Buddhist Concept of Happiness

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana


Renowned for his ability to present the essence of the Buddha's teachings simply and thoroughly, Bhante Gunaratana is the author of Mindfulness in Plain English, Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Following the Path of the Buddha, and Journey to Mindfulness. From his early life as a novice monk in Sri Lanka to the establishment of his meditation community in West Virginia, Bhante G's life has been devoted to the development of mindfulness and to the role of compassionate teacher and guide.

Bhavana Society

Happiness in Pali is called Sukha, which is used both as a noun meaning “happiness,” “ease,” “bliss,” or “pleasure,” and as an adjective meaning “blissful” or “pleasant.”

To understand precisely the nature of happiness, a brief discussion of the Buddhist analysis of feeling is necessary. Feeling (vedana) is a mental factor present in all types of consciousness, a universal concomitant of experience. It has the characteristic of being felt, the function of experiencing, and as manifestation the gratification of the mental factors. It is invariably said to be born of contact (phassa), which is the coming together (sangati) of a sense object, a sense faculty, and the appropriate type of consciousness. When these three coalesce consciousness makes contact with the object. It experiences the affective quality of the object, and from this experience a feeling arises keyed to the object’s affective quality.

Since contact is of six kinds by way of the six sense faculties, feeling is also of six kinds corresponding to the six kinds of contact from which it is born. There is feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose- contact, etc. Feeling is also divided by way of its affective tone either into three or five classes. On the threefold division there is pleasant feeling (sukhavedana), painful feeling (dukkhavedana), and neither pleasant nor painful feeling (adukkhamasukhavedana), i.e. neutral feeling. The pleasant feeling may be subdivided into bodily pleasant feeling (kayika-sukha) called “pleasure” (sukha) and mental pleasant feeling (cetasika-sukha) called “joy” (somanassa). The painful feeling may also be subdivided into bodily painful feeling (kayikadukkha) called “pain” (dukkha) and mental painful feeling (cetasika-dukkha) called “displeasure” (domanassa). In this system of classification the neutral feeling is called “equanimity” (upekkha). Thus on the fivefold division we find the following five types of feeling: pleasure, joy, pain, displeasure, and equanimity. According to the Abhidhamma, pleasure and pain are found only in association with body-consciousness, joy and displeasure only in association with mind-consciousness, and equanimity in association with body mind-consciousness and the other four classes of sense consciousness.

The Buddha enumerates contrasting types of mental happiness: the happiness of the household life and that of monastic life, the happiness of sense pleasures and that of renunciation, happiness with attachments and taints and happiness without attachments and taints, worldly happiness and spiritual happiness, the happiness of concentration and happiness without concentration, Aryan happiness, mental happiness, happiness without joy, happiness of equanimity, happiness not aimed at joy, and happiness aimed at formless object. Happiness associated with the wholesome roots produced by the renunciation of sensual enjoyments is spiritual happiness (niramisasukha) or the happiness of renunciation (nekkhammasukha). The happiness of Jhana is a spiritual happiness born of seclusion from sense pleasures and the hindrances (pavivekasukha). It is also a happiness of concentration (samadhisukha).

There are numerous ways of bringing happiness. “Friends bring happiness when a need has arisen; pleasant is contentment with whatever there might be; merit is pleasant at life’s ending; and pleasant is the destruction of all suffering. Happy it is, in the world, to be a mother, and happy it is to be a father; happy, in the world, is the life of a recluse and happy is the state of Brahman. Happy is age-long virtue and happy is confidence well-established; happy is the gaining of wisdom and happy it is not to do evil. “Happy is the arising of the Awakened Ones; happy is the teaching of the Good Law; happy is the unity of the group and happy is the ascetic life of the united.” [Dh. 194,331-333].

In pursuit of happiness, many people are engaged in sense pleasure or self-indulgence in the extreme. Because of the availability of ample opportunity for people to indulge in sensual pleasure, the human realm is called a plane of sensual pleasure.

As enjoying sensual pleasure is called happiness, to be born as a human being with all the senses complete, is a happy occurrence, for one can experience a very high degree of sense pleasure through the sensory stimuli. He can be happy thinking that he has plenty of wealth, for the very thought “I have enormous wealth”, gives him a secure feeling. This feeling of possessiveness is his happiness [atthisukha]. He can be happy consuming his wealth in any manner he deems secure, entertaining his senses in any manner he wishes, or sharing with his relatives, friends, or giving in charity to whomever he pleases, or saving as much as he pleases, so he can use whenever he or his family member needs [bhogasukha]. He can be happy thinking that he has earned his wealth honestly [anavajjasukha] and he can be happy thinking that he is free from debts. [ananasukha, A.ii.p.69].

