Secret to Happiness: There is no secret!

“OK, so what is the secret to happiness?” a friend asked over dinner together.

Being a Licensed Social Worker and Buddhist minister, I suppose that people believe that I should have some secret to being happy. The truth is that I do know what makes for a happy life, but it isn’t a secret.

Here is the problem. Most people know how to be happy, but they think that knowing is the hard part. The hard part about being happy is the doing what is needed to be happy.

secret_of_happiness_2ALL THE THEORIES SAY THE SAME THING ABOUT HAPPINESS

Regardless of what religion you follow, psychological model you adopt or philosophy you embrace—there are three themes that remain in all: Positive Emotions, Engage with the world, find Meaning to life.

POSITIVE EMOTIONS

Oh wouldn’t it be awesome if we were experiencing happy emotions all the time? I have yet to find anyone who is happy all of the time, and if you know someone like that then you probably haven’t looked too deeply at them.

Our lives are continually in flux. Sensory pleasure experiences are fleeting (e.g. a good meal, a happy moment) and soon we are faced with pleasurable experiences. From childhood, we are taught to interpret these positive and negatives with judgments of good and bad. Developing a positive emotional outlook is changing the judgments of the experiences we have.

Let us look at the big negative topics that we face most commonly: sickness, heartbreak and death.

Each of these experiences we would like to avoid. When these experiences come into our lives we react with emotional, biological and social coping mechanisms that are very unpleasant. On occasion, we have known someone who struggled so profoundly with these negative experiences and the emotions related to them that they become depressed, anxious, maladjusted. We have even known people who are so prepared for the negative experiences to enter their lives that their entire world outlook is seen through sad blue spectacles casting a shadow on every aspect of the world around them.

LIFE IS IN THE REFRAME

Whether it is stubbing a toe or losing a loved one, our brains put our experiences in the context of a story that is our lives.

“No one wants to date me,” a client told me.long-view

“Didn’t you say that X asked you out?”

“Yes, but I didn’t like him. He wasn’t my type.”
We can see already that the story narrative that focuses so narrowly of “no one wants me” when reframed into a larger context of “no one I want to date wants me” (which is also probably untrue in a larger context) changed the narrative of our story and thus how we evaluate our lives and the world around us. By pulling back the lens from the tightly focused view of one detail into a larger world context we change the narrative and create space for possibilities.

LIVING A POSITIVE LIFE

I asked a friend to do a thought experiment. Every time she started to get angry being cut off in traffic that she adopt a mantra. She chose, “I wish you well on your journey.”

When I spoke to her a few weeks later, she told me that it didn’t work. “All I did was say it and felt my jaw clench as I really wanted to say FUCK YOU!”

I asked her to continue the experiment for a few more weeks and I am sure she was thinking that I was a total nut job with mumbo jumbo talk.

A month later we met again for coffee, and I asked her about the mantra.

“You know. At first, I was really annoyed at saying this phrase. It didn’t do anything and it actually made me angrier. Then one day I decided to pretend to believe the phrase, ‘I wish you well on your journey,’ as a sort of sarcastic joke. I actually felt better. Pretty soon, I was saying it before the car would even cut me off. It actually did make the drive home better.”

Changing a habit and world view is not easy, but possible. It can’t be done just mechanically, but within the wiring of our heads. We are what we believe we are—even though it may not happen over night.

EMBRACE THE STRUGGLE

Even the most positive person is going to have a crap day, month or even year. Life is not all puppies and candy bars. Nevertheless, being authentically happy isn’t about always being positive. It is about excepting the negative.

We will have bills, taxes, sickness, and heartache. These are unavoidable. We have the ability to change how we chose to deal with them. And that can be difficult.

struggleWhen we are pinched on the arm, we say “ouch” and pull our arms away. This is survival instinct. So to are the emotions we have. We often ignore that fact—that our emotions are evolutionary psycho-physical survival processes.

Nothing is more discouraging to me than to hear, “I am just an angry person and that is how it is.” There is some truth that all of us have a certain temperament and develop our personalities based on that temperament combined with our life experiences—but that doesn’t mean we don’t have choices to change.

When we pant a seed it takes time for a flower to grow and flourish. When we want to lose weight it takes time and effort to make those physical changed. So to, when we want to change our worldview, it takes time and cultivation.

The single greatest challenge to developing a happy life is embracing the struggle as an excepted part of life—and eventually a positive tool for growth.

RESILLIENCY—BUILDING THE TOOLBOX

Resilliency is our ability to adapt and cope with the world around us.

If you look at a toddler, you may have seen him suffer the “terrible twos.” This is the stage of development that a child that a child is learning to do things on their own. They are testing boundaries. They are starting to walk. They are terrible because the crying they used to use as a tool to communicate what they want is now turning into tantrums to get what they want: often unsuccessfully.

As that child grows, they learn new skills. They learn to say “please” and share and steady routines. They have learned another set of tools in the tool box. As they grow and develop, they get more tools to deal with life and get what they need.

Resilience-bend-or-break-When we do not have the right “tool” to deal with life then we have to use imperfect tools to cope. How often have you found an adult who always tries to yell and threaten someone to get what they want, and never understands when you offer them other alternatives to solve the problem?

Being resilient means being open to the idea that the tools for living we have had before may not always be the right tool for the job. Sometimes you need a Philips screwdriver and not a flathead. Sometimes you need a Philips with the pointy tip instead of the flat tip. Sometimes you need the pointy Philips screwdriver meant for softer metals than harder so you don’t strip the screw head.

