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Incorrect Consideration of Suffering as Happiness

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Lecture by Alexander Berzin

We were speaking about our incorrect consideration in terms of things that change. We consider that something like a relationship is going to last forever, whereas in fact it is eventually going to come to an end. And we consider that, even while it lasts, that it is static and unchanging, whereas in fact it changes from moment to moment.

Our belief that this projection of our incorrect consideration is correct can be doctrinally based. We read all sorts of fairy tales, and see Hollywood movies, that we’re going to live happily ever after, and so we have this expectation that’s false. It can be doctrinally based, but even if we understand that the propaganda we have been fed, and that we’ve been believing, is false, that this is absurd, even when we understand that, that life is not a fairy tale, nevertheless we don’t really want to accept that. There’s still that automatically arising incorrect consideration. There is a great deal of resistance, if you examine yourself, to accepting what we know is really impossible.

So we examine more deeply, and we find that there are other types of incorrect consideration that, in a sense, feed each other, feed this misconception of everything being static and unchanging. Why do I want to consider this relationship as stable, and static, and so on? Because I consider it to be happy, “I have a happy relationship,” and, “it makes me happy to be with you.” The next level is to understand that we have this incorrect consideration of what’s called “suffering as happiness.”

What does this really mean? It’s very much connected with this process of change. We think, for instance, that “holding my loved one’s hand is happiness, it makes me feel happy.” Well, if it really made us feel happy, it should do so forever. But, the longer we hold somebody’s hand, eventually it becomes very uncomfortable. You want to do something else. You don’t want to go through the next twenty years being glued to the other person’s hand. Then it starts to sweat…it becomes very uncomfortable.

If our loved one strokes our hand, or some part of our body, well, if they continue doing that for an hour, we’re going to get very, very sore. It’ll turn into pain. Or, if you sleep with somebody, and have your arm around them, very quickly it falls asleep, and is very, very uncomfortable. So if this were true happiness, the longer we had it, the more happy it should make us, but obviously it isn’t. So this is a false conception that any of these things are true happiness, because they’re going to change, they’re going to end, of course.

No matter how much we love somebody, if we stay with them too long, they start to get on our nerves, “Please, I need to be alone for a little while.” We don’t want them to follow us to the toilet. Again, we could have this misconception based on some sort of doctrine: we were taught that this is true happiness, “If you buy this car, you will truly be happy,” and so on. So we could be fed this by propaganda, an advertisement, or it can just automatically arise. This doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as happiness, and that Buddhism is saying that everything is miserable and horrible. It’s not saying that, but we need to understand the reality of things and not exaggerate. “It’s very nice to be with you, but.”

Things change. Things change, and what we consider to be happy, we can enjoy; but ultimately it’s not going to satisfy. It will change; we will feel frustrated, and so on. So there are a lot of problems still involved. We get bored with something if we have it all the time. I might like ice cream very much, but if I were to have to eat only that for the next several years, I would get very bored with that. All of us would. This is the incorrect consideration of “suffering as happiness.”