For these reasons, happiness has been defined by some as a satisfaction of the will. If you obtain what you have been dreaming, you are said to be happy. Pursuing this definition of happiness, you may do countless things to fulfill your wishes, so you will be happy. You may spend all your time, money, energy, skill and all the opportunities to do your best to make your life happy, or to bring happiness to the lives of your family members, your friends, your relatives, and probably to your country.

Considering the possible variables available for the will to desire, this definition is inadequate. If you will to procure something perishable, changeable, impermanent and subject to slipping away from your grasp, procuring that particular object makes you more unhappy than not procuring it. Or if you obtain something and you have to spend your time, energy, peace, skill even at the risk of your health to protect it, safeguard it, and secure it, then you experience more unhappiness than happiness.

Sariputta echoing the Buddha’s explanation of the sense desire says to his brother monks: “There are, reverend sir, these five strands of sense desire. What five? There are forms, cognized by the eye, longed for, alluring, pleasurable, lovely, bound up with passion and desire. There are sounds cognized by the ear… smells by the nose… tastes by the tongue… contacts, cognized by the touch, longed for alluring, pleasurable, lovely, bound up with passion and desire. These, reverend sir, are the five strands of sense desire; and the happiness, the well-being arising therefrom is called sensuous happiness.”

Generally, people misconstrue the source of happiness. They think by pleasing their insatiable desire they can be happy. They do not realize that the means available to them to please their desires are limited by time and space. When you try to obtain happiness by pleasing unlimited and insatiable desire by means limited by time and space, you end up in frustration and losing whatever little relative happiness you have.

Does wealth really bring happiness? Obviously not, for there are many wealthy people who live miserable lives, unhealthy lives. Does education bring happiness? Apparently not, for there are many well-educated persons who are more unhappy than those who are not educated. Does this mean that the poor and uneducated are happier than the wealthy and educated? No, not at all. Does marrying someone whom you are passionately attached to bring happiness? No. Does divorce make you happy? Apparently not. Does living single bring happiness? No, not at all.

Some people believe that revenge makes them happy. Tit for tat never brings any happiness to anybody, for, in reality, an eye for an eye makes everybody miserable, not happy. It is not by cultivating, but by destroying hate, that happiness grows in our minds. “He who with the rod harms the rodless and harmless, soon will come to one of these states: He will be subject to acute pain, disaster, bodily injury, or even grievous sickness, or loss of mind, or oppression by the kind, or heavy accusation, or loss of relatives, or destruction of wealth, or ravaging fire that will burn his house.” [Dh. vs. 138 - 140]. “He who seeking his own happiness does not torment with the rod beings that are desirous of happiness, obtains happiness in the hereafter.” [Dh. v. 132]. All of us without any exception have within us the root of happiness. It, however, is buried under the heap of our hatred, jealousy, tension, anxiety, worry and many other negative states of mind. In order to find out the root of happiness we have to remove the very root of unhappiness and cultivate and nourish the roots of happiness.

Suppose a person thinks of making himself happy by killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicating drinks and drugs causing infatuation and heedlessness, would he really be happy? Certainly he is not happy, for the reason that his mind is confused by what he is doing. How can a man who is full of hatred, greed and delusion be happy? How can a man who kills anyone be happy? The Buddha said:

“To live without anger among the angry is, indeed, happy. To live unafflicted among the afflicted is happy. To live without ambition among the ambitious is happy. To live without possession is a happy life like that of the radiant gods. To live without competition among those who compete is happy, for he “who wins creates an enemy; and unhappy does the defeated sleep. The one who is neither a victor nor the defeated sleeps happily.” [Dh. v. 201] “There is no happiness greater than the perfect calm.” [Dh. 203] “Good is the sight of the Noble Ones; happy always is it to live with them; away from the sight of fools, one would always be happy.” [Dh. 206]. Living with the wise is very comfortable and happy. “A wise man is pleasant to live with as is the company of kinsmen.” [Dh. v. 207].

