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Thread: Don't settle for happiness

  1. #1
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    Don't settle for happiness

    Part 1

    Following an interesting live meeting, Aloka posed an interesting question about the difference between happiness in the mundane, or regular, meaning of the word and what would be the corresponding Buddhist or supermundane definition, literally transcending the mundane. On reflecting further on our discussion (everyone welcome to join in, by the way) I came up with the title of this thread.

    For me, happiness isn't a bad thing. I don't hold with trying to deaden emotions but rather see them for what they are, transitory things which cannot last the test of time. My first concern is that we often let others decide what happiness is. Western society would have it to be a new car perhaps, or a bottle of perfume, or something which can be delivered to your doorstep. In the Uk at the moment happiness seems to be a perfect Christmas, driven by both the government and advertising organisations.

    My second concern is whether we know what happiness is or not. If it is something worth working towards, as in the United States constitution where the pursuit of happiness, 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is an unalienable right of the people, what is it. I don't mean sitting somewhere warm after a good meal with family or pets or both, nice though they are, but a wider definition that can be attained.

    So what is mundane happiness for people on this site? Happiness is... ?

    I'm interested in seeing any initial responses to this post before moving on to Part 2 about why I think 'settling' for happiness is not what Buddhism is about, or at least not what it could be about. If you are happy doing that, of course.

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    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    As I experience happiness through the practice of Zazen it is the absence of fear, covetousness, anxiety, attachment, doubt, inner chattering and so on; in short: It is the development of a silent and peaceful mind.

    Last edited by Esho; 22 Nov 20 at 12:11.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    So what is mundane happiness for people on this site? Happiness is... ?
    For me, mundane happiness is....

    Going for a walk and being mindful of breathing.

    Looking at the expanse of the sky and remembering that thoughts are insubstantial like passing clouds.

    Noticing how others are being helpful and doing little acts of kindness towards their fellow humans and animals.

    Observing flora and fauna across the impermanent seasons of the year.

    Taking photos of things.

    ....and getting the washing done and pegged outside to dry on the washing-line before it rains!




    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    In the Uk at the moment happiness seems to be a perfect Christmas, driven by both the government and advertising organisations.
    I don't have any relatives and I'm a vegetarian, so I just ignore it all.(apart from sending Xmas cards to friends.)
    SANTA_face_mask.jpg

  4. #4
    Moderator justusryans's Avatar
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    I would say that happiness for me in the mundane sense is a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle and my wife and I with the time to do it all at once. Or just the time I spend with my wife and my books just hanging out all day.

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    Technical Administrator woodscooter's Avatar
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    Interacting with friends, listening to my choice of music, long walks in the company of Nature, these things make me feel content. But is that enough to describe as making me happy, I wonder?

    I realise that I don't spend time looking for things to make me happy. So when I discover happiness, it's a pleasant surprise to me. I think that happens when I've achieved something, reached a goal I have set for myself. It may be something I've constructed, or something I've repaired. Getting it done, and doing it well, these are what bring me happiness.

    Thinking about happiness, for this post, I'm struck by the phrase referred to by Phil in post #1... that phrase from the US Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, unalienable rights given to all. I don't want to sound too pedantic about this, but the pursuit of happiness isn't quite the same thing as being happy.

    I think to pursue happiness really means to aim for some material outcome that we think will make us happy. But we know that the happiness will soon wear off, and we will have to go looking for something else.

    If happiness comes along unexpectedly as a side-effect of what you are doing anyway, then that's a real delight.

  6. #6
    Forums Member Thinker's Avatar
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    I would say that inner contentment and the realisation of not-self bring me that word called - happiness.

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    A cup of tea, a couple of biscuits and a good book to read does it for me. That and walking the Clent Hills near where I live. Making things does it too. I ordered a hundred or so bulbs to plant for the spring, but realised I didn't have a planting gadget for them, so decided to make one. I found an old wooden broomstick and the metal base of an old garden lamp, the type you push in the ground. Having sawn the broomstick to a point I cut the metal and folded it around the pointy end, then drilled a hole and screwed it to the wood. Next I hammered the metal end and put take at 5 cm intervals so I could plant the bulbs at the right depth. Now I had a planter that I could stand up using, so spent the next couple of days planting the bulbs. Non bad-back happiness.

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    Moderator justusryans's Avatar
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    Great idea Phil’s with the bulb planter. Also goes to show we don’t need as much as we think to really enjoy oneself!

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    Part 2 Not settling for 'happiness'.

    So why shouldn't we settle for happiness, if that's what life is about? The early Buddhists were known as the 'happy people', but was that a manifestation of something other than mundane happiness? The supermundane definition of happiness for some is equanimity and peace of mind, which is explored in an article at https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org...piness/buddha/. A telling quote from the Dhammapada there goes, "A monk who with tranquil mind has chosen to live in a bare cell knows an unearthly delight in gaining a clearer and clearer perception of the true law."
    (Dhammapada 373 / Müller & Maguire, 2002.)

    So what is the 'unearthly delight' it talks about? It is part of the seeming contradiction that is so often found in Buddhism, and is found in going beyond the mundane. Letting go of happiness is not a process of giving up emotions but rather seeing them for what they are and then going beyond them to something else. The process of seeing everything as empty does not lead to nihilism for Buddhists, but to that which lies beyond emptiness, the supermundane. Let go of everything and you get nothing. Let go of nothing too and you get to the core of Buddhist happiness.

    There is nothing wrong with mundane happiness, it just doesn't go far enough and can hold you back. I remember being at the Buddhist Centre on one of our open days. We used to get a lot of 'casual' visitors at such events as the centre is is Birmingham, UK with a large population. Chatting to one person I asked whether he would be coming back to the centre to learn to meditate or to take part in some other course. He laughed and said there was no need to do anything of the sort because he was happy. His life was just as he wanted it so why bother with Buddhism? Rather extreme, but the point was a good one. Why bother if you are happy? Of course I didn't say that happiness is ephemeral and not what he should be after, but it is an illustration of how easy it would be to settle for happiness and not to explore further, and so to miss out on something much, much better.

  10. #10
    Moderator justusryans's Avatar
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    Very well said Philg, while mundane happiness is all well and good, it eventually needs to be let go of...simple to say.

    Thank you Philg for letting us remember what’s truly important.

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