It was intense suffering which bought me to the path of Dhamma. But now as I practise I see that I have started defining my life through the lens of suffering. Even if I practise non-attachment and remind myself of ancicca which destroys craving and clinging I feel bad about my life.

  1. Should we feel good about our lives?

  2. What are the reasons to feel good about it?

  3. Can we be both happy about our life and pursue Nibbana?

  4. If we only look at life as suffering and unsatisfactory does this not make us masochist?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Some reasons to be happy comes from Dhammapada 197-200:

How very happily we live,
free from hostility
among those who are hostile.
Among hostile people,
free from hostility we dwell.

How very happily we live,
free from misery
among those who are miserable.
Among miserable people,
free from misery we dwell.

How very happily we live,
free from busyness (materialism, avarice)
among those who are busy.
Among busy (materialistic, avaricious) people,
free from busyness (materialism, avarice) we dwell.

How very happily we live,
we who have nothing.
We will feed on rapture
like the Radiant gods.

Rapture (piti) comes from jhana (level achieved in concentration meditation)

The above words come from the perspective of monks who have renounced the worldly life.

But even for lay people, it just goes to show that we can be very happy and grateful for all the good things or situation that we have, the good environment that we're in, and the good deeds that we have done.

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    Excellent! Thank you for those quotes. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 13:50

1. Should we feel good about our lives?

Depends upon the context of our lives, yes? If we spend our time helping others, working to pacify ourselves, engaging in virtuous deeds and generally working towards achieving happiness for ourselves and others, then why not feel good about that? Indeed, if this is the case one should rejoice! Finding the Dharma and taking refuge in the Triple Jewels is rare. It is truly an achievement to be rejoiced.

2. What are the reasons to feel good about?

See above :)

3. Can we be both Happy about our life and pursue Nibbana?

Isn't happiness and freedom from suffering the aim of all sentient beings? Isn't this the aim of pursuing the path to the spiritual life in the first place? What is Nirvana if not arriving at the achievement of these aims? Isn't Nirvana the end of the spiritual life where one's aims have been achieved?

4. If we only look at life as suffering and unsatisfactory does this not make us masochist?

Dhukka and Samsara are facts. Reality exists (Dhukka/Samsara) whether we perceive the truth or actively try and hide from it. Seeing things for what they are is not masochism. Indeed, it is necessary to achieve our aims... freedom and release from Dhukka and Samsara. If we sit quietly drinking coffee while the house is on fire saying, "This is fine" it doesn't put out the fire, does it? No, in order to rescue ourselves from the fire we have to know the fire exists, right?

If we know the fire exists and how to put it out and engage in the practice of putting out the fire for ourselves and others, then why not rejoice in doing so?

Feelings come under the 2nd aggregate. Feelings are impermanent, suffering and non-self regardless of if they are good or bad. All you have to do is to be mindful of feelings, both good and bad until you attain enlightenment.

masochist: a person who derives sexual gratification from their own pain or humiliation

Not sure how you even came up with the idea that being mindful of reality to attain enlightenment is synonymous with deriving sexual pleasure from humiliation. :)

  • You took the other specific definition. The general use is : a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious. – user13135 Aug 9 at 3:24
  • With that definition students studying hard to pass an exam, doctors/nurses working hard to save patients, people exercising hard to lose weight, cave rescuers working day and night to rescue a football team should all be masochists. :) Mindfulness is not about enjoying. It's about learning what is the truth. – Sankha Kulathantille Aug 9 at 3:37
  • yes it appears like that when you read it out of context. If you put it in the context of my question I meant, i am working through the lens that life is suffering and from that stand point if I derive happiness it looks masochist. Its from the contextual bigger picture. – user13135 Aug 9 at 3:45
  • Nibbana is not about deriving happy feelings. – Sankha Kulathantille Aug 9 at 3:50
  • Suffering is to be understood, it is not something you yearn to experience – Sankha Kulathantille Aug 9 at 3:58

Given that delight is the root of suffering, one could be tempted to fall into nihilistic despair. And that would be a sad outcome.