No matter how long our list of happiness is, we continue to be unhappy, frustrated and suffering without ever being successful in experiencing happiness unless we add the most essential and absolutely necessary item to our list and execute it with diligence. And that item number one in your list of priorities is the purification of mind through the practice of morality, concentration, and wisdom. Whatever else you do without these most essential and absolutely necessary components, you are not going to experience happiness, but just the opposite of it. Happiness is the result of the purification of mind. You will never find happiness in greedy mind, hateful mind or ignorant mind, for these are the very roots of unhappiness, pain and suffering.

It is the knowledge of truth we experience, not the ignorance of it, that makes us joyful and happy. Experiencing the truth of life is not accidental, but an occurrence taking place every moment in our life, although we may never be ready to accept it. As our wisdom is not sharp enough to welcome the truth of life, we rather look other way or try to pretend that it does not exist or try to run away from it. However, it catches us up by surprise. No matter how hard we try to escape, most certainly, it follows us reminding us of its presence in us all the time. The wise would be delighted knowing it and reflecting on it. The knowledge of the truth that all conditioned things are in a state of flux generates such a deep and profound experience in him that he equates it with nibbanic happiness.

All the dukkha comes to one not from the wise, but from the foolishness or foolish people. Therefore we should not associate with a man with little morality, little concentration and little wisdom, “for the same reason that we most carefully avoid an enraged elephant, a mettlesome horse, a mad bull, or keep away from snakes, from ground cleared of trees, from copeswood, cliffs and crevices, pools and swamps, from plains not fit to stay in and areas not fit to make in. Just as a man of intelligence avoids all these things, so also does he avoid those men who are not fit to associate with and thus he escapes those destructive influences pulling him down again.” [Happiness and Immortality, by P. J. Saher, George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., Ruskins House, Museum Rd., London, p 25. M. I. p.11]

So, the Buddha said: “Our actions are all led by the mind, mind is their master, mind is their maker. If one acts or speaks with a pure state of mind then happiness follows like a shadow that trails constantly behind.” [Dh. v.2.]

Happiness is most certainly generated by the mind free from the factors that oppose it. The very source that generates happiness, is the purified mind, not the impure mind. Repetition of doing good deeds with pure mind is a source of happiness. “If a man does good, let him do it again and again and let him take delight in it; the accumulation of good causes happiness.” [Dh. v. 118]

Generosity makes us happy, for it is always the giver, rather than recipient, who is happy. The recipient is obligated to the giver. One who is obligated to someone is not happy. For this reason the Buddha very wisely made desire analogous to indebtedness. We know when we borrow something from someone, we are not happy until we pay back what we have borrowed. One who gives away his own possessions has no obligation to the recipient. Therefore he is happy. The Buddha said: “The wise man, rejoicing in giving, becomes happy by that in the hereafter.” [Dh. v. 177]

It is by giving up, not obtaining, sense pleasure that one gains happiness. Sense pleasure has more unhappiness. Therefore, “By giving up a little pleasure, if one sees much happiness, the wise man would relinquish that little pleasure in view of the great pleasure.” [Dh. v. 290]

The Buddha reiterated over and over again that he taught only suffering and the end of suffering. It is clear from this teaching of the Buddha that happiness is the total absence of total unhappiness. He is called peerless physician (bhisakko) and the supreme surgeon (sallakatto anuttaro), for he examined our sickness, diagnosed its cause, analyzed the finding, and prescribed a treatment to free us from suffering and affliction and to make us happy.

The Buddha never praised sensual pleasure [kamasukha] as happiness. Instead, he said “One should know how to judge what happiness is; having known how to judge what happiness is, one should be intent on inward happiness.” [M.L. III. 278], “Sukhavinicchayam janna sukhavinicchayam natva ajjhattam sukham anuyunjeyya.” [M.III.230]

“The reason why we are asked not to intent the sense pleasure is because “Whatever is happiness in association with sense-pleasure and intentness on joy that is low, of the villager, of the average man, unaryan, not connected with the goal--this is a thing that has anguish, annoyance, trouble and fret; it is a wrong course. But whatever is happiness in association with sense-pleasures but not intentness on a joy that is low, of the villager, of the average man unaryan, not connected with the goal--this is a thing without anguish, annoyance, trouble or fret; it is the right course.” [ML. III. p. 278. M.iii. pp. 230-231].

