Acclaim for Matthieu Ricard'sHappiness A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill"With compassion, incisive. Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. For millennia, philosophers, writers and artists Matthieu Ricard (Author), Daniel Goleman (Foreword). Matthieu Ricard, left, quit his career as a cellular geneticist nearly 40 years ago to mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. This is.
|Language:||English, Spanish, Japanese|
|Genre:||Science & Research|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Sign up for free]|
Tami Simon: Today my guest is Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu is an skill of happiness, as well as the conditions for happiness. We also discussed. By Matthieu Ricard. Happiness-a-guide-to-developing-sdled. A molecular biologist turned Buddhist monk, described by scientists as "the. Read Happiness PDF - A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard Little | In this groundbreaking book, Matthieu Ri.
I became aware that I'd found a reality that could inspire my whole life and give it direction and meaning. Conversely, during the rest of the year, when I was at the Institut Pasteur, my thoughts were constantly flying off to the Himalayas. My teacher, Kangyur Rinpoche, had advised me to finish my doctoral studies, so I didn't rush things.
But though I waited several years, it was not difficult for me to make a decision that I've never regretted: to go and live where I wanted to be. My father was sorely disappointed to see me abruptly put an end to a career whose beginnings, he felt, were promising. Moreover, as a convinced agnostic he did not take Buddhism very seriously, even though, as he wrote, "I had nothing against it, for its unadulterated and straightforward approach give it a distinctive position among religious doctrines and have earned it the respect of some of the most exacting Western philosophers.
It was a rich, pragmatic science of mind, an altruistic art of living, a meaningful philosophy, and a spiritual practice that led to genuine inner transformation. Over the past thirty-five years, I have never found myself in contradiction with the scientific spirit as I understand it - that is, as the empirical search for truth. I have also met human beings who were enduringly happy. More, in fact, than what we usually call happy: they were imbued with a deep insight into reality and the nature of mind, and filled with benevolence for others.
I have also come to understand that although some people are naturally happier than others, their happiness is still vulnerable and incomplete, and that achieving durable happiness as a way of being is a skill. All the ingredients for allowing me to find a way to a fulfilled life had come together: a profound and sane way of thinking and the living example of those who embodied wisdom in their words and actions.
There wasn't any of the" do what I say, not what I do" that discourages so many seekers all over the world. I remained in Darjeeling for the next seven years. I lived near Kangyur Rinpoche until his death in and then continued to study and meditate in a small hermitage just above the monastery. I learned Tibetan, which is now the language I mostly speak in my everyday life in the East. It was then that I met my second main teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, with whom I spent thirteen unforgettable years in Bhutan and India.
He was one of the great luminaries of his time, revered by everyone from the king of Bhutan down to the humblest farmer, and became a close teacher to the Dalai Lama. He was someone whose inner journey led him to an extraordinary depth of knowledge and enabled him to be, for all who met him, a fount of loving-kindness, wisdom, and compassion.
There was a constant stream of other teachers and disciples who came to meet and study with him, so when I began translating Tibetan scriptures into Western languages, there were always living treasure-houses of knowledge from whom I could seek clarifications about the texts. I also served as Khyentse Rinpoche's interpreter and traveled with him to Europe and to Tibet when he first returned to the Land of Snows after thirty years in exile.
In Tibet, all that was left was ruins. Six thousand monasteries had been destroyed, and many of the people who had survived - unlike the million Tibetans who 8 HAPPINESS died of famine and persecution - had spent fifteen or twenty years in labor camps.
Khyentse Rinpoche's return was like the sun suddenly rising after a long, dark night. In India and then in Bhutan, I lived a simple life. I would receive a letter every few months, had no radio, and knew little of what was going on in the world. In Khyentse Rinpoche began building a monastery in Nepal to preserve the Tibetan heritage. Artists, scholars, meditators, philanthropists, and many others flocked to Shechen Monastery. I have lived there more or less permanently since Khyentse Rinpoche's death in , helping his grandson, Rabjam Rinpoche, the abbot of Shechen, to fulfill our teacher's vision.
