Some simple instructions for living a happy life, courtesy of the Buddha



Here are three brief sutras, which I have edited even further, that show how the idea of rebirth contributes to our compassion for others, as well as giving us a little comfort for ourselves.

Duggata Sutta -- The hard-times sutra

When you see someone who has fallen on hard times,
overwhelmed with hard times, you should conclude: 'We, too, have experienced just this sort of thing in the course of that long, long time.'

Sukhita Sutta -- The happy sutra

When you see someone who is happy & well-provided in life, you
should conclude: 'We, too, have experienced just this sort of thing in the course of that long, long time.'  

Mata Sutta -- The mother sutra

A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find... A being who has not been your father... your brother... your sister... your son... your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to
find.



Not everyone desires enlightenment.  Sometimes, all we want is to be able to meet once again the ones we love:

Samajivina Sutta -- Living in Tune
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Once the Blessed One was staying among the Bhaggas in the Deer Park at Bhesakala Grove, near Crocodile Haunt. Then early in the morning the Blessed One put on his robes and, carrying his bowl and outer robe, went to the home of the householder, Nakula's father. On arrival, he sat down on a seat made ready. Then Nakula's father & Nakula's mother went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there, Nakula's father said to the Blessed One: "Lord, ever since Nakula's mother as a young girl was brought to me [to be my wife] when I was just a young boy, I am not conscious of being unfaithful to her even in mind, much less in body. We want to see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come."

And Nakula's mother said to the Blessed One: "Lord, ever since I as a young girl was brought to Nakula's father [to be his wife] when he was just a young boy, I am not conscious of being unfaithful to him even in mind, much less in body. We want to see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come."

[The Blessed One said:] "If both husband & wife want to see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come, they should be in tune [with each other] in conviction, in tune in virtue, in tune in generosity, and in tune in discernment. Then they will see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come."

    Husband & wife, both of them
        having conviction,
        being responsive,
        being restrained,
        living by the Dhamma,
        addressing each other
        with loving words:
    they benefit in manifold ways.
        To them comes bliss.
    Their enemies are dejected
        when both are in tune in virtue.
    Having followed the Dhamma here in this world,
        both in tune in precepts & practices,
    they delight in the world of the devas,
    enjoying the pleasures they desire.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/anguttara/an04-055.html



Although traditional Buddhism suffers from the sexism prevalent then and now in India, China, and elsewhere, it seems Buddha recognized the essential equality between men and women.  After all, we have all been men and women at some time in our cycle of births and rebirths!

Soma Sutta -- Sister Soma
Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

...(I)n the morning, the bhikkhuni [nun] Soma dressed and, taking bowl and robe, entered Savatthi for alms. When she had walked for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Blind Men's Grove for the day's abiding. Having plunged into the Blind Men's Grove, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.

Then Mara the Evil One, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in the bhikkhuni Soma, desiring to make her fall away from concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:

    "That state so hard to achieve
    Which is to be attained by the seers,
    Can't be attained by a woman
    With her two-fingered wisdom."

Then it occurred to the bhikkhuni Soma: "Now who is this that recited the verse -- a human being or a non-human being?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited the verse desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in me, desiring to make me fall away from concentration."

Then the bhikkhuni Soma, having understood, "This is Mara the Evil One," replied to him in verses:

    "What does womanhood matter at all
    When the mind is concentrated well,
    When knowledge flows on steadily
    As one sees correctly into Dhamma.

    One to whom it might occur,
    'I'm a woman' or 'I'm a man'
    Or 'I'm anything at all' --
    Is fit for Mara to address."

Then Mara the Evil One, realizing, "The bhikkhuni Soma knows me," sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/samyutta/sn05-002a.html



Anger is, of course, not conducive to enlightenment.  But Buddha explains that anger actually makes us miserable here and now!

