This project explores the concept that all happiness comes from the way that we perceive the world around us, rather than external factors like material wealth. A high-paying job, a perfect partner and possessions cannot provide permanent happiness, because happiness is not proportional to wealth: many happy people are very poor and some very rich people are also unhappy. A peaceful, calm and stable mind is the only way that we can achieve true contentment.
This concept is central to the Buddhist tradition, which advocates that we can begin to understand our own mind by meditating on Buddha’s teachings (called dharma). In his first teaching Buddha Shakyamuni (previously known as Siddhartha Gautama) explained that he had discovered the ‘middle way’ and describes the four noble truths: of anguish, its origins, its cessation and the path leading to its cessation. Anguish, he says, is to be understood, its origins to be let go of, its cessation to be realised, and the path to be cultivated.
In learning to understand and then to control our mind, we need to stop worrying about what has happened, as we cannot change it, and worrying about what might happen, because it may not. Living in the moment, or mindfulness, is a key element of Buddhist belief. Truly experiencing our current situation and surroundings allows us to live a more contented and happy life. We don’t know when our life will end; there is a risk that we may come to the end of life and still be waiting for something to bring us true happiness. We may even feel that we have wasted our life by always looking forward (or back) and never stopping to enjoy the moment and look within our own mind to find true contentment.
According to Buddhist teaching, the ‘delusion’ of self-cherishing is at the core of our unhappiness: the mistaken belief that our needs and wishes are more important than those of every other living being. Since anguish emerges from craving for life to be other than it is, we must learn acceptance and a new way of thinking about ourselves and those around us by developing a mind of love, humility and compassion. The eighth century Buddhist master, Shantideva said:
‘All the happiness there is in this world
Arises from wishing others to be happy,
And all the suffering there is in this world
Arises from wishing ourself to be happy.’
Buddha taught that these problems are just some of the causes of anguish. His path leading to the cessation of anguish proposed that meditation is a way to change the way we think about our lives, relationships and the world around us.
The underlying principle is that the mind follows the same, learned paths as it reacts to different situations and that meditation, over time creates new paths, new ways of thinking and reacting that help to maintain a peaceful mind, leading to happiness and contentment.
I am interested in further exploring my connection with Buddhist philosophy that has come about through my travels and life experience. I will consider this project a success if I am able to convey the ideas of meditative contemplation, concentration and contentment through creative and engaging images.