“Love is the only cause of happiness.
Its nature is all-pervasive like space.
Love is the sunlight of the mind.”
What do we really want? Although this is truly a fundamental inquiry, with so much depending on its resolution, how often is the question seriously and thoroughly explored prior to our embarking on the various life choices and endeavors in which we find ourselves – our schooling, relationships, acquisitions, careers? More often than not, it seems that we merely go along with what we believe is expected of us by others, only to find some years later that our life is haunted by a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction, which in turn merely prompts a more desperate version of the search.
If we had taken the time to honestly investigate our deepest motivations right from the beginning, perhaps we could have skipped a lot of the ensuing suffering and confusion that invariably results from jumping into adventures without proper preparation, based on second-hand opinions and consensus programs. Although it may initially have seemed that the most convenient way was to just conform, sooner or later we come to realize the price we have paid in terms of peace and happiness at the heart.
Moreover, even in the spiritual realm, this is something that most aspirants don’t really make the effort to do. They just plunge into the religious marketplace and start imitating and doing practices that may seem interesting, but which they don’t really understand. We rarely make the effort to discover what is in our own heart right from the very beginning, but instead rely on information we have heard or read about in books.
We are attracted by the hopeful promise of various schemes, methods, and strategies that promote idealistic visions, and so build our subsequent practice on these borrowed notions, dressing up in cultish costumes and assuming a “spiritual” identity, be it Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Moslem, or even Atheist (not to mention the plethora of “New Age” groups and affiliations that attract the seeker with the allure of personal ascension, salvation, redemption, or just the fulfilment of material desires).
Alternately, if we are able to pause (for as long as it takes) and truly ponder the true nature of our deepest longing, inspecting what it is that we really want in this life with which we have been blessed, then we will already be well along on the path of wisdom, regardless of the name or form we might attach to it, or even any religious/spiritual affiliation whatsoever that might be superimposed on the journey.
In that process of inquiry, one of the first things we will notice is that, in order to understand what we really want, we must necessarily also delve into who/what we really are. What is our true nature, prior to the consensus reality programs that provide us with generally unquestioned identities, albeit ones which we nevertheless cling to for dear life? The vast majority of us typically resist challenging our conditioning programs, because we have been taught to fear the unknown. Indeed, many of our core personality program files have been put in place as a defence against the unknown, and so asking “Who am I?” can be quite a revolutionary act.
Of course, part of the reason for accepting society’s conditioned descriptions and labelling tags is due to the primacy of the inborn animal herd instinct. The fear is that, by departing from the prescribed consensus program, we risk ostracism from the tribe, a fate which is anciently interpreted as equating with certain death. This is such a powerful fear that it is hardwired into our genetic structure, and for good reason, because death was often the result for those cast off from the village.
However, a complementary aspect of that herd instinct is the innate human need to love and be loved, and so this territory – the realm of love — is where our deepest desire can be found. Because we are each unique beings, its expression will forever vary, but the one thing we all share in common as our one deepest yearning is the wish to be happy. For most of us, there is no greater happiness than loving and being loved. Indeed, the motive to love and be loved is right at the heart of our human incarnational adventure, determining our choices and behaviours regardless of what field of experience we find ourselves in.
The problem arises when we invariably imagine that there is something obstructing our native happiness, and thus we make tremendous efforts to attain or re-gain it at any cost. Indeed, one might say that, for most of us humans, the entirety of our lives is dedicated to that motive and ensuing effort, first and foremost. Both our triumphs as well as our tragedies can be traced back to the foundational motive to realize some conceptual ideal of happiness and love.
Consider, for example, how the propaganda of this world is perpetually expounding and reinforcing the message that we are somehow separated from happiness. Likewise, we are told that we are not innately lovable, although we can become so for a price, if only we follow this program, wear these clothes, drive this car, follow this physical routine, have this mate, this job, say these prayers, meditate this way, follow this teacher, preacher, iman, or guru, adopt this belief system, and perform as instructed by the book, the bible, the sutra, the koran, or the latest best-selling happiness plan.
Perversely, all the evil in the world, all the unhappiness, stems from our misguided efforts to become happy. Because that innocent yearning is still filtered and conditioned by the poisons of greed, envy, ignorance, and hatred, its expression is corrupted and we suffer the results of love’s failure. Rather, it is not truly love’s failure, but our own failure to properly recognize and actualize love’s invitation, and it is just such failure that repeatedly returns us to the stark mirror of our discontent.
Furthermore, as long as we are striving to “become happy”, it will always be a future ideal, precluding the possibility of actually being happy now. When becoming happy becomes a mission, then it can never be a present experience, and that is why all the schemes and methods promising happiness will never deliver. As I pointed out in the first essay in this particular series here, it is only when the search for happiness itself becomes suspect that there is a chance for the recognition of our already-always-existent happiness to manifest. Until then, all we will be doing by seeking for happiness is reinforcing our present perception of unhappiness.
Upon observation, it can be recognized that the confused ego-mind is all too ready to grant a substantial reality to the proposition that happiness is chronically lacking and hence must become an object of pursuit, because by doing so it creates another “me project” with which to occupy itself, thereby confirming its enduring existence. Invariably, this is how the perpetual cycle of craving and aversion is birthed and fueled — by just such an assumption of lack and insufficiency, all revolving around the “me-story”.
Wisdom, on the other hand, awakens in the realization that we have been going about things in the wrong way, that all our desperate effort has merely prolonged an internal conflict. In such true recognition, surrender spontaneously happens. Relief. The failure of our strategies has paradoxically inspired a great exhalation, a profound letting go.
There is an old saying: “To find yourself, you must lose yourself”. Just so, only by releasing all old tapes and belief programs that suggest we are lacking in love and happiness and must struggle to grasp it, will the unconditioned reality of true love and inherent happiness be revealed. All along, it has been the search for happiness itself which has prolonged the sense of dissatisfaction. Love and happiness have never been absent – they are our very nature!
By relinquishing all self-absorption and giving oneself gratefully in service to life and relations without hesitation or ulterior motive, one naturally becomes an offering to the world, a lover of life without conditioned preference – already free, happy, and spontaneously in harmony with whatever arises.
“Happiness is not to be found with
many efforts or will.
It is here, nearby, in
your relaxing and surrendering.
there is nothing to be done.
Everything that comes up to your mind
has no importance because it
has no reality.
any attachment for it.
Don’t judge yourself.
Let it be.
Let it come up and down
without changing a thing.
It all vanishes and begins again,
Nothing but the quest for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It is like a rainbow that
one is always chasing without ever
It is because it has no existence.
It has always been here and
goes with you all the time.
Don’t believe in
the reality of experiences,
good or bad.
They are like rainbows.
Because we want to grasp
what is not to be grasped,
we exhaust our strength in vain.
As soon as we relinquish our hold,
space is here, open, welcoming &
So, do enjoy it.
Everything is yours already.
Don’t go into the jungle to
look for the elephant that
is quietly waiting for
you at home.
There is nothing to do.
There is nothing to force.
There is nothing to desire.
And all comes by itself.”
~Lama Guendune Rinpoche