Happiness
Well finally, happiness is in!!! It’s all the buzz in popular literature. Many newspaper articles and self-help books on the topic are appearing daily. There is even a program for training happiness coaches, so that people at least know how to act as if they were happy.  

Science has jumped on the bandwagon. It is now proven that social attachments and networks are vital to long life & health. Each happy friend you make increases your chances of being happy by about 9%! 
 
There are also great benefits in belonging to a sangha. Membership in religious associations has long been proven good for health, long life and happiness.   

A Canadian psychologist, Dr. Sue Johnson, has a popular book, Hold Me Tight! It is a timely book based on years of research. It is now proven that loving relationships make us strong. They are, in fact, the basis of confidence. This makes risk taking and exploring even more possible.  

This is all contrary to the long-standing attitude that risk taking is based on a humourless, amoral grasping for advantage. Being concerned for fellow human beings was seen as a weakness that set people up for failure. This attitude runs deep in our political and professional lives.   

But the need to love and be loved also runs deep in us human beings. Children in orphanages simply die of loneliness and neglect, even if they are perfectly healthy in all other regards. Our reactions to Haiti prove this need for caring & nurturing. We need to give to them as much as they need to receive our aid!
 
So what has this to do with our faith? Shinran said that Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, is our father and that Amida is our mother. The nembutsu is the result of being in Amida’s embrace. Amida is even shown as constantly smiling, as if bringing spiritual fulfillment to all suffering beings was an act of pure joy.  

Furthermore, the Sanskrit term for the Pure Land is sukha-vati. This literally means “happiness place.” It is a synonym for nirvana.  

When we finish chanting we always recite the nembutsu six times followed by the eko. That is Gan ni shi ku doku, byo do se issai, do hotsu bodai shin, ojo anrak koku. One English version we use in our temple because it matches the intonations of the Japanese is: Together we all share, the truth of this Dharma, which gives rise to Bodhi Mind and birth in serene true joy. 

Notice the last word? Yes, it is joy! So, now there is no need to have an unsmiling dead-pan face. It has been scientifically proven that happiness and loving-compassion are good for your over-all health.  

Isn’t it somewhat amusing that we modern people have to be convinced over & over again of things that every good parent & grandparent have known all along?  Or something that Shinran & his followers have been experiencing for 800 years? Like them, we should all come & join together in the “happiness place.”  There you will discover what the current theories concerning happiness are all about. 


Namo Amida Butsu,

Sensei Ulrich
February 21, 2010

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