Chapter 1: Better than a Hundred Years
Better than a hundred years of mischief
is one day spent in contemplation.
Better than a hundred years of ignorance
is one day spent in reflection.
Better than a hundred years of idleness
is one day spent in determination.
Better to live one day wondering
how all things arise and pass away.
Better to live one hour seeing
the one life beyond the way.
Better to live one moment in the moment
of the way beyond the way.
Gautama the Buddha has raised the most important question for all those who are capable of inquiring into truth, into life, into existence. The most important question of all questions is: What is true happiness? And is there a possibility to achieve it? Is true happiness possible at all, or is all momentary? Is life only a dream, or is there something substantial in it too? Does life begin with birth and end with death, or is there something that transcends birth and death? Because without the eternal there is no possibility of true happiness. With the momentary, happiness will remain fleeting: one moment it is here, the other moment gone, and you are left in great despair and darkness.
That’s how it is in ordinary life, in the life of the unawakened. There are moments of bliss and there are moments of misery; it is all mixed, hodgepodge. You cannot keep those moments of happiness that come to you. They come on their own and they disappear on their own; you are not the master. And you cannot avoid the moments of misery; they too have their own persistence. They come on their own and they go on their own; you are simply a victim. And between these two - happiness and unhappiness - you are torn apart. You are never left in ease.
This being torn apart into all kinds of dualities.. The duality of happiness and unhappiness is the most fundamental and the most symptomatic, but there are a thousand and one dualities: the duality of love and hate, the duality of life and death, day and night, summer and winter, youth and old age, and so on, so forth. But the fundamental duality, the duality that represents all other dualities, is that of happiness and unhappiness. And you are torn apart, pulled into different, polar opposite directions. You cannot be at ease: you are in a dis-ease.
According to the buddhas man is a dis-ease. Is this dis-ease absolute - or can it be transcended?
Hence the basic and the most fundamental question is: What is true happiness? Certainly the happiness that we know is not true; it is dream stuff and it always turns into its own opposite. What looks like happiness one moment turns into unhappiness the next.