We all want to be happy whether it’s in our personal life or in our professional life. But achieving happiness in life is easier said than done. Are some people just happy by nature? Are some people just born lucky? Can you become happy just by thinking about it?
This blog takes a look at the Buddhist perspective on happiness.
Happiness is the reason for all our actions. Every single action that we do in life is motivated by either our happiness or our misery.
The secret to happiness is a question that is asked by seemingly every person across the globe. Science has given us a variety of different instruments to measure happiness.
However, happiness is a feeling that is difficult to measure and all the scales and cheeky tests in the world don’t seem to be able to help us find happiness.
So, how can we find happiness? Well, Buddhism has long been known as the religion of happiness. The basic idea behind this religion is to seek inner peace and happiness. Let’s dig deeper into this.
- Buddhist Philosophy of Happiness
- Causes of Happiness in Buddhism
- What Does Buddha Say about Happiness?
- How to Be Happy According to Buddhism
- Happiness and Suffering in Buddhism
- How to Overcome Suffering in Buddhism
- Is It True That Happiness Is a Choice?
- Does Buddhism Make You Happy?
- Are Buddhists Happier?
- Buddhism: How to Achieve Happiness (5 Simple Steps)
- 01. Cultivate Loving-Kindness and Compassion
- 02. Be Mindful of All Experiences (Sati)
- 03. Cultivate Joy (Mudita) and Equanimity (Upekkha)
- 04. Make Decisions and Act with Wisdom (Panna/Prajñā)
- 05. Take Care of Your Body and Mind Well
- Happiness Meditation in Buddhism
- Happiness of a Buddhist Monk
Buddhist Philosophy of Happiness
In the Western world, people usually tend to define happiness as a positive mental state that comes from satisfying one’s own desires. In other words, happiness is supposed to be a state of mind that results from the satisfaction of material needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs.
However, in Eastern societies, happiness is generally defined as a state of mind that is a result of having
a peaceful and positive attitude.
For Buddhists, happiness is not a state of mind that we create, but
a state of being that we experience.
Life is a constant process of change, and there will always be problems. To end this suffering we must be willing to let go of what we fear and realize we don’t need those things we desire in order to be happy.
Buddhism does not believe in any ‘Supreme Being or Creator’, but rather encourages people to see the interconnectedness in all things for themselves.
Buddhist philosophy of happiness advocates that a person should avoid the desire to own, control and dominate everything and should instead be content with what they have.
contentment is key to happiness.
Causes of Happiness in Buddhism
Happiness is a very subjective feeling. It can be described in many different ways, but it is still hard to put into words. There are many different definitions for happiness.
Some see it as a state of emotional well-being combined with a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Others see happiness as a pleasurable feeling, a state of contentment, or a sense of satisfaction.
In Buddhism, happiness is a feeling of inner joy that is free of suffering. It is a state of mind that can be achieved through proper understanding of the nature of the world and the nature of the self.
Happiness means that your life is going your way. You are living the life you want. Happiness means that you are healthy. You are free of disease. Happiness means that you are able to get up in the morning and get on with your day.
Happiness means that you are living with others. You are not alone. Happiness means that you are not suffering. You are not in pain.
The science of happiness is an emerging field of research with many different definitions of happiness and many different theories explaining how to achieve it.
But the most prominent psychologists in this field agree on one thing: that real happiness comes from within. You can’t find happiness outside of yourself. You need to discover it within you.
The basic idea behind Buddhism is to seek inner peace, which is something that serves as a way to achieve happiness in life. Hence, you should always begin by finding happiness inside yourself.
What Does Buddha Say about Happiness?
Happiness is a state of mind which is very personal, but it is also very relative. It is different for everyone, but there are common elements that can be found in everyone’s perception of happiness.
According to the second verse of the Dhammapada, a well-known Buddhist scripture:
Mind precedes thoughts, mind is their chief, their quality is made by mind,
if with pure mind one speaks or acts,
through that happiness follows him like a shadow which does not depart.
Buddha says that what you are today is a result of your thoughts yesterday. You are creating your own reality. Your happiness depends on your own mind. If you have a pure mind, everything around you looks so pleasant.
How to Be Happy According to Buddhism
A famous French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said:
we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
We are spiritual beings who are born on this planet to experience this world, not just to survive. Among the many ways to achieve happiness, some methods are more conventional than others.
For example, some people believe that you have to have millions of dollars in your bank account to be happy. Others believe that you have to have the perfect body. And others think that you have to have the perfect significant other.
But how many people actually achieve happiness through these methods? Very few people.
Even the things that we think will bring us happiness, like love, friendship, and success, eventually turn out to be disappointing. This is because at the end of the day, our happiness is based on things that aren’t permanent.
One of the great things about being a Buddhist is that you are already living your life in the direction of happiness. Sure, there are always things that are stressful about life, but with the right mindset you can be happier with life.
