- Key to making the most of what we have
I feel that comparing oneself to others is one of the biggest reasons for our unhappiness because it brings about various degrees of dissatisfaction. For example, if I compare myself to a handsome actor, I can only get depressed looking at his talents and good looks, which I don't have. And the fact is that, other than discontent, comparing myself with someone else will not change anything in me. I can never be like him. Even with some plastic surgery, I might look a little bit like him, but I can never be him. Think about it: even with all that good look and acting talent, he may have his own challenges, dealing with fame, fans, and family dynamics.
Similarly, I have my difficulties and challenges. Sometimes, I land up taking about 80 flights in a year, which make me feel a bit homeless. But in a way, I guess I should be happy that I am travelling the world. When I stop complaining about the layovers, jetlags, travelling so much, and my feeling of being homeless and rather rejoice in the warmth and kindness that I receive wherever I go, I realize how fortunate I am. I feel happy with my life when I don't compare myself to others because only then can I see and feel the reasons to rejoice in what I have in this life. So, I have stopped comparing myself to handsome actors.
Likewise, for everyone, you start seeing a problem when you compare with others because there is no such thing as one standard of life; no two beings can have the same experiences in life. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of husbands and wives, and one standard of happiness would not apply to all couples. So each has to decide for themselves - what makes them happy, what is a good wife or a husband, a happy marriage - your own conscious choice or acceptance - no one size fits all. Then we can appreciate whatever we have.
Daily, every moment, we have plenty of things to appreciate. Appreciate that you are alive; you don't have a toothache; even if you have, you can go to a dentist. If you are born in a country like Bhutan, or anywhere where you can breathe fresh air, appreciate it. How many people are suffering because of air pollution in Delhi? Chinese are buying fresh air, and when we get fresh air for free, do we appreciate it? These things are taken for granted. It is not the things that make us happy but appreciating when we have them makes us happy. So why compare with others? Just appreciate our good qualities. However, usually, we are just the opposite. When we have, we don't appreciate it, and we can't bear the loss when we have lost it.
If you haven't been doing it, start now - start with appreciating yourself, your family, your country, and lastly, your wealth, your house, car. If you are fortunate to have a car, appreciate that you have one; if you don't, appreciate the fact that at least you can walk and be fit. Others have to buy a car and then leave the car and walk to be fit. You don't have to do that. The bottom line is everything is a perspective of how you look at things - in this way or that way.
Appreciate that you are healthy; appreciate that you are alive; appreciate that you have the senses to feel the world; appreciate the people in your life - your parents, husband, brother, etc. and all the effort they put into helping you in both small and big ways. For example, when we have retreats and prayers, the monks and volunteers work for days preparing for the retreat but whether the participants attending the retreat are happy or not depends on whether they appreciate it or not. If they appreciate it, they may say the monks love them, so they worked hard to welcome them. But, on the other hand, if a person doesn't appreciate it, say a lady, even if she gets a valentine's card from her husband, she will compare it to her neighbour's bigger card and can never be happy. Even if she gets a rose from her husband, she will compare and be envious of her neighbour's diamond ring. These comparisons we keep making steal away the joy we can feel with what we actually have. In this way, happiness is totally dependent on oneself.
Therefore, it is important to understand that comparing oneself to others has no benefit except one's unrest. Everybody has a different life depending on one's karma. Therefore, appreciating what one has and rejoicing in the merits of others is the key to overcoming our dissatisfaction. I don't think it is our possessions that make us happy. Instead, it is being able to appreciate our good qualities and what we have, without comparing to others, that brings about genuine happiness because "Everything is How it is Depending on One's Perspective." And what better way is there to find happiness in oneself in the world of impermanence?