Talk Categories Happiness | Talk Locations Shanghai Jiao Tong University

The Key to Happiness Is the Mind

In Modern society, we usually seek happiness in material wealth, social status, and relationships; but when we finally do obtain them, they eventually become the source of further dissatisfaction and suffering. From the perspective of the Buddhist teachings, it is only through working with our mental attitude, cultivating contentment, and through spiritual wealth that we can actually give meaning to our lives and find the happiness we seek.

Speech by Khenpo Sodargye

Wealth and Happiness

Opening Speech

The Host:

Respected Khenpo Sodargye, dear alumni and guests, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend the Advanced Lecture Series on Traditional Chinese Culture, organized by the Traditional Chinese Culture Class of the Overseas Education College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Since its beginning, the Traditional Chinese Culture Class has been trying to provide the best faculty, and the best cultural and spiritual food for its students. As the society becomes more materialistic, competitive and changeable, people are getting increasingly restless, anxious and stressed. Our courses, which focus on the study of traditional Chinese cultures, aim at passing along the positive energy of peace, ease and freedom, so that people can achieve spiritual detachment in this restless society. To study classic texts is to learn to look beneath the surface of things with a detached attitude so as to perfect our lives, enhancing the quality of life and achieving the feeling of happiness.

We have provided a number of high-quality, non-profit extracurricular lectures for our students, alumni, and other friends. Previously, we have invited many renowned scholars to give lectures, such as Mr. Yi Zhongtian, Professor Yu Dan, Professor Qian Wenzhong, and Mr. Zhou Guoping. Today is the 30th lecture of the series and it is our honor to have invited Khenpo Sodargye, a distinguished and renowned spiritual teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, to give us a lecture. Next, let’s welcome Mr. Zhang Guangyi, Director of Overseas Education College’s Project Center, to give us the welcome speech. Please!

 

Mr. Zhang Guangyi:

Respected Khenpo Sodargye, students of the Traditional Chinese Culture Class, dear friends, good morning!

Last week, the CCTV News broadcasted a news about four brothers from Guilin, Guangxi, looking for their mother. It made a splash and confirmed the saying: “Among all virtues, filial devotion is the foremost.”

Why do we need to learn traditional Chinese culture? Because it shapes our values and helps us distinguish between the good and the evil. In this materially abundant society, the question is not about how to survive, but how to lead a meaningful life. So, it is necessary to shape our own values through the education of traditional Chinese culture, which plays an important role in helping us find a meaningful life. By such education, social problems such as gutter oil and poisonous capsules which result from lack of morality will reduce.

Buddhism, as one of the traditional aspects of Chinese culture, has many ideas that are quite popular and well-known, like “Giving is receiving”, “The law of cause and effect is infallible”, etc. The year before last, I had the honor to attend Mr. Nan Huai-Chin’s course of Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government at Taihu Great Learning Center. Mr. Nan said that there are two subjects in the vast and profound traditional Chinese culture that are especially hard to learn: The Book of Changes and Buddhism. Mr. Nan also studied Tibetan Buddhism in his life.

It is a great honor for us to have invited Khenpo Sodargye today. I am sure his lecture will lead us to happiness. Thank you!

 

The Host:

Thank you, Director Zhang.

In an online interactive session, many Weibo (equivalent to Twitter) users asked Khenpo: “What is the goal of life?” Khenpo answered: “To seek peace, ease and freedom.” I hope all of us will listen attentively so that the peace and freedom that Khenpo will bring us in the lecture can take root in our mind. Let us welcome Khenpo to start his lecture on “The Key to Happiness Is the Mind”.

The Key to Happiness

Today, together we will discuss on the topic “The Key to Happiness Is the Mind”. Each one of you has your own view and understanding on what brings happiness in life. Therefore, I would like to share my views and ideas from a Buddhist perspective, which might inspire you to see happiness from a different, long-lasting perspective.