However consider that a person who is grateful and thankful might have found that:

the appearance of five treasures is rare in the world

May you abide in peace and joy. 🙏

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    Just a thought... that sutta you reference is replete with ignorance as condition for arising of delight. Also, have a look here: suttacentral.net/iti14/en/ireland Thus, Mahayana views ignorance as the root of all suffering. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 8 at 17:36
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    Our delights are born and buried in ignorance and revealed through meditation. Although blind to my own ignorance, I can see delight, Mara's fire. – OyaMist Aug 8 at 18:58

Should we feel good about our lives?

Don't try to feel good. Joy will automatically arise once you have a mind free of regret. For a virtuous person no volition is needed to be free from regret. Therefore become a virtuous person and the joy will automatically arise.

Following is what Buddha had to say on the matter(AN 10.2):

“Bhikkhus, for a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous, no volition need be exerted: ‘Let non-regret arise in me.’ It is natural that non-regret arises in a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous.

“For one without regret no volition need be exerted: ‘Let joy arise in me.’ It is natural that joy arises in one without regret.

What are the reasons to feel good about?

Although being virtuous will automatically make you joyful, there are some reasons for which you can feel good about. The main reason is Buddha. You believe in Buddha. You have no doubt on Buddha. That itself is a reason for celebration because it means you are inclining towards Nibbana. Next you can be happy about Dhamma. The one who understands Dhamma understands the fundamental truth about the existence. This truth is independent of anyone. Third reason to be happy is Sangha. But if you dont belong to Sangha then you should be happy that there are kind hearted , honest men in world. Not everyone is bad.

Can we be both Happy about our life and pursue Nibbana?

One day we will die. There is no choice. The happiness without intention of renunciation and good will won't last long. If you can be happy in so called adverse situations then yes you can be happy and pursue Nibbana. Life is impermanent. It is the cause of suffering. Therefore you can't be happy about life but you can be happy 'about' Buddha , Dhamma and Sangha and yourself who is on the right path to renunciation.

If we only look at life as suffering and unsatisfactory does this not make us masochist?

Joy and rapture are integral part of Buddhist Philosophy. But it must be seen in the context of the questions: what are we happy about and how we achieve happiness?

  • Trying to feel good or avoid suffering is the very motivation of embarking on the Buddhist path. How can that be bad? – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 13:48
  • @YesheTenley Motivation is alright but without treading the Path one can not achieve cessation of suffering. You have limited choice. You can become a virtuous person and the rest will automatically follow. See AN 10.2. The Path is conditioned by volitional formations but ultimately one has to give up the idea of Self and Conceit. I can not demand happiness. I can not demand cessation of suffering. Once we are set on the right path (with right view) things automatically take care of themselves. – Dheeraj Verma Aug 9 at 14:54
  • Sure. I don't disagree, but I'd note that maybe some could perceive tension between your words "Don't try to feel good" since in order to "tread the path" one has to try to :) – Yeshe Tenley Aug 9 at 15:14
  • @YesheTenley Yes initially volition is required. But as we walk the path we realize volitional formations are not self. I think it is pretty clear that if we want happiness and joy then we should focus on becoming virtuous(AN 10.2).For example if we want to eat a fruit then we must sow the seed. We can not directly reach to the fruit. Joy is that fruit. Nirvana is that fruit. Our total effort should be focused on sowing the seed and taking care of it, rest will automatically happen if right conditions are met. – Dheeraj Verma Aug 9 at 16:21
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    I agree here, I think @DheerajVerma meant that we should not "try" as in strive to feel good as it's a trap of Self, but rather just naturally feel good whenever it arises - we cannot just snap fingers and make ourselves happy, thinking in such way creates plenty aversive feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment. – user13383 Aug 10 at 19:31
  1. Should we feel good about our lives?

Yes, we should feel great and happy about our lives, Buddhism is about feeling happiness. By that I mean that while dwelling in moments we should know whenever we are happy - awareness of that is the very thing that makes us notice and store positive seeds for the future. Without that, of what possible help can we be to others if we are miserable, useless and confused? Conversely, when we are afflicted by negative emotions we should know that too, so we apply skilful means and let go of them, or not to produce negative karma as the result of them.