One day someone called me from France to ask if I would like to publish a dialogue with my father. I did not take the proposal very seriously and replied: "That's fine with me. Just ask my father. I could not imagine my agnostic father agreeing to do a book of dialogue with a Buddhist monk, even one who was his son. I was wrong. At a lunch, the publisher proposed several book ideas to my father which he promptly rejected, remaining focused on the art of gastronomy.
But when, over dessert, the publisher proposed the dialogue, my father froze and, after a few seconds of silence, replied: "I cannot refuse that. When I learned of his answer, I was a little concerned that my father, famous for his relentless demolition of views that he considered wrongheaded, would tear me to pieces.
Fortunately the encounter occurred on my turf. My father came to Nepal, and we spent ten days in a forest inn above Kathmandu Valley, recording our conversations, an hour and a half in the morning and another hour in the afternoon.
The rest of the day we strolled together through the woods. When he first looked at it he exclaimed: "But that's everything philosophers have discussed for the past two thousand years! Over , copies were printed in France, and it was translated into twenty-one languages. I was invited onto countless TV shows and swept up in a whirlpool of media activity.
Although I was glad to share some ideas that I deeply valued and that had brought so much to my life, this episode also made me realize how artificial the making of celebrity is. I was the same old guy, but suddenly I had become a public figure. Since I could not see myself getting a big house and a swimming pool, I decided to donate all the proceeds and rights of that and all subsequent books to a foundation that carries out humanitarian and educational projects in Asia.
The decision eased my mind. Humanitarian projects have since become a central focus of my life, and with a few dedicated volunteer friends and generous benefactors, under the inspiration of my abbot, Rabjam Rinpoche, we have managed to build and run more than thirty clinics and schools in Tibet, Nepal, and India.
We do this spending barely 1 percent on overhead expenses. Then came the return to science. It happened in two steps: first physics and the nature of outer reality, then cognitive sciences and the nature of mind.
Thuan and I met at the Summer University, in Andorra, in During our long walks together through the majestic Pyrenean scenery, we had a series of fascinating conversations. Are atoms "things" or mere "observable phenomena"? Does the notion of a "first cause" to the universe stand up to analysis? Is there a solid reality behind the veil of appearances?
Is the universe made of "interdependent events" or of "autonomous entities"? We found striking philosophical similarities between the Copenhagen school's interpretation of quantum physics and the Buddhist analysis of reality. Further encounters followed, and The Quantum and the Lotus was born.
This dialogue had mostly to do with the philosophical, ethical, and human aspects of science. The next step, in which I am still fully engaged, was to collaborate in scientific studies about the heart of Buddhist practice: transforming the mind. My late spiritual friend Francisco Varela, a pioneer neuroscientist, had always told me that the collaboration between cognitive sciences and Buddhist contemplatives was the way to go, since it held vast potential not only for understanding the human mind but also for conducting actual scientific experimentation.
Francisco himself had cofounded the Mind and Life Institute with the American businessman Adam Engle to facilitate and organize meetings between top scientists and the Dalai Lama, who has always been extremely interested in science. The subject was "destructive emotions. Davidson, Paul Ekman, and others, and was chaired by Daniel Goleman. The five days of dialogue were pervaded with a unique brilliance, openness, and deeply felt aspiration to contribute something unique and beneficial to humankind.
I was asked to present the Buddhist perspective on the various ways of dealing with emotions. Like a schoolboy taking an exam, I felt odd doing this in the presence of the Dalai Lama, who knew the subject matter a hundred times better than I did. I had been acting as the Dalai Lama's French interpreter for a decade, so I assumed in my mind my usual role of interpreter and tried to concentrate on the audience, the scientists and over fifty observers, and to convey the essence of what I had learned from my teachers.
As the meeting progressed, it became clear that a research program could be put together. One could invite expert meditators to the labs and study the effect of years of mind training. How would their ability to deal with emotions and even their brains have changed? This kind of study had always been one of Francisco's dreams. An agenda was set with Richard Davidson and Paul Ekman. The story of that ongoing collaboration, of which I became an intimate part, is related in Daniel Goleman's Destructive Emotions and in Chapter 16 of the present book.
