Posting a few, final quotes this week from Karma Yeshe Rabgye‘s book The Best Way to Catch A Snake. In this quote he talks about the joy of getting a new iPad:
Every time you look at it [your newly purchased iPad], a warm feeling fills you. You are so happy, your life seems complete. Then the inevitable happens—a newer, faster, smaller and more powerful version comes out. You hold the iPad in your hand, but our happiness has turned to discontent. Why is that? The Buddha taught us that all sense objects, including these fashionable technical gadgets, are impermanent. There is no happiness inherent in them; we simply project happiness onto these objects. (pg. 165)
This reminds me of the famous Yogacara school of Buddhism that I wrote about here, here and here among other places. The main teaching of Yogacara Buddhism is that the you experience is a projection of one’s own mind and ego onto the world (overlaying the raw sensory input). There’s basically no world outside your own interpretation of it.
This may seem kind of weird, but let’s look at another example. Imagine falling in love with a pretty girl. You meet, and as you both fall in love, the world is new refreshing and wonderful. Every moment you’re together is just pure happiness, and your life before you met her seemed so dull and grey. The future with your partner is bright and you feel like you’ve finally found true contentment.
….or did you? (duh-duh-duhhhhhh)
Fast-forward 6 weeks, 6 months or even 6 years later. Whatever. Inevitably, you’ll meet another girl that you’ll find hotter, prettier, more attractive than your current partner. Sure, your partner is great, but something’s changed and you’re no longer content with her. You two don’t do things like you use to, don’t quite have the same passion as before, and now you’re not happy as you once were.
But did she really change? Or did you change? When you first met and all was right in the world, were you not projecting your happiness onto her, and yet over time as reality differed from your projected happiness, did you not start to feel a bit of disappointment? Now, are you not doing the same thing again but with another girl?
That’s basically how the mind works. We do it not just with people, but with TV shows, new restaurants, etc. Over and over until we breathe our last. Always projecting our happiness onto something, thinking “this is it! This thing will make me happy!”, but like water slipping through our fingers, it always eludes us again and again.
The first step in avoiding a trap, is becoming aware of its existence…
P.S. Another example of projecting happiness on something that clearly won’t give you lasting satisfaction.