Monday, December 3, 2018

What is "Happiness"? (Dukkha Girl, Pt. 1)

Ellie Askew, Aloka (Thabarwa Center), Dhr Seven, Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Perplexity used to be but now it's Ellie Askew, Wisdom Quarterly's very own Dukkha Girl

Someone asked me about my vision of happiness. Here is what I explained from the perspective of a Buddhist nun:

Real happiness exists in minds free of liking, disliking, and delusion. This special kind of mind appears when one is able to do what is good and beneficial and when one’s life is useful to others. 

This is not the happiness we normally pursue. Usually we seek our happiness from sense pleasure coming through our senses -- eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. When sense organs come into contact with pleasant sights, sounds, fragrances, flavors, or touch sensations, this contact brings pleasant feelings to mind.

We are left with the impression that life is for getting pleasant feelings and the pleasure derived from them. It is a "reasonable" conclusion given that the nature of pleasure is that it feels "good."

We are left to conclude that if our senses are pleasing us, we are being successful. The more continuous our experience of pleasant sensations, the more we think we have been successful in our endeavor at "acquiring" happiness.

I can "meditate" it all away.
Actually our mind wants something more. We don’t know exactly what or where to find it, so we travel to see beautiful sights, eat to find pleasing flavors, and so on. This is all for sense pleasure, which only lasts as long as the contact does, so we have to search for and seize it again and again.

We end up spending our lives in this exhausting pursuit, usually fighting others for limited resources. We have to find a way to earn an income to buy activities and pleasures. We must often endure much hardship for this, and we are led to think it’s what we should do.

Even the happiness we get using time with our family and friends is pleasure by way of the senses. These things seem to be what life is for, because they feel good and bring us some satisfaction if only for a short while.

Things are not bad. But are they not distracting us from pursuing the highest happiness that has nothing to do with sense pleasures?

Wonderful as sense pleasures are for a time, if we make them our sole aim, our minds/hearts will remain dependent on things and people for happiness.

To find real and lasting happiness, we have to aim at it. Not needing to be happy is a form of real happiness, a form of contentment.

If instead we just do what is really good and really beneficial, good and beneficial results will come.

In this way, without pursuing (out of craving, grasping, and clinging) happiness on purpose, it arises naturally. We do not need to hanker or seek after anything. We need only to do actions (karma, merit) that are good and beneficial.

When this happiness comes, it comes by itself
Our actions of thought, word, and deed are causing the results of our lives -- life after life -- actions that start in the mind with intention, our will or motivation. By doing beneficial actions and avoiding harmful ones, the mind becomes very powerful. This is a natural result. It happens without our willing it to happen, as a consequence of causes and conditions, intentions and actions.

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