Monday, March 14, 2016

The "Pursuit of Happiness" (video)

Dev, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly; Lissie; Kid Cudi; Halsey
When the time comes to choose, be happy, even when all the world says to "suck it."
SXSW - Lissie sings Kid Cudi cool "Pursuit of Happiness" but makes it her own, another great cover. Paste Magazine's called her "Best New Solo Artist of 2010."

Let me tell you about my ***ed up life.
I've decided I just want to be happy. Whatever that means. But what I think it means is be smiling, upbeat, enthusiastic, excited, hopeful and anticipating or content. I know I'm happy when my face tells me so.

My face is usually staring not at a mirror but at a screen. And screens tell me I'm not happy.

Facebook is the worst, but there's the TV screen, phone, PC, future website (, and all of the big screen spy-TVs I have to stare at everywhere (telescreens in Nineteen Eighty-Four). It's sad.

How to be happy if just willing it doesn't work? I can decide to be happy, I know, but I can't always make that decision. I've pinned my happiness on things, outcomes, and they don't always come out. So by agreement with myself I have to be unhappy. Dumb, I know, but the TV tells me so, like mainly that channel there used to be, MTV, now replaced by YouTube.

The way to happiness is chase after things and people and experiences in a capitalist marketplace. People sell things (and implied promises of fulfillment), and I buy it.
Gotta pay money. Gotta get money to pay first. Gotta worry about where I'm going to get all the money I'll need/want. Gotta worry about how not to lose it. Then have to find a way to spend it after I've worked so hard worrying and struggling for it. But even when I spend, even when I get, I find I'm not really happy. I'm not satisfied. I'm certainly not fulfilled or contented.

I made the wrong choice. I have to chase something else... It's a trap. I know it's a trap. But what's the alternative? Woe is me. So sad. The Buddha said... what did the Buddha say? Certainly happiness is not found by chasing sensual desires. So what about nonsensual desires like meditative-absorptions?

Kid Cudi and countless others before him try to tell us drinking, getting high, and hedonism are the way to happiness. They'd all be happy, especially the rap stars and porn stars. But they're some of the unhappiest f-ups around.

Years of physical pleasure
Harem for rich, young, handsome Prince Siddhartha (the Buddha) during 29 years of parties.
Prince Siddhartha had a lot of money, power, palaces, beauty, health, fame, and influence -- and he realized it was no protection from dukkha (disappointment, never being able to derive lasting satisfaction from things, always being off-kilter, always being on a bumpy ride like the wheel of an ox cart with a wheel that's off-center), from "suffering" (unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction). And it's not just this life but through countless rebirths in countless forms (bodies).

Spiritual penance is disappointing.
"Suffering" in Buddhism doesn't mean what it means in English, some extreme form of pain. It encompasses the whole range of unpleasant feelings from slight agitation to excruciating agony. It's worse than just physical pain; it includes all the psychological things we would rather not feel, the sensations that are difficult to bear. The Buddha defined the word exactly:

THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH: "This, meditators, is the ennobling truth of disappointment [what is unpleasant]: Birth is disappointing, aging is disappointing, death is disappointing; sorrow, crying, pain, grief, and despair are disappointing; being in contact with the disliked; being separated from the liked; not getting what we want is disappointing. In brief, all of the Five Aggregates of Clinging [the core things that make up this sense of "self" -- (1) body, (2) sensations, (3) perceptions, (4) formations, and (5) consciousness] are disappointing" (SN 56.11).

(Kid Cudi) "Pursuit of Happiness" the popular, original version. WARNING: Futile hedonism.

Siddhartha the ascetic thought that the meditative-absorptions might be the path to enlightenment when he was under the bodhi tree. He realized that fearing pleasure was not the way to successful spirituality because there's a way to pleasure that does not rely on sensuality (sense desires).

But what good does absorption do? What's so great about bliss, joy, or effervescent feelings of tingly, heady rapture, zest, and sublime sukha?

Sounds good! I'll take it. How do I get it? An American monk named Geoffrey DeGraff ("Tan Geoff" in California) tried to write a book after Ledi Sayadaw's The [37] Requisites of Enlightenment based on the old Theravada Buddhist school's list of factors the Buddha mentioned on how to find peace, purification, and liberation by enlightenment and nirvana.

(Halsey) We are the "New Americana"/high on legal marijuana/raised on Biggie and Nirvana
Sign me up. The only problem is, this monk is very eccentric and writes poorly trying to be super-literal in needlessly re-translating what lots of great English translators have already translated in the past century.

For example, instead of calling them "Requisites of Enlightenment" (bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma "things related to enlightenment"), he chose "Wings to Awakening" to be contrarian or original or full of ego. That's just the first problem. Still, the message is important, maybe the most important things in life -- how to live, how to be happy, how to reach the highest good.
An Anthology from the Pali Canon
Translated and explained by Ven. Thanissaro (Geoffrey DeGraff), 7th edition, revised 2013
The Wings to Awakening
So this is what you think of me: “The sympathetic Blessed One, seeking our well-being, teaches the Dharma out of sympathy.” Then you should train yourselves -- harmoniously, cordially, without dispute -- in the things (dhammas) I have pointed out, having directly known them:
  1. the Four Foundations of Mindfulness,
  2. the Four Right Efforts,
  3. the Four Bases of Power,
  4. the Five Faculties,
  5. the Five Strengths,
  6. the Seven Factors of Enlightenment,
  7. the Noble Eightfold Path (MN 103).
[These add up to 37 Requisites of Enlightenment although many of them repeat, such as "mindfulness," which occurs about 14 times as we shall see when they are broken down and analyzed.] More

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