Kodhana Sutta -- An Angry Person (paraphrased)

Seven things happen to people who are angry, which end up making their enemies happy:

Some people wish that their enemies become ugly.  But when people are angry, even if they are well bathed, beautifully dressed, and their hair neatly cut, they become ugly themselves!  This is exactly what their enemies would wish for them!

Some people wish that their enemies sleep poorly.  But when people are angry, even if they sleep on luxurious beds, with white sheets, fluffy pillows, and beautiful blankets, they will sleep poorly because of their anger.  This, too, is exactly what their enemies would wish!

Some wish that their enemies not profit in business.  But when people are angry, they become confused:  When they suffer a loss, they think they are making a profit; when they make a profit, they think they are suffering a loss.  This leads to constant worry, which is exactly what is enemy would wish!

Some wish that their enemies not have any wealth.  But when people are angry, even if they start out with wealth that they have worked hard to accumulate, they will behave badly and may wind up in jail or paying fines for their misbehavior, and eventually lose their fortunes.  This is exactly what his enemy would wish!

Some wish that ther enemies lose their reputation.  But when people are angry, whatever reputation they have, and however well earned it may be, will disappear, which is exactly what their enemies would wish!

Some wish that their enemies have no friends.  But when people are angry, their friends and relatives avoid them because of their temper.  This is exactly what their enemies would wish!

And finally, some people wish that their enemies would go to hell.  But when people are angy, they commit all kinds of sins, in their behavior, their speech, and in their minds.  When they die, they may find themselves in hell, which is exacly what their enemies would wish!

These are the seven things which happen to angry people, which end up making their enemies happy.

Paraphrased from translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (www.accesstoinsight.org).


 
Lying is such an institutionalized part of modern society it is hard for many of us to imagine a world without it.  Buddha has a lesson for his son in this sutra:

Ambalatthikarahulovada Sutta -- Lesson for Rahula at Mango Stone (paraphrased)

When Rahula, Buddha's son, was seven, he set out some water for his father to wash his feet.  Buddha picked up a ladle full of the water and began to wash.  He showed his son the ladle with a little bit of water left in it and said "This is how little worth is left in someone who isn't ashamed at telling a lie."

Tossing away the little bit of water, he said "What little honor is left in someone who is not ashamed when telling a lie is tossed away just like that."

Turning the ladle upside down, he said "What little honor there is in someone who is not ashamed is turned upside down just like that."

And showing Rahula the empty ladle, he said "What little honor there is in someone who is not ashamed is empty and hollow just like that."

"A royal elephant going into battle who holds back in the fight hasn't given of himself fully.  But when he gives his all, there is nothing he will not do.  The same thing is true of someone who is not ashamed when they tell a lie:  There is no evil he will not do!  So train yourself not to lie, even in jest.

"What do your think a mirror is for?"

"For reflection, sir."

"Just like a mirror, you actions, whether they are physical, verbal, or mental, should be done with constant reflectiion.

"When you are considering doing something, reflect on it:  Is this something which will cause harm to myself or others?  If so, stop yourself from doing it.  If not, if it leads to happy consequences, you may feel free to do it.  While you are doing something, reflect on it:  Is this act harming anyone?  If so, stop.  If not, go ahead.  After you have done something, reflect on what you have done.  If it resulted in harm to yourself or others, confess it to your teacher or companions, and resolve to restrain yourself in the future.  If the act had happy consequences, then be joyful.

"The same things apply to verbal acts.  Before, during, and after you say something, reflect on it.  If it seems that your speech will have or does have negative consequences, then restrain yourself or, if you are too late, confess and resolve to do better in the future. If what you have to say has positive consequences, then go ahead.

"And the same thing applies to mental acts.  Reflect on them, before, during, and after.  If a thought has negative consequences, abandon it or, if it is too late, be ashamed and resolve to improve.  If the thought has positive qualities, then act upon it.

"Before, during, and after, reflect on your behavior, and purify yourself this way."

Liberally paraphrased from That the True Dhamma Might Last a Long Time: Readings Selected by King Asoka, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (www.accesstoinsight.org).



