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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
fall 2006| 6 |buddhadharma by de Tocqueville in 1835) and, more recently, our craving for novelty. HAPPINESS AS ENTITLEMENT Our Declaration of Independence announces only our right to pursue hap- piness, but it seems that happiness itself is now commonly regarded as our due. To have it denied, or even worse to lose it, is seen either as something gone wrong that needs to be corrected, or as an injustice, with the fault to be found outside ourselves. More and more now, someone else must be held accountable for our discontent. This idea that one has a right to happi- ness is a myth, of course, and one that has survived only with the help of a long run of national peace, prosperity, and power. We’ve had the resources and the freedoms to effect change in much of the world and gratify ever more of our wants through consumer goods. We make things. We make things happen. Reportedly the Dalai Lama once wryly observed, “America has perfected samsara.” There’s just this one small matter, though: the noble truth of suffering. We who have grown up in this land of choices have become savvy consumers, practiced at sorting through our options in order to maximize pleasure and minimize displeasure. Yet through our very success at getting our way, we also bind ourselves to the poles of grasping and rejecting, thus sabotaging our efforts toward freedom. Ultimately, the integrity of American Bud- dhism rests on our going beyond the free- dom to (have, get, buy, etc.) so that we may find freedom from our desires themselves. As Americans, we’ve shown the impulse to remake Buddhism, demanding that the dharma accommodate itself to us, rather than our accommodating ourselves to the dharma. But while our national character presents significant challenges, it has other, more positive, sides to it. Our individual self-identities come with self-awareness and independent, critical thinking, making us less vulnerable, per- haps, to deranged leadership. Our preoc- cupation with morality may ensure that sila holds its own in American practice with dhyana and prajna. The upside of our impatience is energy, drive, and a sense of time passing. And our tendency to feel entitled to happiness may keep us reaching for it until we realize it couldn’t be anywhere but right here. LIGMINCHA INSTITUTE at Serenity Ridge (our hilltop retreat center in rural Nelson County,Virginia) For information about retreats in the Bön Buddhist tradition please contact us: 434.977.6161 / firstname.lastname@example.org www.ligmincha.org SACRED ECOLOGY The Five Elements in the Bön Buddhist Tradition October 18 – 22, 2006 A five-day teaching and practice retreat with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche