20 October 2008

Outside in

As the media hunts desperately for some way of refuting the charge that they are stoking up the economic crisis, and the accompanying anxiety, alarm and despair, I thought I’d try something a bit more traditional.

On my desk at work is a Thorson’s pocket edition of some of the Dalai Lama’s writings, and I sometimes open it at random, in the way rural communities used to use their Bibles. The results are never less than interesting, and sometimes strikingly appropriate – unsurprisingly, as this is a form of dowsing “Please give me what I need”. Today I found myself reading a passage which contained the following

…No matter how forceful [suffering and anxiety] is, it cannot destroy the supreme source of my happiness, which is my calmness of mind. This is something an external enemy cannot destroy. Our country can be invaded, our possessions can be destroyed, our friends can be killed, but these are secondary for our mental happiness….

He goes on to say that the ultimate source of mental happiness is a person’s peace of mind, and the only thing which can destroy that is their anger – very Buddhist, yes, and it takes a lot more detachment than many of us have (me included) to achieve that level of serenity. The Christian approach is God-centred – external but not of this world: my Bible similarly opened at random came up with “I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord…in all their affliction he was afflicted…and he bare them and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah chapter 63). Or if u knowz Lolcat , hooz God is Ceilin(g) Cat:
Im gonna tell ov teh kindnesez ov the lord…In all their distres he 2 wuz distresd…He liftd them up an carrid them All the dais ov old…”

But whatever you feed it with, my instincts are that the mechanism for happiness is internal, which is by no means confined to Buddhism. My personal anthology also contains a Wiccan tenet that I wrote there many years ago:

If ye find it not within, so ye shall find it not without.


kcm said...

YEp, absolutely true. Happiness is something entirely internal, although it can be affected (for good and bad) I believe by external things. As usual the Dalai Lama and Wicca have it spot on!

Jilly said...

I agree totally. I've a feeling many of the poets have agreed with the theory as well. People have a habit of thinking if they change the outer circumstances of their lives then they will be happy but as my friend Liz always says - you can't get away from what's in your head.

NAM said...

Thanks, both - I'm currently having my calm tested (but only a bit) by a disappointing last-minute loss of a chance to have a paper published as part of conference proceedings (to rub the salt in, the opportunity has gone to a colleague who didn't even go, but it's an important bit of career development for her, after all).

Now off to do some practical pulling about in the textile store, to further work off the irritation!