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What stops us from being happy? - Part 1

In this blog, we cover things with the help of ancient Zen wisdom to contemplate what stops us from being happy.

It is pretty simple if we see deep inside us, we want to be happy?

But is that happiness merely an emotion?

Is that happiness merely a flickering gain on getting something that we desire?

Nope. The happiness which you and I and all of us truly desire,

is to be happy without any conditions, without it being dependent on what happens outside, in the outer reality we see.

That is what we truly desire. Because that is what our true nature is. A lot of people argue, How can someone be happy all the time? Aren't their other emotions?

Aren't we supposed to be sad, angry, fearful? Isn't that important too?

It is. And that is why the first thing to understand, is that the happiness we are talking about,

is not an emotion,

But is a sum total of everything. All emotions, all changing phenomena.

Enjoying the play of life.

Here's what I'm asking you to try right now. Can you for a moment see Happiness as a state of being, and not a mere changing emotion?

Let's begin with the Zen stories.

You might have heard or read these stories already. But I still propose that you continue reading them once more.

I know everything.

1: A cup of tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overflowing! No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Excerpt: To learn anything new, we must be ready to shed the old. We must be ready to accept, I don't know.

We feel so afraid to leave 'Unlearn' what we already know. Because then, how would we prove we are wise and intelligent? Do we feel empty because then we do not have much to show around ourselves? We feel lost, because how do we leave what we have?

But the first step to learning to be happy is to be ready to shed the old beliefs and ways of living. And be ready to find out who we truly are.

I want it right now!

2: Apprentice

A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly: “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it?”

The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered: “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”

The teacher thought for a moment: “20 years.”

Excerpt: How do to develop patience by trying to develop patience fast?

This is what most of us are trying to do. We use the sentence 'I want this because we see a lack of it. The thing that we want may not be there, but when we focus on the lack of it, everything disappears and we become so empty. But if we are ready to see the abundance of everything that is there around, without identifying with what we do not have, then it wouldn't take time for us to get what we want?

In the chase to get what we want, we miss what we have. The second key is to be happy with what you have already so that you can attract all that you desire.

The past and the future!

3: Beautiful Woman

A senior and junior monk were walking down a path together and they arrived at a river with a strong current.

As they prepared to cross the river, they saw a young beautiful woman in need of help to brave the waters. She saw the monks and asked for help.

The senior monk carried the woman on his shoulder and let her gently down on the other bank. They parted ways.

Soon, the junior monk was upset. Having noticed the discomfort of the younger monk, the senior monk asked: “Is something bothering your mind?”

The junior monk said: “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you carry her across the river?”

The senior monk replied: “I left the woman hours ago at the bank, however, you seem to still be carrying her.”

Excerpt: The mind is always in the past or the future.

If you watch your thoughts. You'll see that it's either in the past or in the future. But the thing is there's nothing we can do with the past, there's nothing we know about the future. But it will only depend on what we sow in the present. The present is where everything is happening, but we put our whole energy into creating the same future by constantly thinking of the past and then complaining, about why are things changing?

Think if we put the same energy into doing what needs to be done in the present moment, then wouldn't we enjoy the journey and the destination as well?

Out of the box!

4: New Village

Once, there was a person who relocated to a new village.

Wondering if he’d like his new town, he went to consult the Zen master, “Do you think I will like this new village? Are the people nice?”

The Zen master asked: “How were the people in the town where you come from?”

“They were nasty, angry, and greedy. They cheat and steal for a living,” said the newcomer.

“Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village.” said the Zen master.

Another newcomer to the village visited the master and asked the same question. Again, the Zen master asked: “How were the people in the town where you come from?”

“Respectful and caring, they are wonderful people who live in harmony with each other,” He replied.

“Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village.” said the Zen master.

Excerpt: We don't the world the way it is. We see it the way we are.

All of us see the world not for what it is, but from the glasses that we were. We were born with a way of living that allowed us to see everything as a play and enjoy it. But as we grew up, our parents, environment, people, society, etc fed us with a lot of beliefs and a broken way of living life. We started labeling things as good or bad. We developed self-identity and a very strong sense of ego. We learned everything we could for our survival.

But if we observe ourselves, We are always living robotically.

We are not even aware of ''Why we are doing what we are doing'' and we keep doing it because someone else taught us that.

Think when you are an 80 - year old, on your death bed, are you going to feel that your life was worth living?
To live it fully, Do we come out of one box, and get into another?
How about getting out of the box, removing the colored glass, and enjoying all the colors?

Life is a play!

5: Emptiness

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. One day, he called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing.

Suddenly, he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. The youth jumped, seething with anger.

“If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”

Excerpt: We spend our lives clinging or resisting, but what are we clinging to or resisting?

"If you don't get what you want, you suffer;

If you get what you don't want, you suffer;

Even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer;

because you can't hold on to it forever."

- Dan Millman, 'Way Of The Peaceful Warrior'

So, what is the cause of suffering? It is actually pain or it is us trying to cling to pleasure and avoid pain.
Can life ever be free from pain? If it is so, then will the pleasure even remain a pleasure? Wouldn't we go for finding more ways of pleasure out of boredom and again start playing the same game?
If life is meant to be full of colors, then why not enjoy both black and white and everything in between?


The whole point of writing this blog is for you to apply these things in your life.

How to do that? Begin with your relationships. Begin with people. Trust me, there's no other better way.

Your relationships will automatically change when you start to change yourself.

These concepts require practice, guidance, surrender, and perseverance.

These concepts sound simple, but are they easy? Depends on each one of us and our journeys.

If you can apply them on your own, that's great!

And if you feel you are happy to work with people and take guidance,


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1 Comment

Anu Nitturu
Anu Nitturu
Dec 30, 2023

Beautiful :)

I Read many stories shared here. But now the reading experience is new. And we need decide what matters us most to build the life beautifully and meaningful.

Thank you for sharing the stories :)

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