What’s the secret to happiness?
It’s not an easy question to answer.
If you listen to mainstream media, you might think it’s money or fame. We’re taught to believe that “celebrities” have the perfect life.
But are they really happy? Not exactly.
In fact, attaching our happiness to material objects may make us unhappy.
So, what can we do?
According to the Dalai Lama, the key is to develop inner peace, which can be achieved by “awareness of reality” and “compassion”.
Here are 10 profound Buddhist lessons:
1) Never lose hope
It’s crucial to keep hope, even in tough times.
Buddhism says that change is built into the nature of things: nothing is inherently fixed, not even our identity.
Therefore, no matter bad the situation, it’s important to remember that change is only the law in the universe and it will eventually pass.
According to Buddhist monk, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the nature of karma also gives up hope:
“In the five reflections, the reflection on karma is the one that gives hope. You realize that you’re in charge of your actions. You’re not simply a victim of fate or of the stars or of some other being acting through you. You’re the one who’s making the choices. That’s what gives you hope.”
2) Help others as much as possible
Beautiful words from The Dalai Lama. Sometimes it can help to stop focusing on your own problems and instead help people with theirs. Not only will you help them out, but it might just make you feel better about yourself.
Compassion is one of the most revered qualities in Buddhism. Compassion is also about understanding the basic goodness in all people. It helps you connect wholeheartedly with others, which can be a great source of joy.
Seek to live in a way where you treat everyone as you would yourself. Once you begin doing this, you’ll realize the true power of compassion.
Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh offers some great advice:
“When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”
3) Letting go gives us freedom
We don’t need to rely on outside factors to make us happy. By clinging onto anything, we remain fixed and unable to change. True freedom means accepting the transient nature of everything.
Only then can we understand the liberating notion that it’s impossible to hold onto anything. What we can do is embrace the present moment as best we can and allow ourselves the opportunity to grow and improve.
Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh says it best:
“Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go… There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.”
4) Progress can only occur through understanding
Brilliant words from Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. There’s a huge divide in society because opposing sides refuse to listen to each other. But this has no positive effect at all.
We need to understand and show compassion for people who have different views than us. Progress will only come from dialogue and understanding.
The Dalai Lama also says that understanding is critical for our own happiness as well:
“Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.”
5) If we are going to change our life, it’s up to us
Your life is yours, and yours alone. There is no way for anyone to experience the world from your unique perspective. Instead of leaning on others to guide you through life, be brave and blaze your own path.
The Dalai Lama offers some potent words on this point:
“There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?”
(I recently distilled everything I know about Buddhism and eastern philosophy into a practical, down-to-earth guide to living a better life. Check it out here).
6) Trust your own common sense
In a world of fake news and algorithmic newsfeeds we have no control over, it’s more important than ever to exercise our critical thinking skills.
We don’t need some expert to tell us what to think. We can think for ourselves.
7) Holding onto anger isn’t useful
Buddhism teaches us that directing anger at others doesn’t really lead to anything positive. There are better ways to get your point across.
Take a step back and act with reason and common sense. You’ll thank yourself later.
According to the Dalai Lama, instead of getting angry, we should use it a stepping stone in our own development:
“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”
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8) Don’t stoop to anyone’s level
Buddha was one of the first people to teach that you can only conquer hate with love.
So, remember, you don’t need to stoop to someone else’s level if they’re acting toxic. By upholding our values, we will get the desired result we’re seeking and keep our integrity intact.
9) To be beautiful means to be yourself
We can all agree that the most awesome people are authentic people. They are who they are and they know what they want in life. There’s no BS. You can feel comfortable around them because they’re not trying to be manipulative.
Buddhism teaches us that through self-compassion and acceptance of ourselves, we’re able to become the beautiful human beings we know we’re all capable of being.
(To learn more self-help techniques, check out our guide on how to love yourself here)
10) The moment is the only thing that exists
One of the cornerstone teachings of Buddhism. The future hasn’t arrived. The past is over. The only thing that matters is the present moment. It’s the only place where happiness resides.
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