FLOW

Have you ever had those moments when you are just totally engrossed in the moment?

I love to paint. When I paint, I sit in front of a canvas and lose all track of time. I am totally focused and present. Some people call it “being in the zone.”

flowmodelOne way to get into the flow is to find something challenging that we want to be engaged in. The more challenge to a skill we want to use requires us to put forth our effort and it takes all our attention.

Another way is to find what we are passionate about. In Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyl’s book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” when we do something we are passionate about totally engages us. “Being complete involved in an activity for its own sake the ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one.”

The third way to find flow is to develop focus. In pop psychology and Buddhism we call this mindfulness. This is often done through meditative focus, while it is not necessary to sit on the floor with legs crossed doing nothing. This can be done by consciously putting effort to doing any task: washing dishes, walking, having fun with a coloring book. Developing focus is to the mind what lifting weights is to the body.

CONNECTIONS

Human beings are a surviving machine; both physically and psychologically. When you break your arm the body starts to heal itself through a complex process of biology. When we are ill, we automatically know to get rest. When we hurt emotionally, we too have a process of protecting ourselves so that we can heal.

Being social creatures we cannot live alone. It is emotionally and psychologically harmful. We may have times of solitude but we must always return to the human race and engage.

In fiction, we admire those who are able to withstand solitude and be “loners” but in reality we know that solitude is eventually harmful. Prisoners who are kept in solitude have proven that we cannot be solely alone as human beings.

“Evolutionarily we need to connect with each other. This is part of our survival mechanism. Think of a baby, unless they came with an ability to entice their parents to care for them they would not survive. Also in working together in groups we can do more than as individuals and connected we are stronger. Basically Maslow got his hierarchy wrong. Social connection is a primary need for humans.

The brain feels social pain and pleasure in the same circuitry as physical pain. We probably underestimate the impact of social pain: social rejection, public challenge, public criticism and the like in organizations all create pain. We would never expect someone to be at their best with a broken arm but do not extend the same consideration when social pain occurs.” Matt Lieberman

When living a life of negative emotions, poor resiliency and resisting the acceptance of struggle, our minds will often automatically react as if we are ill. We will disconnect from others. Many people who are sad or depressed will talk about feeling totally alone even when in a crowded room.

Happiness requires that we engage with others. We develop those connections that bring meaning and purpose to living. Connecting with others releases hormones that promote a sense of well being and happiness.

GRATITUDE

Most people misunderstand gratitude. Often people confuse humility with gratitude. Humility is self-oriented while gratitude is other focused. Humility is a secure sense of self while increasing the valuation of others. Meanwhile gratitude is a sense that we have benefited from the actions of others (“An Upward Spiral Between Gratitude and Humilitary” Elliot Krus et al, 2014/ (Algoe & Haidt, 2009) Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The ‘‘other-praising’’ emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 105–127.).

gratitude-pigletGratitude is the “feeling of joy with the knowledge that another person has instrumentally benefitted yourself,” said Simon-Thomas, science director of the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

An interesting aspect of gratitude is that it is unconditional. You can not put limits on being thankful, you either are or you are not. In Buddhist practice, there are chanting meditations called “metta” meditations. (Metta, means loving kindness or unconditional friendliness. )

Developing a continual sense of gratitude works all that we have talked about so far: positive emotions, reframing, living positively, and appreciating the struggle; developing resiliency and flow.

Developing a life of gratitude is a tool that can increase the sense of our life-satisfaction happiness quotient, reduce depression, build connections and bring a greater appreciation to the quality and meaning of our lives.

POSITIVE EMOTIONS, ENGAGE WITH THE WORLD, MEANING OF LIFE

The secret of happiness? It isn’t a secret.

Live life. Appreciate the Now. Appreciate others. Develop a world view that focuses on what is important to the quality of your experience and not the quantity of the things in it.

Most importantly—the secret/non-secret to living is embracing the experience for all that it is worth

 

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Categories: emotions, flow, Gratitude, meaning of life, secret of life, self-help

Author:Sumitta

Joshua Hudson is a license clinical social worker with post graduate certificates in mental health. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he has worked as an healthcare advocate for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Director of Psychological Health for the Air Force, in-patient counselor for inpatient adolescents, child and family therapist; and currently is a Prevention Interventionist for the Air Force creating programs to reduce interpersonal and self-directed violence (e.g. Sexual assault, suicide, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.) in the military Joshua spent twenty years in the Navy as a combat photojournalist and public affairs officers. He was a senior account executive for a marketing company and managing editor for various national publications. He continues to write on myriad issues from engaged living and resiliency to spirituality and meaning making. He is also an organized minister by the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center and International Order of Buddhist Ministers. Currently, he lives in Bury St. Edmunds in the United Kingdom with his daughter; but still keeps residence in Pittsburgh.

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5 Comments on “Secret to Happiness: There is no secret!”

  1. September 4, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    Reblogged this on Buddhism in Pittsburgh.

  2. Sha
    September 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    Great one!

    May you be well and happy!

