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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Political video has come full circle in Obama and Clinton’s mockumentary-style films

Political campaign videos are increasingly mimicking the specific styles of filmmaking created to mock them.

This week, Hillary Clinton released a campaign video featuring Barack Obama, in an attempt to persuade her supporters to vote early. It revolved around Obama’s self-professed earliness. “I’m always early,” he tells us, cheerily. Aides chip in to explain this irritating habit, which becomes progressively more exaggerated, his approach to timing absurd. “You know how you beat LeBron James one-on-one? Get there 45 minutes early. Then it’s one-on-none.” A former staffer sighs. “You try telling the President of the United States there’s no such thing as a one-on-none.”

This is an instantly recognisable mockumentary style – deliberately shakey camerawork, complete with lots of zooming in and out, as absurd corporate behaviour is interspersed with incredulous talking heads and voiceover. It has its roots in the Office UK, taking the States by storm with The Office US, 30 Rock and Modern Family, and developing a political subgenre in The Thick of It, In the Loop and, most recently, Parks and Recreation. (Vague comparisons between Clinton and Poehler’s Leslie Knope abound.)

The content, too, seems familiar – a politician talks to camera about a personality quirk that is broadly a strength for someone in government, but exaggerates it to create a geeky, optimistic goofball, and a pretty likeable character. Take Leslie Knope on never smoking weed:

In terms of style and content, they’re fairly indistinguishable. And this not the only Clinton campaign video influenced by mockumentary and comedy tropes . In March, the Clinton campaigned released a “mean tweets” video with Senator Al Franken in the style of a Jimmy Kimmel Live talking head. Three days ago, a video campaign starring “Fake Lawyer” Josh Charles, an actor on The Good Wife, was released. It borrows heavily from mockumentary styles as well as self-mocking celebrity cameos in advertising. Even some non-comic videos, like this lighthearted one about Clinton’s granddaughter, have the exaggerated camerawork of the genre.

Of course, we can trace these campaign videos back to Obama again. His campaigns have always been heavily video based, and he’s taken the piss out of himself for Buzzfeed to promote campaigns. But the White House’s official channels are also in on the joke. In 2013, they released a mockumentary starring Steven Spielberg and 30 Rock’s Tracey Morgan, in which Obama plays Daniel Day Lewis playing Obama.

Earlier this year, the channel released another mini mockumentary, featuring Obama preparing for the end of his time as president. (The film even ridicules a less self-aware style of video – Obama posts a misjudged Snapchat about Obamacare, and asks “Did it get a lot of views at least?”)

A politician whose ideal evening consists of children’s movie marathons with colleagues? Where have we seen that before? Yes, political video has come full circle. Personally, I’m waiting on the Hillary Clinton break dancing clip

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.