Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 1-10)
The great discovery made by the Buddha was getting to the essence of suffering (what contributes to suffering) and the cessation of suffering as expressed in the Four Noble Truths (which we will discuss later).
For many people, having lasting happiness is an illusion as the very thing that they think makes them happy is the source of their misery. This is because happiness doesn’t last and in order to keep it going, they crave more of what they think makes them happy. (Such as making more and more money, power, new clothes, academic degrees…stringing together enjoyable experiences). Like all things in life, though, everything is impermanent and thus this pursuit of happiness is an endless search.
Happiness comes in several types. The lesser type is related to clinging to something, having to have something–that is seeking sensual pleasure from the five bodily senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing) and mind pleasures such as gain, praise, and repute (fame). (Gain, praise and fame are part of a series of four sets of opposites called the Eight Worldly Winds (to be discuss in more detail later). Much of the happiness coming from the aspect of clinging is short-lived and that includes clinging to objects, people, thoughts, etc.). The pursuit of happiness at this level is a source of much suffering because it never lasts.
However, there are higher sources of happiness that revolve around the concept of renunciation–that is letting go. These include spiritual happiness (seeking happiness beyond worldly pleasures); generosity (letting go of material things); the “happiness of letting go of psychic irritants” (such as anger, jealousy…); and, finally, there is happiness through deep concentration meditation by letting go of thoughts, memories, sensations and perceptions which can lead to misery.
The highest source of happiness is attaining stages of enlightenment which will be discussed later in this series.
Trap of Unhappiness
Regarding the lesser happiness of clinging, the Buddha explained the unfolding process for the “Trap of Unhappiness” that starts with a feeling of desire for something:
“Because of feeling, there is craving; as a result of craving, there is pursuit; with pursuit, there is gain; in dependence upon gain, there is decision-making; with decision-making, there are desire and lust, which lead to attachment; attachment creates obsessiveness, which leads to stinginess; in dependence upon stinginess, there is safeguarding; and because of safeguarding, various evil. Unwholesome phenomena [arise] –conflicts, quarrels, insulting speech, and falsehoods. “
The process unfolds as follows:
- Feeling (like, dislike, neutral)
- Desire and lust
- Unwholesome phenomena (conflicts, quarrels, etc)
This “Trap of Unhappiness” can include material things, relationships or thoughts (such as beliefs).
- Reflect on any unwholesome phenomena that may occur such as conflicts and quarrels and look to see if the process as outlined by the Buddha holds true in your experience. Please be non-judgmental. Just look to see.
- Remember “The seeing is the doing”.
Next: Introduction II