Off to the Bodhichitta Buddhist Centre last night with my dear friend Brian - but not before tasting the wares at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Foods, a little deli on Pandora across from Alex Goolden Hall. Me: lamb samusa (correct spelling) and four dolmades. Brian had chicken samusa and ditto on the dolmades. His review: “This is great! I have to tell Judy about this place.” Mine: absolutely delicious. We continue to talk about the food after we pay our bill and toddle off to the First Metropolitan Church around the corner.
It’s been over a month since I attended the Buddhist Centre’s Foundation Program under the able spiritual guidance of Kelsang Zopa. Warmly welcomed back, with queries about how the CD is coming (the reason for my absence) I’m momentarily surprised as a new Dharma text entitled “Eight Steps to Happiness” is thrust into my hands. It’s a slimmer tome than the previous book “Joyful Path of Good Fortune” we studied this past year. I peer down at the brightly coloured cover, interested, and as usual just a little apprehensive about what I’ll find inside.
Dharma texts range from the excruciatingly complex to the spare and arcane. I quickly discover that this book is not only accessible and less complex than most Buddhist texts, but actually pretty sensible. Its main thrust: that most of the suffering we experience in life is a result of what's going on inside, not outside, us. Hate your job? Angry that you’re not getting sufficient recognition? Frustrated because you can’t get your partner to be who you think he or she should be? The source for all this suffering, Buddha argues, is not our job, partner or the world, but ourselves. If we begin to understand that suffering is largely a product of our own projections, created from within, then we're one step closer to cultivating genuine happiness. The place to start is with ourselves, not others.
“(W)e can either try to change the whole world to make it conform to our wishes,” says Kelsang Gyatso, “or we can change our mind.” Buddhists prefer to change their minds.
Sound simple? Well, I suppose it is. Some truths are just that: elementary, usually soft spoken, and almost always incremental in their effects. By the end of the evening I have vowed to pick up where I left off the month before and return to our weekly Buddhist meditations.