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Tres Reyes Island view of the Marinduque Mainland

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What is Happiness? The Answer is in Your Hands!



Macrine and I attend Sunday mass every week in our local catholic church here in Northern California. This week mass was special because of the homily by a visiting priest. The priest talked about happiness and meaning of life. The priest told us a story of a young boy who found a baby bird that fell from its nest. It was alive but very weak. The boy picked up the baby bird and held it in his hands. He then went to his Dad with the bird in his closed hands. He asked his Dad. Could you guess if the bird in my hand is dead or alive. His Dad hesitated for a moment and gave his response. The answer is your hands, son.

His Dad thought that if says, the bird is alive, his son will just squeezed his hands tight and kill the baby bird to prove him wrong. If he says the baby bird is dead, his son may be so disappointed and very unhappy of his response. The story above, implies to me that happiness is in your hands and within you. The following article attempts to answer the question of what is happiness. It was written by a Budhist philosopher, Daisuku Ikeda from Japan.

What is the purpose of life? It is to become happy. Whatever country or society people live in, they all have the same deep desire: to become happy.

A young friend of mine once spent a long time trying to work out what happiness was, particularly happiness for women. When she first thought about happiness she saw it as a matter of becoming financially secure or getting married. (The view in Japanese society then was that happiness for a woman was only to be found in marriage.) But looking at friends who were married, she realized that marriage didn't necessarily guarantee happiness.

She saw couples who had been passionately in love suffering from discord soon after their wedding. She saw women who had married men with money or status but who fought constantly with their husbands.

Gradually, she realized that the secret of happiness lay in building a strong inner self that no trial or hardship could ruin. She saw that happiness for anyone - man or woman - does not come simply from having a formal education, from wealth or from marriage. It begins with having the strength to confront and conquer one's own weaknesses. Only then does it become possible to lead a truly happy life and enjoy a successful marriage.

She finally told me, "Now I can say with confidence that happiness doesn't exist in the past or in the future. It only exists within our state of life right now, here in the present, as we face the challenges of daily life."

I agree entirely. You yourself know best whether you are feeling joy or struggling with suffering. These things are not known to other people. Even a man who has great wealth, social recognition and many awards may still be shadowed by indescribable suffering deep in his heart. On the other hand, an elderly woman who is not fortunate financially, leading a simple life alone, may feel the sun of joy and happiness rising in her heart each day.

Happiness is not a life without problems, but rather the strength to overcome the problems that come our way. There is no such thing as a problem-free life; difficulties are unavoidable. But how we experience and react to our problems depends on us. Buddhism teaches that we are each responsible for our own happiness or unhappiness. Our vitality - the amount of energy or "life-force" we have - is in fact the single most important factor in determining whether or not we are happy.

True happiness is to be found within, in the state of our hearts. It does not exist on the far side of some distant mountains. It is within you, yourself. However much you try, you can never run away from yourself. And if you are weak, suffering will follow you wherever you go. You will never find happiness if you don't challenge your weaknesses and change yourself from within.

My teacher used to talk about two kinds of happiness - "relative" and "absolute" happiness. Relative happiness is happiness that depends on things outside ourselves: friends and family, surroundings, the size of our home or family income.

This is what we feel when a desire is fulfilled, or something we have longed for is obtained. While the happiness such things bring us is certainly real, the fact is that none of this lasts forever. Things change. People change. This kind of happiness shatters easily when external conditions alter.

Relative happiness is also based on comparison with others. We may feel this kind of happiness at having a newer or bigger home than the neighbors. But that feeling turns to misery the moment they start making new additions to theirs!

Absolute happiness, on the other hand, is something we must find within. It means establishing a state of life in which we are never defeated by trials and where just being alive is a source of great joy. This persists no matter what we might be lacking, or what might happen around us. A deep sense of joy is something which can only exist in the innermost reaches of our life, and which cannot be destroyed by any external forces. It is eternal and inexhaustible.


Source: The Book of Wisdom by Daisyku Ikeda, Budhist Philosopher

Note: The article above reminds me of one of my favorite quotes "Home is not a place but in the Heart".

Quote I learned from this article: "Absolute Happiness is something we must find within, thus can not be destroyed by any external forces. It is eternal and inexhaustible ".

Do you have any favorite quotes on Happiness? Please share!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Money can never buy happiness.


The Scrooge

David B Katague said...

The Scrooge, Thanks for dropping by, I agree that money can never buy happiness, but if you have enough, it makes life much easier and enjoyable. It is not good to have no money or too much money, agree? Have a Good Day!

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