What is the Nature of Nothingness? Happiness, of course.

Philosophy-FighterOn occasion I find myself in the midst of spiritual conversation.  Sometimes this conversation can manifest itself as a spirited debate about the nature of nothingness or if this whole entire world is in fact just an illusion.  There might even be people present who believe themselves to be right and that others are wrong (as if one can ever be certain about nothingness, doesn’t nothingness preclude certainty just by the nature of being nothingness?).

My answer, if ever I am asked, “What is the nature of nothingness?” is Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

May all beings in all worlds be peaceful and happy.

The reason that is my answer is that it is useful. It might not be directly related to the question, but it is relevant to what is important.

So many times when there are these heated spiritual debates about the nature of nothingness or “is a table really a table when to a termite it would be dinner?” with each person doing their darnedest to prove their point and come up with the right answer, I just think – who cares? Does it matter if a table is really a table?  Does this make me a more loving and conscious person?  And by conscious I mean aware and mindful of my connection to all of life, not more knowledgeable about the exact nature of tables.

There are many spiritual topics that we can go in mental circles about, and that might be entertaining, so have at it – have fun.  But before we start taking it all too seriously and worrying about who is right and who is wrong and who is the more enlightened about the nature of nothingness, I think the main question we need to ask is – does this help me make the world a better more compassionate place?  Does this help alleviate suffering for anyone?  Does this bring more love to the world?

When I moved to St Augustine I discovered a sweet peaceful little retreat center west of town called Chinmaya Mission.  I had not heard of Swami Chinmayananda before but I 220px-Sourire_coul_2have grown to hold him with sweet affection in my heart and I am grateful to have this Hindu refuge as part of my Interfaith life.  When I was getting to know more about him, I was reading the Chinmaya wikipedia page and it says their motto is “To give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time.”  And I thought, that is the most perfect mission statement I have ever seen.

So often we have these lofty spiritual goals to “Uplift Humanity,” “Awaken the Divine in the human spirit,” or even “Liberate humanity from the illusion of attachments” etc etc etc.  And these are all good things, all worthy missions, and I have participated in several groups with similar purposes – but sometimes it’s hard to know what it really means, how is this mission really changing real life for real people?  And it was so refreshing to see a mission statement that goes so directly for what matters most.

So, the next time you are grappling with high minded esoteric existential questions and you feel like you don’t quite understand the complexities of it all – just come back to this question:  Does this give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time?

8 thoughts on “What is the Nature of Nothingness? Happiness, of course.

  1. Not to question this beautiful mission statement, but I still couldn’t figure out whether it is to give or receive? There’s a thought as “you may help one another if help is wanted, if you do so without being asked for help, then it is intervention.” Every human being comes to life with their own divine plan. Maybe sometimes after being unhappy for a while, that person will realize that there’s something more, and he will wake up. But before him being ready if we try to make his life better, give him lots of love and etc, maybe he wouldn’t achieve his master plan soon enough. On the other hand maybe our intervention is something what we need to do for our master plan, so that we come to our realization… I still couldn’t figure out what to do at each time…. Mostly I’m capable of floating (thankfully).
    I wish my comment doesn’t look like an unwanted intervention. :-) and if so, it is only for my consciousness. Since I liked the post and the message very much and read it with an excited heart beat. Thank you.

    • Actually Meyla, your response is perfect! And I don’t see it at all as an unwanted intervention. In fact, I went to a talk with Swami Tejomayananda out at the Chinmaya Mission when he was in town this summer and he talked about that very thing. He told the story of a spiritual person who went out on a mission to help everyone and he saw and old lady and helped her across the street – the only problem was she didn’t want to cross the street. :) So, yes, we have to make sure that whoever we are helping wants the help. You can’t really force anyone to be happy for their own good if they don’t want to be happy. We can only share the happiness to any and all who want it. AND I think that chanting / praying for all beings everywhere to be peaceful and happy is always a good thing. Thank you for sharing in this expansion of happiness!

  2. How lovely to have found your blog through NaBloPoMo. I love the mission statement “to give the maximum amount of happiness to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time.” I see that as being one of the most important things I can do on my journey to a simple and serene life. Laura

    • I am so happy to be part of NaBloPoMo and making so many new connections. I agree – that mission statement just got me – it’s so perfect. And it’s such a good way to keep coming back to what is important. Thank you, Shanti

  3. Pingback: Nothingness and Happiness Continues | Om Shanti Blog

  4. I was delightfully surprised to see a quote and photo of my favorite teacher, Swami Chinmayananda! Your writing picks up what I agree is the best essence of spiritual teaching, to bring sustainable happiness, not short term or egocentric happiness. Thanks for your lovely blogging!

    • Yes, I am so happy to have made this connection with Chinmayananda – he is so full of joy and I think he demonstrates this happiness so beautifully and shares it with all the world. And yes – to bring real happiness to real people is at the center of spiritual teaching. Thank you!

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