    Sha

    >

  3. January 15, 2016 at 4:25 am #

    Essentially every child is a Buddha, but child’s buddhahood, child’s innocence, is natural, not earned. Child’s innocence is a kind of ignorance, not a realization. Child’s innocence is unconscious — Child is not aware of it, Child is not mindful of it, Child has not taken any note of it. It is there but Child is oblivious. Child is going to lose it. Child has to lose it. Paradise will be lost sooner or later; Child is on the way towards it. Every child has to go through all kinds of corruption, impurity — the world.
    The child’s innocence is the innocence of Adam before he was expelled from the garden of Eden, before he had tasted the fruit of knowledge, before he became conscious. It is animal-like. Look into the eyes of any animal — a cow, a dog — and there is purity, the same purity that exists in the eyes of a Buddha, but with one difference.
    And the difference is vast too: a Buddha has come back home; the animal has not yet left home. The child is still in the Garden of Eden, is still in paradise. He will have to lose it — because to gain one has to lose. Buddha has come back home…the whole circle. He went away, he was lost, he went astray, he went deep into darkness and sin and misery and hell. Those experiences are part of maturity and growth. Without them you don’t have any backbone, you are spineless. Without them your innocence is very fragile; it cannot stand against the winds, it cannot bear storms. It is very weak, it cannot survive. It has to go through the fire of life — a thousand and one mistakes committed, a thousand and one times you fall, and you get back on your feet again. All those experiences slowly, slowly ripen you, make you mature; you become a grown-up.
    Buddha’s innocence is that of a mature person, utterly mature.
    Childhood is nature unconscious; buddhahood is nature conscious. The childhood is a circumference with no idea of the center. The Buddha is also a circumference, but rooted in the center, centered. Childhood is unconscious anonymity; buddhahood is conscious anonymity. Both are nameless, both are formless…but the child has not known the form yet and the misery of it.
    It is like you have never been in a prison, so you don’t know what freedom is. Then you have been in the prison for many years, or many lives, and then one day you are released…you come out of the prison doors dancing, ecstatic! And you will be surprised that people who are already outside, walking on the street, going to their work, to the office, to the factory, are not enjoying their freedom at all — they are oblivious, they don’t know that they are free. How can they know? Because they have never been in prison they don’t know the contrast; the background is missing.
    It is as if you write with a white chalk on a white wall — nobody will ever be able to read it. What to say about anybody else — even you will not be able to read what you have written.
    If you write on a white wall even you yourself will not be able to read it, but if you write on a blackboard it comes loud and clear — you can read it. The contrast is needed. The child has no contrast; he is a silver lining without the black cloud.
    Buddha is a silver lining in the black cloud.
    In the day there are stars in the sky; they don’t go anywhere — they can’t go so fast, they can’t disappear. They are already there, the whole day they are there, but in the night you can see them because of darkness. They start appearing; as the sun sets they start appearing. As the sun goes deeper and deeper below the horizon, more and more stars are bubbling up. They have been there the whole day, but because the darkness was missing it was difficult to see them.
    A child has innocence but no background. You cannot see it, you cannot read it; it is not very loud. A Buddha has lived his life, has done all that is needed — good and bad — has touched this polarity and that, has been a sinner and a saint. Remember, a Buddha is not just a saint; he has been a sinner and he has been a saint. And buddhahood is beyond both. Now he has come back home.
    That’s why Buddha said “There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no knowledge, no attainment, and no non-attainment.” When Buddha became awakened he was asked: “What have you attained?” And he laughed, and he said: “I have not attained anything — I have only discovered what has always been the case. I have simply come back home. I have claimed that which was always mine and was with me. So there is no attainment as such, I have simply recognized it. It is not a discovery, it is a re-discovery. And when you become a Buddha you will see the point — nothing is gained by becoming a Buddha. Suddenly you see that this is your nature. But to recognize this nature you have to go astray, you have to go deep into the turmoil of the world. You have to enter into all kinds of muddy places and spaces just to see your utter cleanliness, your utter purity.
    Only a perfect ego has the capacity to disappear, not an imperfect ego. When the fruit is ripe it falls; when the fruit is unripe it clings. If you are still clinging to the ego, remember, the fruit is not ripe; hence the clinging. If the fruit is ripe, it falls to the ground and disappears. So is the case with the ego.
    Now a paradox: that only a really evolved ego can surrender.
    Ordinarily you think that an egoist cannot surrender. That is not the observation of Buddhas down the ages. Only a perfect egoist can surrender. Because only he knows the misery of the ego, only he has the strength to surrender. He has known all the possibilities of the ego and has gone into immense frustration. He has suffered a lot, and he knows enough is enough, and he wants any excuse to surrender it. The excuse may be God, the excuse may be a master, or any excuse, but he wants to surrender it. The burden is too much and he has been carrying it for long.
    People who have not developed their egos can surrender, but their surrender will not be perfect, it will not be total. Something deep inside will go on clinging, something deep inside will still go on hoping: “Maybe there is something in the ego. Why are you surrendering?”
    In the East, the ego has not been developed well. Because of the teaching of egolessness, a misunderstanding arose that if the ego has to be surrendered, then why develop it, for what? A simple logic: if it has to be renounced one day, then why bother? Then why make so much effort to create it? It has to be dropped! So the East has not bothered much in developing the ego. And the Eastern mind finds it very easy to bow down to anybody. It finds it very easy, it is always ready to surrender. But the surrender is basically impossible, because you don’t yet have the ego to surrender it.