It was very exciting to return to science after some thirty years of absence, and to do so with such great scientists. I was intrigued to see if the latest methods of scientific investigation would reveal whether different meditative states, such as focused attention or compassion, would have distinct brain signatures. I was also very keen to find out if a group of experienced meditators would yield similar results and how they would differ from untrained subjects.
Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed the uplifting and warm atmosphere in which this collaboration is taking place. I have also become increasingly involved in photography and have published five photography books over the years. I feel fortunate to be able to share through images the inner beauty of those with whom I live and the outer beauty of their world, and to offer a little hope for human nature.
Why now a book on happiness?
It began with a typical example of the "French exception. I debated one of them for a French magazine and thought that if I ever wrote another book, I would include a chapter on the subject. For a year I read everything I could get my hands on about happiness and well-being in the works of Western philosophers, social psychologists, cognitive scientists, and even in the 'tabloid press, which regularly reports peoples' views on happiness, such as that of one French actress: "For me, happiness is eating a tasty plate of spaghetti"; or "Walking in the snow under the stars," and so on.
The many definitions of happiness that I encountered contradicted one another and often seemed vague or superficial. So in the light of the analytical and contemplative science of mind that I had encountered through the kindness of my teachers, I embarked on trying to unravel the meaning and mechanism of genuine happiness, and of course of suffering. When the book came out in France, it sparked a national debate. One author wrote an article asking me to stop bugging people with the "dirty works of happiness.
I was happy to return to the mountains of Nepal and put the pieces back together. Although my life has become more hectic, I am still based at She chen Monastery in Nepal and spend two months a year in my hermitage facing the Himalayas. I doubtless have a lot more practice and effort ahead of me before I achieve genuine inner freedom, but I am fully enjoying the journey. Simplifying one's life to extract its quintessence is the most rewarding of all the pursuits I have undertaken.
It doesn't mean giving up what is truly beneficial, but finding out what really matters and what brings lasting fulfillment, joy, serenity, and, above all, the irreplaceable boon of altruistic love.
It means transforming oneself to better transform the world. As I write in the conclusion of this book, when I was twenty words like happiness and benevolence did not mean much to me. I was a typical young Parisian student, going to see Eisenstein and Marx Brothers movies, playing music, manning the barricades in May '68 near the Sorbonne, loving sports and nature. But I didn't have much sense of how to lead my life except playing it by ear, day in and day out.
I somehow felt that there was a potential for flourishing in myself, and in others, but had no idea about how to actualize it. Thirty-five years later, I surely still have a long way to go, but at least the sense of direction is clear to me and I enjoy every step on the path.
That is why this book, though Buddhist in spirit, is not a "Buddhist" book as opposed to a "Christian" or an "agnostic" book. As such it is intended not for the Buddhist shelves of libraries, but for the heart and mind of anyone who aspires to a little more joie de vivre and to let wisdom and compassion reign in her or his life. When she'd said, "I want to be happy," there was an embarrassed silence, and then one of her friends had asked: "How could someone as smart as you want nothing more than to be happy?
There are so many ways to find happiness: start a family, have kids, build a career, seek adventure, help others, find inner peace Whatever I end up doing, I want my life to be a truly happy one. But the truth is altogether different, since we're actually talking about a way of being that defines the quality of every moment of our lives. So what exactly is happiness?
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. For some, happiness is just "a momentary, fleeting impression, whose intensity and duration vary according to the availability of the resources that make it possible.
For the philosopher Robert Misrahi, on the other hand, happiness is "the radiation of joy over one's entire existence or over the most vibrant part of one's active past, one's actual present, and one's conceivable future. According to Andre Comte-Sponville, "By 'happiness' we mean any span of time in which joy would seem immediately possible. There are a thousand ways of thinking about happiness, and countless philosophers have offered their own. For Saint Augustine, happiness is "a rejoicing in the truth.
For some people, talking about the search for happiness seems almost in bad taste. Protected by their armor of intellectual complacency, they sneer at it as they would at a sentimental novel. How did such a devaluation come about? Is it a reflection of the artificial happiness offered by the media? Is it a result of the failed efforts we use to find genuine happiness? Are we supposed to come to terms with unhappiness rather than make a genuine and intelligent attempt to untangle happiness from suffering?
