The Method to Obtain Happiness and Dispel Suffering
In order to attain genuine happiness, one must first cultivate the right attitude towards it. This can be successfully accomplished through the method of analytic meditation, by which we can become aware that the accumulation of wealth and material achievement will not necessarily bring one greater happiness nor will it protect one from suffering. For this reason, please do not waste your time and effort looking for happiness in all of the wrong places.
As we can see, there are many different customs, traditions and lifestyles around the world. However, all people in all places pursue happiness and have an aversion to suffering; this is not only the case for human beings, but is also true for all living beings, including small insects like ants. They all want to be happy and they all dislike suffering.
However, all sentient beings do not know how to obtain happiness or how to engage in methods to dispel suffering, thus creating a state of affairs that has become one of the biggest problems and worries of present-day society. In Buddhism, there are two kinds of happiness: temporary and ultimate. People may not understand this, but what is most important to understand is that, over the course of our lives, from birth to death, we will experience many kinds of suffering. When suffering befalls us, do we know how we shall face it? The understanding of and preparation for suffering is very important for each individual.
It is also true that, how to be free from suffering and how to obtain happiness is perceived differently in different countries. A few days ago, I read a report called What is Happiness, which described, from the point of view of 155 people from around the world, their understanding of happiness, their efforts to obtain happiness and so forth. Some said that they believed that happiness meant having a great fortune, others that it was the good health of family members or a feeling of harmony between husbands and their wives. Some believed superior social status would bring happiness, and still others that the external satisfaction from material objects or possessions would bring happiness. A great many of those interviewed shared similar opinions.
From the Buddhist point of view, do external objects such as wealth and relationship contribute to happiness? Of course they do. However, although they are beneficial, can external objects cultivate a feeling of 100% happiness within you? Not necessarily.
If, for instance, we compare the current economic achievement of the U.S., to that of 50 years ago, the GDP may have increased several-fold, but the happiness index of the society has been gradually decreasing. If happiness were proportional to wealth, people’s internal well-being would have improved along with external economic development. For example, if I didn’t have a car before, but now I do, does this bring me more happiness? Well, buying a new car comes with the obligation of filling the gas tank, keeping it maintained, along with all the inconveniences of driving in cities, so along with owning this car, a lot of trouble comes with the luxury and convenience that it provides. So, for all of us, it is very important to analyze and investigate the roots of suffering.
To free ourselves from suffering and obtain happiness, it is useless to just think about it; rather, we have to truly learn how to accomplish it, since, as in Buddhism, it is very important to familiarize ourselves with the method at a deep heart level. What does Buddhism teach us? The essence of achieving happiness mainly depends on being content with fewer desires; the importance of which cannot be understated. If one cannot be content with fewer desires, and instead becomes more and more attached to having more and more things, the suffering will be endless.