What is Buddha?
The Shit Paper
December 2002

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In Heaven
It seems that everyone wants to go to heaven. I wonder why?

In Buddhism, there is a teaching that says that you will be reborn in heaven if you do good in this life, while you will fall into hell or be reborn as a hungry ghost, an animal or a fighting demon if you do bad. I am afraid there is no way for us to find out if this is really true or not, other than dying ourselves.

Anyway, what is "Heaven"? In heaven, everything is fine... all our dreams will become true, no more suffering, no more dissatisfaction. At least that is what we expect from heaven - all that we can no get in this life.
Even in this life, of course, we are not always dissatisfied, not always suffering. Coming home from the cold into a warm house, having a good meal and drink with loved ones, we might almost feel as we were in heaven. But that is only temporarily, "heaven on earth" never lasts long - at least not forever.

But that is exactly what we are wishing for: Eternal happiness. We want to be as happy as on Christmas Day - all around the year, always. What even many Buddhists forget is that heaven - at least in Buddhism - does not last forever. Heaven is only one out of six worlds in which we are transmigrating. In none of these worlds do we live "forever". Life in heaven is said to be much longer than human life - still, it has an end, and after we die in heaven, we will be reborn again, in some different world. Therefore, even heavenly bliss is only temporary, it just lasts a little longer than the happiness in this world.

The problem with heaven is not only that it is not eternal.
In Buddhism, heaven is called one of the "hard places". That is because it is hard to encounter the Buddhist path in heaven.
If we think about it, this is not as surprising as it may sound at first: We are looking for the Buddhist path, a way to live our lifes being true to ourselves and everything, exactly because we are not satisfied with the present condition of our lifes. The more satisfied we are, the less we try to refine our lifes. And in heaven, supposedly we are always completely satisfied. Therefore, nothing in heaven connects us with the path, and without walking the path, we will not encounter that real happiness that is beyond mere temporary satisfaction of our desires.

Real happiness: That means to live this instant of life just the way life presents itself to us in this instant - being happy when we are happy, being sad when we are sad. Suffering when we suffer, enjoying ourselves in times of joy.

Buddhism teaches that this it is easiest to realize this kind of life in this present life - our daily human lifes. Because in this life we encounter pain as well as joy, satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction. Therefore, we have an opportunity to encounter our mind that says: "I am in pain, I feel joy..." And we might succeed at penetrating the structure of this mind, stopping to be used by the mind as a slave to fulfill it's desires.
Looking through the mind without being controlled by it - that is Buddhist practice, Zazen, and this Zazen is only possible for us, in this world, in this life.