Happiness - the supreme wealth
Ven.Lenadora Soratha Thera, retired Assistant Director of Education.
Interviewed by Priyanga Kumuduni Jayakody.
Q. The Buddha pronounced that “happiness is supreme among all wealth.” How do you perceive the pattern of modern life in relation to this maxim?
A. This involves a broad based comparison of the disciplines of monastic and lay life that prevailed in ancient society and modern society. It is important to identify the features of ancient society and modern society that are compatible with this pronouncement of the Buddha. The ancient way of life, especially of the clergy more than the laity, was well in harmony with the concept of the Buddha, that happiness is the supreme wealth. One of the important factors that contributed towards this tendency was the simplicity of the ancient life style. It was not as complex as of the modern day. People’s aspirations were a few and easily sustainable. The backdrop was such that people could be satisfied with whichever they had received.
Q. Do you mean to say that owing to multiplicity of aspirations happiness gets out of reach?
A. No. That is not the only reason. In modern society there are serious conflicts relating to various objectives, subjects and targets that people are aspiring to achieve. These conflicts have their bearing on society. As providers of guidance to society, we cannot take part in these conflicts.
Q. What are the concepts that you claim were present in the ancient monastic and lay societies but have become strange to modern society? Why have these qualities become obsolete?
A. Patience, tolerance, being content with what they have and simplicity were sublime features of ancient society. Their life style was productive. People who are not satisfied with what they get cannot be happy by any standard. They lead miserable lives. Their thoughts are bereft of kindness, mercy and compassion. They have no patience. They are afflicted with anger, hatred, discontent and mental unrest all the time. Such minds are not creative or innovative and dead to free thinking. How can they lead a successful life?
Q. What are the examples one can draw from the society of the Buddhist clergy?
A. The monastic life pattern of a bhikku is simple and of little want. It is easily sustainable. Bhikkus are human and cannot be expected to ignore and be blind to common aspirations. Yet the guidance and instructions that they have received have helped them to get the correct insight and helped them to be patient and tolerant. That is the specialty. Consider the extent of services they have rendered to society. Their independent and peaceful thinking has greatly contributed towards the well being of society. They are a solace to society.
Q. What is the nature of guidance you can afford in order to build up a successful life by applying these good traits in one’s life?
A. The trait of being unshaken by the eight fold manifestation of the wheel of natural changes
(Atalo Dhahama) which was a deep rooted tradition of our ancient society is very important in this regard. Standing steadfast in the face of fortune and disaster is a strong factor for a successful life. People of the ancient society had mastered the art of turning calamity into comfort. But in modern society the art of endurance has decayed to zero. Even the mass media is more prone to encourage dissatisfaction instead of promoting contentment. This condition is immensely adversarial against the upliftment of individuals as well as of society. The erosion of peace and happiness from our lives owing to this reason is worth pondering over. The arrest of this tendency and diverting society to the doctrines of Buddhism in order to give meaning to life is important. Any small endeavour towards this end I perceiveas a great victory.