There’s a story about a student who approached a Zen master and said “I want happiness.”
The teacher replied, take out “I” from the sentence, then take out “want”, and you will be left with “happiness.”
It makes for a great story.
But does it mean all we have to do is strip everything into its simplest form? Turn everything into black and white. On to the straight and narrow path to happiness.
I wish it was that easy.
That happiness is only a matter of subtraction.
Go down to the barest, lose your ego, lose any desire, suffer no disappointment.
I believe it goes beyond that. We can’t stop being human. We would not give up being able to experience joy in the birth of a child, even if it means feeling the deep sadness in the departure of a loved one.
We will be at times sad, angry, abhorred, afraid, and, yes, also happy.
It is in the journey, not at the end.
The simplest sentence has no words at all.
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”
– Benjamin Disraeli
I may not be as great a traveler as Benjamin Disraeli, but I have seen quite a bit and remember quite a few.
Among those things I’ve seen and remember is the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. I do like temples and, though not a Buddhist, I find it soothing to the soul when I’m in a Zen temple or garden. This one in particular captures harmony between heaven and earth, and also shines in its beautiful setting.
The Golden Pavilion is worth visiting for a sight to remember, if not to soothe one’s soul.
Some facts about the Golden Pavilion
1. It is a World Heritage Site.
2. The top two stories are covered with gold leaf.
3. The gold is to purify any negative thoughts towards death.
3. Its origin dates back to the 1400s.
More info on the Golden Pavilion here.
According to this calculation, it can be several billion tons. Smart geometry and physics.
But I also like this answer – as long as you don’t try to lift it up, it doesn’t weigh anything at all. It’s like problems, you don’t deny their existence, and you don’t run away from them. You just don’t carry them around.
Science vs. philosophy. Your answer depends on how you see the question.
(Photo: detail of the “Three Sisters” at the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia.)
At the Zen garden of the Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto, one’s spirit can commune with nature and find peace.
The garden “borrows” from the surrounding landscape and becomes one with it.
A little piece of heaven on earth.
At the Otowa Waterfall in Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, one can choose between longevity, success, and love by drinking from a stream.
The waterfall, which runs off the hills nearby, is split into three streams of “pure” water, and the tradition is that one takes a ladle and choose which stream to drink from. One does not drink from all three streams as it is considered greedy.
So which one to choose?
A 75-year Harvard study on happiness tells us that “good relationships keep us happier and healthier.” Being in a relationship where one can “really feel they can count on the other person in times of need” is good for our well-being.
If we follow this advice, the choice is obvious – we choose relationships, we choose love.
It’s a choice we can make everyday, through our actions that build warm relationships and nurture the well-being of the people we love.
Each time we do, we are taking the ladle and drinking from the stream of love at the Otowa Waterfall.
(Information about the Kiyomizu Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Otowa Waterfall, can be found here and here.)
(The TED Talk on the Harvard study on happiness can be found here.)