A Buddhist sees the world with eyes of compassion. When you see people suffering, you want to help them. When you see suffering all around you, you want to help more people.
When you see suffering, don’t become overwhelmed by it, rise above it.
Buddhism is not a religion that is hard to follow and the followers of Buddhism rarely take it as a religious duty to follow it. Buddhism is a practical method to take care of the mind and to live life.
Buddhism is a religion of self-improvement and self-reliance. It is the ultimate quest to overcome suffering and achieve eternal peace and happiness.
Buddhism is the only religion dedicated to achieving understanding and insight, leading to spiritual enlightenment and perfect wisdom.
Buddhism, like every religion, has its own set of beliefs and practices which are aimed at finding happiness. It is based on the idea that the only way to achieve true happiness is to overcome attachment, greed, and ignorance.
The four noble truths are the main concepts of Buddhism which are aimed at finding happiness. They are the basis of the Buddhist way of life.
- 1) All life is suffering.
- 2) The origin of suffering is craving/attachment.
- 3) The way to end suffering is to overcome craving/attachment.
- 4) There is a path to the end of suffering (the Noble Eightfold Path).
The main idea of Buddhism is to escape from the endless circle of birth and rebirth and achieve salvation. Buddhists believe that the only way to achieve salvation is to achieve nirvana.
Nirvana means to extinguish all your desires, to achieve inner peace and happiness.
Happiness and Suffering in Buddhism
We all have happiness in our mind, no matter how difficult it seems to be. Suffering is a negative emotion. Life is full of suffering, caused by desire and that suffering ceases when desire ceases.
Happiness comes from the wisdom that leads to the end of suffering. The attachment to objects, attachment to views, attachment to our own personalities, are all attachments that lead to suffering.
The world is changing every moment, nothing is ever the same, impermanence is universal.
Happiness and suffering arise from the illusion of subject and object. If you understand the nature of the illusion, the illusion is gone and you become happy.
The illusion means that we think we are separate from everything else and we see everything as distinct and different than ourselves. We think we are a subject and everything else is an object.
We think we are totally independent and everything else is totally dependent. We think we exist separately and everything else is just somewhere out there.
Once we understand that we are not separate and we are not independent, we don’t suffer because we don’t fear anything, because we appreciate everything.
Our mind produces suffering and happiness all the time, and we need to know how to deal with them.
How to Overcome Suffering in Buddhism
As with most things in Buddhism, the Buddhist teachings on happiness stem from an understanding of suffering and its causes.
The Buddha taught that suffering is universal and that suffering comes from placing one’s attention on the impermanence of the self and on the suffering that is inherent in the human experience. The ability to understand suffering and its causes is a sign of a mature person.
It is a sign of a person who is on the path to liberation from suffering.
For the Buddha, while it is necessary to be aware of suffering, it is not necessary to dwell on suffering. In fact, dwelling on suffering only passes the time until suffering returns.
In contrast, the more a person understands suffering and its causes, the more he or she is able to overcome suffering and the more he or she is able to come to terms with suffering.
Is It True That Happiness Is a Choice?
In a sense, it is true. We choose our own happiness. Happiness is a state of mind. If we think happy, we will feel happy. Just using the word “happy” is very powerful.
But this doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work in our life. It’s in our daily habits that we reflect our state of mind.
We can’t control everything, but we can control what we think and do.
Our life is a journey, a journey of self-discovery. The journey of self-discovery is about exploring your inner self and trying to find happiness you’ve been searching for.
Happiness is not a destination; it is rather a journey. The journey of happiness is about balancing between making your life meaningful and achieving happiness.
Being happy does not mean having more and more, but rather appreciating more and more. Don’t think that you’re not happy just because you lack something.
If you view happiness from a Buddhist standpoint, which suggests happiness is not found in external objects, then happiness actually is a choice. Rather, it is found inside you.
If you constantly look for external objects to make you happy, then you will never find happiness.
You can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. We think that if we get a certain job, make a certain amount of money, get a certain girlfriend/boyfriend, get a better house, we will become happy. But, that’s not true.
You can be happy with your job, girlfriend/boyfriend, house, etc. that you already have.
The best way to be happy is to feel good about yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you, but what you think of you.
Happiness is not something that happens to you, but rather, something that’s inside you.
Happiness is not something that is given, it is something that is grown. Learn to choose happiness. You have the choice to be unhappy, you have the choice to be miserable, you have the choice to be sad. But you have to make a choice to be happy.
Does Buddhism Make You Happy?
Yes, Buddhism does make you happy. Buddhism has the ultimate message of freedom from suffering and freedom from pain. And freedom can only bring happiness.
The core belief of Buddhism is that it is possible to remove your suffering. Buddhism teaches that happiness is not just about an emotion, but also about an attitude.
