What is happiness? Happiness is a mental state which can be attained through the culture of the mind, and is therefore different in origin to physical sources such as wealth, name, fame, social position and popularity which are merely temporary sources of happiness. Whatever we do, we do essentially for happiness, though you may perhaps say this is for money that is for power, but actually whatever, we do is really for happiness. Even in religion what we do is done for happiness. Whatever we do, then, we do essentially for happiness, but do we attain it? No why? Because we look for happiness in the wrong places. People think they can find happiness in money, so they try their best to be wealthy, but when they are wealthy, are they happy? If wealth is a source of happiness, then wealthy people would be happier than poor people, but we find in many cases that the ordinary people who are not very well-to-do are happier than the rich. We have heard even of some millionaires who have tried to commit suicide. They would never think of committing suicide if wealth were main source of happiness. So it is evident that wealthy is not really a source of happiness.
Then power, name or fame may be a temporary source of happiness. But when people lose their name or fame or power they are in a state of anxiety, worry. It shows that name, fame or power is not the main source of happiness either, because it can also be a source of worry and is subject to impermanence.
Some people think that a partner, a good satisfying partner, may be a source of happiness, and it may be so to some extent, but not to the fullest extent. Some people think that children might be a source of happiness, but when they are separated for some reason or other, as sooner or later they will be, they feel unhappy.
Some people think horse racing and dog racing might be a source of happiness, so they bet, but even when they are winners they are happy only for a short while. Then there are those who hop to find happiness in drinks and for a short while they are happy, but eventually they become as unhappy as ever. The outside sources are not the real sources of happiness; the main thing is the mind but only the mind which is controlled and cultured is the real source of happiness.
Now, how to obtain happiness? How do we define happiness? Happiness is state, a mental state, which is agreeable to one’s nature or which appeals to one’s nature, satisfies one’s nature, and it can be applied to such levels as: material, or materialistic: emotional: intellectual; spiritual.
To make it clear, take a delicious lunch or dinner, should the occasion arise for you to have a delightful lunch or dinner, if you were a person proud of your physical attainments you would have happiness of a material, physical nature; you would enjoy your food for physical culture, for physical health, and have happiness of a material nature from the food.
If you should happen to eat something which you had been longing for, you would have happiness of an emotional nature, you would say, “I like it, because it is very good and very nice, you would attain happiness from it, through it, and so your happiness would be of an emotional nature, you would not care whether it was for strength or health but merely for taste.
If you were intellectual, concerned with reasoning, and happened to be on a diet, you might have happiness of an intellectual nature and say, “This food is very good because it is suitable for my health; you would judge the food from an intellectual aspect.
If you were of a spiritual nature you would still find happiness through the dinner or lunch, but you would say “this food is good because it is pure, it is good for moral principles; good, since its effect is helpful to me for meditation. So your happiness in this case would be different, your judgment, also, different from others. The selfsame food or lunch will be appreciated, and happiness attained, according to the nature of the people.
We judge, react and take things according to our human nature, therefore it is necessary for each one of us to know what type of person we are. We act and react to outside stimuli according to our nature; that is we see everything through coloured glasses of our own, therefore if a person is supposed to be broad-minded and unprejudiced he can be so only to the extent of his particular nature.
Unless we are spiritually advanced none of us can be broad-minded and uninvolved to any great degree because we see and judge things with our own coloured glasses which we have made for ourselves, not anybody else’s which he has made for himself. How can we know which type of person we are? It is only by a personal study of our own reaction to outside stimuli, outside object, by watching and taking notice of our reaction that we can know or put ourselves under one of the categories.
Now, first, the material or physical level. A person at this level, being materialistic, will be interested in material gain; his main consideration and concentration is concerned with material acquisition, and material, physical comfort is of importance to him. These materialistic persons are very practical and would like everything, even religion or philosophy, to be materially “practical” and nothing more.
