Is wishing “Happy Wesak” a display of misunderstanding the Buddha’s message?


Well-meaning people all around the world are wishing their Buddhist friends and acquaintances a Happy Wesak.

The conventional wisdom is that Buddhists should be happy as they joyously celebrate the birthday, Enlightenment and death more than two millennia ago of one Siddharta Gautama, the “founder” of Buddhism.

There is irony in this, because Siddharta, who came to be known as the Buddha (Pali for Enligthened One) spent his life discovering and then teaching that happiness is an illusion and often a trap to keep us in this cycle of suffering.

Nothing lasts forever. The king who commissioned this Buddha statue at Angkor Wat probably thought it would last till the end of days. What more of your happiness?
Nothing lasts forever. The king who commissioned this Buddha statue at Angkor Wat probably thought it would last till the end of days. What more of your happiness? The idea of the Buddha’s search continues though, although it too will come to pass.

 

The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is that we all suffer because we crave for things that we think are good. When we get them we are “happy.” When we don’t we become sad.

Yet life is a constant flux of changes and happiness is illusive and cannot last forever. So if we go about seeking happiness we are then setting ourselves up for unhappiness.

So what to do? This is where the Buddha’s genius for original thinking comes in. The only solution is to go beyond happiness and sadness (and by extension good and evil, contentment and yearning etc). The way to do this is to let go of you craving.

If you do not crave for happiness then a lack of happiness would not affect you. If you do not crave for happiness then sadness cannot touch you.

But this letting go is easier said than done. People spend lifetimes trying to do this and do not succeed. Introduced to Buddhist doctrine and meditation in his teenage years Unspun himself feels that he has begun only the initial small steps toward this act of supreme courage to let go of all craving.

But he tries because one man showed the way. Siddharta, born to a life of privilege and luxury, had the courage to renounce it all when he recognised that life, as many of us know it, was somehow askew (samsara).

But he didn’t strike it lucky and immediately found Enlightenment because of this one moment of heroism. What followed were years of struggling, going up wrong paths and finding the courage to turn back when he realised his mistakes.

That open mind, that constant search for something more and th courage to see things for what they are – and then act on it- is what, to Unspun, what the Buddha and Wesak Day should be about.

Happy Contemplation fellow seekers.

 

 

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