the wings-become-windows butterfly by e³°°°  / Eddy Van 3000
the wings-become-windows butterfly by e³°°° / Eddy Van 3000 via Flickr

Copyright © Anagarika Eddie 2012. All rights reserved.

You know, in many ways we are all the same, as we make our way through life trying to be happy. Happiness is a natural inclination. But as time goes by, many of the things we run after eventually lose their mystique and we find ourselves back at square one when for one reason or another, our promised happiness runs through our fingers like water. It changes, we change, or something changes, and this is the first reason we continue to search . . . because nothing satisfies us for long.

And we do this all the time, this searching, and we might conclude that if nothing can keep us happy for long, we can keep ahead of the unhappiness by simply going from one thing to another, discarding each one as it becomes tiresome, and then grabbing onto another. This works for a while, however the problem we eventually face is that at some point, our energy and capacity to continue the search becomes exhausted. Then we become trapped . . .and this should never happen. Long before we become ensnarled in chasing illusions, we should consider an alternative.

If we are aware of how the world works at all, we begin to see that looking for happiness outside ourselves doesn’t keep us happy for long, and that our very thirst and relentless pursuit of happiness becomes a stressful unhappiness in itself. If we ever get this far in understanding our own happiness, then an outside chance exists that we can take it a step further, and conclude that we should perhaps look elsewhere for our happiness, other than outside of ourselves. But where else can we look? It doesn’t occur to us to look inwardly, because we wouldn’t know how to do that.

And this is the second reason we continue to search . . . because we are looking in all the wrong places.

What if Kant was right when he said that a definition of enlightenment is man’s emergence from a self-incurred immaturity, and that man’s self-incurred immaturity is nothing more than the inability to use one’s own understanding without relying on the guidance of others? What if all the wisdom of eternity could be found inside every one of us? What if we could courageously stop pursuing happiness for a moment and approach an inward emptiness? Would the wisdom of the ages then shift our consciousness and introduce us to the possibility of enlightenment; a happiness we could count on?

But most of us go through life continuing to search outside. Few open to new ideas about real, lasting happiness. Few seriously consider transforming themselves through their own understanding, because they lack the confidence to say no to those who want to merely plant images in their minds and tell them what to believe. They refuse to become proactive in finding their own truths, in finding a creative, genuine purpose in their lives.

Things are changing however. Hints of the beginning of a new consciousness for the human race are popping up everywhere; in the increased, worldwide interest of the deeper, contemplative aspects of religion and spirituality, in the penetrating questions our youth are asking, and in the hopeful eyes of the ones who have been so harshly judged and left behind in the past.

And this is the third reason we continue to search; because we can’t yet see what it is we truly search for. And what is it we truly search for? It is nothing more than the eternal Reality we inherently are, because as much as everything changes, a part of us remains the same.

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.