    You will be surprised: all the great Buddhas in the East have been kshatriyas, from the warrior race — Buddha, Mahavira, Parshwanath, Neminath. All the twenty-four tirthankaras of the Jainas belong to the warrior race, and all the avataras of the Hindus belonged to the kshatriya race — Ram, Krishna — except one, Parashuram, who was, accidentally it seems, born to a brahmin family, because you cannot find a greater warrior than him. It must have been some accident — his whole life was a continuous war.
    It is a surprise when you come to know that not a single brahmin has ever been declared a Buddha, an avatara, a tirthankara. Why? The brahmin is humble; from the very beginning he has been brought up in humbleness, for humbleness. Egolessness has been taught to him from the very beginning, so the ego is not ripe, and unripe egos cling.
    In the East people have very, very fragmentary egos, and they think it is easy to surrender.
    They are always ready to surrender to anybody. A drop of a hat and they are ready to surrender — but their surrender never goes very deep, it remains superficial.
    Just the opposite is the case in the West: people who come from the West have very, very strong and developed egos. Because the whole Western education is to create an evolved, well-defined, well-cultured, sophisticated ego, they think it is very difficult to surrender. They have not even heard the word surrender. The very idea looks ugly, humiliating. But the paradox is that when a Western man or woman surrenders, the surrender goes really deep. It goes to the very core of his or her being, because the ego is very evolved. The ego is evolved; that’s why you think it is very difficult to surrender. But if surrender happens it goes to the very core, it is absolute. In the East people think surrender is very easy, but the ego is not so evolved so it never goes very deep.
    A Buddha is one who has gone into the experiences of life, the fire of life, the hell of life, and has ripened his ego to its ultimate possibility, to the very maximum. And in that moment the ego falls and disappears. Again you are a child; it is a rebirth, it is a resurrection. First you have to be on the cross of the ego, you have to suffer the cross of the ego, and you have to carry the cross on your own shoulders — and to the very end. Ego has to be learned; only then can you unlearn it. And then there is great joy. When you are free from the prison you have a dance, a celebration in your being. You cannot believe why people who are out of prison are going so dead and dull and dragging themselves. Why are they not dancing? Why are they not celebrating? They cannot: they have not known the misery of the prison.
    These seven doors have to be used before you can become a Buddha. You have to go to the darkest realm of life, to the dark night of the soul, to come back to the dawn when the morning rises again, the sun rises again, and all is light.
    But it rarely happens that you have a fully developed ego.
    If you understand me, then the whole structure of education should be paradoxical: first they should teach you the ego — that should be the first part of education, the half of it; and they should then teach you egolessness, how to drop it — that will be the latter half. People enter from one door or two doors or three doors, and get caught up in a certain fragmentary ego.
    The first is the bodily self. The child starts learning slowly, slowly: it takes nearabout fifteen months for the child to learn that he is separate, that there is something inside him and something outside. He learns that he has a body separate from other bodies. But a few people remain clinging to that very, very fragmentary ego for their whole lives. These are the people who are known as materialists, communists, Marxists.
    The people who believe that the body is all — that there is nothing more than the body inside you, that the body is your whole existence, that there is no consciousness separate from the body, above the body, that consciousness is just a chemical phenomenon happening in the body, that you are not separate from the body and when the body dies you die, and all disappears…dust unto dust…there is no divinity in you — they reduce man to matter.
    These are the people who remain clinging to the first door; their mental age seems to be only fifteen months. The very, very rudimentary and primitive ego remains materialist. These people remain hung up with two things: sex and food. But remember, when I say materialist, communist, Marxist, I do not mean that this completes the list. Somebody may be a spiritualist and may still be clinging to the first….
    For example, Mahatma Gandhi: if you read his autobiography, he calls his autobiography My Experiments With Truth.. But if you go on reading his autobiography you will find the name is not right; he should have given it the name My Experiments With Food And Sex. Truth is nowhere to be found. He is continuously worried about food: what to eat, what not to eat. His whole worry seems to be about food, and then about sex: how to become a celibate — this runs as a theme, this is the undercurrent. Continuously, day and night, he is thinking about food and sex — one has to get free. Now he is not a materialist — he believes in soul, he believes in God. In fact, because he believes in God he is thinking so much about food — because if he eats something wrong and commits a sin, then he will be far away from God.
    He talks about God but thinks about food.
    And that is not only so with him, it is so with all the Jaina monks. He was under much impact from Jaina monks. He was born in Gujarat. Gujarat is basically Jaina, Jainism has the greatest impact on Gujarat. Even Hindus are more like Jainas in Gujarat than like Hindus. Gandhi is ninety percent a Jaina — born in a Hindu family, but his mind is conditioned by Jaina monks. They are continuously thinking about food.
    And then the second idea arises, of sex — how to get rid of sex. For his whole life, to the very end, he was concerned about it — how to get rid of sex. In the last year of his life he was experimenting with nude girls and sleeping with them, just to test himself, because he was feeling that death was coming close, and he had to test himself to see whether there was still some lust in him.
    The country was burning, people were being killed: Muslims were killing Hindus, Hindus were killing Muslims — the whole country was on fire. And he was in the very middle of it, in Novakali — but his concern was sex. He was sleeping with girls, nude girls; he was testing himself, testing whether brahmacharya, his celibacy, was perfect yet or not.
    But why this suspicion? — Because of long repression. The whole life he had been repressing. Now, in the very end, he had become afraid — because at that age he was still dreaming about sex. So he was very suspicious: would he be able to face his God? He was a very primitive materialist. His concern was food and sex.
    Whether you are for it or against it doesn’t matter — your concern shows where your ego is hanging. A capitalist’s whole concern is how to gather money, hoard money — because money has power over matter. You can purchase any material thing through money. You cannot purchase anything spiritual, you cannot purchase anything that has any intrinsic value; you can purchase only things. If you want to purchase love, you cannot purchase; but you can purchase sex.
    Sex is the material part of love. Through money, matter can be purchased, possessed.
    The communist and the capitalist both in the same category, and they are enemies, but their concern is the same. The capitalist is trying to hoard money, the communist is against it. He wants that nobody should be allowed to hoard money except the state. But his concern is also money, he is also continuously thinking about money. It is not an accident that Marx had given the name Das Kapital to his book on communism, Capital. That is the communist Bible, but the name is Capital. That is their concern: how not to allow anybody to hoard money so the state can hoard, and how to possess the state — so, in fact, basically, ultimately, you hoard the money. The communist mind is basically a capitalist mind; the capitalist mind is basically a communist mind. They are partners in the same game — the game’s name is capital, Das Kapital.
    Many people, millions of people, only evolve this primitive ego, very rudimentary. If you have this ego it is very difficult to surrender; it is very unripe.
    The second door is self-identity.
    The child starts growing an idea of who he is. Looking in the mirror, he finds the same face. Every morning, getting up from the bed, he runs to the bathroom, looks, and he says: “Yes, it is I. The sleep has not disturbed anything.” He starts having an idea of a continuous self.
    Those people who become too involved with this door, get hooked with this door, are the so-called spiritualists who think that they are going into paradise, heaven, moksha, but that they will be there. When you think about heaven, you certainly think of yourself that as you are here, you will be there too. Maybe the body will not be there, but your inner continuity will remain. That is absurd! That liberation, that ultimate liberation happens only when the self is dissolved and all identity is dissolved. You become an emptiness….
    That idea that the child has of self-continuity is carried by the spiritualists. They go on searching: from where does the soul enter into the body, from where does the soul go out of the body, what form does the soul have, planchettes and mediums, things like that — all rubbish and nonsense. The self has no form. It is pure nothingness, it is vast sky without any clouds in it. It is a thoughtless silence, unconfined, uncontained by anything.
    That idea of a permanent soul, the idea of a self, continues to play games in your minds.
    Even if the body dies, you want to be certain that: “I will live.”
    Many people used to come to Buddha…because this country has been dominated by this second kind of ego: people believe in the permanent soul, eternal soul, aatman — they would come to Buddha again and again and say: “When I die, will something remain or not?” And Buddha would laugh and he would say: “There is nothing right now, so why bother about death? There has never been anything from the very beginning.” And this was inconceivable to the Indian mind.
    The Indian mind is predominantly hooked with the second type of ego. That’s why Buddhism could not survive in India. Within five hundred years, Buddhism disappeared. It found better roots in China, because of Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu had created really a beautiful field for Buddhism there. The climate was ready — as if somebody had prepared the ground; only the seed was needed. And when the seed reached China it grew into a great tree. But from India it disappeared. Lao Tzu had no idea of any permanent self, and in China people have not bothered much.
    There are these three cultures in the world: one culture, called the materialist — very predominant in the West; another culture, called the spiritualist — very predominant in India; and China has a third kind of culture, neither materialist nor spiritualist. It is Taoist: live the moment and don’t bother for the future, because to bother about heaven and hell and paradise and moksha is basically to be continuously concerned about yourself. It is very selfish, it is very self-centered. According to Lao Tzu, according to Buddha too, and according to me also, a person who is trying to reach heaven is a very, very self-centered person, very selfish. And he does not know a thing about his own inner being — there is no self.
    The third door was self-esteem: the child learns to do things and enjoys doing them.
    A few people get hooked there — they become technicians, they become performers, actors, they become politicians, they become the showmen. The basic theme is the doer; they want to show the world that they can do something. If the world allows them some creativity, good. If it does not allow them creativity, they become destructive.
    The criminal and the politician are not very far away, they are cousin-brothers. If the criminal is given the right opportunity he will become a politician, and if the politician is not given the right opportunity to have his say, he will become a criminal. They are border cases. Any moment, the politician can become a criminal and the criminal can become a politician. And this has been happening down the ages, but we don’t yet have that insight to see into things.
    The fourth door was self-extension. The word “mine” is the key word there. One has to extend oneself by accumulating money, by accumulating power, by becoming bigger and bigger and bigger: the patriot who says: “This is my country, and this is the greatest country in the world.” You can ask the Indian patriot: he goes on shouting from every nook and corner that this is punya bhumi — this is the land of virtue, the purest land in the world.
    India is the only country where so many Buddhas were born, so many avatars, so many tirthankaras — Rama, Krishna and others. Why? – if in the neighborhood you see that in somebody’s house a doctor comes every day — sometimes a vaidya, a physician, an acupuncturist, and the naturopath, and this and that — what do you understand by it?”
    Simple! That the family is ill.
    That is the case with India: so many Buddhas needed — the country seems to be utterly ill and pathological.
    So many healers, so many physicians. Buddha has said: “I am a physician.” And you know that Krishna has said: “Whenever there is darkness in the world, and whenever there is sin in the world, and whenever the law of the cosmos is disturbed, I will come back.” So why had he come that time? It must have been for the same reason. And why so many times in India?
    But the patriot is arrogant, aggressive, and egoistic. He goes on declaring: “My country is special, my religion is special, my church is special, my book is special, my guru is special” — and everything is nothing. This is just ego claiming.
