The Practice of Meditation and Altruism for Happiness
In order to achieve ultimate happiness, one needs to meditate on emptiness, viewing all phenomena as empty by nature. Even if you haven’t reached this high level of practice, you can still meditate and engage in altruistic activities with your body, speech and mind.
So in general terms, what is happiness? It is a special feeling in the mind stream. Wealth, power, relationships and other aspects of life have absolutely nothing to do with happiness. It is most important that we have the feeling of contentment in our mind stream; having fewer desires is the key to obtaining such happiness.
In Buddhism, there are many definitions of happiness, some of which are harder to achieve than others. But for most people today, happiness can be interpreted in terms of body and mind. From my point of view, the Buddhist methods of meditating on emptiness—viewing all phenomena as empty by nature—will steer us away from suffering and towards the cultivation of happiness. We could also practice meditative concentration by examining our mind in calm abiding meditation. That is another important approach.
I read a book by the scholar Carl G. Jung where he talked about a Tibetan tulku with whom he studied and had many conversations. Before passing away in 1961, Dr. Jung practiced visualization and meditation according to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was during this time that he propagated the psychology of the Tantrayana of Tibetan Buddhism in the West—he was very likely the first scientist to do so. That tulku, whose name was not mentioned, later said that the most important things for attaining happiness are: for the body, it is essential to meditate using the Vairocana 7-point posture; for speech, to chant mantras and sutras; and to rest the mind, to visualize and meditate on buddhas and bodhisattvas. The tulku told Jung that only in these ways could we obtain genuine happiness. Jung stated that he really benefited from this knowledge and that this method can benefit anyone.
Nowadays, at many schools in the U.S., knowledge of meditation is integrated into the study of psychology. Through tests on many Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoches and monastics, researchers have recognized the benefits of meditation. Much of this research is often carried out in universities. Today, many Han Chinese people have alleviated the stress in their life through meditation. It also helps them to find inner happiness. Therefore, I suggest that you practice meditation often, at school or in your daily life, for 20 minutes a day. It will even help if you practice for 5 minutes in the morning. Five minutes of meditation is equivalent to 1 hour of rest; this is confirmed by scientific research. Meditation brings peace and happiness to our minds. Sometimes we run into troubles in life and our minds become filled with anxiety and afflictions. It may even be that we sometimes lack the courage to live on. While these days, there are many terrible examples of this, this would never happen to a true Buddhist practitioner.
In addition to this, the key to happiness is having an altruistic mind. Many of my Dharma friends, some of whom are monks, take altruism as the sole purpose of their life. When they run into trouble in their lives or when they undergo physical pain, they never regard it as suffering. Similarly, for every student, professor and scholar here, if you could conduct your life with a belief in the value of altruism, your own suffering will be much alleviated. On the other hand, a life lived without an altruistic mind, where one cares only about one’s own selfish interests, will only multiply this suffering. If we can do altruistic things, which is called Bodhichitta in Mahayana Buddhism, the merit will be immense. Through altruism, everyone in the world can find happiness.