What about the simple happiness we get from a child's smile or a nice cup of tea after a walk in the woods? As rich and comforting as such genuine glimpses of happiness might be, they are too circumstantial to shed light on our lives as a whole. 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.
What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly, by a feeling of bliss - absolute bliss! Some will talk about moments of deep peace experienced in a harmonious natural setting, of a forest dappled in sunshine, of a mountain summit looking out across a vast horizon, of the shores of a tranquil lake, of a night walk through snow under a starry sky, and so on. Others will refer to a longawaited event: an exam they've aced, a sporting victory, meeting someone they've longed to meet, the birth of a child.
Still others will speak of a moment of peaceful intimacy with their family or a loved one, or of having made someone else happy. The common factor to all of these experiences would seem to be the momentary disappearance of inner conflicts. The person feels in harmony with the world and with herself.
Someone enjoying such an experience, such as walking through a serene wilderness, has no particular expectations beyond the simple act of walking. She simply is, here and now, free and open. For just a few moments, thoughts of the past are suppressed, the mind is not burdened with plans for the future, and the present moment is liberated from all mental constructs.
This moment of respite, from which all sense of emotional urgency has vanished, is experienced as one of profound peace. The ensuing sense of release is felt as a deep calm, free of all expectation and fear. But this experience is just a passing glimpse brought on by a particular set of circumstances. We call it a magic moment, a state of grace. And yet the difference between these flashes of happiness seized on the fly and the immutable peacefulness of the sage, for instance, is as great as that between the tiny section of sky seen through the eye of a needle and the limitless expanses of outer space.
The two conditions differ in dimension, duration, and depth. Even so, we can learn something from these fleeting moments, these lulls in our ceaseless struggles; they can give us a sense of what true plenitude might be and help us to recognize the conditions that favor it. The monsoon storms had turned the courtyard into an expanse of muddy water and we had set out a path of bricks to serve as stepping-stones.
A friend of mine came to the edge of the water, surveyed the scene with a look of disgust, and complained about every single brick as she made her way across. When she got to me, she rolled her eyes and said, "Yuck! What if I'd fallen into that filthy muck? Everything's so dirty in this country!
A few minutes later, Raphaele, another friend of mine, came to the path through the swamp. On a more somber note, Raphaele once told me of a meeting she'd had on her first visit to Tibet, in , with a man who had had an appalling time during the Chinese invasion.
It was his first time talking to a Westerner. We laughed a lot; he was really adorable. Children kept coming by to stare at us in astonishment, and he showered me with questions. Then he told me how he'd been jailed for twelve years by the Chinese invaders and condemned to cut stone for a dam being built in the Drak Yerpa valley. The dam was completely useless, since the riverbed was almost always dry! All his friends dropped dead of hunger and exhaustion around him, one by one.
Despite the horror of his story, there wasn't the slightest trace of hatred in his words or the least bit of resentment in his eyes, which beamed with kindness. As I fell asleep that night, I wondered how a man who had suffered so much could seem so happy. He is able to fully live his experiences in the context of a vast and profound serenity, since he understands that experiences are ephemeral and that it is useless to cling to them.
There will be no "hard fall" when things turn bad and he is confronted with adversity. He does not sink into depression, since his happiness rests on a solid foundation. One year before her death at Auschwitz, the remarkable Etty Hillesum, a young Dutchwoman, affirmed: "When you have an interior life, it certainly doesn't matter what side of the prison fence you're on I've already died a thousand times in a thousand concentration camps.
I know everything. There is no new information to trouble me. And yet, I find this life beautiful and rich in meaning. At every moment. To have lost all reason for living is to open up an abyss of suffering. As influential as external conditions may be, suffering, like wellbeing, is essentially an interior state.
Understanding that is the key prerequisite to a life worth living. What mental conditions will sap our joie de vivre, and which will nourish it? Changing the way we see the world does not imply naive optimism or some artificial euphoria designed to counterbalance adversity. So long as we are slaves to the dissatisfaction and frustration that arise from the confusion that rules our minds, it will be just as futile to tell ourselves "I'm happy! I'm happy! The search for happiness is not about looking at life through rose-colored glasses or blinding oneself to the pain and imperfections of the world.
