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What we learned about happiness from Buddhist monk Gen Kelsang Dornying

The path to happiness is remarkably simple – you just have to forget about yourself

Gen Kelsang Dornying is an engaging young Londoner, with a quick smile and a cheeky chappy accent. He’s also a Buddhist monk and the resident teacher at the Kadampa Meditation Centre Melbourne. How the hell did that happen? 

“I’d always tried to find meaning and happiness in my career and partying when I was younger, but I always found that there was something missing,” Gen Dornying says. In search of answers, he bought a one-way ticket to Australia (“as a lot of pommies do,” he says, with a smile). In Sydney, he learned to meditate and found himself a regular at the Kadampa temple, which is when the penny dropped. “It was just, ‘yep, this is totally clear – it’s practical, it makes sense to me and I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life’.”

The Buddhist views on wellbeing and self-esteem vary quite radically from what the self-help industry would have us believe. It points out a paradox: the more you grasp for happiness, the more likely it’s going to be elusive. “We say in Buddhism that all the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy, and all the suffering there is arises from wishing ourselves to be happy”, Gen Dornying says. “But if we try to love others and act to benefit them a confident happy self will emerge automatically.”

Dornying has some practical and simple suggestions to get started: 

“Take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect on all the people in the world who have the same problems as you, but perhaps to a greater degree. As soon as you do, you’ll feel better – the hard edges of suffering will be reduced.”

“Try to empathise with people. If you’re sitting on the train, all of those people on the train have people that love them, worries, fears, suffering, trauma and people that miss them. Take a few seconds to tune into that and think, ‘I care about you’. Inwardly, just say the word in your heart. Don’t say it out loud because you’ll look like a nutter.”

Learn to mediate during the weekly drop-in sessions at the Kadampa Meditation Centre Melbourne and check out their websites for helpful day-long sessions about topics including self-esteem and happiness. 

 

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