    A few people get hooked with this “mine” — the dogmatist, the patriot, the Hindu, the Christian, the Mohammedan.
    The fifth door is self-image. The child starts looking into things, experiences. When the parents feel good with the child, he thinks: “I am good.” When they pat him he feels: “I am good.” When they look with anger, they shout at him and they say: “Don’t do that!” he feels: “Something is wrong in me.” He recoils.
    A small child was asked in school on the first day he entered: “What is your name?”
    He said: “Johnny Don’t.”
    The teacher was puzzled. He said: “Johnny Don’t? Never heard such a name!”
    He said: “Whenever, whatsoever I am doing, this is my name — my mother shouts: ‘Johnny don’t!’ My father shouts: ‘Johnny don’t!’ So I think this is my name. ‘Don’t’ is always there. What I am doing is irrelevant.”
    The fifth is the door from where morals enter: you become a moralist; you start feeling very good, “holier than thou.” Or, in frustration, in resistance, in struggle, you become an immoralist and you start fighting with the whole world, to show the whole world.
    Either the child is accepted — then he feels good, then he is ready to do anything the parents want; or, if again and again he is frustrated, then he starts thinking in terms of: “There is no possibility that I can receive their love, but still I need their attention. If I cannot get their attention through the right way, I will get their attention through the wrong way. Now I will smoke, I will masturbate, I will do harm to myself and to others, and I will do all kinds of things that they say ‘Don’t do,’ but I will keep them occupied with me. I will show them.”
    This is the fifth door, the self-image. Sinner and saint are hooked there. Heaven and hell are the ideas of people who are hooked there. Millions of people are hooked. They are continuously afraid of hell and continuously greedy for heaven. They want to be patted by God, and they want God to say to them: “You are good, my son. I am happy with you.” They go on sacrificing their lives just to be patted by some fantasy somewhere beyond life and death. They go on doing a thousand and one tortures to themselves just in order that God can say: “Yes, you sacrificed yourself for me.”
    It seems as if God is a masochist or a sadist, or something like that.
    People torture themselves with the idea that they will be making God happy. What do you mean by this? You fast and you think God will be very happy with you? You starve yourself and you think God will be very happy with you? Is he a sadist? Does he enjoy torturing people? And that is what saints, so-called saints, have been doing: torturing themselves and looking at the sky. Sooner or later God will say: “Good boy, you have done well. Now come and enjoy the heavenly pleasures. Come here! Wine flows here in rivers, and roads are of gold, and palaces are made of diamonds. And the women here never age, they remain stuck at sixteen. Come here! You have done enough, you have earned, now you can enjoy!” The whole idea behind sacrifice is this. It is a foolish idea, because all ego ideas are foolish.
    The sixth is the self as reason. It comes through education, experience, reading, learning, and listening: you start accumulating ideas, and then you start creating systems out of ideas, consistent wholes, and philosophies. This is where the philosophers, the scientists, the thinkers, the intellectuals, the rationalists are hooked. But this is becoming more and more sophisticated: from the first, the sixth is very sophisticated.
    The seventh is propriate striving: the artist, the mystic, the utopian, the dreamer — they are hooked there. They are always trying to create an utopia in the world. The word “utopia” is very beautiful: it means “that which never comes.” It is always coming but it never comes; it is always there but never here. But there are moon-gazers who go on looking for the faraway, the distant, and they are always moving in imagination. Great poets, imaginative people — their whole ego is involved in becoming. There is somebody who wants to become God; he is a mystic.
    Remember, “becoming” is the key word on the seventh, and the seventh is the last of the ego. The most mature ego comes there. That’s why you will feel, you will see a poet — he may not have anything, he may be a beggar, but in his eyes, on his nose, you will see the great ego. The mystic may have renounced the whole world and may be sitting in a Himalayan cage, in a Himalayan cave. You go there and look at him: he may be sitting there naked — but such a subtle ego, such a refined ego. He may even touch your feet, but he is showing: “Look how humble I am!”
    There are seven doors. When the ego is perfect, all these seven doors have been crossed; then that mature ego drops on its own accord. The child is before these seven egos, and the Buddha is after these seven egos. It is a complete circle.
    Buddha has moved into all these seven egos — seen them, looked into them, found that they are illusory, and has come back home, has become a child again. That’s what Jesus means when he says: “Unless you become like small children, you will not enter into my kingdom of God.”
    Ego starts growing as the child grows. The parents, the schools, colleges, university, they all help to strengthen the ego for the simple reason that for centuries man had to struggle to survive and the idea has become a fixation, a deep unconscious conditioning, that only strong egos can survive in the struggle of life. Life has become just a struggle to survive. And scientists have made it even more convincing with the theory of the survival of the fittest. So we help every child to become stronger in the ego, and it is there that the problem arises. As the ego becomes strong it starts surrounding intelligence like a thick layer of darkness. Intelligence is light, ego is darkness. Intelligence is very delicate, ego is very hard. Intelligence is like a rose flower, ego is like a rock. And if you want to survive, they say – the so-called knowers – then you have to become rock-like, you have to be strong, invulnerable. You have to become a citadel, a closed citadel, so you cannot be attacked from outside. You have to become impenetrable. But then you become closed. Then you start dying as far as your intelligence is concerned because intelligence needs the open sky, the wind, the air, the sun in order to grow, to expand, to flow. To remain alive it needs a constant flow; if it becomes stagnant it becomes slowly a dead phenomenon. Happiness is threatening and misery is safe – safe for the ego. Ego can exist only in misery and through misery. Ego is an island surrounded by hell; happiness is threatening to the ego, to the very existence of the ego. Happiness rises like a sun and the ego disappears, evaporates like a dewdrop on the grass leaf. Happiness is the death of the ego. If you want to remain a separate entity from existence as almost everybody is trying to do, you will be afraid of being blissful, cheerful. You will feel guilty in