I have been thinking some about the positive qualities of life: love, laughter, dance, joy, happiness. Ajahn Chah says that when he examines positive things, he invariably finds that they lead him into some deeper dhukkha, and that that is why one should see life as unsatisfactory. Now I haven’t been able to find this.
Think of an evenings African dancing. There would be drums, bare feet, bodies moving freely to the rhythm, you would enjoy it. After a while you would get tired. You might have a fruit juice. You might dance with a strong lady friend. Then the evening would draw to a close, there would be applause for the drummers, clapping and hugging. You would go home, feeling satisfied.
Where in a joyful happening like that is the hidden dhukkha? You take everything lightly, you just let go of things when they are no longer going on. It’s the same with a good beach walk, or a cycle ride through nature. Yes I agree letting go of things is a key life skill, but it is something you can learn and incorporate into the patterns of one’s life.
Joy and happiness are to be found in many things great and small. Stepping into ones living room in the early morning, enjoying the sunshine on your back, a glass of orange juice — these things together can bring a happy morning. You can look forward for weeks to the release of a new computer architecture, that can bring joy. You can work together with a team of trusted colleagues on a large project, that can bring happiness.
I have great respect for Ajahn Chah and the Thai Forest tradition, I think there is a lot of wisdom there, but I think in this area they have let themselves be led by the renunciate nature of their monkhood, and they have arrived at a conclusion which is not correct. Monks are not allowed by the vinaya to do many things which we lay people would feel are small pleasures. Ultimately I feel that life is a mixture of positive, negative and neutral happenings, and the practice of letting go is key to equanimity and overall peace.
What is the experience of happiness in your life?
With warm regards,