One of the main tenets of Buddhism is that life is full of suffering (dukkha) and the source of suffering is desire (tanha). Buddhism teaches us to become aware of our desires and learn how to deal with them.
When we can deal with our desires in a positive and healthy way, we become happy.
Buddhism makes you happy in the way that you are not attached to things in life, but are more satisfied with the present moment, rather than focusing on the future.
Buddhism is more than just a religion, it is a philosophy. A philosophy is a way of living.
It’s a single path to achieve inner peace and happiness without regard to wealth, age, race, etc.
Buddhism teaches compassion for others, contentment, simplicity, loving-kindness, charity, meditation (mindfulness), and focused thought.
Buddhism teaches that happiness is not a result of the circumstances. Buddhism helps you develop inner action and eventually brings you happiness.
Are Buddhists Happier?
According to several surveys, most Buddhists are happier with their lives than the average person is with his/her lives. Buddhists were found to be more content than atheists, Jews, Hindus, etc.
Reasons for this are not clear, but it may be because Buddhists are more likely to practice mindfulness and they are generally non-judgmental.
Mindfulness is known to increase inner peace and happiness. This is because with mindfulness meditation, you learn to appreciate things in the moment.
It also helps you realize that material things are not really what matters. Meditation helps you realize that you are not your body, but rather your body is just one of the five skandhas, or aggregates, that make up the whole of reality.
Meditating also helps you see that you are not some essential self, some underlying thing inside of you, but rather that you are made up of separate parts which are ever-changing.
Overall, it is probably because Buddhists are more likely to be aware of the transitory nature of life, and are more likely to live in the present moment.
Just like how the human body’s muscle memory is relatively short, it is possible for us to attain short-term happiness by focusing on pleasure. However, within a matter of weeks or days, we will forget the pleasure and once again seek it.
According to Buddha, the solution to the problem of human existence is to eliminate craving and ignorance. If we stop craving, we no longer cling to things and our minds become clear and free.
When we free our minds and let go, we experience pure joy and we realize we don’t need anything to be happy. Once we understand this, we experience a deep and lasting happiness.
When you feel you have achieved a certain status, a house, a car, a good job etc. then it’s time to find the next thing to pursue. This will continue on an endless loop. You will never be rich or happy because you don’t have it all.
In Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to be happy with what you have. In Buddhism, it is believed that wealth and material things cannot bring true happiness.
Buddhism: How to Achieve Happiness (5 Simple Steps)
01. Cultivate Loving-Kindness and Compassion
They are the natural expression of our own deepest feelings of love, friendliness, affection, warmth and concern.
When we have loving-kindness and compassion in our lives, we feel more fulfilled and we are able to share that feeling to others. Cultivating loving-kindness and compassion is easy to do.
All we need to do is to develop the habit of wishing others to be happy and well. Here, loving-kindness and compassion meditation is one of the ways to cultivate the positive emotions in us by focusing on the well-being of others.
In the Buddhist tradition, loving-kindness is known as metta, and it is a sublime state that is open to all people.
It is important to remember that our lives are a constant journey. Our life journey is made up of many different parts such as our family, our work, our friends, our health and many other parts.
We all have a natural ability to be compassionate and loving. The problem is that we sometimes lose sight of this and get caught up in our daily lives. I believe that this is because we often forget to be grateful for the things in our lives.
02. Be Mindful of All Experiences (Sati)
Sati is the Pali word for mindfulness. It is the active awareness of the present moment, without judgment or attachment. Sati can be translated as “attention” in English.
We all possess Sati to varying degrees. The challenge in the modern world is to evolve to the point where we are aware in the true sense of the word.
Being mindful is a process of bringing your attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally and honestly.
It’s about being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. It’s about living in the moment and not worrying or thinking about the past or the future.
It’s a crucial step toward leading a happier, more fulfilling life. It requires effort, and it is a skill we can develop by training our minds to focus on the present, and experience life fully.
03. Cultivate Joy (Mudita) and Equanimity (Upekkha)
Cultivating joy and equanimity are powerful tools for achieving happiness. These are two of the four sublime states of the Buddha that are said to be able to purify the mind.
The equanimous mind does not get too high or too low. It is not overly elated nor overly depressed.
Although both of these factors (cultivating joy and cultivating equanimity) are very important, equanimity is often overlooked. Equanimity is often translated as “even-mindedness”, but that doesn’t really explain what it is.
The Pali word “Upekkha” can be translated as “indifference”, “equanimity”, “serenity”, “even-mindedness”, “being level-headed”, “imperturbability”, and “tranquility”. All of these words point to the same thing, our ability to remain calm and even-minded in the face of difficulties and discomforts.
The Buddha taught that we need these factors to live happy and fulfilling lives. Happiness is not a passive state, it is a conscious and active state.
