The 'rationality' of the text is sometimes the thing that initiates the projections of negative 'intonations' and 'harsh volumes' resulting in negative connotations. I've even been accused of writing 'harsh words' where no harshness existed. You see my point?

About emailing people on this site:

Bel lives in the USA and I live in Australia.

I first came to this site soon after its inception.

At that time, Bel asked me - on this site - if I could give her my email address. I did so - a thing I have only done one other time on this site.

We have kept up regular email contact over the years since then.

I'm an open book myself, but I keep other people's business confidential. So if you feel the need for more information in this regard you will have to ask her. Bel has my full permission to divulge whatever she feels necessary.

I feel that happiness is the freedom to think that others see us as being 'silly' without caring.

Happiness, for me, is making a fool of myself and laughing with others at my own stupidity - provided that the laughter at a harmless occurrence of course. It happened to me last night in front of a whole dance full of people. A woman who is a little uninhibited tried to kiss me. She 'slobbers' and I hate it. Anyway I wrapped a towel around my head when she approached me. She ruffled the towel violently as a 'joke'. Everyone was watching (maybe 100 people). The whole crowd roared laughing when upon removing the towel they saw that my hair was standing up in all directions like a bottle brush. The amazing thing is that it liberated the crowd and they all enjoyed themselves thereafter. Why do you think that was?

The problem is that we see 'harm' where there really is none done. That's why most people hate being a laughing stock. I don't. But neither do I set out to play the fool either.

Happiness is being carefree but not careless.

January 27, 2003
11:08 am
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Hi Tez,
You say "We are constantly doing battle with the conscious thoughts resulting from the 'cognitive dissonance' within the unconscious"
It seems to me it would be very hard to always be couscious of our cognitive dissonace thoughts to keep ourselves happy and in control. Our mind is always working and sometimes it works overtime and I dont understand how we can stop any thoughts from coming out? I do know that if my day starts out bad and continues to do so I need to sit back and say to myself...everything is ok we can always start the day over, I dont know if it was you or not who told me just relax and think to yourself its okay, take a breath and calm down and start your day over. I know it can be done but the thought process seems hard to me. Am I making sence here?

January 27, 2003
5:01 pm
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Bel.

You said " I dont understand how we can stop any thoughts from coming out?"

I would never advocate trying to stop any undesirable thoughts from coming out. I really don't see myself as ever being successful at doing that. If I tried, then at best they would surface again within my dreams.

What I would advocate is not becoming attached to those thoughts. Just as we grasp at and cling to material possessions, relationships etc, likewise we are prone to grasp at thoughts and therein keep them alive and well by recirculating them.

This clinging to thoughts is what is called 'worrying'. The Raja Yogis call these conscious troublesome thoughts that shoot up from the unconscious, 'sanskaras' . They say that leting them go diminishes the unconscious thought processes that causes them in the first place. Clinging to these sanskaras and recirculating them, strengthens the underlying unconscious processes that produce them. In other words we can play an active role in decomissioning our previous negative conditioning by simply 'letting go'.

All of life is transient. It is our clinging to people, places and things and trying to somehow stop things changing or to have complete control over the change that makes us unhappy.

So when I talk about 'control' over my thoughts, I must apply the same logic. Trying to 'control' thoughts by either stopping them from coming out altogether or by trying to artificially altering their content to suit one's predetermined idea of how a 'nice' person should think, is a recipe for unhappiness.

However, I believe that given the right information, and with much practice we can learn ways of living that will ultimately free us from clinging to anything.

This does not imply that living in a careless and irresponsible way is appropriate. It implies living in a carefree manner yet taking responsibility for one's own life. There is a huge difference between the two.

We can care about what is happening in any given instant and take appropriate action where we deem it necessary. But then we can let go of the clinging to either the associated thoughts or the outcomes.

All effects have causes and conditions that produce them and all effects become causes and/or conditions for future effects. It is a neverending complex matrix; a very dynamic web of life.

