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Why practice if it doesnt make you a better person?

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Question: I’ve been meditating for a long time, but I don’t seem to be a better person than when I started. And to be honest, my non-Buddhist friends seem to be just as good people as my Buddhist friends. If I’m not acting and treating people better, what’s the point of practice?

Sylvia Boorstein: His Holiness the Dalai Lama likes to say, “The point of life is to be happy.” Recently, I heard him emphasize that it does not matter to him whether a person is a Buddhist or not. “What matters,” he said, “is whether someone is an ethical person.” Here is the connection between ethicality, practice, and happiness, as I see it.

The rest of the article is here...
https://www.lionsroar.com/ive-been-meditating-for-a-long-time-why-havent-i-changed/

I thought it is an interesting question, just how does meditation influence us? What is the point of practice? If it helps us to be happier, more fulfilled, then surely everyone would meditate?

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited November 24

    I suggest you ask Matthieu Ricard what the point of meditation is. He has been acknowledged as being "The Happiest Man in the World" and he puts it down to diligent practice, the primary factor of which is meditation.

    The second most important factor, is Altruism.

    The only way to be genuinely, selflessly, unconditionally altruistic, is to train the Mind and the way you train the mind is... through Meditation.

    Sadly, his message hasn't reached everyone.
    Others however, have heard his good advice.

    Alas as with much good advice that takes effort, Practice, perseverance and patience, either people give up, or they disbelieve it.

    But as we believe it, we keep practising.

    Don't we...?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well... it’s an interesting question. If buddhism is about the path to the cessation of suffering, does that necessarily mean happiness is the answer? It sounds kind of new agey if it is... to my mind happiness is the opposite of suffering, not the cessation of it.

    We practice different forms of meditation, from zazen to insight. We practice sila, virtue. We learn the dharma. We hope to achieve enlightenment, in this lifetime or another.

  • OP, your query gives the impression that you define "practice" very narrowly. Our practice is so much more than just meditation; it's about fostering and manifesting compassion in myriad ways, and about cultivating the wisdom that would guide our compassion. It's about observing precepts, as one way of developing virtuous discipline. It's about developing humility, and guarding against ego. It's about learning how to manage stress by letting go and by practicing discernment between wants and needs.

    And it's about creating a circle of "virtuous friends", as you seem to have done. Congratulations on that! You're fortunate. Keep up the good work.

    I disagree with the DL. The point of life, IMO, is more than merely being happy. The point of life is to help others and to strive to make the world a better place. I bet the DL would say, that practicing compassion is one tool in our toolbox, for achieving our own happiness (and that of others). The DL has taken a vow to dedicate his life to the alleviation of suffering of all sentient beings. He knows life is not merely about being happy. He knows there's more to it. Sometimes he oversimplifies, in order to reach a broad audience.

    But if you feel that you don't need the Dharma in order to be happy and to be a good person, and you're able to find people who share your values outside of Dharma circles, you're certainly free to go at life without a Buddhist practice. Give it a try. Report back to us in a year or two, to let us know how you're doing. :)

    lobsterCarlita
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the dharma is very beneficial and anyone would benefit from spending a few years immersed in it. But sometimes it helps to take a step back and do some questioning, it can reveal new perspectives.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited November 24

    As a friend's Dharma teacher once said "Beware of the unhappy Buddhist...He/she is not really practicing....they're just being intellectual"

    From what I gather meditation helps calm the mind and with this calm mind one can see a lot clearer and when one sees more clearly one starts to do the right thing more often ( a case of knowing me knowing you Aha ! )....well most of the time and if they happen to slip up, ( hey we live in Samsara...sh%t happens) it's nipped in the bud quickly, because the mind is becoming less and less charmed by its own thoughts...AKA calm abiding...so to speak :)

    Meditation>contemplation>action AKA Dharma Practice ....

    (Action not so much impulsive -Reaction always impulsive/sankhara
    Well something like that....

    KeromelobsterBuddhadragon
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 24

    The practice itself is a virtue and to one's long-term welfare and happiness. One may very well turn the question around and ask, why not practice? It's, as the Buddha said, a safe bet.

    Kerome
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome what I have observed over the years when meeting other Buddhist practitioners...( and what in the past I had continually bought into too ) is the cake phenomenon ...

    We all want to be free from suffering (to be happy) but are not prepared to let go of what is making us suffer...ironically we believe that by holding onto these things ( clinging) will eventually make us happy....

    A definition of insanity continuing to do the same thing over and over again ...each time 'hoping'' for a different result

    It is clearly a case of "You can't have your cake and eat it (too)"

    "Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to...( not even chocolate cake....... ;) )

    lobsterBuddhadragon
  • “When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. And when we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy.” ~ Ajahn Chah

    Shoshinlobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Well that explains it.

    Simple.

    (And what does 'simple' not always mean...? )

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    quoth @Kerome

    Well... it’s an interesting question. If buddhism is about the path to the cessation of suffering, does that necessarily mean happiness is the answer?