04. Make Decisions and Act with Wisdom (Panna/Prajñā)
Panna (Prajñā) is the ability to make the right decisions and act with wisdom. Panna is an integral part of Buddhism and is essential to practice and achieve enlightenment. It is a distinguishing feature of the Buddha and the Buddhist Sangha.
As a group, the Sangha has ‘panna’ and can be trusted to make decisions and take action in the best interests of the community. The Buddha also has panna and is the most reliable source of wisdom, and is therefore the ultimate authority on all matters of ‘Dhamma’.
Why is it important to make decisions and act with wisdom (Panna/Prajñā)? Should you not just pursue happiness?
Imagine you are sitting on a boat and the boat starts to move. Do you just sit there and think about why the boat is moving? Or do you just enjoy the ride?
You will be able to enjoy the ride a lot more if you help the boat move and you will be able to help the boat move a lot better if you understand a little about how a boat moves.
05. Take Care of Your Body and Mind Well
To achieve happiness we must look after both our mind and our body. This is something that most of us have probably been hearing from our parents from a young age.
Nowadays we often hear people talk about the importance of taking care of their bodies and minds. But how can we really take care of them?
According to Tsongkhapa:
The human body, at peace with itself, is more precious than the rarest gem. Cherish your body, it is yours this one time only. The human form is won with difficulty, it is easy to lose.
We spend hours and hours at work and then rush to get to the gym after we get home only to get distracted by our phones and social media. The stress and anxiety we experience can lead to depression and we don’t even realize it.
Learning to take care of your body and mind can be a hard habit to start, but once you learn it, it will be hard to go back. Buddhist philosophy teaches us how to do this.
The Buddhist philosophers taught that we should learn to meditate and find happiness within. They stressed the importance of taking care of our body and mind and letting go of our materialistic attachments.
When we do that we can be free and live a happy life. Buddhism is not just a religion, but a way of life, and it helps us to achieve happiness by taking care of our bodies and minds.
Buddhism teaches us that our minds are the source of our joys and sufferings. It is in our power to train our minds. We can achieve inner peace, even in the midst of the most difficult situations. We can change our lives by changing our thoughts.
Happiness Meditation in Buddhism
It is believed that one can achieve happiness through meditation. In this sense, meditation serves as a form of mental health therapy.
Happiness meditation in Buddhism is the practice of training one’s mind to develop feelings of happiness, loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity. It is further developed through the cultivation of mindful awareness of the present moment.
In this meditation, we imagine ourselves being happy and let go of our attachments and desires. This meditation is the antidote to all the suffering we have experienced in our lives, both in the past and in the future.
Happiness meditation is the meditation that improves well-being by focusing on positive emotions (sukha) instead of negative emotions (dukkha). It is also known as the meditation of blissful abiding or well-being (hita).
In Buddhism, the causes of suffering are explained with the Four Noble Truths. In order to achieve happiness, one needs to understand which causes create suffering and which causes create happiness.
Understanding the ‘Four Noble Truths’ will help you to achieve happiness in Buddhist terms.
And To enable this, happiness meditation focuses on the development of wholesome mental states in order to achieve happiness. It’s actually a form of mental training that can help people learn how to be happy.
With a calm mind and a peaceful body, happiness will come.
Happiness meditation brings a deep feeling of joy and satisfaction and is a great way to get rid of unpleasant feelings, such as hatred, anger, jealousy, pride, etc.
Happiness of a Buddhist Monk
Buddhism is a religion that is entirely concerned with the well-being of a human being.
A Buddhist monk lives a life of complete simplicity and contentment. He is not interested in accumulating wealth or personal belongings as he believes that one should give up worldly possessions to attain enlightenment.
A lot of people from different parts of the world visit Thailand, Japan and Nepal for the sole purpose of meeting monks and learning from them. There are a number of reasons for this devotion of people towards monks.
A Buddhist monk is someone who has decided to stay away from materialistic pleasures, in order to find his own peace of mind.
The happiness of a Buddhist monk is found in simplicity. They are happy in the way they think, they are happy in the way they love, they are happy in the way they exist.
They are happy in their heart. They are happy in what is real, they are happy in what is kind.
The monks seem to be able to carry out their daily activities with a smile on their face, and they do not seem to be affected by any of the outside pressures like: the need for money, flashy cars and lavish lifestyles.
A monk’s daily routine includes meditation, worship, and simple tasks. The environment is the monk’s classroom. The monk learns to live in harmony with nature. He learns how to treat all beings equally.
Happiness is a relative condition. What makes one person happy may not necessarily make someone else happy. However, monks have found a way to be happy from within. They have found a way to be happy from the inside out.
A Buddhist monk’s happiness is not based on the amount of things they own. The happiness of a Buddhist monk is based on their connection with the world around them.
A Buddhist monk’s happiness is based on their connection with their inner self and on their connection with the people in their life.