“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." ~ Buddha
This well-known quote resonates with me in a powerful way, so I decided to explore the importance of applying it to our day-to-day living. It is a simple concept, yet it can be difficult to live this exhortation to share ourselves with the world.
Why is it difficult to share what is precious to us? In the quote above, Buddha zeroes in on that very issue. He says we are afraid that the sharing will diminish the gift. This observation is very astute. Sadly, it is true that our first instinct is to hold on to our treasures for fear that others will take them and leave us with nothing. It is understandable if you consider that for many millennia humans fought for survival in uncivilized circumstances. This instinct to keep what's ours is very deeply ingrained.
For over three decades, I taught in a Roman Catholic school system, where formal courses in religion were part of the official curriculum. For years, I taught at least one religion course per school year, and I recall that the concept of sharing had a prominent place in many formal lessons. Sharing is taught by many other world religions as well. It is clear that this act of sharing goes against our natural instincts and must, therefore, be taught and encouraged.
In this quote, Buddha is not speaking about sharing our material wealth, but rather, our interior happiness. When I consider this concept, my mind balks long enough to ask, “What is happiness?”
Being a former educator, I sought out a definition for happiness from Mr. Dictionary. The source I used spoke of it as a 'state of contentment'.
In order to possess a degree of contentment, I must look within myself. I cannot buy that, or accept it as a gift from another. To be content is a state of mind; an attitude we adopt that allows us to be at peace with our circumstances, the people in our lives, and with ourselves. That means acceptance, and it must begin with me. I must be comfortable in my own skin, honestly aware of my shortcomings, and of my gifts and accomplishments as well. Acceptance requires this balance.
Only when I am at peace with myself and my world, am I able to share my happiness with others. Then, I can speak kindly, perform acts of kindness, and generously give my time and attention to others. It is my experience that this type of giving is its own reward. As Buddha points out, I do not diminish my capacity for happiness by sharing it with those around me, by giving kindness and support to friends, family, and strangers alike. To the contrary, I am rewarded with increased happiness, and I feel better about myself. What we give away returns a hundredfold.
Contact information for John: website: www.fiorabooks.com; Twitter: @JohnJFioravanti; and Amazon - the image above is linked directly to the book.