Ajahn Sumedo on happiness, unhappiness, and Nibbana

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A contextual expansion of a quote (bold below) I encountered in this morning’s readings, addressing impermanence and the fullness of the ’empty space’ Buddhists create within themselves through observance & meditation:

Trying to arrange, control and manipulate conditions so as to always get what we want, always hear what we want to hear, always see what we want to see, so that we never have to experience unhappiness or despair, is a hopeless task. It’s impossible, isn’t it? Happiness is unsatisfactory, it’s dukkha. It’s not something to depend on or make the goal of life. Happiness will always be disappointing because it lasts so briefly and then is succeeded by unhappiness. It is always dependent on so many other things. We feel happy when we’re healthy but our human bodies are subject to rapid changes and we can lose that health very quickly. Then we feel terribly unhappy at being sick, at losing the pleasure of feeling energetic and vigorous.

Thus the goal for the Buddhist is not happiness, because we realize that happiness is unsatisfactory. The goal lies away from the sensual world. It is not rejection of the sensual world, but understanding it so well that we no longer seek it as an end in itself. We no longer expect the sensory world to satisfy us. We no longer demand that sensory consciousness be anything other than an existing condition that we can skilfully use according to time and place. We no longer attach to it, or demand that the sense impingement be always pleasant, or feel despair and sorrow when it’s unpleasant. Nibbana isn’t a state of blankness, a trance where you’re totally wiped out. It’s not nothingness or an annihilation: it’s like a space. It’s going into the space of your mind where you no longer attach, where you’re no longer deluded by the appearance of things. You are no longer demanding anything from the sensory world. You are just recognizing it as it arises and passes away.

Read the remainder of Ajahn Sumedo’s commentary here.


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