Lately, a CCTV program conducted an interview by asking randomly selected people: “Are you happy?” The answers varied. From my perspective as a Buddhist, the answers show that some people have found the key to happiness, while some are pursuing happiness in the wrong way.

Recently, Mo Yan received the Nobel Prize in Literature. When a reporter asked him, “Are you happy?”, he replied frankly, “I don’t know.” The reporter was surprised to hear that. Then Mo Yan explained that, it would have been dishonest from his side to say that he is happy, because he is under much more pressure now in comparison with the past. On the other hand, if he said that he is not happy, he would appear hypocritical in people’s eyes because he won such a huge prize.

It is true that winning the Nobel Prize in Literature brings Mo Yan a fortune of 8 million SEK, which is supposed to bring happiness to the winner. In addition, Nobel Prize winners draw the attention of the whole world, because they are chosen from a great number of nominees globally. This means that besides wealth, they receive fame, too. So, in the eyes of ordinary people, Mo Yan must be very happy. However, the sudden fortune and fame have subjected him to great and varied kinds of pressure, and made him unable to focus simply and freely on reading and writing as he used to. Therefore, upon suddenly receiving the huge prize, Mo Yan seemed not happy.

This somehow illustrates the idea in Buddhism that the key to happiness is the mind. Here, “the key is the mind” does not mean that happiness depends 100% on the mind, but that happiness has a lot to do with the mind.

Wealth and Happiness

Many people believe that wealth is the key to happiness. But is this true?

When you are penniless, without food or clothing, you would probably think that money will solve all your problems and make you happy. But when you really become wealthy, you will find that’s not what you thought. If you are not satisfied with what you have, even if you are rich, you will not feel happy as you will always be afflicted by the desire of wanting more. For example, even when you own a house as you wished, you may want to have the second one and more. When you have one property in your own country, you may want to have properties in other countries. Also, the more and better things you have, the more you will be bothered by maintaining them. For example, when we change our house or car for a fancier one, we may feel more comfortable and really enjoy it in the beginning. However, as the expenditure of maintenance occurs and the upkeep grows, the affliction of owning it follows as well. So, for possessions, it is not always “more is better.”

If wealth does bring happiness, one should feel happy when one is rich, but that is not necessarily the case. As the famous actress Elizabeth Taylor said, “Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything, but I’ve paid for that luck with disasters.” Her words make sense from the Buddhist perspective: if one’s attitude is not properly tuned, fortune alone may not bring true happiness.

Buddhism teaches clearly about the affliction caused by wealth: Gathering wealth, watching over it and making it grow will wear you out; and you will worry day and night that it might be exhausted or snatched away by authorities, thieves, ungrateful children, by fire or flood. There was a rich Austrian who donated all his assets and properties to charity. When he owned the assets, he always worried a lot about them, and after he donated them all, he felt very happy and his stress was reduced. That’s probably why many people in the world agree that a lot of suffering comes from money, while a lot of happiness has nothing to do with money.

The Buddha taught 2,500 years ago that one should live a moderate life, be content with fewer desires. The point is to live a normal life, not lacking any of the necessities for living, but the desire for more possessions must be kept within certain limit. It is true that it is hard to live a life where our basic needs are not satisfied; but too much wealth also becomes a source of “boredom”. For example, when you live in a five-star or six-star hotel, at first you may feel it is very nice and comfortable. Yet as the novelty wears off, you may feel that it is not too much different from living in an adobe house. So it is important to be content and control our desires when enjoying wealth, as otherwise you may go astray in the pursuit of happiness.

People today blindly seek after wealth, thinking more is better, unaware that such an attitude may lead them to be totally lost in life. So far, the philosophy of contentment, although very important for finding happiness and the meaning of life, has been uncommon and not widely promoted. Therefore, it is commendable to organize events related to spiritual education, like courses on traditional Chinese culture. Such learning can truly bring some transformation to one’s mind. Consequently, it will bring positive effect to one’s career, family and children. Thus, one’s life and career will enjoy a virtuous circle of development.

