A Blissful Vacation: An Excerpt from 'Infinite Life'

Is it not everyone’s deepest wish to be profoundly and securely happy, joyfully and lovingly able to share that happiness with friends and neighbors as well as all the world’s people and animals? Yet our culture constantly tells us that such joy is not possible, even that it is suspect. It tells us that the world is evil or inadequate and needs fixing. It tells us to think that we need this or that thing or relationship or leader or accomplishment in order to experience even a moment of contentment. They say that deep, unconditional happiness is not just unrealistic, but illegal, immoral, and unhealthy.

Often Buddhist teachings are misunderstood. They are falsely taught as if the Buddha agreed with all these naysayers, as if he were in fact the ultimate naysayer, the all-time champion of killjoys. “Life is suffering,” he seems to have said, “so better to escape from it.” How gloomy and sad!

But the truth is, the Buddha definitely did not condemn us to the unhappiness that many conventional societies and cultures, including our own, make us feel is inevitable. On the contrary, he discovered and proclaimed that total freedom from suffering—exquisite, enduring joy—is extremely possible for every sensitive being. It is only the unenlightened, self-centered, and self-constricted being who is temporarily incapable of real happiness. I call this “terminal living.”

We can free ourselves from such a terminal existence simply by becoming aware of our misconceptions and their impact on our way of being. Once we have accepted the fact that we ourselves may be the main cause of our own unhappiness, we become determined to understand the problem fully and to solve it as soon as possible. With simple guidance, we easily discover the limiting force to be our own misunderstanding of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

The great kindness of the Buddha (and many other enlightened beings who have shared their teachings with us) is that he created a method whereby we can use reason to get ourselves away from the imprisoning “self.” That is why we sing Buddha’s praises. He has invited us to join a lifelong blissful vacation from our domineering selves.

We can join the peaceful, cool, inner revolution. Why don’t we have a year-round blissful vacation? I’m writing this book because I want you to see that your blissful vacation is absolutely possible. There is a life that isn’t all pointless, yet full of cell phones and deadlines and total pressure all the time. There is a life that is free, boundless, happy, and full of wisdom and natural purpose. And the great news is that you don’t have to go sit by yourself on some mountaintop to gain the insights that I’m going to share with you here.

Even in the midst of my crazy, pressure-filled city life, I am able to experience, joyously contemplate, and discuss with others the immanence of nirvana, the blissful vacation, and relish the aura of total peace and happiness. So you can, too. When more of us do that, we get one step closer to making it real, here and now. And that is precisely what I am going to help you do.

Today—which is the day you read these words, dear reader—I invite you to enter this new realm of existence! Turn back from rushing ahead and face the facts of your life. See it bound by arbitrary limitations. Take heart. Use your common sense and critical intelligence to awaken. Stop taking for granted your inherited conventional reality. Question even your habitual instincts. Take the plunge into the ocean of boundless freedom. Embrace the mystery. Discover the reality of infinite life!

The Buddha was one of the foremost planetary teachers of the human right, human ability, and human responsibility to achieve the perfect, unconditional happiness that surely is the innermost wish of most people. I follow his inspiring example and write these words for each of you, to help you learn to trust that wish, and to follow the drive of your deepest spirit of intelligent love and courageous goodwill toward a more happy life for yourself and others.

Find out about upcoming programs with Robert Thurman at Kripalu.

Excerpted with permission from Infinite Life, from Robert A. F. Thurman.

Robert Thurman, PhD, is an authority on spirituality, mind science, philosophy, and Tibetan Buddhism. His latest book is Love Your Enemies, co-written with Sharon Salzberg.

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