Anything a requiring thought and concentration will not attract them, they will not be interested in any religion or philosophy, their interest will be in physical comfort and ideas which give them material gains. So there is no wonder why many people are not interested in any religion, because religion, as you know, does not directly give anybody material or physical wealth. How many do you think there are in the world that has lost interest in religion? To most people material gain is so very important. When we say we are busy, we are busy about gain, money; for physical pleasure, happiness, comfort, dress, food, home any physical convenience; so we can realize that most of us are rather materialistic.
Next is the emotional level, people who are on this level are every sensitive, and are mainly concerned with likes and dislikes, pleasant an unpleasant feelings, sensations. They judge things according to their emotions, no matter whether their judgment is right or wrong. These emotional people are interested indevotional religions which suit their emotions; they find any religion which has no ceremony very dull.
The third level is intellectual level. Those who are of this level are mainly concerned with reasoning, studying things intellectually. They find happiness in literature and science, etc. gaining happiness through intellectual pursuits, but being mentally active they are not so active physically. They know many things through their readings or learnings, but in practice they are not active.
The fourth is the spiritual or moral level. Those who are on this level are concerned with service and sympathetic understanding; they emphasize the importance of justice or fair dealing; they are realistic. So you see each person acts or reacts to things, criticizes, feels and judges according to his particular level. Knowing how and why we differ in thing, feeling judging and on our outlook in life, we are able to make enough or more than enough allowances for other types to act according to our nature, by this means cultivating a sense of tolerance, patience towards others.
When we are less advanced spiritually it is the material and emotional pleasure and happiness that appeals to us most. Unfortunately some of us never try to get out of this dead end: some are very proud of it, they do not wish to get out of it, thinking they attain happiness when they feel that they have pleasure of the world. They will not like Nibbana or higher level of happiness which sounds dull to them. Why ? because they are less advanced in spiritual evolution. When they progress in spirituality, studies in literature, science and philosophy can appeal to them. Some people cannot appreciate even reading and learning, they think it is a waste of time and that reading will not do any good. Most people are very practical, very busy and very active physically.
Nibbana is a state which is free from suffering, old age, death, sickness, and the state of the highest happiness which is free from all troubles, worries or hardships.
When we grow older we realize that moral or spiritual happiness is the genuine highest happiness because it is real and lasting. According to his practical nature a man acts and reacts and in that way he makes himself either happy or miserable.
This development, this progress from lower level to higher level can be attained; it is not really very difficult. Nibbana itself can be attained in this life, but if it is as difficult as most of us think, why do we have six qualities of Dhamma? The Buddha himself repeated these six qualities of Dhamma many times, one of which is sanditthika, i.e. immediate effect. If that is true, why should we not attain happiness of a true nature? Nibbana can be attained at any time, akalika, there is no tomorrow, not next month, and you can attain it according to your own effort and understanding.
Some people have asked me whether there is a purpose of life, to which I say” yes, there is”. The purpose of life is evolution, progress from ignorance to enlightenment and from unhappiness to happiness. The Buddha himself said many times that the purpose was for his enlightenment.
At every level there is action and reaction, i.e. cause and effect, so it is our reactions to outside stimuli that we have to control. This action and reaction works at all levels, at the physical level of movement, emotional level of feelings, intellectual level of thinking and the spiritual level of realization.
At each level there is a good side and a bad side, good aspect and bad aspect. A person, for example, demonstrating the bad side of his materialistic nature can do harm physically which will produce pain; he uses his material strength, material weapons. On the good side at a material level he can do good actions physically. So everybody should do physical action for service, for in that way he can cultivate from this level to the higher level.
Whatever you do mentally and emotionally is not perfect until you do it physically. The Buddha advised us all to be like the wise and not the ignorant. We should use our bodies not only for pleasure but for service; so that whether we have required it or not we shall have a perfect figure, perfect health. The Bodhisatta acted everywhere he went for service mentally and physically, even in his last life as the Buddha.
Since everything in the world is subject to impermanence there can be no true and lasting happiness in the material things of this world. This would be a most pessimistic outlook were it not for fact that there is a way out, a real happiness beyond the material, which changes it to a realistic and optimistic outlook. And…
Beliefs are the answer; beliefs not necessarily of the body but of the mind, and further of the higher moral nature, to achieve Nibbana or the real happiness of all.