However it is the 'seeing' what really is the true nature of this web, this 'facade', that enables us to 'let go' of what we perceive through our little 'peephole'; our very tiny, very limited view of the huge passing parade of life.

January 30, 2003
10:38 pm
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I would not want to cling to my bad memory thoughts or feelings. I know you said I should embrace them and learn from them? I have tried that in fact just today I had a memory and some feelings of when I was going through my abuse and Tez they make me feel awful and I try to stop feeling them. I have not had them for a long time now but I guess because I am going through some rough and stressful times right now they are resurfing and also I am having trouble sleeping something I never had before. Our thought control us dont they? Mine do and it seems like a cirle going round and round.

January 31, 2003
4:28 pm
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This has been an educational read for me...and thought provoking. First, thank you Tez and MJ for listing the references. I've been looking for something interesting to read and I now have a place to start 🙂

On the nature of happiness - Tez, part of your original post was "...Happiness is clear and strong only against the backdrop of suffering..." I believe that is true. I don't think we can know pleasure without knowing pain. Just as light cannot exist without darkness.

Does this mean I have to 'experience' suffering myself in order to enjoy happiness? I don't really know, but I don't think so. If I am aware and in touch with the suffering around me, and in others, I have the back drop.

Well, it actually does not matter because I have had enough suffering in my life (mostly self induced) to have a sufficient backdrop. And, do I really need to know where happiness comes from in order to have it? There again, I don't think so. In fact, if I sit here analyzing where my happiness comes from...then I'm missing the boat, so to speak. Unless of course I derive happiness from exploring this...lol (and I do).

Well...my thoughts have become scrambled as my children are having way too much fun trying to get my attention...so I will get back to this.

Thanks for getting those brain cells working 🙂

January 31, 2003
5:26 pm
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bel.

Yes... But embracing 'bad' thoughts and 'feelings' is different to mentally 'clinging' to them. Embracing them entails recognizing that at the moment these feelings are a part of us. They don't make us 'good' or 'bad' people. These feelings just are!

It is when we 'disown' bad feelings and refuse to accept them by trying to push them away that we disown a part of ourselves. Such alienation of parts of ourselves is what causes our 'inner emotional child' to rebel. This causes much emotional turmoil for us. We sometimes feel a nagging, gnawing that seems to eat away at the very core of our being until we feel utterly worthless.

However, embracing a feeling of disgust in no way implies that we approve of the bad actions that in our childhood caused the imprinting that results in the recall of these unpleasant feelings. We have to learn to separate the cause from the effect.

We can embrace these feelings of disgust in the same way a mother embraces her infant who has just done a dump in their diapers. 🙂 Would a good mother push the infant away from her in disgust and deny that the baby has done a filthy mess in its diapers? The good mother would 'own' both the baby and its disgusting habits knowing that in time the baby can learn better ways of taking a dump. Likewise we can learn better ways of dealing with the 'dumps' that our emotional selves take every so often, than by disowning them and hoping that they go away.

Does taking a dump in her diapers make an infant baby girl 'good' or 'bad'?

A good 'mother' uses her mental powers to decide this issue very quickly - not her feelings of revulsion at the sight of the full, evil smelling diaper.

Happiness requires good self-parenting - I think.

January 31, 2003
5:51 pm
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Onedayatatime.

You said, "And, do I really need to know where happiness comes from in order to have it? " No... not if you are happy.

However, if you are not happy, then it might help to know what causes unhappiness. Then one can avoid the causes.

I think that happiness is a by-product of right living. But what is right living?

My posting to Bel above is but a tiny drop in the ocean. But it emphasizes that amongst other things, unhappiness is a function of negative emotional arousal.

In regard to the term negative emotional arousal, "Fear by any other name still smells the same." - Tez 🙂

Effectively dealing with fear one day at a time is one path to living a happy life. As you well know, 12 step programs aim at doing this. Living one instant at a time, being mindful of our breathing, our body, our feelings, people and events around us, and our thoughts without grasping and clinging to anything is even better. Thich Nhat Hanh would call this 'right mindfulness'.