    I've always found the concept of happiness to be a little confusing - what is it exactly? In my own experience, I have never been happier than when looking for and discovering something ( a lizard beneath a rock, perhaps, or the best way to paint on glass ), or when creating something, maybe a painting or a walking stick.

    How happiness arises out of Buddhist practice - I've never been clear on that. Perhaps for me and for those like me, Buddha-happiness might arise from discovering and creating myself, and from discovering and creating the world.

    ShoshinDavid
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Jason said:
    The practice itself is a virtue and to one's long-term welfare and happiness. One may very well turn the question around and ask, why not practice? It's, as the Buddha said, a safe bet.

    Of course the question is is the drive to virtue, the drive to practice, strong enough for it to be a natural impulse. It’s more than just it being a safe bet, there needs to be an impetus there.

  • I thought it is an interesting question, just how does meditation influence us? What is the point of practice? If it helps us to be happier, more fulfilled, then surely everyone would meditate?

    Everyone knows that certain negative behavours are harmful to self and others ... and yet ... In a similar way exercise, healthy diet, meditation and being kind has benefits. We know that. We experience that. What is the obstacle? Us.

    We are mad monkeys.

    From a Buddhist perspective @Jeffrey answer is very helpful and well illustrated by @Shoshin clip.

    From personal experience most of us can attest:

    • meditation calms the intensity of the mad monkey
    • creates a space in our internal dialogue
    • brings our mind into focus
    • with calm comes the unfolding of tranquillity, equanimity and independence (non-attachment)

    The ten bulls (next is discovering the hoofprints)
    https://somewhereindhamma.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/searching-for-the-ox

    ShoshinBuddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:

    @Jason said:
    The practice itself is a virtue and to one's long-term welfare and happiness. One may very well turn the question around and ask, why not practice? It's, as the Buddha said, a safe bet.

    Of course the question is is the drive to virtue, the drive to practice, strong enough for it to be a natural impulse. It’s more than just it being a safe bet, there needs to be an impetus there.

    I suppose the impetus would be how we would live life if we didn't practice.

    I can see a distinct difference between my life and state of mind, 'before' and 'after'.

    I'm not going back, thank you very much.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Why practice if it doesnt make you a better person?

    Then you are probably not practicing correctly, not practicing wholeheartedly or not practicing completely.

    lobsterDakini
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Kerome said:

    @Jason said:
    The practice itself is a virtue and to one's long-term welfare and happiness. One may very well turn the question around and ask, why not practice? It's, as the Buddha said, a safe bet.

    Of course the question is is the drive to virtue, the drive to practice, strong enough for it to be a natural impulse. It’s more than just it being a safe bet, there needs to be an impetus there.

    Yes. Suffering, unsatisfactoriness, dukkha.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I don't know. I think the opposite of suffering is elation.

    Maybe happiness is the ability to be grateful for the ride back and forth.

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran
    edited November 25

    Most of what I will say has already being said but I would like to recapitulate a bit here.

    "One thing only, Brothers, do I make known, now as before: Dukkha and deliverance from Dukkha," said the Buddha over and over again.

    In my opinion, there is nothing new agey about man's eternal quest for happiness.
    Existential ponderings have led men to religion, sects, ashrams, philosophy... anything that promises to assuage this permanent Angst.

    The Buddha has taught that dukkha may cease through elimination of defilements: greed, aversion, delusion.
    In a nutshell, ignorance.

    And meditation is just one in the three-pronged path which Buddhism suggests as conducive to cessation of dukkha.
    There is concentration (under which heading meditation is included), there is wisdom, but also moral discipline or sila, as @Kerome said above too.
    All three groups are intertwined.
    And concentration and right thinking are of no use, if our actions continue to be tools of defilement.
    A good meditator does not make a good Buddhist, nor a better person at large.
    A better person is made by practice, right use of his reasoning abilities and skillful actions.

    "Refrain from all evil, cultivate the good, cleanse your own thoughts: this is the teaching of the Buddhas"
    ~Dhammapada, v. 183

    This verse is said to sum up the Dhamma.

    ShoshinlobsterFosdick
  • Good answer from @FoibleFull

    Radical change occurs when we are goal orientated to the process. Most of us are not prepared to change, so we

    avoid radical change,

    We need to practace vigilance/awareness/attention
    https://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/everything-the-buddha-ever-taught-in-2-words/

    B)

    federicaBuddhadragon
  • We need to practace vigilance/awareness/attention

    Tee Hee!
    Total fail!
    That vigilance/awareness/attention might start with a spell of practice ...
    😴🥴🤗

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @FoibleFull said:
    I have noticed those in our dharma center starting to change over the years.
    My own teacher entered the Namgyal Monastery in northern India in 1969, at the age of 13. He came to my city to teach in 2000. And in the past 18 years, he has indeed changed. It is very noticeable. So this is someone who has been doing the practices for an extremely long time. He was a good role model in 2000 .. now he is a superb role model.

    Slow ... sure. But we are here now and there is nothing better to do with our time than learn to open up and relax, and to develop compassion.

