What is true happiness? I think this is a difficult issue to discuss, as people have many different definitions of it. And I am also unsure of the answer shared in this article.
All spiritual traditions speak of happiness and provide guidance on how to achieve it. The great doctrines of the world state that the purpose of our existence is to live in happiness and overcome suffering – all of which provide certain directions on how to achieve this state.
We often understand “happiness” as a state in which everything is going well, desires are fulfilled, and there is a constant sense of well-being.
We organize the external parts of our lives so that everything runs perfectly according to our wishes, searching for additional external conditions to satisfy our deep-seated needs, but no matter how much we acquire, it seems insufficient to achieve sustainable happiness.
Happiness seems to be more difficult for those who are poor, but there is no evidence that wealth will bring sustainable happiness. Imagine if your income suddenly increased by 1 million $ a month.
That would certainly make you very happy at first, but you would immediately allocate your “happiness budget” on the new life. After a while, you will find yourself in the same state as before the wealth! There are also times of joy, sadness, anger, fatigue, and stress. And you keep searching…
The thread of dissatisfaction pulls us to continue searching and accumulating more external things. It is part of the process of evolution. If we constantly live in a state of dissatisfaction, we will continue to find ways to make everything better.
This is not a bad thing, in fact, it has been proven to be very good. We can look at the progress of humanity since we crawled out of caves and see that life now is much better than when we were part of the food chain.
However, we have to pay a very high cost for this progress, as we seem to be moving away from the cradle of primal happiness.
“In the past, there were people who were not wealthy but content with their lives, laughing and happy every day. But when wealthy people appeared, they looked at those people and asked, ‘Why don’t I have a life like that, a beautiful house, a yacht, a beautiful wife…!’ From there, they acted differently and lost their inherent happiness.” – Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Great masters teach us that true happiness does not come from accumulating material possessions. Instead, it is the result of sharing the good things and appreciating what we already have.
The meaning of true happiness
When we take a moment to observe the people around us, we can see that everyone desires happiness and freedom from suffering – this is the common denominator for all of us.
However, we often mistake happiness for a temporary state of pleasure. We look to experiences or external conditions to bring us satisfaction. These conditions are often subject to change due to their impermanent nature.
For example, some people really enjoy eating Alaska king crab, but I can assure you that it is not a source of true happiness.
Even though that crab is the most expensive, most delicious in the world… after a few hours of digestion in the stomach, the feeling of “happiness” also flows away with the water.
If someone asks them about the taste, they can only use the word “amazing” to describe that dish. And the feeling of eating crab or the best food on the planet is no different from the boiled vegetable rice I eat every day. In fact, it is not even as “happy” as the bowl of porridge my mother cooked for me when I was sick as a child. Thich Tri Hue.
Happiness is a choice, a way of perceiving the world. Someone who has trained their mind can still feel happy eating a loaf of bread, while their neighbor is feasting on gold-plated beef!
Sensory pleasures can provide a momentary sense of joy, but they are not the source of true happiness. They can even cause suffering when they change unexpectedly. This includes relationships, which are often full of ups and downs, and because of their impermanent nature.
According to the Oxford dictionary, “happiness” means a feeling of satisfaction or contentment. We can immediately remove the word “pleasure” from the definition of true happiness.
The word “contentment” carries some similar meanings to happiness. This comes closer to what we are learning about true happiness. It is not a temporary feeling of pleasure, it is a way of life, an ideal way of living. Happy people focus on what they have while dissatisfied people focus on what they lack.
Two approaches to true happiness
Setting aside the definitions of happiness, true happiness can be achieved in two ways.
- At a normal level, there are many ways we can train our minds and recognize true happiness. For example, we can choose thoughts, words, and actions of love. The more we cultivate love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, the more we become a powerful source of happiness for others – and for ourselves.
- At a deeper level, when we connect with our truest nature – our deepest essence – natural happiness arises.
We don’t have to do anything special to create it. It only emerges when we follow our natural mind. Other emotions may arise such as sadness, anger, anxiety, or fear, but they cannot cling if we have become familiar with resting in the clear and open space of the “primitive mind”.
“So where do we find this sustainable happiness? In fulfilling our highest nature. Everything is within us. Truth is within us. Happiness is also within us. Peace and happiness cannot be found in anything external, they can only be found within.” – Sogyal Rinpoche.
There are two approaches to nurturing true happiness that are connected to each other. Actively engaging in positive thoughts, words, and actions brings us closer to our true nature. When we connect with our true nature, these positive qualities will be expressed more strongly.
But most people are not even aware of that deep nature. Most people spend time letting their thoughts and emotions direct them. We think that thoughts and emotions are our true nature.
But thoughts and emotions are like clouds in the sky. Sometimes they are big white clouds, sometimes they are the dark gray curtain of a storm. But they can never permanently cover the sun because they are not our true nature. All suffering comes from us making those clouds more complicated and holding onto them tightly.
As Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, “When the mind goes beyond the thought of ‘self’, the experiencer, the observer, the thinker… we enter into a state of happiness that cannot be destroyed.”
The way to true happiness
Nowadays, many people are wondering how to achieve happiness in life. However, the path to happiness is a simple one.
- Eliminate negative thoughts, actions, and words. Everything that causes pain for oneself and others.
- Apply positive thoughts, actions, and words. Everything that creates happiness for oneself and others.
- Reconnect with one’s true nature – the source of happiness, inner peace, compassion, and wisdom – through meditation practice.
This is not about “good” or “bad” in a moral sense. It is a deep understanding to see what truly brings sustainable happiness and what causes suffering.
However, simple does not mean easy. Humans have a habit of resistance – with a restless mind or a dull mind that needs to wake up.
You will encounter statements like: “Happiness does not come from fame, money, or material possessions. Give me all your possessions and let’s see if you have a bowl of rice to eat when you’re hungry, or a pill to take when you have a headache!”
Social biases act as a powerful force that pulls us into the cycle of seeking and accumulating. The path to true happiness does not rely on sensory pleasures, nor does it involve self-torture. Rather, it simply involves cherishing what we have, sharing the good things, and reacting positively to life’s changes.
Recognizing true happiness requires discipline and effort. But nourished by happiness, effort becomes joyful and discipline becomes expansive and comfortable. It becomes a cycle of sowing seeds of peace that grow increasingly clear and insightful.
Start now by engaging in positive actions and eliminating negative actions. The day a person begins to understand the value of what they have is the day they will begin to understand the true meaning of happiness.
Gen Kelsang Nyema teaches about true happiness
LotusBuddhas – Reference: alwayswellwithin.com & howtobehappy.guru