Resentments are examples of such clingings to perceived wrongs done to us. The result: the sustenance of ongoing, unpleasant emotional arousal and consequently unhappiness.

What about clinging to memories of good emotional experiences? Does this make us happy? What do you think?

February 1, 2003
7:50 pm
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A good emotional experience from the past can be remembered and bring us momentary happiness and a smile to our face.

However, if clinged to...that is simply trying to live in the past or hold onto something that no longer exists...which ultimately would lead to unhappiness.

Living in the moment may just be a key to happiness.

February 5, 2003
3:41 pm
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Yes... I wholeheartedly agree. Either way clinging to the past leads to unhappiness.

The interesting thing is contemplating whether the 'present' really exists at all. It seems that we can only capture very finite 'chunks' of the 'present' that are limited by the response time of our sense organs. What we 'miss' is far greater than what we 'capture' in these 'frame grabs' that we know at the present. Yet if we try to conceive of the 'present' mathematically by using differential calculus, then in the limit the present approaches 1/infinity or zero. Thus mathematically speaking the present doesn't exist. From the frame grabbing perspective, the 'present' is a highly selective construct in our heads. Phew, what is real! Only Nirvana perhaps!

And it seems to me that we can only experience Nirvana by letting go of the 'trying to accumulate, interpret and cling to the ever coming and going 'frames' of our sensory data inputs'. The past seems only to exist as a collection of frames somehow encoded into flawed memories. The future seems to exist only in our projecting imaginations that are 'colored' by past memories.

What the hell is reality???

February 5, 2003
4:04 pm
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Reality is that we are human...we have a time line to live by, and we have the ability to live anywhere along that time line we choose.

Simply because mathmatically the present is zero, does not mean it does not exist. Zero exists. Without zero, there is no one (1) or no negative one (-1). If that is true, then there is no past, and there is no future. Therefore, acknowledging zero...the present exists.

February 5, 2003
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I'm laughing now...I just saw on another thread that you are a math teacher. What do you think of the perspective above?

February 5, 2003
6:53 pm
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February 7, 2003
8:38 pm
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Onedayatatime.

Well... I teach electronics engineering subjects. At the moment I'm teaching engineering maths.

"Simply because mathmatically the present is zero, does not mean it does not exist."

True... but maybe the present does not as commonly perceived bracketed within a - future -> present -> past -
time based continuum as we presently perceive it.

"Without zero, there is no one (1) or no negative one (-1)."

All three are abstract mathematical concepts that are based upon the mind's perceived subject-object demarcation. e.g. I (subject)can conceive that at some arbitary time zero (mental object)there existed a 'present' time, 1 second before and one second after that point in time.

Perhaps time itself is a mental construct.

The interesting thing here is that fundamental to the Buddhist beliefs about the nature of reality is the concept of 'emptiness' as opposed to 'nothingness'. Buddhism seems to posit that all words, identities, subject/object demarcations, differentiations, are mental formations that don't have any basis in reality. The further that I look into this the more sciences seems to back this belief up.

What has this to do with happiness? Well... if I look closely at what makes me unhappy, I see that it is my perception that in the perceived future, I will encounter a 'present event' for my 'self', that despite my best efforts, can and will sooner or later cause that 'self' to sustain some damage, degradation, and finally to die!

If both 'time' and that 'self' are illusory mental formations and all is 'one' then this 'consciousness' that I perceive as being 'mine' or even 'me', may in reality be at the very basis of all that is. The demarcation between your 'conscious awareness' and 'mine' may also be purely an illusory perception.

It seems that great masters are able to transcend these consciousness boundaries and see the infinite boundaryless 'all'. It seems that the Buddha amongst many others was one such historical person to achieve this.

If the above is in fact true, (only if) then what bliss there is to be found in knowing that all vulnerability is also an illusion and that immense powers are just below the illusions and ignorance that binds us to our suffering. Throw over the shackles and heaven is ours to be had within or despite of every imaginary 'second'.

February 13, 2003
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I just read a quick line someone sent me that I liked and thought of this thread...

"There is no key to happiness...the door is always open."

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