So much of the outside world is beyond our control. War, famine, poverty, bigotry, violence, cruelty — are all forces that live alongside peace, forgiveness, unselfishness, kindness, hope, inspiration and goodness. And while we can of course do our best to always be on the side of good as opposed to harm, we still have so little power in the broadest sense of what happens in the world.
One of the things that Buddhism teaches is that happiness lies inside each person and that it should be our highest priority in life to find that happiness within. It doesn’t lie in possessions or anything external. It doesn’t live in the approval of others. It can’t be found in some false sense of utopia. It isn’t tethered to anything outside of yourself.
I have learned that happiness lives in our own hearts and minds. And this is what we can control. And this is how you achieve Buddhahood in my own particular faith.
I am not one to preach to people what religions or spiritual practices they should embrace. It’s obviously a personal choice. In my own journey, I was raised Jewish and will always consider myself Jewish. But I practice Buddhism on a daily basis and it truly has become the cornerstone of my life. So much of this practice, however, can be adopted by anyone of any faith because the core convenant of what we practice is truly universal…happiness is inside, always be kind and always have compassion for others, especially when they are suffering.
When I think about what the one thing I wish for for my own community of loved ones, it is that they truly understand and embrace the concept of LOVE. It’s simply the ONE thing that has the power to heal and alleviate suffering, that can bring the most fulfillment and which has the power to transform your life. And, most importantly, it is the ONE THING that you CAN control in your own life.
Love is universal. It’s color blind. It isn’t exclusive to any religion. It is available to any race, religion, sexual preference or creed. It also knows no geographic boundaries. It is available to those in good health and those who are suffering. The poor and rich alike. Young and old. It costs nothing. You cannot buy it nor can you sell it. But it is the one thing that has the most power to transform any life, any situation and any human being.
And so my hope for you today and everyday is that you fully embrace the concept of love for yourself first and foremost and then for everyone in your life. It will bring you more riches than any material fortune. It will be with you when you are alone and scared. It will keep you company when you are plagued with doubt. When you suffer, you can recall it whenever you need it most. And when you do ultimately leave this world, love is what you will remember and I believe, what you will take with you on your next journey.
So love yourself. Love your loved ones. Love those that are suffering especially. Even love those who perhaps have done you harm in the past. For when you love unconditionally, your own spiritual growth is boundless. Your capacity to experience all of the joys and riches of this life are endless. And when you realize that all you truly need in this world is love, then everything becomes so simple, clear and uncomplicated. Life is honestly that pure and beautiful. You just need to see it and believe it.
A wonderful Buddhist teacher Frank Ostaseski, the author of an extraordinary new book called The Five Invitations sums up the importance of love so eloquently…”When we come close to the end of our life, what’s really important makes itself known. It isn’t whether or not we had two Mercedes or whether we spent more time at the office. For most people, it’s about relationships. It’s about answering two questions: “Am I loved?” and “Did I love well?” So much of what happens at the end of life boils down to those two questions.
To close, I leave you with this wonderfully simple, yet powerful song which sums it all up about the power of love…
One more note, this is the last blog for me for a while as I embark on some new spiritual journeys that I am planning in the new year. I hope to be able to share them with you in the near future. Until then, thank you for your amazing company on this most recent journey, for your support and encouragement and to all those who have also shared their own spiritual journeys, sufferings and hopes with me. I consider it a true blessing to be able to share our thoughts and prayers together.