Nor is happiness a state of exaltation to be perpetuated at all costs; it is the purging of mental toxins, such as hatred and obsession, that literally poison the mind. It is also about learning how to put things in perspective and reduce the gap between appearances and reality. To that end we must acquire a better knowledge of how the mind works and a more accurate insight into the nature of things, for in its deepest sense, suffering is intimately linked to a misapprehension of the nature of reality.
In Buddhism the word connotes the true nature of things, unmodified by the mental constructs we superimpose upon them. Such concepts open up a gap between our perception and reality, and create a never-ending conflict with the world. By knowledge we mean not the mastery of masses of information and learning but an understanding of the true nature of things.
Out of habit, we perceive the exterior world as a series of distinct, autonomous entities to which we attribute characteristics that we believe belong inherently to them. Our day-today experience tells us that things are "good" or "bad. This error, which Buddhism calls ignorance, gives rise to powerful reflexes of attachment and aversion that generally lead to suffering.
As Etty Hillesum says so tersely: "That great obstacle is always the representation and never the reality. The world of appearances is created by the coming together of an infinite number of ever-changing causes and conditions. Like a rainbow that forms when the sun shines across a curtain of rain and then vanishes when any factor contributing to its formation disappears, phenomena exist in an essentially interdependent mode and have no autonomous and enduring existence. Everything is relation; nothing exists in and of itself, immune to the forces of cause and effect.
Once this essential 24 HAPPINESS concept is understood and internalized, the erroneous perception of the world gives way to a correct understanding of the nature of things and beings: this is insight.
Insight is not a mere philosophical construct; it emerges from a basic approach that allows us gradually to shed our mental blindness and the disturbing emotions it produces and hence the principal causes of our suffering. Every being has the potential for perfection, just as every sesame seed is permeated with oil.
Ignorance, in this context, means being unaware of that potential, like the beggar who is unaware of the treasure buried beneath his shack. Actualizing our true nature, coming into possession of that hidden wealth, allows us to live a life full of meaning. It is the surest way to find serenity and let genuine altruism flourish. 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.
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.
It is, finally, the joy of moving toward inner freedom and the loving-kindness that radiates toward others. One must practice the things which produce happiness, since if that is present we have everything and if it is absent we do everything in order to have it. Who wakes up in the morning thinking: "1 wish 1 could suffer all day"? We all strive, consciously or unconsciously, competently or clumsily, passionately or calmly, adventurously or routinely, to be happier and suffer less. Yet we so often confuse genuine happiness with merely seeking enjoyable emotions.
Every day of our lives, we find a thousand different ways to live intensely, forge bonds of friendship and love, enrich ourselves, protect those we love, and keep those who would harm us at arm's length. We devote our time and energies to these tasks, hoping they will provide us and others with a sense of fulfillment and well-being. However we go about looking for it, and whether we call it joy or duty, passion or contentment, isn't happiness the goal of all goals? Stephen Kosslyn, a Harvard professor and one of the world's leading researchers in mental imagery, once told me that when he wakes up in the morning it is not the desire to be happy that gets him out of bed but the sense of duty, the sense of responsibility for his family, for the team he leads, for his work, for humanity.
He maintained that happiness is not among his considerations. And yet when we think about it, the satisfaction of accomplishing what we consider to be worthy goals through a long-term effort strewn with obstacles undeniably reflects certain aspects of true happiness, sukha.
It is what allows a sense of harmony within ourselves.
In doing his "duty" - and even if he believes that suffering and hardship "build character" - such a man is clearly not seeking to cultivate his own unhappiness or that of humankind.
The tragedy lies in our frequent misidentification of the ways to achieve that well-being. Ignorance perverts our desire to improve ourselves. As the Tibetan master Chogyam Trungpa explains: "When we talk of ignorance, it has nothing to do with stupidity. In a way, ignorance is very intelligent, but it is an intelligence that works exclusively in one direction. That is, we react exclusively to our own projections instead of simply seeing what is there. Supporters of ethnic cleansing, for instance, claim that they want to build the best of all possible worlds, and some appear to be deeply convinced of the rightness of their abomination.