Acknowledgement of pleasant moment and happy life needs to be made without any obstructions - by just noting it. Remember that great deal of suffering is inflicted upon you when you torment yourself by asking and questioning such questions as you've asked; Should I be feeling happiness and joy at the given moment? Should I be happy about life at all? That is because of the fact that we take things to the extreme, drifting off from the path of Right effort. Hence, we have to re-adjust from time to time, until strings play well. You should not feel bad about feeling pleasure and enjoy it while it lasts, just note and contemplate that it is going to end, because nothing is permanent, not even life. Such antidotes to pleasure and excitement will save you some disappointment of thoughts like "I'd rather this gig last for much longer, it was such a good set...", "I have lost my puppy, and I loved him so much...".

  1. Can we be both Happy about our life and pursue Nibbana?

I would attempt to split this into a two-step process. Firstly, we sail off, and that means we have Eightfold path to establish solid base of happiness and bliss through good karma and release from cyclic rebirth, in order to reap positive things in future. It is like training wheels that one cultivates while pursuing more sustainable, unconditional ways of higher bliss. Those unconditional are Dharmadhatu, Rigpa or Jhana - they all speak of the relatively same great experience. So, then it comes the next step we arrive at some realisation that is the resultant of right mindfulness, concentration and effort - all the things resulting from insight into no-Self, impermanence and Emptiness. It might be like above, the first contact with Jhana or just getting in touch with Selflessness. Because mental discipline is a very long process that might take lifetimes, thus the reason for the initial path of ethics has to bring us solid happy foundation quickly, long before realisation, and long long before we reach the other shore to become unafflicted completely.

Since laypeople don't have as much time as monks, even some realisation of three marks of existence is enough to provide sustainable source of happiness. Most importantly, pursuing Nibbana should never be forced or pushed. Insight and realisation should arise naturally in time.

Therefore, knowing that true happiness is unconditional we should not attach too much to the plans of making ourselves happy by conditional means. If such things happen OK, but keep in mind they're not reliable. Constantly looking at the other the shore should give us enough to be wise about it, and try our best not to attach ourselves.

  1. If we only look at life as suffering and unsatisfactory does this not make us masochist?

Yes, if we only look at life like this, we are in fact masochists. Life is not all suffering, remember. I reject Four Dharma Seals in favour of Three, they are more truthful. Read: Maha-mangala Sutta: Blessings, this is how joyfully we should approach Buddha's teachings for they give great happiness in our hands. If Buddhism makes you feel like this, it is not Buddhism making it miserable, it is you! Remember it is not things but reaction to things that make us suffer.

I'll try to answer this much simple,First you said that

It was intense suffering which bought me to the path of Dhamma

and it was right way.Cause you saw and felt yourself that i'm suffering and i want to get rid of it some how, then you might have try to find a way, and finally you end up with buddhism. Which is the only way to end suffering. Therefore for

  1. yes you can.
  2. you have Dhamma and you somehow practising it as you can.
  3. we dont need to pursue Nibbana cause it is not something to puruse, if we practising dhamma as Lord Buddha said, eventual result is Nibbana. we can happy about our lives as long as we are practising dhamma.
  4. No, it's the truth about our lives. If we dont see the truth we will not be able to end suffering. It'll help to remind always life is painfull.

With respect, but if you already had a 'bad time' and Buddhism does not seem tk work out the way you expected, then I suggest to seek out a therapist.

The Buddha wasn't a pessimist who claimed that life is suffering. The 1st NT states the reality of dukkha, which has a wide range of meaning. From distress, unease, unsatisfactoriness to suffering. It makes little to no sense to view life as suffering, since it is not true and it doesn't help you in the long run to live happily your life.

By all means, practise the Noble Eightfold path with dilligence and enthusiasm, but if certain underlying beliefs still sabotage your life I suggest you to seek help because it can be quite difficult to spot them and the motivation and patience you have to bring in order to change your outlook of the world.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Aug 9 at 19:23

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