Speaking of development, it should not be limited to the accumulation of wealth. If we only regard the accumulation of wealth as the biggest and most beneficial breakthrough in human history, then humanity would deteriorate, morality would be in decline, and people’s compassion would decrease. If precious values and culture inherited from ancient times are not treasured and widely applied in society, our society is not really developing. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to enhance their spirituality and wisdom. That’s why we should hold gratitude toward the teachers, who pass along spiritual wealth which is exactly what people now lack the most, both in the East and the West.

Ancient and modern people differ in their attitudes toward material possessions. While ancient people lacked material resources, they felt spiritually abundant. In contrast, although modern people are materially abundant, we don’t feel satisfied nor do we have satisfactory idea about how to live a meaningful life. Life should be with purpose, not just a way of survival. Otherwise, what makes us different from animals? Animals also wake up in the morning, seek for food and drink in the daytime, and sleep at night. If we just live in such a way without passing on values like loving-kindness and compassion, then imagine how our humanity and morality will decline!

If wealth does bring happiness, one should feel happy when one is rich, but that is not necessarily the case. As the famous actress Elizabeth Taylor said, “Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything, but I’ve paid for that luck with disasters.” Her words make sense from the Buddhist perspective: if one’s attitude is not properly tuned, fortune alone may not bring true happiness.

Why We Are Not Happy

Status and Happiness

Does high social status bring about happiness?

Looking back in history, we see that for any important figure, with high status in the circle of politics or business, none were able to retain their positions for an unlimited time. When they are in power, with great wealth, fame and high social status, relatives and friends revolve around them and visit them all the time. However, once they lose their status, their relatives and friends lose their interest to stay around them. This is also true for ordinary people. It is like when a tree is full of leaves and flowers, flocks of birds perch on it, singing out melodiously; however, when the leaves and blossoms wither in the winter, the flocks are gone, too. So, social status is impermanent and it is not wise to build happiness on it.

There was a Chinese emperor called Shunzhi, known for giving up his throne for being a monk. In his Poem of being A Monk, he wrote:

 

    For eighteen years I have not been free.

    I led battles in South and North. When will it ever end?

 

He also mentioned that in his previous life, he was a monk, but because of just one grasping thought, he was reborn in the royal family and became the emperor. For eighteen years, he had been busy fighting up and down the country. Not until the time he was ordained did he realize the true meaning of life. He didn’t see the throne as something beneficial.

There was a Chinese philosopher called Zhuangzi, a very wise man who lived a very simple life. Once he went to visit his friend Hui Shi who was a prime minister of the state of Liang. Hui Shi worried that Zhuangzi might take over his position in the government. Therefore, he ordered people to find Zhuangzi in the state for three days and nights. Zhuangzi saw his worries and came to him, saying that he would never grab his position because it is undesirable to him as rotten rats.

People today are busy from morning till night, working with all their strength for attaining higher status, without feeling content with the one they already have. But we know now how impermanent social status is. Life is short and we don’t know when it will end, so it is not wise to build our happiness on social status.

The great Buddhist master Aryadeva, in his renowned treatise Four Hundred Stanzas on the Middle Way, wrote:

 

    The high have mental suffering;

    For the common it comes from the body.

    Day by day, both kinds of suffering.

    Overwhelm people in the world.

 

It means that people of higher social classes who have fame, position and wealth won’t worry about basic necessities of life, like food and clothing. Their suffering mainly comes from the mind. For example, they may have worries and fears like “Will my company function well?” “Will my career work out?”, etc. With such worries, they probably have to rely on sleeping pills to get some sleep at night. Many people today really suffer a lot from stress.

In contrast, people of lower status or people with less money, worry more about how to survive than about their social status. Nowadays, over 50 million people around the world are suffering from famine. Among them there are refugees in Africa and people in some Asian countries. As we can see in the media, some of them experience suffering which is somehow like that of the hungry ghosts described in Buddhism—they are so emaciated that their limbs are extremely thin and bony. Some of them are so hungry that they have to eat tree leaves, mud, cattle dung, and other things that are usually considered inedible.

To sum it up, it is necessary to reflect on the nature of status, and clearly see that status may not necessarily bring meaning to our life. Many very capable people constantly suffer from anxiety over their social status. In whatever circle or community, few people can reach the mental state as depicted in Buddhism:

 

    Win or lose, just let it be;

    Keep the mind stable without change.

 

If we don’t cling to our gain or loss, the mind will not be affected by the happiness of gains or the pain of losses. However, few people achieve such mental freedom, which is exactly why when elections are running at the end of the year, many people feel anxious and deeply afflicted especially when losing the election.

Romantic Relationships and Happiness

Does happiness depend on relationships?

The happiness of most young people depends on their relationship with their partners. People, in general, tend to base their happiness on external factors such as persons or objects, which is not wise, because if they lose them one day, they will not be able to go through that change. It is important to have a strong mind and be self-motivated, with a determination that: “Even if I have nothing to rely on in this world, neither a person nor a pet, I can still carry on by myself.”

However, many young people are so attached to their girlfriends or boyfriends.  Actually, the more they are attached, the more suffering they experience. Just as it is said in the Nirvana Sutra,

 

    From craving one gains apprehension;

    From craving one gains fear.

    If craving is done away with,

    Then how can there be apprehension or fears?

 

It means that craving brings about fear and worry. Without craving, you will not have fear, worry, or sadness, nor will you suffer from problems such as suicidal intentions.

Affected by the media’s propaganda, quite a lot of people today seem to regard relationships as the first and foremost thing in the world. When their relationships don’t work out, some young people, such as college students, cannot pull themselves together but commit suicide. The situation is getting worse. Media like TV shows and movies propagates the romance of love relationships, so young people are exposed to such propaganda even from an early age. With such influence, they tend to believe that relationships are the most important part of life. But that may not be true. Many people who have realized the true purposes of life, such as spiritual practitioners, regard relationships as part rather than the complete story of their life.

So, it is necessary to reconsider whether it’s wise to cling so much to our relationships. If we build our happiness entirely on others, we will feel hurt and unhappy when they change even slightly. This is not worthwhile.

Why We Are Not Happy

One main reason why people suffer today is their attachment to external objects. In addition to this, they don’t know how to adjust their mindset in life. Therefore, many people are under enormous pressure. According to the results of a survey on workplace stress published recently by international business service provider Regus, China ranks as the most stressful country in the world. Some news comment that the pressure results largely from people’s strong cravings for wealth. According to a British news report, one out of ten Chinese, or 10% of the entire population, are suffering from some form of mental disorder, and 61 million Chinese are suffering from depression. Each year, around 600 thousand Chinese die from overwork. Statistics also show that over 100 thousand or 200 thousand cases of suicide occur each year in China. These are mainly because people grasp onto their life too tightly. If they had been taught to live a moderate life in school or through extensive education in traditional culture or religion, they might not have been under so much pressure.

The biggest cause of our stress and pressure is our discontentment, which makes us compare and compete with others. We buy many things not because we need them but because we want to surpass others. However, whether we can top others or not is determined by many factors, like our merit accumulated in the past, what we do, and how much ability we have. When we try to achieve what is far beyond our capacity, we definitely feel stressed. Instead, if we appreciate our life as it is and we feel content with a moderate life that is always within our ability, we will not be distressed even if we live in a shabby house.

Having been living in the mountains for over twenty years, perhaps my value in life is a little different from people living in the cities. Every time when I’m in a big city, to be frank, it really reminds me of anthills because there is the same hustle and bustle there. It’s hard to understand why people choose to live in that way. Many people focus mostly on their own interests, while fewer and fewer people truly intend to help others, do good things for society, and give back to the public. Everyone works hard for self-interest, hoping to be the best, the happiest, the most successful one. However, as self-centeredness is never the source of happiness, they will end up unhappy.

So what is the fundamental source of our stress? It is our greed. With it, one can never enjoy the happiness of contentment. Elvis Presley once said sadly that he had everything, but still he was not satisfied. Schopenhauer also said, “Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become.” Today, it seems hard to be satisfied with what we have; we just want more all the time. If our desire grows and can’t be satisfied, we end up in pain, as the Buddhist scriptures teach, “When desire is not fulfilled, agitating afflictions occur.” If nothing in the world can bring us satisfaction, we will suffer for sure. Some people long for so many things. With that mindset, they would not feel happy or delighted either in daily life or at work.

So, we can see that, pressure and pain are rooted in our greed.

 

The biggest cause of our stress and pressure is our discontentment, which makes us compare and compete with others. We buy many things not because we need them but because we want to surpass others. However, whether we can top others or not is determined by many factors, like our merit accumulated in the past, what we do, and how much ability we have. When we try to achieve what is far beyond our capacity, we definitely feel stressed. Instead, if we appreciate our life as it is and we feel content with a moderate life that is always within our ability, we will not be distressed even if we live in a shabby house.

How to Find True Happiness

How to Find True Happiness

Buddhist scriptures teach that sufferings increase as greed grows. Realizing this, it is necessary to find a way to cope with our greed, because true happiness doesn’t come if we only talk about it. Once, a field survey about happiness was conducted. The question was: “Are you happy?” Some people replied “No”, some “Yes”, and some evaded the topic. However, just a survey won’t lead people to the answer to finding true happiness. The most important thing is to let people know that the way to obtain happiness is to adjust their mindsets, and then teach them how to adjust. As it is not enough for a patient only to acknowledge the disease, one has to see a doctor to find the cause of the illness, and take the prescribed medication by following the doctor’s instructions. We need to make an effort in order to change our mentality about happiness. Listening to just one lecture or merely talking about it is not enough; it is necessary to read relevant books over and over, gain more relevant knowledge and reflect on what we learn.

Deeper learning will help us see the light of truth. When we know more of the truth, we will see that many people pursue happiness in the wrong way—they seek happiness from external objects, but happiness is not rooted there. If happiness depends 100% on external objects, then people’s happiness should be in proportion to their wealth. But some wealthy people are not as happy as they should be. Therefore, we see that happiness does not depend on wealth but on the mind, on our attitude, on our sense of contentment.

A while ago, a reporter from CCTV asked me on Weibo, “Are you happy?”

I replied, “Yes.”

He asked, “Why do you feel happy?”

I answered, “I have a sense of contentment and satisfaction.”

To me, the key to happiness lies in the mind. And the most crucial mindset for achieving happiness is contentment. As long as one has a sense of contentment, even if one lives a poor life or is in a difficult condition, one still feels happy.

The American deaf-blind author Helen Keller in her touching piece of writing “Three days to see” describes the things she would do if she had three days of sight. We have the power of sight every day; but we don’t appreciate it, we are still not satisfied. If we suddenly become blind, our biggest wish would probably be to regain our sight, even at the cost of giving up all the material possessions we now have. Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Prize Laureate and the former President of South Africa, served 27 years in jail for his anti-apartheid work. All these 27 years, he stayed in a pitch-black cell. He said that the happiest moment for him was that half an hour every day when he was allowed to get out in the sun. In contrast, we are free to bask in the sun as much as we like, not only half an hour a day, but we haven’t probably realized this happiness yet.

If we were diagnosed with a severe disease in the hospital, we would probably think: “How happy I would be if I can be healthy again, even if I have nothing else.” Especially when we are bedridden, we will recall the happiness when we were healthy. Or only when some of our family members die do we realize how happy it was to have the family gatherings with everyone present. But we didn’t cherish that at the time. People try to gain so many things, believing that they will bring them happiness; they fail to appreciate the happiness of having what they have without losing it.

Another important factor for happiness is having a relaxed mind. I once read a small booklet called Tasha Tudor’s Seasons of Delight. Tasha Tudor was a famous American illustrator and writer of children’s books. She lived in the mountains, enjoying the company of small animals, planting herbs and flowers, enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air. Her life was simple, natural, pure and free; such life is probably more meaningful than any high-end lifestyle in the cities.

In my hometown, many Buddhist practitioners have been living a very simple life for over two decades. They never lock their doors, because they do not possess anything valuable at home. I have a monk friend who is like this. He is a very good practitioner who spends all his life in a small shed in the woods on a mountain. Every day, he eats very simple food and focuses only on spiritual practice. When he goes out, he never shuts the door, because he has nothing but a bit of food and a few articles of clothing for different seasons, which no one wants to steal. Once I went to his shed, and I really rejoiced over his simple happiness. How beautiful his place is: a babbling brook flows right past his shed, birds are singing, fragrant flowers are blooming, and white clouds are floating overhead against the blue sky. When I was there, my mind was settled in a wonderful state. It’s amazing! Actually, people are closely connected to nature. Once in nature, we will easily feel content and all our afflictions and pains would be left behind. Master Lian Chi said: “When you learn to be content in life, your afflictions are solved in that instant.”

Also, it is taught in Buddhist scriptures that, “Without desire and longing, you will enjoy total freedom, physically and mentally.” I think, if we do not ask for too much, we will feel content with what we have, which comes from our own merit and hard work. Some people are too competitive and eager to keep up with others, and this negatively affects their mentality and life. Therefore, I believe having a sense of contentment does have something to do with our happiness.

Faith and Happiness

To cultivate contentment, one can learn worldly knowledge. But I would suggest looking to religion, because having faith brings greater contentment. Around February 16th this year, Gallup published a report of a well-being index survey it conducted two years ago. It was a detailed survey starting from January 2010 until December 2011. Via telephone, they interviewed over 676,000 people in the fifty states of the US and Washington DC. Among those respondents, 41% were very religious, 28.3% moderately religious and 30.7% nonreligious. The result shows that the very religious ones have higher overall well-being than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious. This confirms the strong positive relationship between religiosity and well-being.

Bhutan, known as the happiest country in the world, is probably a good example for this. In the “New York Times” bestseller The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, Eric Weiner, a former foreign correspondent for NPR, recorded his travel to ten of the world’s most contented countries, including India, Britain, and Bhutan, in search of the happiest places and what we can learn from them. In the part about Bhutan, he wrote, “happiness is a policy.” Although he doesn’t say directly how religious Bhutanese are and how their happiness is related to their faith, I still believe that their high index of happiness is connected with their faith.

In fact, I’ve been in Bhutan with my teacher about twenty-two years ago. In 1990, my teacher, His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche was invited to visit the country by the Bhutan King and the Imperial Preceptor Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. We took an airplane from south India directly to the capital of Bhutan and stayed there for about half a month.

In my impression, all Bhutanese are followers of Mahayana Buddhism, or more specifically Tibetan Buddhism. At that time, the country was not very developed; there were not many cars and only a few airplanes were available in the entire country. Even now, from the material perspective, the country is still not developed. However, everyone had a feeling of contentment. Everyone, including the King, the Queen, and people in the Palace, held prayer beads in their hands. Their philosophy of living totally corresponds to the Mahayana Buddhist teaching on contentment. They have a sense of altruism, gratitude, and a mood of delight. As such positive mindsets are the causes for happiness, it is natural that people there are often in a happy mood.

In Bhutan, you can find inspirational slogans and short poems written on different places, including hotels. I remember one of the poems written in Tibetan, which says:

 

    Only after the last tree is cut down,

    The last river is exhausted,

    And the last fish is caught,

    Will Man find that money cannot be eaten.

 

This simple poem not only contains the Bhutanese concern for lives and the environment, but also shows their objection toward the destruction of nature by humans. Bhutanese strongly object deforestation and exploitation of resources. This is the reason why the country is still not completely open, with a high tourist fee to control its tourism. It is quite different from the idea of many people, that the more a country opens and gets connected to the world, the better. Focusing too much on material development, we tend to ignore the side effects and problems that come with this development and openness. So, we really need to settle down to reflect on our way of pursuing happiness, and contemplate on where and how we can seek true happiness in life. 

How to Adjust the Mind and Be Happier

Whether you are religious or not, have a look at Tibetan Buddhism. If you discern it with your own wisdom, you’ll find that Tibetan Buddhism has many ways to tame the mind and lead you to happiness. In regions of Qinghai Province and Lhasa, where Tibetan Buddhism is being practiced, there are quite a few places where the happiness index is probably similar to Bhutan. People in these regions have a very peaceful mind. Whether in mountains or other remote areas, big and bright smiles can often be seen on the faces of elders, young people, and children living there. Unlike inhabitants in big cities, they truly have a feeling of contentment in their mind.

People in our society are very anxious and feel confused about the underlying reasons. These anxieties may bring us trouble in many aspects of life. So, my suggestion is to study Buddhism or traditional Chinese cultures and find ways to adjust the mind. In the meanwhile, go and visit some temples to find out how the monastics live and reflect on your way of life. Sometimes it is very meaningful to see life from a different perspective; otherwise, if you live a routine life, commuting between home and work every day, someday you might be worn out and feel miserable.

To adjust the mind, the best way is to meditate. To put it simply, when you get up in the morning, meditate for at least twenty minutes. Quiet yourself down, empty your mind and abide in such calmness. Do the same at night before sleep for about ten minutes to half an hour. This will make a big difference in your longevity, health, mentality and your discernment.

Hundreds of thousands of people have ameliorated their life with the help of meditation. Now, many institutes of higher education of the US and Europe offer meditation sessions, because meditation can help us adjust our body and mind. There is abundant knowledge on meditation in Buddhism and I would suggest you to find a way to adjust your life. Otherwise, you may fall sick easily especially if you exhaust yourself every day. It is inevitable to be over-worked in cities, but you can find ways to adjust yourself. One possible way is to turn off your smartphone for about an hour every day and enjoy some quiet time.

However, even if we turn off the smartphone, we may worry about missing some messages. Life now is very much different from life in ancient times. Ancient people wasted little energy on distractions. When they ate, they just ate. When they rested, they just rested. It is all different now; an hour after the smartphone is turned off, our mind will still be on it. We have so much information that is probably dispensable and useless. When we open our eyes in the morning, our smartphones are also turned on. Then we and the smartphones both work hectically. When we tire out in the afternoon, the smartphones are also out of power. Then we and our smartphones both have to take a rest. The next day, it starts all over again. That’s why we call samsara cyclic existence. It is like the ever-turning wheel of fire; what we did yesterday, we repeat it today and tomorrow, up until the day we die. Then some people may feel relieved, thinking it’s finally the end.

However, that is not true; spirituality exists even if the body dies. It is important to recognize this point. If we are just the assembly of material objects and there is nothing left after death, we humans would probably be as lifeless as stone, or even less meaningful than the existence of stone as stone may exist longer than humans. Thus, it’s more sensible to admit the afterlife than to deny it. There are many scientific researches which prove the existence of the reincarnation, and convincing reasonings can also be found in Buddhist texts.

To recognize the existence of reincarnation is quite important for seekers of happiness, because only after we see this truth, will we be responsible for the long-term happiness throughout all our lives. Or else, our happiness would not last long, because we would care only about the “happiness” in a few decades of time.

It is important for us humans to learn more about valuable ancient knowledge. In this way, we will realize that the meaning of our lives lies in our loving-kindness to people around us, animals and to other sentient beings.

To me, the key to happiness lies in the mind. And the most crucial mindset for achieving happiness is contentment. As long as one has a sense of contentment, even if one lives a poor life or is in a difficult condition, one still feels happy.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University