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Attaching Happiness to External Conditions
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Attaching Happiness to External Conditions (21 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
August 18, 2013 - Dallas, Texas

Thank you, dear friends, for your beautiful practice tonight, the practice of togetherness. Very recently, one of my favorite actors and singers passed away. His name was Cory Monteith. He was born in 1982, and he passed away this year. He was very well known for being in the show Glee, which is a wonderful show with lots of music. I love shows with music. And I would watch this show every week, and I enjoyed some of the ridiculous plots. Mainly I just wanted to hear the music. I didn't really care so much for the plots.

But anyway, Cory was one of the main lead singers in the show, and he is very young and good looking and talented. He is a great singer. And he had a lot of things going for him. But he also had a lot of issues, and unfortunately very recently he overdosed on some drugs. I think it was heroin or something like that, and he passed away. It is very sad. He had a lot of issues with depression as well, and it is interesting to look at someone like that: a young and good looking and talented and also very wealthy because of all the money he made from the show.

Think about it. If we were all like that, if we were all the most good-looking that we could possibly be, very wealthy, very talented, with lots of good, useful energy, we might think, well, then I would be so much happier than I am now. And yet, things like this happen. Very good-looking people, very talented people, very wealthy people, very famous people do things that end their life, either by accident or on purpose. Many of them have a lot of unhappiness. I hear from time to time about famous people who kill themselves, even when everything seems to be going so well.

So, let's not let these people die in vain, but let us learn from their life story and know that they are not really separate from us. They are an expression of humanity just like we are. So what can we learn when we think about people like that? Well, one thing that I think of is that obviously, more money, lots of talent, lots of fame is not necessarily going to bring more happiness. So, if I can examine mindfully in my own life the parts of myself that are chasing after these things, then I have the opportunity to question that part of me that chases these things. Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously, is there an internal subconscious belief that more things and more talents and more fame and more good looks and more money and all that—is there a part of us that really, truly believes that that actually can bring more happiness? Because if that is there, it may in fact be the cause of your unhappiness. Because by putting off happiness to an external condition, you are basically telling yourself subconsciously or consciously that you do not have any right to be happy right now because you can only really be more happy when there is some other condition that is met. So you are actually pushing your happiness away from yourself, from the here and now, when you do that.

I remember a couple of years ago I went to a few retreats, and I went to see Thich Nhat Hanh in Canada, and Thich Nhat Hanh is my primary root teacher. He is the one who introduced me to the beautiful teachings of the Buddha. And I really hope all of you can learn also from Thich Nhat Hanh as well. If you're able to go see him next month in Mississippi at the Mississippi retreat, I hope you can do that, just to be in the presence of this wonderful teacher along with many solid practitioners, monks and nuns and lay persons—probably around 1,000 people just creating togetherness in a mindful way. It is really beautiful. If you're not able to go in person, then you can still learn from this wonderful teacher by reading his books and listening to his dharma talks online or watching him on YouTube. There are all kinds of ways now.

We really live in an amazing time. There is just so much available now to us that might not have been available before. But you know, just because it is available does not mean that we take advantage of it, you know? So there may be all kinds of external possibilities of resource, but it is up to us to actually engage with these resources and utilize them and benefit from them.

So anyway, I was at this retreat, and I remember in the middle of the six-day retreat, I began to have flulike symptoms. And it was getting worse and worse and worse, and I realized that it most likely was going to go into a full-blown flu, and my first thought was oh my goodness. I spent so much money and time, and I flew out here to have this wonderful retreat, and I won't be able to go to retreat for several more months after this. I really was hoping that this would be the one to really help me be enlightened or something like that. And he only comes to the United States just once every 2 years.

But interestingly because I had gone to a few other retreats right before and spent some time in a couple of monasteries, I had that initial thought, you know, that first thought of oh, gosh, darn. You know. But then maybe because of the practice, I had another thought very naturally from a deeper place within me, and that thought was oh well. You know, I am so blessed. I get to go to more retreats than the average person anyway, and I am sure I will go to more wonderful retreats in the future, because that is just what I do. And it is okay that at this particular retreat I have the flu. It is okay. I am just grateful that I can be here with so many wonderful people and practice mindfulness. I am just so grateful for all of the opportunities I have already had and all the ones I probably will have in the future. So I am just going to accept this—just going to just accept this as it is.