Malevolence, delusion, contempt, and arrogance can never be means of achieving genuine happiness; and yet, even as they veer wildly astray, those who are cruel, obsessed, self-righteous, or conceited are still blindly pursuing happiness while being completely unaware of its true nature.
Likewise, someone who commits suicide in order to end unbearable anguish is desperately reaching out for happiness. How do we dispel this basic ignorance? The only way is through honesty and sincere introspection. There are two ways we can undertake this: analysis and contemplation. Analysis consists of a candid and systematic evaluation of every aspect of our own suffering and of the suffering we inflict on others.
It involves understanding which thoughts, words, and actions inevitably lead to pain and which contribute to well-being. Of course, such an approach requires that we first come to see that something is not quite right with our way of being and acting.
We then need to feel a burning desire to change. The contemplative approach consists of rising above the whirlpool of our thoughts for a moment and looking calmly within, as if at an interior landscape, to find the embodiment of our deepest aspirations. For some this may be a life lived intensely at every moment, sampling the many delicacies of pleasure. For others it may be the attainment of goals: a family, social success, leisure, or, more modestly, a life without undue suffering.
But these formulations are incomplete. If we go even deeper into ourselves, we may come to find that our primary aspiration, that which underlies all the others, is for some satisfaction powerful enough to nourish our love of life. This is the wish: "May every moment of my life and of the lives of others be one of wisdom, flourishing, and inner peace!
Talking about drugs, a Parisian teenager once told me: "If you don't crash a little between doses, you don't appreciate the difference as much. I accept the really tough times for the moments of euphoria.
Since I can't get rid of my pain, I prefer to embrace it. I have no interest in developing inner happiness; it's too hard and takes too long. I'd rather have instant happiness, even if it isn't real and even if it gets a little weaker every time I go for it.
And yet, while "lousy" or unhappy intervals give life a little more variety, they are never sought out for their own sake, but merely for the contrast they provide, the promise of change they hold out. For the writer Dominique Noguez, misery is more interesting than happiness because it has a "vividness, an extremely seductive, Luciferian intensity.
It has the additional attraction Like the madman who beats himself over the head with a hammer so that he can feel better when he stops. In short, lasting happiness is boring because it is always the same, while suffering is more exciting because it is always different. We may appreciate such contrasts for the variety and color they give life, but who wants to swap moments of joy for moments of suffering?
On the other hand, it would seem more resourceful, perhaps wise, to use suffering as a vehicle of transformation that allows us to open ourselves with compassion to those who suffer as we do, or even more than we do.
On the contrary, "the desire for happiness is essential to man. It is the motivator of all our acts. The most venerable, clearly understood, enlightened, and reliable constant in the world is not only that we want to be happy, but that we want only to be so.
That desire inspires our every act, our every word, and our every thought so naturally that we are totally unaware of it, like the oxygen we breathe all our lives without thinking about it.
In affirming that "happiness is the satisfaction of all our desires" in all their "multiplicity," "degree," and "duration,"3 Kant dismisses it from the outset to the realm of the unachievable. When he insists that happiness is the condition of one for whom "everything goes according to his wish and will,"4 we have to wonder about the mystery whereby anything might "go" according to our wishes and will.
It reminds me of a line I once heard in a gangster movie. Why depression? If we were to convince 30 HAPPINESS ourselves that satisfying all our whims would make us happy, the collapse of that delusion would make us doubt the very existence of happiness.
If I have more than I could possibly need and I am still not happy, happiness must be impossible. That's a good example of how far we can go in fooling ourselves about the causes of happiness. The fact is that without inner peace and wisdom, we have nothing we need to be happy.
Living on a pendulum between hope and doubt, excitement and boredom, desire and weariness, it's easy to fritter away our lives, bit by bit, without even noticing, running all over the place and getting nowhere. Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things. Among all the clumsy, blind, and extreme ways we go about building happiness, one of the most sterile is egocentrism. This in no way requires us to neglect our own happiness.
Our own desire for happiness is as legitimate as anyone else's. And in order to love others, we must learn to love ourselves. It's not about swooning over the color of our own eyes, our figure, or some personality trait, but about giving due recognition to the desire to live each moment of existence as a moment of meaning and fulfillment.