Even unpleasant people need to be cared for when they are ill.  In this sermon, Buddha tells us to care for anyone who needs our help, and goes on to describe how to be a good patient and a good nurse.

Kucchivikara-vatthu -- The Monk with Dysentery
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Now at that time a certain monk was sick with dysentery. He lay fouled in his own urine & excrement. Then the Blessed One, on an inspection tour of the lodgings with Ven. Ananda as his attendant, went to that monk's dwelling and, on arrival, saw the monk lying fouled in his own urine & excrement. On seeing him, he went to the monk and said, "What is your sickness, monk?"

"I have dysentery, O Blessed One."

"But do you have an attendant?"

"No, O Blessed One."

"Then why don't the monks attend to you?"

"I don't do anything for the monks, lord, which is why they don't attend to me."

Then the Blessed One addressed Ven. Ananda: "Go fetch some water, Ananda. We will wash this monk."

"As you say, lord," Ven. Ananda replied, and he fetched some water. The Blessed One sprinkled water on the monk, and Ven. Ananda washed him off. Then -- with the Blessed One taking the monk by the head, and Ven. Ananda taking him by the feet -- they lifted him up and placed him on a bed.

Then the Blessed One, from this cause, because of this event, had the monks assembled and asked them: "Is there a sick monk in that dwelling over there?"

"Yes, O Blessed One, there is."

"And what is his sickness?"

"He has dysentery, O Blessed One."

"But does he have an attendant?"

"No, O Blessed One."

"Then why don't the monks attend to him?"

"He doesn't do anything for the monks, lord, which is why they don't attend to him."

"Monks, you have no mother, you have no father, who might tend to you. If you don't tend to one another, who then will tend to you? Whoever would tend to me, should tend to the sick.

"If one's preceptor is present, the preceptor should tend to one as long as life lasts, and should stay until one's recovery. If one's teacher is present, the teacher should tend to one as long as life lasts, and should stay until one's recovery. If one's student is present, the student should tend to one as long as life lasts, and should stay until one's recovery. If one's apprentice is present, the apprentice should tend to one as long as life lasts, and should stay until one's recovery. If one who is a fellow student of one's preceptor is present, the fellow student of one's preceptor should tend to one as long as life lasts, and should stay until one's recovery. If one who is a fellow apprentice of one's teacher is present, the fellow apprentice of one's teacher should tend to one as long as life lasts, and should stay until one's recovery. If no preceptor, teacher, student, apprentice, fellow student of one's preceptor, or fellow apprentice of one's teacher is present, the sangha should tend to one. If it does not, [all the monks in that community] incur an offense of wrong-doing.

"A sick person endowed with five qualities is hard to tend to: he does what is not amenable to his cure; he does not know the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he does not take his medicine; he does not tell his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is not the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is hard to tend to.

"A sick person endowed with five qualities is easy to tend to: he does what is amenable to his cure; he knows the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he takes his medicine; he tells his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is easy to tend to.

"A nurse endowed with five qualities is not fit to tend to the sick: He is not competent at mixing medicine; he does not know what is amenable or unamenable to the patient's cure, bringing to the patient things that are unamenable and taking away things that are amenable; he is motivated by material gain, not by thoughts of good will; he gets disgusted at cleaning up excrement, urine, saliva, or vomit; and he is not competent at instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the sick person at the proper occasions with a talk on Dhamma. A nurse endowed with these five qualities is not fit to tend to the sick.

"A nurse endowed with five qualities is fit to tend to the sick: He is competent at mixing medicine; he knows what is amenable or unamenable to the patient's cure, taking away things that are unamenable and bringing things that are amenable; he is motivated by thoughts of good will, not by material gain; he does not get disgusted at cleaning up excrement, urine, saliva, or vomit; and he is competent at instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the sick person at the proper occasions with a talk on Dhamma. A nurse endowed with these five qualities is fit to tend to the sick."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/vinaya/mv8-26-1.html