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mardi 30 septembre 2014


It was a pleasant evening. Good Northern Mexican food, good company of friends involved in Pubic Health. The now defunct El Modelo restaurant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico provided good ambience with some music in the background and the waiters elegantly dressed with years of experience behind them attended to you.
There in the midst of the flavours of tampiquenas and margaritas, I was asked the question:
How would you define Happiness!
I remember that moment very well. Two Mexican Americans and a West African from California were peering at me, waiting for an answer.
I thought following a moment of silence to concentrate my mind and the answer came to me:
Happiness is the absence of desires. To be happy, you have to decrease your desires.
They didn't respond immediately, then after a moment, the West African psychologist responded with glee: that is a very good definition.
That was long before I was introduced to the Yogic Philosophy of Patanjali by a Chinese Accountant from Malaysia or had encountered Buddhism through the book, The Jew on a Lotus by Louis Kaminitzer.
I am not interested in Hinduism or Buddhism as religions but I am very attracted to the philosophies of Patanjali and Buddha, both thought to be contemporaries in Northern India around 2500 years ago.

As Dalai Lama would repeatedly say, if you want to be happy, practise Compassion, if you want to make others happy, Practice compassion!

To do that, you have to achieve Inner Peace of mind.
Whenever any conflict arises in your mind, think of the structural defects of your mind, Kleishas of Patanjali’s Philosophy, which are fires to destroy your thinking process.
Ignorance, Ego, Attachment, Fear of Change and Aversion.
Think carefully, and you will come to the answer and the conflict disappears.

We are all products of our cultures, superficial and deep cultures of where we were born, where we grew up and what we studied and the societies we live in. We cannot avoid them but as adults we can certainly not cultivate that which stroke our egos and create inner conflicts.

Being a Snob was considered to be once a cultural quality but no one looks up to a snob these days, or in many countries. Trying to impress others with material goods or possessions do not hold water any more.
I distinctly remember overhearing two men discussing buying and selling of a part of the national debt of a country. I was uninterested and aghast at the amount of money they were discussing and remember my consternation when a cunning and unsavoury woman, mother of a good friend of mine tried to impress me with the pittance she had paid for some device for her house. I had the audacity, being less humble those days, to tell her: madam, you fail to impress me, as I just heard two men discussing buying and selling national debts. Everything is relative.

Cleansing your mind of the cultural traits, mostly superficial which are forced upon us, is a source of unhappiness for many of us. Why mention that such and such cost so much money, if it is not to impress others.
It is your desire for those objects that makes you put a price on them. For a person with no desire for those objects, the mention of a price has no meaning and at times could be nauseous.
(A molecular biologist turned Monk)
I will never forget the moment when I was being driven through the streets of Singapore, with expensive stores lining on both sides.
Such expensive brands, I exclaimed.
My host, a humble professor, replied: No, they are not expensive at all, since I have no desire for them.
That was a defining moment to me. Words I use were being thrown at me. Australia, Asia, Europe and America. The circuits of my life, all disappeared for a moment.
Decrease your desires, you will be happy.
One thing you would realize that to do that, many other bricks have to be laid as foundations. Inner Peace, to begin with, and how do we achieve that?

Jim BlackBird, a patient, worker at the clinic and a friend told me
Be a good person, then you would become a good doctor. Not the other way around
And from the American Indians, you can learn the fundamentals of becoming a good person.
Be grateful for things you have and not ungrateful for things you do not have
Be humble. In our countries where there are many symbols of wealth or ostentatiousness to exhibit on oneself, we forget that those are just symbols and symbols are transacted and they are not transacted equally to every one.
The humblest country I have lived in and continue to live in is Cuba. There are no outward manifestations of personal wealth and people like you for what you have in your heart. Try to do that in your life and times wherever you are.
I have been blessed with friends of such exceptional qualities, who are humble as well. Brother Joseph in Miami and Brother Friend Joe in Bogor, Indonesia, just to mention two.
Be compassionate, towards yourself, towards others.
In this very confused world of ours, when national and cultural boundaries are becoming indistinct, become more tolerant, accept others and their peculiar situations rather than being judgemental.
What can I do for you? An Indian will ask, rather than what can you do for me?
Do not talk until you walk in his moccasins, an Indian will say, rather than, pull yourself by your boots and walk
Remember in this world, many people cannot pull themselves up by their boots because their feet had been cut off by their own societies, their own belief systems, oppression by family, government and surprisingly globalization of the market, followed by the globalization of suffering.
What made me write the above piece is the dedicated friendship of my brother friend Joe from Bogor as well as listening to Professor Barry Schwartz from Swarthmore on a video presentation, which is attached. From TED 
If you want to be happy, lower your expectations! He says.
this has French subtitles for those who speak French 

Somehow, it rings true for me.