To love oneself is to love life. It is essential to understand that we make ourselves happy in making others happy. In brief, the goal of life is a deep state of well-being and wisdom at all moments, accompanied by love for every being.
It is a love that is always available, without showiness or self-interest. The immutable simplicity of a good heart. Is your happiness derived mainly from outer circumstances? How much of it is due to your state of mind and the way you experience the world? If happiness comes from outer circumstances, check how stable or fragile they are.
If it is due to a state of mind, consider how you can further cultivate it. That is the tragedy of human beings. We fear misery but run to it. We want happiness but turn away from it. The very means used to ease suffering often fuel it.
How could such a misjudgment occur? Because we are confused about how to go about it. We look for happiness outside ourselves when it is basically an inner state of being.
If it were an exterior condition, it would be forever beyond our reach. Our desires are boundless and our control over the world is limited, temporary, and, more often than not, illusory.
We forge bonds of friendship, start families, live in society, work to improve the material conditions of our existence - is that enough to define happiness?
It is naive to imagine that external conditions alone can ensure happiness. That is the surest way to a rude awakening. As the Dalai Lama has said: "If a man who has just moved into a luxury apartment on the hundredth floor of a brand-new building is deeply unhappy, the only thing he'll look for is a window to jump out of. How many times do we have to hear that money can't download happiness, that power corrupts the honest, and that fame ruins private life?
Failure, separation, disease, and death can occur at any moment. We willingly spend a dozen years in school, then go on to college or professional training for several more; we work out at the gym to stay healthy; we spend a lot of time enhancing our comfort, our wealth, and our social status.
We put a great deal into all this, and yet we do so little to improve the inner condition that determines the very quality of our lives. What strange hesitancy, fear, or apathy stops us from looking within ourselves, from trying to grasp the true essence of joy and sadness, desire and hatred?
Fear of the unknown prevails, and the courage to explore that inner world fails at the frontier of our mind. A Japanese astronomer once confided to me: "It takes a lot of daring to look within. Recently I also met a Californian teenager who told me: "I don't want to look inside myself. I'm afraid of what I'd find there. As Marcus Aurelius wrote: "Look within; within is the fountain of all good. When we are thrown into confusion by inner troubles, we have no idea how to soothe them and instinctively turn outward.
Meditation is not an exotic eastern practice but is actually mind training. We all have a mind and can work with it. So the basis of happiness is mind training? In the sense that mind training means harnessing the potential we have for less vulnerability to provocation from outside. Meditation helps you cultivate a better emotional balance and inner freedom so you are not a slave of impulses like anger and craving.
And you do this by sitting for 30 minutes a day? But in clinical trials that study the effects of meditation in the West, 30 minutes a day has been the foundation. We always see that after three months, meditation has had a significant effect in reducing stress and the tendency toward depression. It reinforces the immune system and positive emotions. Sitting for that precious 30 minutes modifies the quality of the other 23 hours and 30 minutes. So happiness is a skill? Pleasure cannot be cultivated — only renewed.
But you can cultivate inner peace, strength, freedom — the qualities that create genuine happiness. We start with different baselines: For instance, everyone will not become a champion of tennis, but within a few months or a few years of training, even a beginner can become a decent player and enjoy it. Do negative emotions, like anger, have a purpose? If you witness someone beating a child or an injustice, anger can motivate you to do something. But all the studies have shown that people who systematically vent their anger just reinforce their tendency to be angry.
Instead, you look at your anger and let it vanish. When you cease to fuel a fire, it slowly dies out. A mother who gets angry and aggressive is taken over by nerves. A mother can be loving but still firm, straight and a bit severe. You can extend that attitude of the mother to others. What about sadness? Sadness is not incompatible with happiness because happiness is not just a pleasant sensation. Sadness can help you feel compassion. Even when you are sad, you can continue to do wonderful things.
What is the relationship between happiness and ambition? Ambition for wealth, fame or power puts our hopes and fears outside ourselves. But ambition in terms of becoming a better person, preserving the environment or finding inner peace can motivate you.