smallflower.GIF (1312 bytes)smallflower.GIF (1312 bytes)
Volume 5 no 2


Happiness is being content
By Venerable Shen-Kai

If a person is content with what he has, then he can live happily even though he is very poor. A good example is Yan Hui [1]. He lived in a simple hut. His daily diet consisted of a simple meal and a gourd of water a day, and yet he lived happily. On the contrary, if a person does not know about contentment, he cannot be happy even though he lives lavishly in a big mansion and feasts like a king.
1. Yan Hui
From the teachings of Confucius.

Buddha said, "One who is content is happy and at peace, even though he sleeps on the floor. One who is discontent does not find peace, even though he is already in the heavens."

A popular Chinese poem describes discontentment in the following way: "One toils throughout the day for the sake of food. When there is food he yearns for better clothing. When there is enough food and clothing, he dreams of marrying a pretty wife. After a marriage that bears him sons, he regrets not owning a farm. After he has farm and land, he considers it incomplete without sedan chairs and horses to move about. Having all these, he longs to be a government official lest others harass him. Still, he wonders what good is a lowly government official compared to a senior position in the imperial courts. Alas, human beings can only find contentment in a dream."

This poem illustrates perfectly that the human mind is like a bottomless pit; the depth and darkness of which is beyond measurement.

In reality, life is just an illusion. It is a matter of only a few tens of years and in a split second, it soon comes to an end. It is wise to be happy and satisfied with what we have, rather than going on a wild chase after fame and fortune in this sea of suffering. Fame and fortune are likened to the image of a flower in a mirror, or simply a reflection of the moon in the water. They are not real. Even though you have gone through a lot of hardship and has dried out your thoughts to acquire masses of land, tons of money and fame, which of these can you bring along with you at the end of your life? You will be buried in a deserted place, no different from the poor people.

It is said that when a person is content, his heart is always at peace; a person who has no desires is high in moral and virtue. If we realise that all things exist only temporarily and are illusions, then we see the futility of seeking fame and fortune, and greed and craving. We become completely free. Isn't such a carefree life better than that of heavenly beings?

The Sutra of Buddha's bequeathed teachings states, "Those who have enormous selfish desires and cravings will naturally have more miseries. Those who do not, will not have this problem." According to a proverb, "The world is broad when you know what contentment is, but even the universe is small if you are excessively greedy."

May everyone find contentment and happiness in their right livelihood, and be free from greed and attachment.

May I encourage one and all to be diligent in enriching your lives, and in learning and practising the teachings of Buddha. Happiness is being content.


Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre