We all want to be happy. No one wants to be unhappy.
When we choose a job, we consider whether “this work will make me happy.”
And when we marry, we ask ourselves, “Can I be happy with this person?”
Yet sometimes life goes smoothly for us, and sometimes it does not.
So what is it that determines our happiness or unhappiness?
Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, teaches us with absolute clarity the laws that determine whether we will be happy or unhappy.
These laws are summed up in the well-known Buddhist saying, “What you get is the result of what you have done,” or “You reap what you sow.”
This saying seems to be used mostly in negative situations.
Thus a student who has failed to study and spent all his time fooling around and then has to repeat a year in school is told, “This is what you get for not studying!”
A person who has drunk too much and is now suffering from a hangover may tell himself, “I drank too much, and this is what I get for it!”
People use this phrase when things turn out badly, or they meet with serious difficulties, and then, seeking the cause of their problems, find it in their own actions.
But this phrase in its real and original sense does not apply only to cases where things go badly for us, but also to times when things go well.
The basic idea is the ancient Indian notion of “karma,” or actions.
Thus the phrase means that your karma (actions) determines your “destiny” (present or future situation).
The results of your own actions come back to you.
If you study very hard, you will get better grades.
If you cut back on drinking and pay attention to what you eat, you will be physically healthier.
In these cases, your actions have come back to you: You reap what you sow. So Shakyamuni Buddha is teaching us, “Your actions determine whether you will be happy or unhappy.”
And this idea has been expressed not only by Shakyamuni but in many other sayings and proverbs from ancient times.
An example would be the saying, “People can betray their own efforts, but their efforts will never betray them.”
The meaning is that the effects of your efforts remain with you and benefit you.
When things don’t go as we wish and our troubles and failures mount up, we feel like throwing in the towel, asking why such things happen only to us, and concluding that our best efforts are useless.
But Shakyamuni tells us, “Your actions will surely come back to you. Your actions will not betray you.”
So if we believe in our own actions and do our best, a way will always open up for us.
When we feel uneasy about our “destiny,” let’s take these teachings of Shakyamuni as our guide.