being blissful. You will feel suicidal because you are committing suicide on the psychological level, on the level of the ego. It almost always happens that people enjoy a few moments and then afterwards feel very guilty. The guilt arises because of the ego. The ego starts torturing them, “What are you doing? Have you decided to kill me? And I am your only treasure. Killing me? You will be destroyed. Killing me is destroying you.” Try to understand the ego. Analyze it, dissect it, watch it, observe it, from as many angles as possible. And don’t be in a hurry to sacrifice it, otherwise the greatest egoist is born: the person who thinks he is humble, the person who thinks that he has no ego. That’s what the religious people have been doing down the ages – pious egoists they have been. They have made their ego even more decorated; it has taken the color of religion and holiness. Your ego is better than the ego of a saint; your ego is better, far better – because your ego is very gross, and the gross ego can be understood and dropped more easily than the subtle. The subtle ego goes on playing such games that it is very difficult. One will need absolute awareness to watch it. Misery has many things to give to you which happiness cannot give. On the contrary, happiness takes away many things from you. In fact, happiness takes all that you have ever had, all that you have ever been; happiness destroys you. Misery nourishes your ego, and happiness is basically a state of egolessness. That is the problem, the very crux of the problem. That’s why people find it very difficult to be happy. That’s why millions of people in the world have to live in misery, have decided to live in misery. It gives you a very, very crystallized ego. Miserable, you are. Happy, you are not. In misery: crystallization; in happiness you become diffused. If this is understood then things become very clear. Misery makes you special. Happiness is a universal phenomenon; there is nothing special about it. Love and ego cannot go together. Knowledge and ego go together perfectly well, but love and ego cannot go together, not at all. They cannot keep company. They are like darkness and light: if light is there darkness cannot be. Darkness can only be if light is not there. If love is not there the ego can be; if love is there the ego cannot be. And vice versa, if ego is dropped, love arrives from all the directions. It simply starts pouring in you from everywhere. The Ego Feeds off Your Desire to Be Something Else. Where does the ego get its energy? The ego feeds off your desire to be something else. You are poor and you want to be rich – the ego is absorbing energy, its life-breath. You are ignorant and you want to become a wise one – the ego is absorbing energy. You are a wretched nobody and you want to become powerful – the ego is absorbing energy. Understand the process of the ego. How does the ego live? The ego lives in the tension between what you are and what you want to be. A wants to be B – the ego is created out of this very tension. How does the ego die? The ego dies by you accepting what you are. That you say, “I am fine as I am, where I am is good. I will remain just as existence keeps me. Its will is my will.” When you have dropped all the tension about the future – that I should become this and I should become that – the ego evaporates. The ego lives on a base of the past and the future. Understand this a little. The claims of the ego are of the past, “I did this, I did that” – it is all in the past. And the ego says, “I will definitely accomplish this, I will definitely show you that I can accomplish that.” That is all in the future. The ego simply does not exist in the present. If you come to the present, then the ego disappears. That is death to the ego. Coming to the present is the death of the ego. The ego exists through friction. Have an ideal, and you will become an egoist. The idealist is an egoist. Have a bigger ideal, and you will be a bigger egoist. The greater the ideal, the greater the ego, because the greater is the friction. The ego is created by friction between the real and the ideal. Now you may have the ideal of egolessness – that doesn’t matter. You may say, “But I have the ideal of being egoless” – it does not matter, the ideal brings the ego. Now your idea of egolessness will bring great ego. So the real egoists are those who think they are humble people, who pretend that they are egoless.
    The man who is egoless is the man who has no ideals. Let this be the criterion, and you have stumbled upon a fundamental. The man of no ego is the man of no ideals. Then how can the ego be created? – the very energy is missing. The energy comes out of friction, conflict, struggle, will.
    When you accept your life – when you take your breakfast, and when you sleep and when you walk and when you take your bath – how can you create an ego out of these things? Sleeping when feeling sleepy, eating when feeling hungry, how can you create your ego? No, if you fast, you can create ego. If you are on vigilance for the whole night, and you say, “I am not going to sleep,” you can create the ego. By the morning, the person who has slept well will have no ego, you will have a great ego. But the ego does not want to be whole; because once you are whole the ego cannot exist. The ego exists only in the split. When you are fighting with yourself, the ego exists. The ego always exists through conflict; conflict is its food, nourishment. So if you are whole, the ego cannot exist. You can watch it. You can go and watch the criminals – they have their ego, you can go and watch your saints – they have their ego: the ego of the good and the ego of the bad. But if you can find a man who has no ego, he will be neither a sinner nor a saint, he will be very simple. He will not claim anything good or bad; he will not claim at all. The ego is created by the rift. When you are fighting, the ego comes in; when you are not fighting, the ego cannot come in. Ego is a tension. If you want the ego, then divide yourself as fully as possible – become two persons. That is what is happening to many people, that is what has happened to whole of humanity. Everybody has become two persons: one voice says “Do this,” the other voice says “Don’t do that” – then the ego arises. Out of friction ego arises, and ego is very intoxicating; it makes you unconscious. This is the whole mechanism.
    I am’ is nothing but another name for the ego. Now you will be getting into trouble. If the ego is convinced that the only way is to drop the ego, then who is going to drop whom? And how? It will be like pulling yourself up by your own shoestrings. You will look just silly. Watch each word that you use. ‘I am’ is nothing but the ego.
