Simply stated, we are happiness and nothing can alter this truth about our natural state of being.
— Roy Charles Henry
Happiness is our natural state, therefore requires no particular condition. Of the many possible formal definitions, we like: “enthusiastic about or involved to a disproportionate degree.” Involved, that is, if it means being present. We will always be happy in the NOW.
He is merry for no particular reason.[i]
How can we avoid happiness? We would have to expend an enormous amount of energy repressing, avoiding and fleeing happiness because we are happiness itself. Our essence is happiness and when we can no longer maintain the storm clouds of illusion, our happiness will shine forth, bright and dazzling. The false self works very hard in shoring up and elaborating the survival strategy in P-B. How much easier it would be to simply relax, breathe and respond to life.
Religious beliefs often form a barrier to experiencing the truth about happiness by denying the possibility of “heaven on earth.” From Great Books of the Western World we read, “that there is no purely natural happiness according to the strict tenets of Christian doctrine.”[ii] Thomas Aquinas holds that “it is impossible to have true happiness in this life.”[iii] And finally, Augustine contends that “the best human life on earth is miserable with frustrations and an ennui that human nature cannot escape.”[iv]
Other early philosophers relying more on their experience than religious doctrine arrived at different conclusions. “Like Plato, Plotinus holds that nothing external can separate a virtuous man from happiness—that no one can injure a man except himself.”[v] To give it a P-A context, we would say that “virtuous” means a person who was in the present moment. Our happiness in P-A is independent of form, that is to say, not identified with body, mind or emotions. With those qualifications we can say that Plotinus had a profound insight which is typical of this very amazing third century Roman philosopher.
Buddhists, on the other hand, often take a sort of back-door approach which is also valid. “You are not enlightened [in P-B], goes the thought, and, according to Buddhism, that is why you suffer.” [John Tarrant continues] “But what if you run that thought backwards? What if, at this very moment, you are happy? As long as you don’t think something is missing, nothing is missing. Everyone knows that there is no security in life, and nothing to rely on.”[vi] Notice that what takes us out of the NOW into unhappiness is “thinking,” because the mind is conditioned to focusing on the P-B survival strategy.
Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
— Abe Lincoln
The more ways we rotate the diamond of happiness, the more facets we discover. “Unhappiness is the search for happiness, as the Devil is the want of God, and Hell is the need of Heaven. Where there is no seeking, there is no seeker; there is Nothing. [There] is space only, in which everything is, as it always is, waiting on us. Grace is given when we have the grace to receive it. The brightness of the day depends upon our awakening to it. I am as one, said Basho, who eats his breakfast, gazing at the morning glories.”[vii]
Happiness has no relationship to what is “happening” to us. That which is dependent on what is happening or the “forms” in our lives would be the illusion of happiness and for that matter the “forms” also constitute the illusion of suffering. Let’s look at some definitions of the illusion of happiness in P-B found in an article by Matthieu Ricard in the Shambhala Sun magazine. “Sociologists define happiness as ‘the degree to which a person evaluates the overall quality of his present life-as-a-whole positively.’ In other words, how much the person likes the life he or she leads. Such happiness must by nature be elusive and dependent on circumstances that are quite often beyond our control.”[viii]
Ricard continues: “For Saint Augustine, happiness is ‘a rejoicing in the truth,’ for Immanuel Kant, happiness must be rational and devoid of any personal taint, while for Marx it is about growth through work. ‘What constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute,’ Aristotle wrote, ‘and the popular account of it is not the same as that given by the philosophers.’”[ix] In P-A, happiness cannot be disputed as we saw at the beginning of this article, it is our natural state.
Now Ricard shifts paradigm and we get a look at happiness in the context of Simple Reality. “Happiness can’t be limited to a few pleasant sensations, to some intense pleasure, to an eruption of joy or a fleeting sense of serenity, to a cheery day or a magic moment that sneaks up on us in the labyrinth of our existence. Such diverse facets are not enough in themselves to build an accurate image of the profound and lasting fulfillment that characterizes true happiness. By happiness I mean here a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.”[x] It is always possible to choose response over reaction and thereby find ourselves in a different narrative where happiness just is.
“There exists a way of being that underlies and suffuses all emotional states, that embraces all the joys and sorrows that come to us. A happiness so deep that, as Georges Bernanos wrote, ‘Nothing can change it, like the vast reserve of calm water beneath a storm.’ The Sanskrit word for this state of being is sukha. Sukha is the state of lasting well-being that manifests itself when we have freed ourselves of mental blindness and afflictive emotions. It is also the wisdom that allows us to see the world as it is, without veils or distortions.”[xi]
Happiness is Simple Reality.
[i] Buber, Martin. Martin Buber’s Ten Rungs. New York: Citadel, 1974, p. 55.
[ii] Hutchins, Robert Maynard [ed.]. Great Books of the Western World, The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon Vol 1. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 1952, p. 693.
[v] Ibid, p. 688.
[vi] Tarrant, John. “Paradox, Breakthrough, and the Zen Koan.” Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, March-May 2005, p. 25.
[vii] Adam, Michael. Wandering in Eden: Three Ways to the East Within Us. New York: Knopf, 1976, p. 108.
[viii] Ricard, Matthieu. “Why Can’t ‘I’ Be Happy?” Shambhala Sun. Boulder, Colorado, July 2006, p. 44.
[ix] Ibid., p. 46.
[xi] Ibid., p. 47.