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Two Different Kinds of Happiness

My husband and I spent last week in Michigan at a family reunion on my mom’s side. We had such a great time, and even though it was stressful and a little chaotic at times, I am so glad that we were all able to be together for that one week. I hadn’t seen my aunts and my cousins in quite a few years, and now they all have children! When I was younger, we visited my aunts, uncles and cousins at the lake in Michigan almost every summer. We had fun together, swimming and water-skiing. It was fun this time too, although now we are all quite a few years older.

two different kinds of happiness

I was able to get myself out of my angry rut over the past week as well. It turned out that I was invited to assist with my Buddhist elementary school group, and we did a fun owl pellet science activity and drumming lesson on Sunday morning. I really appreciate the opportunity to teach children again. I’ve been getting up earlier in the mornings and going to the Buddhist center to chant this week. I re-read my last blog post and I noticed that I said I would focus less on participating with the SGI, but I actually did quite the opposite! This is much better, of course.

This morning I read a great article in my Buddhist newspaper, the World Tribune (August 9, 2013 p.3) about happiness. I believe that many people don’t understand what happiness is. For me, I’ve had to really learn how to be happy. This is because in Buddhism, there are two kinds of happiness: ‘absolute’ happiness and ‘relative’ happiness. Absolute happiness is lasting happiness. Relative happiness is fleeting. The problem is most people seek relative happiness, and are totally unaware of what absolute happiness is or how to achieve it. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda states:

No matter how wealthy a person may be, he or she can be reduced to absolute poverty overnight by some drastic social change. The most seemingly healthy person can have a terrible accident or suddenly fall ill. As people grow older, they all experience illnesses of one kind or another. 

Relative happiness is based on the condition of our circumstances. When circumstances change, that happiness can also easily crumble. In addition, though we may possess all we desire, as long as we can’t control our desires, our happiness at attaining new things will only be  momentary. Extreme attachment to wealth and such can actually make one poor of spirit…

Absolute happiness is not simply an extension or a higher degree of relative happiness. One can seem to be quite unfortunate in terms of relative happiness, but can actually have a firmly established absolute happiness.

For me, I have had to learn how to be happy during what I consider to be less than ideal circumstances. Dealing with the voices, learning how to ignore them, not letting them scare or intimidate me was (and still is) no easy feat. Buddhism has taught me that happiness only comes from within, and that my happiness can’t be dependent on my external environment. Yet when the voices I hear are so evil it is difficult to fight against them. Fighting the voices, the devilish functions and my own negativity is what I’ve learned to do over the past few years with therapy, Buddhism and my family. It wears on me, day after day, but I believe there is incredible meaning in my fight, and I will never give up.

Jennifer

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