    The second thing: nobody has ever been able to drop the ego because ego is not a reality that you can drop; anything to be dropped at least has to be real, substantial. Ego is just a notion, an idea. You cannot drop it, you can only understand it. Can you drop your shadow? You can run as fast as you want but your shadow will run at the same speed, exactly the same speed. You cannot drop the ego. Once you start trying to drop the ego you will get in a very deep mess; you will become more and more worried and puzzled. And this is not the way to get rid of the ego. The only way to get rid of the ego is to look at it.”
    So when you do something, watch, be alert. And if it leads to misery, then you know well that it was ego. Then the next time, be alert, don’t listen to that voice. If it is nature, it will lead you towards a blissful state of mind. Nature is always beautiful, ego always ugly. There is no other way but trial and error. Life is subtle and complex and all criteria fall short. You will have to make your own efforts to judge. So whenever you do something, listen to the voice from within. Make a note of it, of where it leads. If it leads to misery, it was certainly from the ego. If your love leads to misery, it was from the ego. If your love leads to a beautiful benediction, blessedness, it was from nature. If your friendship, even your meditation, leads you to misery, it was from the ego. If it were from nature everything would fit in, everything would become harmonious. Nature is wonderful, nature is beautiful, but you have to work it out. Always make a note of what you are doing and where it leads. By and by, you will become aware of that which is ego and that which is nature; which is real and which is false. It will take time and alertness, observation. And don’t deceive yourself – because only ego leads to misery, nothing else. Don’t throw the responsibility on the other; the other is irrelevant. Your ego leads to misery, nobody else leads you into misery. Ego is the gate of hell, and the natural, the authentic, the real that comes from your center, is the door to heaven. You will have to find it and work it out. Before you can lose your ego, you must attain it. Only a ripe fruit falls to the ground. Ripeness is all. An unripe ego cannot be thrown, cannot be destroyed. And if you struggle with an unripe ego to destroy and dissolve it, the whole effort is going to be a failure. Rather than destroying it, you will find it more strengthened, in new and subtle ways. This is something basic to be understood – the ego must come to a peak, it must be strong, it must have attained integrity – only then can you dissolve it. A weak ego cannot be dissolved. And this becomes a problem. In the East all the religions preach egolessness. So in the East everybody is against the ego from the very beginning. Because of this anti attitude, ego never becomes strong, never comes to a point of integration from where it can be thrown. It is never ripe. So in the East it is very difficult to dissolve the ego, almost impossible. In the West the whole Western tradition of religion and psychology propounds, preaches and persuades people to have strong egos – because unless you have a strong ego, how can you survive? Life is a struggle; if you are egoless you will be destroyed. Then who will resist? Who will fight? Who will compete? And life is a continuous competition. Western psychology says: Attain to the ego, be strong in it. But in the West it is very easy to dissolve the ego. So whenever a Western seeker reaches an understanding that ego is the problem he can easily dissolve it, more easily than any Eastern seeker. This is the paradox – in the West ego is taught, in the East egolessness is taught. But in the West it is easy to dissolve the ego, in the East it is very difficult. This is going to be a hard task for you, first to attain and then to lose – because you can lose only something which you possess. If you don’t possess it, how can you lose it? When you are in anger, in passion, violent, aggressive, you feel a crystallized ego within you. Whenever you are in love, in compassion, it is not there. That’s why we cannot love, because with the ego, love is impossible. That’s why we go on talking so much about love, but we never are in love. And whatsoever we call love is more or less sex, it is not love; because you cannot lose your ego, and love cannot exist unless the ego has disappeared. Love, meditation, godliness, they all require one thing – the ego must not be there. That’s why saying that Love is Lord Shiva is right, because both phenomena happen only when the ego is not. The child is born with a Self but not with an ego. The child develops the ego. As he becomes more and more social and related, ego develops. This ego is just on your periphery where you are related with others – just on the boundary of your being. So ego is the periphery of your being, and Self is the center. The child is born with a Self, but unaware. He is a Self, but he is not conscious of the Self. The first awareness of the child comes with his ego. He becomes aware of the “I”, not of the Self. Really, he becomes aware first of the “thou”. The child first becomes aware of his mother. Then, reflectively, he becomes aware of himself. First he becomes aware of objects around him. Then, by and by, he begins to feel that he is separate. This feeling of separation gives the feeling of ego, and because the child first becomes aware of the ego, ego becomes a covering on the Self. Then ego goes on growing, because the society needs you as an ego, not as a Self. The Self is irrelevant for the society; your periphery is meaningful. And there are many problems. The ego can be taught and the ego can be made docile and the ego can be forced to be obedient. The ego can be made to adjust, but not the Self. The Self cannot be taught, the Self cannot be forced. The Self is intrinsically rebellious, individual. It cannot be made a part of society. Everybody, even a religious man, has his own ego. Even while declaring, “I am just dust underneath your feet,” you are gathering ego. The ego and the personality have to be dropped, then you will find individuality arising…a feeling of uniqueness. Yes, you are unique. Everybody else is also unique. In this world only unique people exist, so comparison is just stupid, because you alone are like yourself. There is nobody like you, so how to compare? There are only two states of consciousness that exist – the state of the ego and the state of love. The ego is the narrow state, the seed-form, the atomic stage; love is all encompassing, love is God. The center of the ego is I; the ego exists for itself. The nectar of love is the universe. Love exists for all. The ego is exploitation; love is service. And the service that flows from love, freely and spontaneously, is non-violence.

  4. July 24, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    While I believe and accept most all of what you said, as an old English teacher, it bothers me that several words are used incorrectly…. for example, ‘excepted’ instead of ‘Accepted”…. and several typos. If you are going to present such valuable information, please type/speak correctly. I hope you accept this in the spirit it is offered.

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