For this meeting, I though we could look at the idea of why we have chosen to involve ourselves with Buddhism and meditation, and is the concept in Buddhism of "taking refuge" in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (The Three Jewels) possibly an effort to escape from the perceived difficulties of our daily lives? In other words - why do we spend a perfectly good summer night coming to a Buddhism & Happiness group? What are we trying to (or not to) do by this? Many of us, myself certainly included, were originally drawn to Buddhism and meditation to "feel better" about things going on in our lives - to feel happier, to get along better with others, to reduce stress, etc. I think that periodically re-examining our various motivations can be a helpful, so as to not fall into non-mindful habits and patterns. To give us a starting point for our conversation, here is an excerpt from an article on the topic by Rob Preece, who is a longtime Buddhist practitioner and psychotherapist:
We are extraordinarily adept at taking refuge; the problem is that we take refuge in the wrong things. We take refuge from our stress, our emotional problems, and our relationships in anything we find that will temporarily relieve us of discomfort. As we get older, the range of potential refuges available to us becomes more and more sophisticated, but the intention usually remains the same. We take refuge in food, money, our home, the TV, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex, even work and relationships; the list is endless. These things are not by nature refuges, but if we desire to relieve our dissatisfaction, stress, and unhappiness, and think, albeit mistakenly, these things will bring us happiness, then in the way we use them, they have become a refuge.
Those of us involved in the dharma may feel that we are not so caught in this confusion. We recognize the unsatisfactory nature of relentless consumerism and know it will not bring us happiness. Many of us have realized that we do not need to constantly put so much energy into what are usually described as worldly concerns. We have probably already made some attempt to turn our life around and are taking refuge in something we feel will bring us far deeper happiness, namely, the dharma.
Taking refuge has sometimes been called “taking a safe direction,” which offers an interesting twist on the idea of refuge. From a Buddhist viewpoint, taking refuge is turning around in our life and no longer expecting external things to be able to bring us ultimate or lasting happiness. At the heart of Buddhism is the understanding that both suffering and happiness come from the mind. If we change the mind, then we can free ourselves from suffering and experience happiness.
If you would like to read the rest of this fairly short article, here is the link: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Buddhism/Articles/Looking-for-Refuge-in-All-the-Wrong-Places.aspx
I look forward to seeing you all at next week's meeting, and to hear the varied viewpoints and experiences around this topic.