How Modern Buddhist Principles Can Make You Happier

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Wellness Editor

To reach the New York State outpost of the Kadampa Buddhist Center you have to traverse the Hawk’s Nest roadway, which contours the broad Delaware River on one side and dense mountain woodland on the other (it turns out the road to enlightenment is also a famous car commercial location). Venturing deeper into the countryside, everything begins to quiet down. Out here, you’re as likely to run into a deer as you are a human, and that’s exactly the way you want it when the goal is to find inner peace.

The New Kadampa lineage of Buddhism hails from Tibet—homeland of its founder Geshe Kelsang Gyatso—and when you first set eyes on the organization’s ornate and gilded World Peace Temple, that much is clear. It’s an idyllic setting for meditation retreats and dharma talks (Buddhist sermons, if you will).

Kadampa has positioned itself as Buddhism for the modern world. The tradition takes the principles of Buddha’s teachings and makes them applicable and actionable, providing methods to transform adversity into spiritual growth by tackling “delusions”—the un-peaceful states of mind like anger and uncontrolled desire, that are a source of suffering in our lives.

If you want to live a better, happier life (who doesn’t?), these lessons derived from Buddhism are a great place to start.

Change is certain

Like it or not, change is an inevitability. Take comfort in the knowledge that tough times will pass and find humility in the truth that even the things you value most are impermanent—don’t take anything for granted. The more you let life’s fluctuations wash over you without grasping, craving, or becoming attached to your current reality, the more easeful being a human becomes.

Compassion is everything

When you consider it, almost all the world’s problems—from war to global warming—are rooted in a type of compassion deficit. Let compassion suffuse all your actions and interactions. Be kinder to other people, even those you have a difficult dynamic with. Treat the planet and its animals like the vulnerable, living entities they are—entities that want to be free from suffering, just as you do. Compassion begets compassion, and your experiences will be so much more full thanks to this one simple change.

Peace is found in the present

Ruminating on past mistakes or obsessing over what might possibly happen in the future are two routes to anxiety, depression and general malaise. Being present, aka mindful, is the best way to access contentment, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a vigilant meditator (although that would certainly help). Whatever you’re doing in this moment, give it your full attention, noting what you see, taste, smell, hear, and feel. Most of the time, you’ll find you’re doing just fine, right here and right now.

Gratitude is powerful

Consciously taking time to feel gratitude will change your life, and there’s plenty to be thankful for beyond the obvious: all the teachers that helped shape your skills and talents; every person who produced, prepared and cooked your meals; the train drivers who get you to work and back each day. Once you consciously look for it, you’ll notice the world is full of hidden kindnesses, big and small.

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