    A good story @FoibleFull... people do develop themselves over the years. You shouldnt expect change to come immediately. Often it’s in the practicing and the doing that we find ourselves, and it is an evolving process as we get older.

    FoibleFull
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 27

    The practice develops our virtue — especially at the beginning with its focus on generosity, the precepts, and cultivating skillful actions — and the Stoics, who I find full of wisdom, often said virtue is its own reward. Epictetus, for example, argued that there's no reward for a person greater than doing what's good and just. In response to one of his students, who asks what good can be expected from the development of virtue, Epictetus says, "What greater good do you look for than this? You were shameless and shall be self-respecting, you were undisciplined and shall be disciplined, untrustworthy and you shall be trusted, dissolute and you shall be self-controlled. If you look for greater things than these, go on doing as you do now: not even a god can save you." And the older I get, and the more I look around at the world around me, the more I'm inclined to agree that this, in and of itself, is indeed reward enough. A virtuous person is as rare as gold and twice as precious.

    personlobsterBuddhadragon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited November 28

    @Kerome said:

    I thought it is an interesting question, just how does meditation influence us?

    By gradually removing the facade, that has been built up by years of conditioning, one slowly begins to see beyond the mundane...Having a Aha moment...a Profound WTF moment
    ;) ;) ...."Hmm There's more to life than what meets the "I" (or eye...whichever way one wants to look at it :) )

    What is the point of practice?

    To stop the facade from being re erected....

    If it helps us to be happier, more fulfilled, then surely everyone would meditate?

    Perhaps it's a case of When the pupil is ready...

    ...the Master will appear
    ( in whatever form this Master takes )

    Some people's facades are made from tough durable ignorance AKA conditioning, which takes longer to breakdown..

    Whilst for others the cracks were already appearing, making it easier to dismantle...

    At a guess I would say Karma has a lot to do with it.... :)

    lobsterHozanBuddhadragon
  • ... Practice, perseverance and patience, either people give up, or they disbelieve it.

    ...

    ... I'm not going back, thank you very much.

    <3

    The broad strokes of dharma, the efforts of practitioners work. Proven. For me too. Not everything applies to everyone at all times. So for example I quite value a change to a changeless core. That core does not have attributes but seems to create or facilitate change and go with the flow ...

    HozanBuddhadragon
  • Well said @Buddhadragon

    As a Mahayanist I would add metta to wisdom, morality and meditation.
    Love the free jewels and the treasure follows.

    Here is something for the Zeniths:
    “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”
    ― Meister Eckhart

    KundoHozanBuddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Because we yearn to walk the walk, not talk the talk.

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Well said @Buddhadragon

    As a Mahayanist I would add metta to wisdom, morality and meditation.
    Love the free jewels and the treasure follows

    Metta has to be one big overlook on the part of the Theravada description of the path, and probably the Mahayana's greatest finding.

    Though I am sure the notion of metta is somehow implicit in the earlier school too...
    🤔💕

    HozanlobsterShoshin
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @Jason said:

    It's actually pretty explicit, from the four brahmaviharas to the ten perfections. People just tend to overlook IT.

    It's true.
    Thank you, @Jason

    HozanlobsterShoshin
  • CarlitaCarlita Bastian please! Save us! United States Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Well... it’s an interesting question. If buddhism is about the path to the cessation of suffering, does that necessarily mean happiness is the answer? It sounds kind of new agey if it is... to my mind happiness is the opposite of suffering, not the cessation of it.

    We practice different forms of meditation, from zazen to insight. We practice sila, virtue. We learn the dharma. We hope to achieve enlightenment, in this lifetime or another.

    Well. How I know from Practice is, well, Practice is an action. Meditation is the foundation of reflection, understanding, and calmness. However, what you do (according to suttas) is what brings happiness. I read a Zen teacher say if you aren't doing anything you're wasting your time on the cushion. In another book, Writing Down the Bones, the (buddhist) author and her teacher talk a lot. Writing is her, the author's passion. One day she said she wasn't improving in her meditation. Can you advise me.

    He says, it is good to meditate. I won't tell you to stop. However, (paraphrased) it's good you find an method you are fully engaged and aware.... Why don't you use your writing?

    That was her Light Bulb. It's traditional to sit down and meditate but I think he has a point. I feel we can be better people when we meditate in the way we feel most comfortable. He says it's not like watching a movie to relax or listening to calming music. That's not the meditation The Buddha taught. Another book mentioned that doing things distract the mind. So, it really depends on the person.

    But yeah, it does sound new age. I think probably because it's pretty simple. I wanted to be a monastic years ago but now going slow with that goal. Little steps.

  • SE25WallSE25Wall London New

    i am reminded of the Happiness Trap by Russ Harris...the more we strive for this mythical, fleeting, state of "happiness", the more likely we are to get depressed and anxious. One interesting poitn he makes is that happiness defined as a feeling is only a recent, 100 year old,thing...before then a state of happiness always meant to live by your own values, by doing things you want to do, by being of service to other people. to love, etc. that is the kind of happiness i aim for i guess, rather than any particular feeling.

    Buddhadragon
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