How to Become Radically Happy
Buddha Subhasita Broadcast Program
June 20th, 2020
by Emi Theng and Marcela Lopez. Photos by Emi Theng.
In one way or another, everyone wishes to be happy. This is what all human beings have in common. But what if we were told that it is possible to become radically happy? Rangjung Yeshe Indonesia’s dharma group in Jakarta, together with Dr. Ponijan Liaw & Dr. Heru Suherman Lim from Buddha Subhasita YouTube channel, invited Tulku Migmar Tsering to a live, online program in order to help viewers understand what it would mean to be radically happy and how to achieve and maintain this state.
Here we would like to share our impressions of Tulku-la’s conversation and the key points we took away from this inspiring talk.
Radical refers to root–internal happiness
As a master of the Chokling New Treasures lineage of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Tulku Migmar has been training for many years in Buddhist methods that can bring us to the experience of being radically happy.
First, he said, we need to understand what “radical” means here. “Radical” is an English translation of a Tibetan word that refers to the “root” or “ground”. Therefore, being radically happy refers to happiness that comes from within, which is unconditioned, and unrelated to any outside cause. This type of happiness is of utmost importance in this present time when, regardless of the variety of good conditions that we may have —of food, clothing, housing, etc.— people become stressed, depressed, and experience attachment and various other disturbing emotions and suffering.
A radically happy person experiences balanced physical and mental wellbeing. Taking care of our bodies is important, we all know, but equally important, if not more so, is taking care of our minds.
What is the difference between “happiness” and “radical happiness”?
According to Tulku Migmar, mere happiness depends heavily on outside conditions. For example, if one day we want to eat ice cream, we just need to look for it and, when we find the one we want, we feel happy. However, this happiness usually doesn’t last long. When the ice cream finishes, or if we discover that the taste of the ice cream is unsatisfactory, then our happiness can immediately turn into discontentment, anger, etc., which transforms happiness into suffering.
In contrast, radical happiness does not depend on outside conditions. It can be developed by practicing awareness, developing a calm mind, having less attachment, and cultivating karuna and metta (compassion and love). Therefore, if we become radically happy, even if we face unfavorable outer conditions, our happiness within will remain unaffected.
How to achieve and maintain radical happiness
First, Tulku Migmar advises, we need to study in order to understand the correct view. He has found this view in the Buddhadharma. Then we should contemplate what we have studied to make sure it makes sense to us. Finally, we need to implement it in our daily life. In the beginning stage, we need to train in order to develop mindfulness with effort. For this, we can practice a meditation session in the morning, afternoon, or evening, for at least 20 minutes. In this session we can practice calm abiding, mindfulness, and cultivate metta, karuna, and letting go, or having less attachment.
We then need to integrate it into our daily activities, by, for example, reminding ourselves to be mindful when we walk and when we talk to someone, or spend time with our friends and family members. Eventually, after practicing diligently and sincerely for about 3 to 4 months, we will gradually reach the stage of mindfulness without effort ——we won’t need to remind ourselves anymore to be mindful; it will happen automatically. An analogy would be like learning to drive a car. At first, one keeps on looking at the gear shift to know which gear one is using, and where to move the gear shift to change to the next gear. After practicing for some time, the changing of gears becomes automatic.
Mindfulness without effort is actually a stage very close to becoming radically happy. We will be happier no matter what condition we face outside. In terms of the Buddhist practice, such happiness will become the source of enlightenment. On a mundane level, we can feel much happier, as our happiness will not depend on outer conditions.
For more resources
You can find a clear step-by-step path to practice meditation in order to develop mindfulness without effort in Samye Institute’s Path of Meditation Program designed by Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche here.
To know more about how to become radically happy, please see Radically Happy: A User’s Guide to the Mind, by Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche and Erric Solomon; and various articles on the subject in Samye Institute here.