We have talked about improving happiness by developing a robust network of friends. I hope some of you have put the thought into action and are beginning to see results. Some members report a marked improvement in their mood just by spending a day out with friends on a field trip. Sounds good? Then you should do more of it.
Let’s talk a little bit about having a philosophy for life because I realize that many of us do not see a higher purpose for our lives or a reason for being. And this must be conceived before we can find meaning in living.
I will divide the world for you into the religious and the non-religious. Some youths today think religion is ‘stuffy’, ‘old-hat’, and for the ‘weak-minded’. In fact, you’ll see how a guest religious speaker can get intellectually trashed at a university conference made up of highly educated non-believers or agnostics. However, on the whole, the people with religious beliefs have a happier state of mind than non-believers. This is because they have metaphysical answers to questions science alone cannot answer. They see a bigger picture to life and being.
I don’t know what your religion is, and maybe you are agnostic. But I believe there is some hidden force at work in our Universe; some higher intelligence. It comes by many names: God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Shiva, Zeus, Osiris and others. I’m not going to debate on who has the truest religion because this has been done many times before. I am a Buddhist by religion and I believe in the philosophy of Buddhism – the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Triple Gems. But I won’t say this is the truest religion because there is no way we can scientifically validate this claim. All religions are based on faith. And thus it takes a leap of faith to make it real for you. Follow your heart, read the literature, and choose what you want to believe in.
A Reason for Living
I believe everyone is born onto this Earth with some role to play. Their life is set up so that they will experience challenges and difficulties which they have the opportunity to overcome or fail. If you can master the lessons in this lifetime, you will progress to new challenges and lessons in the next lifetime. Here I am making an assumption of a Death and Rebirth Cycle – our soul is reborn over many lifetimes. And there is a scorecard. Look at your hands. Your past life experiences are carved into the lines of your hands. That’s how palm readers are able to spot people who are old souls with great wisdom and experience. Merit is also accumulated and rewarded accordingly. If you do good in this lifetime, you are rewarded with better personal qualities or circumstances in your next lifetime. This is what Buddhists call Karma; Christians say ‘You reap what you sow’.
Some of us are here to teach, some are here to express through music, some are here to make technological or scientific breakthroughs; some are here to learn the basic lessons like kindness and compassion. (Actually I would consider that an advanced lesson, but I don’t know how the Universe organises its curriculum.) Whatever your situation is now, know that you have a role to play in this lifetime. It may be a life of suffering because one may have done evil in the past, or it may be a life to enjoy as a reward for past good deeds, or it could be a standard lesson in patience, persistence, self-confidence, or a million other qualities.
What I’m telling you takes a leap of faith to believe in. That’s why many educated people would simply dismiss it as hogwash. But the foundation of my happiness lies in knowing that there is a greater purpose and system to life than just the one I’m living. With this understanding, I see obstacles not as problems, but as challenges to overcome. Pain and suffering not as bad luck, but as part of a lesson to be learned. Let me give you an example: Imagine in a past life you were a wealthy land owner who scalded a woman’s face with boiling water because she wouldn’t marry you. Then in this lifetime, you are born as a woman with facial deformity. The Universe wants you to learn the pain caused to the scalded woman who rejected you, by putting you in a role where you directly experience every emotion – depression, fear, rejection – in the hope that you will understand the pain caused to others and perhaps become a more understanding, kind, and compassionate soul.
Psychological studies show that religion is a happiness booster. So for this week, if you are agnostic, I invite you to look around at the different religions and explore their literature, practices, and philosophy. You’ll probably find one you feel that speaks to your heart. If you already have a religion you like, I invite you to delve deeper into the spiritual knowledge – read the books, talk to the spiritual teachers, visit the temples, monasteries, synagogues, churches, or mosques. There is great spiritual power flowing through these places. Spending some time there will be good for your soul. You will see that it enhances your clarity and gives you renewed strength.
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