You’re bright, curious, and driven. Maybe competitive, certainly inspired by a good challenge, and possibly interested in contributing something to make the world a better place. Maybe you’ve even thought about what it will take for you to reach 80 or 100 and be able to say: This is what I set out to do, and I’ve done it. There have been ups and downs, but I’ve pretty much stayed on track.
You may think: To go from here to there—becoming a successful and satisfied person with a big chunk of life behind me—I’ll need to get this, achieve that, go there. If you’re a romantic, your success will depend on relationships; if you’re family-oriented, it’ll be family; if you’re a materialist, you’ll need to acquire certain things; if you’re an adventurer, adventures; if you’re an intellectual, knowledge. The list goes on. You may well have eminently worthy and admirable goals—especially if contributing to the welfare of others is part of what makes you tick.
But if our fulfillment and happiness depend on obtaining or doing something, will we be unhappy or frustrated if we don’t obtain it or do it? Is our happiness dependent on something that is ultimately beyond our personal reach? Does it depend on other people, other events? If those things, people, events, states or relationships that we depend on for our fulfillment change, what happens? They will change, they do change. Sometimes for the better—but not always. Then what?
It is useful to take a closer look at what actually makes us happy. What do we mean by happy? Where do peace and fulfillment come from? What about dissatisfaction, pain and anguish? How do we define these experiences? And who—or what—is this potentially fulfilled person—this “me”?
Around 2,600 years ago the Buddha, aware that we all share the desire to be happy and to avoid pain, asked himself these exact same questions. And 2,600 years ago the Buddha came up with answers that are still—according to Buddhists, anyway—the most intelligent, pertinent response to human needs in terms of philosophy and practice.
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