We’d rather be right than happy

Student: Why do you emphasize that ideas, notions, hopes and expectations are the problem?

Roshi: The thing we are most attached to, of course, is what I call my self, which includes my ideas, notions and beliefs about who I am. So this “I” and whatever I call Me, My or Mine are the most difficult things to let go of or drop. As long as an idea or belief seems to be working for us and gives us some kind of benefit or reward, it is exceedingly difficult to let it go. We would actually rather be unhappy, miserable, even dead than face that an idea belief or notion we are attached to is wrong.

This may seem extreme, but take a look and see if it is not true for you. The world revolves around our identification with and attachment to deeply held beliefs which it would seem almost sacrilegious, heretical, antidemocratic or socially unacceptable to question. This is what makes true liberation so damned near impossible for us mortals, and yet any path that truly leads to a genuine liberation will force us followers of the Way to drop these deeply held beliefs, ideas, expectations and hopes. We will only drop them when holding onto them becomes more of a burden and painful than releasing them. This is what makes the path so difficult.

And yet the third Chinese Patriarch tells us the Way is not difficult — if only we follow his advice: simply avoid picking and choosing. The problem is we continually want and need to be right about what we believe to be true. This is what creates so much of our suffering. When we simply allow everything to be as it is without our notions of right and wrong, good or bad, this or that, the Way is not difficult.

9 thoughts on “We’d rather be right than happy”

  1. Even when we choose not to choose we are choosing. The way is easy when we make no more judgements about choosing. It seems as if choosing goes on all the time and we can let go of judgement, right and wrong.

  2. I agree with you Gempo (and the third Chinese Patriarch) — to a point. Having no preferences is liberating. However, we exist in the physical world of survival. Our biological instincts demand our organism continues existence in this realm. To secure the means to do that, such as chopping wood and gathering water, dictates we have no option for preference in the arena of physical survival. Herein, at the base of what keeps us tethered to this existence is not predicted upon choice or preference. This CANNOT be let go of, for this would lead to physical death of that organism. Beliefs, ideas, expectations and hopes are ultimately manifested out of a human’s instinctual drive to survive more assuredly.

    • And the fear of obliteration if we don’t do xyz. Now that is the big one to let go of and really trust that we/I and the universe will do what is necessary (no preferences) to sustain our life. When I/universe stop doing that we die.

  3. This is the beset question I have been presented with, would I rather be right or happy… ?Even using the terms as in the headline “rather than” is choosing to compare and uses the dualistic ways. And maybe preferring is more like it ? With awareness of the root of the thoughts… our filtersystem… we can then choose our feeling state which isn’t the same as happiness, a state beyond a mere emotion created by learned and experienced behaviors and rewards or lack thereof, it’s more like a energetic state of allowing in being, so my emphasis at best is to remember to BE , taking a breath and letting go here now. And that only seems possible after I chose from the aware Heart, intend something and let it go knowing it s so.

  4. If we go back to the four noble truths, we will get a better perspective of the simple
    practice of the truth. Really, its just a matter of understanding how we attach ourselves to
    pleasure not understanding the nature of suffering. Not that pleasure is wrong or doing what humans have to do in this world to survive (thrive) is wrong. MUch love and compassion for self and others helps a lot. Karen

  5. I believe in the small self and the Big Self (sort like small mind/Big Mind). The small self is what you think of yourself (maybe your ego), your desires, your wants, etc. Your Big Self is your True Self. Your enternal Self. Big Mind. Big All. No wants, no desires, just Being.

  6. the ruined tibetan monastaries are mute reminder of what happens when we choose the path of “not chooseing”;but remember,you can always have renewed hope in “there’s no hope”


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