Special Topics

Obstacle 6: The Conceit That Happy People Do Not Need the Buddha’s Teaching

Some people believe: “since I am living a happy and comfortable life, why learn Buddhism”? Actually, for many people, this is exactly the obstacle to engaging in Buddhist practice.

“I'm happy with my life, so why should I bother to learn Buddhism?” Perhaps you drive a top-end car, make tons of money for your company, and are steadily moving up your career ladder. You always shop for the best food items and clothing. Arriving home after work, you have a nice hot meal already prepared by your lovely wife waiting for you at home, to be enjoyed together with your lively children. You have a happy life, and everyone envies you for your luck, so the thought of learning Buddhism never occurs to you.

Happiness Is Also Impermanent

However, the test of birth, aging, sickness and death will come any day: when we have to see our parents grow old and pass away; when our adolescent children start to grow rebellious; and when we experience a salary cut ,or are even laid off due to our company experiencing a recession. Thus, the happiness and material enjoyment suddenly becomes a thing in the past, no longer available as usual. These may seem distant threats, but if we take a closer look at our daily life, can there really be permanent happy days? Furthermore, can life always be smooth sailing, without any troubles?

Master Sheng Yen made the analogy that “enjoying the five sensual pleasures (wealth, form, fame, food and sleep) is like scratching scabies bites; the temporary relief of the scratch causes more pain afterwards. In the same way, worldly happiness is fleeting, while the suffering of the world is perpetual.” Happy people may be enviable, seeming as if they can face adversity and handle complex matters with ease. However, once the happiness is gone due to external changes, what ensues may well be an even deeper pain, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

Like bubbles on the surface of water, worldly happiness is fragile, susceptible to the transience of the environment, interpersonal relationships, and material conditions, and can eventually burst and disappear. Only through Buddhist insight can we recognize the reality of life, realize the nature of impermanence, and calmly face life’s challenges. Therefore, happy people should also learn Buddhism.

Resource: Issue 267 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Lee-kha Su (蘇力卡)
Translation: Cheng-yu Chang (張振郁)
Editing: Chia-Cheng Chang (張家誠), Keith Brown