Finding Happiness

Meditating, believing in impermanence and seeking true happiness will help people weather the financ

Buddhism is about sustaining happiness. Whilst the credit crisis and impending recession will cause many unpleasant situations, our experience of these times depends on whether we believe that money and a permanent job could actually make us happy in the first place. After all, it is not our cars or houses that get happy - it is only our minds that can do that.

Buddha’s teachings are not beliefs, but a logical system based on the experience of both the outer and the inner world. A key building block for a happy life is the understanding that we are responsible for the world we see around us and the teachings on cause and effect explain how to have an easier life and avoid difficulties. Greed and assumed-ignorance appear to have caused the current situation but if one believes that one will not experience the consequences of one’s actions this doesn’t stop them from happening. As such, the advice is simple: work consciously with the motivation to benefit to others.

Impermanence also reminds us that both the joys of our hard-won trophies and the headaches from difficult times never last. Even our most dearly held inner views are often on shaky ground and so by gaining this inner perspective we can avoid some of life’s tragedies and instead enjoy the comedies. One can then use this position of personal ease with the human qualities of kindness and compassion. To use one’s power and clarity of experience for others is natural for those that are truly rich on an inner level, regardless of outer material circumstances.

Traders, accountants and merchant bankers from our Buddhist groups also use meditation to get the presence of mind to be rational, compassionate and act beyond their own immediate needs. Meditation brings further benefits: unlike our fashions and fads, the freshness of the immediate moment is never lost and daily life moves toward a fearless, joyful and compassionate stream of experience - something which money cannot buy. When applied to politicians and businessmen with power, they must have the maturity and compassion to act for the long-term benefit of others and to protect the freedom in our societies.

Lama Ole Nydahl who is a Danish Buddhist master, founder of 600 lay Buddhist centres in 50 countries around the world in the Tibetan Kagyu School and first western student of the great 16th Karmapa puts it like this:

The financial crisis which threatens a year-long decrease in living standards worldwide and much suffering for the poorest should make us think. It is yet another sign of the growing confusion and loss of values among those in our societies we have been taught to trust.
Politicians who push the unpleasant results of unsustainable immigration and debt on to our children and refuse to protect women declassed by alien cultures have prepared the way. Greed and political correctness have emptied our banks of their capital.
May the crises of money bring forth the internal values that can never be lost.

Dr Steve James works at the London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre. For the last 10 years he has worked as a doctor in central London and travelled around the world teaching Buddhism.

Photo: Getty
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There's just one future for the left: Jeremy Corbyn

Labour's new leader is redefining Labour for the 21st century, argues Liam Young. 

The politics of the resurgent left comes down to one simple maxim: people are sick and tired of establishment politics. When one makes this statement it is usually met with some form of disapproval. But it is important to realise that there are two different types of people that you have this conversation with.

First there are the people I surround myself with in a professional environment: political types. Then there are the people I surround myself with socially: normal people.

Unsurprisingly the second category is larger than the first and it is also more important. We may sit on high horses on Twitter or Facebook and across a multitude of different media outlets saying what we think and how important what we think is, but in reality few outside of the bubble could care less.

People who support Jeremy Corbyn share articles that support Jeremy Corbyn - such as my own. People who want to discredit Jeremy Corbyn share articles that discredit Jeremy Corbyn - like none of my own. It is entirely unsurprising right? But outside of this bubble rests the future of the left. Normal people who talk about politics for perhaps five minutes a day are the people we need to be talking to, and I genuinely believe that Labour is starting to do just that.

People know that our economy is rigged and it is not just the "croissant eating London cosmopolitans" who know this. It is the self-employed tradesman who has zero protection should he have to take time off work if he becomes ill. It is the small business owner who sees multi-national corporations get away with paying a tiny fraction of the tax he or she has to pay. And yes, it is the single mother on benefits who is lambasted in the street without any consideration for the reasons she is in the position she is in. And it is the refugee being forced to work for less than the minimum wage by an exploitative employer who keeps them in line with the fear of deportation. 

The odds are stacked against all normal people, whether on a zero hours contract or working sixty hours a week. Labour has to make the argument from the left that is inclusive of all. It certainly isn’t an easy task. But we start by acknowledging the fact that most people do not want to talk left or right – most people do not even know what this actually means. Real people want to talk about values and principles: they want to see a vision for the future that works for them and their family. People do not want to talk about the politics that we have established today. They do not want personality politics, sharp suits or revelations on the front of newspapers. This may excite the bubble but people with busy lives outside of politics are thoroughly turned off by it. They want solid policy recommendations that they believe will make their lives better.

People have had enough of the same old, of the system working against them and then being told that it is within their interest to simply go along with it.  It is our human nature to seek to improve, to develop. At the last election Labour failed to offer a vision of future to the electorate and there was no blueprint that helped people to understand what they could achieve under a Labour government. In the states, Bernie Sanders is right to say that we need a political revolution. Here at home we've certainly had a small one of our own, embodying the disenchantment with our established political discourse. The same-old will win us nothing and that is why I am firmly behind Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a new politics – the future of the left rests within it. 

Liam Young is a commentator for the IndependentNew Statesman, Mirror and others.