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Friday May 17, 2024

How to be happy

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
July 21, 2023

The three-day International Gandhara Symposium held in Islamabad on July 11 under the auspices of the prime minister’s task force on Gandhara Tourism can be termed as historic in all respects.

On this occasion, for the first time in not only our national history but also the history of Buddhism, 31 highly respected monks, most venerable religious leaders and distinguished delegates from different countries – including Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Korea, Japan – gathered under one roof.

The territory of present-day Islamabad was once an integral part of Gandhara. Thousands of years ago, Gautama Siddhartha, a kind-hearted prince, opened eyes in the royal family of Nepal. Although he had all the luxuries, he devoted his life to find the bitter realities of life and resolve problems amicably.

Buddha tried various ways of enduring hardships to seek spiritual happiness, but finally realized that to find eternal peace, it is necessary to live a happy and pure life. According to him, the ultimate goal of life is to tackle suffering, pains and hurdles in life. For this purpose, Buddha recommended to forgive every other person from the heart even those who do not regret their wrong action or seek forgiveness.

Buddha did not limit the secret of being happy in life only to himself, but taught every sensible person that pain, suffering, grief and anxiety are like the roots of a tree. To overcome the pain completely, it is necessary to find its root cause. When the world was plunged in the darkness of ignorance, he declared that the world is a temporary inn, and the root of suffering is attachment to worldly desires. “If you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone.”

Buddha described four types of happiness. The first one is the happiness of being freed from debt, followed by the joy of being wealthy and owning property. Proper utilization of God-gifted bounties and resources is yet another source of happiness. He also considered the support of truth as an eternal happiness. When people avoid wrongdoings and follows the principles of their conscience, a unique feeling of happiness emerges in the heart. “One who acts on truth is happy in this world and beyond.”

He described that the path to attaining happiness passes through ‘Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration’. If we succeed in controlling our selfish needs, not only can we enjoy a happy life, but the entire environment of society could also become pleasant. “Whatever is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit.”

Gradually, the teachings of Buddhism began to spread in his native state and the region – in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. However, the era of Ashoka the Great, who ruled the Gandhara region included in present-day Pakistan, was a golden period for Buddhism, during which Buddha’s teachings flourished rapidly. The first statue of Gautama Buddha was produced in Taxila. Similarly, education centres established here in Gandhara attracted students from all over the world.

During the International Gandhara Symposium, Buddhist monks expressed their happiness that they were making pilgrimages to those sacred sites of Gandhara that are mentioned in their religious books. They also expressed their desire to bring Buddha statues made in Taxila to their native countries with them.

If anyone thinks that Gautama Buddha was a pessimist, they are ignorant of the real teachings of Buddha who in fact advocated for ensuring a happy life.

Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam (May everyone be happy)!

The writer is a member of the

National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

He tweets @RVankwani