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.

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.