In my decades of meeting and interacting with different people from all sorts of backgrounds, there seems to be a general perception that once you become a Buddhist, you need to turn the colour mode to greyscale, you are not allowed to enjoy, you are not supposed to go after worldly achievements, you should also not be presenting yourself nicely and you have to really give up every material comfort and force yourself into physical hardship even though you don’t need to. Buddhist teaching emphasises a lot on “simplicity”, “humility” and of course “emptiness” and “renunciation”, as well as the notion and importance of understanding “suffering”. All these connotations make life of a Buddhist practitioner look quite sad, down and grey. It sounds like a life without heartbeats.
So can a Buddhist have a colourful and interesting mundane life? If so, how can a Buddhist live in accordance with the Dharma?
Actually, Dharma is nothing but the process of transforming or developing one’s life, and I would even say that Dharma is about colouring one’s life. I am not suggesting that you go around running wild, doing crazy things that eventually harm others and yourself. I am talking about the genuine colourful life, with sustainable colours that benefit not only yourself but also others. We can call this a win-win situation. And how is this possible?
First we should understand that we cannot survive in this world on our own, even our own survival depends on something other than ourselves, like the oxygen, the water, good environment, and then community and so on so forth. If we don’t have good air, clean water, friendly neighbours, sincere friends and loving family, I don’t think our life can be very pleasant. Therefore if others are doing well, we would also benefit, and when others around us are suffering, we would not be able to stay happy forever, even though we might be able to for a short period due to our good karma or our own resources. By having this understanding, we need to colour our life by contributing to humanity and by improving ourselves through appreciation and through making ourselves genuinely happy, with the sense of openness.
Genuine happiness with the sense of openness is not a goal, but a process. Once we make happiness a process of our life, how can we not have a colourful life and how can we not become deeply and genuinely happy all the time? Your happiness, or rather you yourself would become a wonderful quality perfume that brings along a delightful fragrance wherever you go.
So therefore if you see Buddhist teaching or the Dharma as a grey teaching, then you are totally wrong. Genuine Buddhists, one way or another, live a colourful life.