What is interesting is that for the next several hours, as my body was feeling worse and worse and worse, my mind, my heart, and my spirit were feeling more and more joyful, more and more free, more and more happy, more and more light. It was the most funny experience I have ever had in my life. I did not realize that you can actually feel joy and happiness and peace more and more even as your body is feeling worse and worse. For all of my life before that point, I was correlated the state of my body to be correlated to the state of my mind, but in this wonderful experience I realized that true happiness, true peace, true joy, true light is not dependent on external conditions, and I was so happy for so many days. Every blackbird I saw walking on the grass looked so cute. Every little aphid on a branch was just marvelous, and every person that walked by me was just beautiful, and I just loved them. So I know it is possible to truly touch unconditioned happiness.

Now I did not stay in that state for more than a few weeks. That is why I keep practicing. We are all part-time Buddhas. Eventually we will be full-time Buddhas, but until then we keep practicing, and even after we become full-time Buddhas, we still practice, because practice is what Buddhas do. We offer our practice to benefit others, not ourselves. I mean, think about it. The Buddha meditated and practiced for many years, and then he was enlightened, but then he lived another 40 years and was still practicing meditation.

So don't think that enlightenment is the only reason why we practice, because the Buddha was enlightened, but he still practiced. Why? Well, who knows why, but my guess is that that is just what we do. That is just what enlightenment does. That is just what we do, our true self does. It practices. It offers mindfulness. It offers presence. It offers skillful means to help other beings. And the Buddha, I believe, offered us meditation practice even after his enlightenment because he was just sharing, just sharing. He did not need it for his own enlightenment anymore. He was just sharing it so that others might have the opportunity to be touched and awakened.

And so I hope in your practice you have touched moments of peace or joy or likeness or freedom, then maybe if you have practiced very deeply over several years of time, perhaps some of us in here have also deeply touched that unconditioned reality, even if just for a few seconds or minutes or days or weeks. Because that will give you energy to keep on keeping on. Because you know what? It is important to practice not just in moments of bliss and joy, but also when we are feeling tired, and we are feeling a little drained, when we are not feeling well. We might think that it is better to experience bliss in our practice, but the reality may be that when we practice even in the midst of difficulty, there's more power there. It may be that.

In my life, I go through so many ups and downs in my life and practice. And even tonight, I was feeling very tired. I am dealing with some health issues still, and I had a very busy weekend leading two workshops and then singing at two church services this morning. I had to sing those songs 9 times because we had rehearsal, the first service, and then the second service, and I had 3 songs. So I was just so tired. I even wanted someone else to get the talk tonight possibly, but I came anyway because this is what we do. This is what I do. We practice in every kind of situation.

We do not just practice for the bliss. In fact, I'm not sure there is even any wisdom in just practicing when we are blissful. I mean, yes, of course, it is nice to have bliss. It is nice to realize that there is an unconditioned happiness that exists. But there is no wisdom there. There is joy there. There is encouragement there. There is something that gives us hope and motivation, and it is almost like the universe, the Buddha are cheering us on when we experience this bliss. But that is not where the wisdom comes from, and enlightenment is partly made of wisdom, not just bliss. Wisdom comes from living our life deeply, practicing wholeheartedly in all circumstances, including the difficult ones. That is where the wisdom is.

This morning I was feeling a little bit of stage fright. I love teaching meditation and speaking about mindfulness. It is not a big deal to me, but when I have to sing in front of people, oh goodness, all this stage fright rises in me. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is when you have the fear, but you do it anyway. You do what you need to do anyway. That is true courage. So don't worry that you have days when you're tired, where your practice does not seem very blissful. Just keep practicing. Make it your vow that your whole life will be dedicated to the practice of mindfulness.

You know, it took a little courage tonight for me speak because once in a while, like tonight, I really do not feel have like I have much to say. I mean, I really don't have a lot of energy right now, but—I was even thinking, well, let's just all have small group discussions tonight instead. But you know why I still spoke anyway? It is because of love. I saw so many people in the room, many new people also, and I thought, well, I guess they deserve something at least. They came all the way over here to receive something to help them in their practice. So I opened my mouth, and I shared something. I hope it was helpful.

But more than the words that I shared, I hope just my being here with you was the help and support, just to be an example, even when you're not feeling your best, even when you do not feel like you have something to say, even when you are tired or feeling ill, all you have to be is you. And that is enough. All you have to be is you. Just like a flower. The flower doesn't have to do anything except just be a flower, and it can make us smile. Thank you.

Thank you, everyone, for practicing tonight. Just keep on keeping on. That is just the basic message tonight. Just keep on keeping on—and that you're not alone in this practice. So keep on keeping on, together.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch