It seems many in the west struggle to live with wealth – there is evidence of considerable dissatisfaction, unhappiness and medical conditions that impact a sense of well-being. If you doubt that there is mental confusion in the west, just reflect for a moment on the western phenomena of “road rage”, surely the product of unhappy minds.
Could some of the answers to this western dilemma be found in India?
From Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and many others, including Buddhist thinkers, we learn that our attitude to events and people around us is the most important factor in our mental well-being. The west largely seeks this well-being through events and others, not through self contemplation.
People in the west have extensive material wealth but little focus on the mind and the spirit. Largely as a result, they continue to seek lasting happiness from things outside of their own mind – happiness through a job, travel, possessions, plastic surgery, new partner, bigger house and so on. Buddhist teachers remind us all these things can be fine – so long as we have a stable sense of inner well-being. That is, lasting happiness comes from within.
The Buddha taught in India that looking for lasting happiness outside of our inner life results in attachment (where we want more and more and fear losing what we have) and in aversion (where we blame others for our unhappiness). You can see how “enough is never enough” would drive these minds.
Another western phenomena is “busyness” which is evidence of impatient minds and the drive for external sources of happiness.
India has long taught patience – living with adversity, accepting the flaws of others – whereas the west is so driven that patience is a word rarely used.
If the Himalayas were located in the west, people would flock there for bungy jumping, extreme ski sessions, jumping out of planes and other extreme sports. For India, the Himalayas have been a location of contemplation, monasteries, thought and mindfulness.
It has long been said that the ultimate western hero was Alexander the Great who conquered more than anyone before him – while a hero in India could be a guru sitting in contemplation under a tree.
In this comparison, could we find one key to happiness in the wealthy west?