This means procuring the desired object or objective to please one’s senses is not considered to be a source of happiness, for it is most obvious that all that one obtains can cause him anxiety and worry, for he has to make sure that these things that he obtained will not be destroyed. He has to secure them, insure them, protect them from natural disasters or human criminals. Therefore, to get what he wants is a tragedy as much as not to get what he wants. He is unhappy until he obtains what he wants and he continues to be unhappy, after he obtained what he wished, by trying to protect it even at the risk of life.

Some people presuppose that they can be happy by upholding, protecting and maintaining their most cherished views, opinions, and ideas by sacrificing their wealth, families, and even the country. They may even sacrifice their lives in the name of their opinions or beliefs which they think make them happy. People from time immemorial all over the world all the time, kill as many as they think necessary to protect their beliefs. The amount of killing to protect material possession, is insignificant compared to the killing going on in the vein of human history in order to protect ideas, opinions and beliefs. Human history is stained with blood of such brutal murders. Nevertheless, no matter how lofty their ideals, opinions, or views may be, all of them without any exception are subject to the law of impermanence. The real happiness comes not by promoting but by giving up opinions, views or ideas, for any pleasure stemming from opinions or ideas or belief can change into displeasure. If a man is happy by simply giving generously his material possession, how happy should he be when he willingly parts with all beliefs and opinions or views which are most difficult to part with. The happiness experienced after liberating oneself from such ideas, opinions and beliefs, is the most blissful happiness. Referring to this kind of happiness, the Buddha said: “Better than sole kingship on earth, better than going to heaven, better than lordship over all the worlds is the fruit of reaching the stream.” (of Enlightenment) [Dh. v. 178]

Pointing out how unhappiness or suffering is causally conditioned the Buddha said in Mahanidana Sutta: “Thus, Ananda, in dependence upon feeling there is craving; in dependence upon craving there is pursuit; in dependence upon pursuit there is gain; in dependence upon gain there is decision- making; in dependence upon decision-making there is desire and lust; in dependence upon desire and lust there is attachment; in dependence upon attachment there is possessiveness; in dependence upon possessiveness there is stinginess; in dependence upon stinginess there is safeguarding; and because of safeguarding, various evil unwholesome phenomena originate--the taking up of clubs and weapons, conflicts, quarrels, and disputes, insulting speech, slander, and falsehoods.” [The Great Discourse on Causation, The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries, Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka. pp. 55-56].

It follows, then, that by putting this in reverse order happiness is obtained, for it is from total elimination, complete eradication and total absence of craving that happiness is ensured. No other way can one obtain real happiness; not by faith alone in some unknown power but by realizing the truth face to face.

In the Buddha’s blueprint of happiness there are three stages--moral behavior (sila), concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panna). The foundation of happiness lies in the practice of moral principles. One does not have to wait until he reaches the end of the tunnel to see the light of happiness, for while being engaged in the path of practicing moral principles, he will certainly have moments of happiness as a fringe benefit. This means happiness comes from living a good moral life, not from immoral life.

“That monk who is perfected in morality sees no danger from any side owing to his being restrained by morality. Just as a duly anointed Khattiya king, having conquered his enemies, by that very fact sees no danger from any side, so the monk, on account of his morality, sees no danger anywhere. He experiences in himself the blameless bliss that comes from maintaining this Aryan morality.” [Thus Have I Heard, The Long Discourses of the Buddha, Translated from Pali by Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publication, London. p. 100, DN. I. pp.69-70]

Therefore, suppose somebody, realizing the impediments of sensual pleasure, becomes a bhikkhu, a homeless one entirely dependent upon people for his livelihood. He practices principles of wanting less not more, contentment, solitude, perseverance, constant mindfulness, concentration, and cultivates wisdom to free the mind from all defilements. He really and truly enjoys the higher degrees of happiness. This practice leads him to realize the Dhamma and to give up craving, pursuit, gain, decision-making, desire and lust, attachment, possessiveness, stinginess, safeguarding and various evil unwholesome phenomena causing taking up of clubs and weapons, conflicts, quarrels, and disputes, insulting speech, slander and falsehoods. This practice will most certainly bring him an enormous degree of happiness.

When he takes up meditation seriously and overcomes greed, he is happy like a man who has paid his debt; free from ill-will, he is happy like a man who is free from sickness. Free from sleepiness and drowsiness, he is happy like one free from imprisonment. Free from restlessness and worry he is happy like one free from slavery and free from doubts he is happy like one who safely crosses a desert.

And when he knows that these five hindrances have left him, gladness arises in him, from gladness comes delight, from the delight in his mind his body is tranquillized, with a tranquil body he feels joy, and with joy his mind is concentrated. Being thus detached from sense-desires, detached from unwholesome states, he enters and remains in the first Jhana, which is with thinking and pondering, born of detachment, filled with delight and joy. And with this delight and joy born of detachment, he so suffuses, drenches, fills and irradiates his body that there is no spot in his entire body that is untouched by this delight and joy born of detachment.

The Buddha shows that happiness is causally conditioned. It arises in the sequence of conditions issuing in liberation. In this sequence it follows rapture (piti) and tranquility (passaddhi) and happiness (sukha) leads to concentration (samadhi). The Upanisa Sutta says: “Gladness is the supporting condition for rapture; rapture is the supporting condition for tranquility, tranquility for happiness, happiness for concentration.” The commentary explains that gladness (pamojja) represents the initial forms of rapture, (piti) the stronger forms. Tranquility (passaddhi) is the calm that emerges through the subsiding of defilements; the happiness (sukha) to which it leads the commentary calls “the happiness preceding absorption” and the subcommentary “the happiness pertaining to the access to Jhana.” The resulting concentration is the Jhana forming a basis for insight (padakajjhana). From this we can infer that the happiness included in this causal sequence is the nascent Jhana factor of sukha, which begins to emerge in the access stage and reaches full maturity in the actual Jhana itself. But since happiness is always present whenever rapture is present, it follows that happiness must have arisen at the very beginning of the sequence. In the stage bearing its name it only acquires special prominence, not a first appearance. When happiness gains in force, it exercises the function of suppressing its direct opposite, the hindrance of restlessness and worry, which causes unhappiness through its agitating nature.

Nevertheless, it is this very same excitement causing restlessness and worry that an average person calls happiness. Happiness and excitement do not exist together in the same mind at the same time, for these are diametrically opposite mental factors. As happiness enters the mind through the front door, restlessness and excitement leave the mind through the back door. The excited person’s behavior is quite different from that of a happy person. When someone, for instance, is excited he or she expresses his or her excitement by smiling, laughing, whistling, singing, dancing, kissing, hugging, running, crying or even saying things which he or she would never otherwise say under any circumstance. When the real happiness arises, however, the person does not express anything either verbally or physically, but remains calm, peaceful, composed, and serene, for it is this real happiness that leads his mind to true concentration. As we know, it is not excitement but just the opposite of it that leads the mind to concentration. As the concentrated mind generates sufficient quietness of the mind, instead of expressing any mental agitation, truly happy person sees the truth as it is. The real knowledge of the truth makes a person wise enough to be happy in the deepest sense of the word.

Joy and happiness link together in a very close relationship, so that it may be difficult to distinguish them. Nevertheless the two are not identical states. Happiness always accompanies joy but joy does not always accompany happiness: “Where there is joy there is happiness but where there is happiness there is not necessarily joy. In the third Jhana there is happiness but no joy. Joy, as we noted, belongs to the aggregate of mental formations, happiness to the aggregate of feelings. The Atthasalini explains joy as “delight in the attaining of the desired object” and happiness as “the enjoyment of the taste of what is acquired,” illustrating the difference by means of a vivid simile:

Rapture is like a weary traveler in the desert in summer, who hears of, or sees water or a shady wood. Ease (happiness) is like his enjoying the water or entering the forest shade. For a man who, traveling along the path through a great desert and overcome by the heat, is thirsty and desirous of drink, if he saw a man on the way, would ask, ‘Where is water?’ The other would say, Beyond the wood is a dense forest with a natural lake. Go there, and you will get some’. He, hearing these words, would be glad and delighted, and as he went would see lotus leaves, etc., fallen on the ground and become more glad and delighted. Going onwards, he would see men with wet clothes and hair, hear the sounds of wild fowl and pea-fowl, etc., see the dense forest of green like a net of jewels growing by the edge of the natural lake, he would see the water lily, the lotus, the white lily, etc., growing in the lake, he would see the clear transparent water, he would be all the more glad and delighted, would descend into the natural lake, bathe and drink at pleasure and, his oppression being allayed, he would eat the fibers and stalks of the lilies, adorn himself with the blue lotus, carry on his shoulders the roots of the mandalaka, ascend from the lake, put on his clothes, dry the bathing cloth in the sun, and in the cool shade where the breeze blew ever so gently lay himself down and say: ‘O bliss ! O bliss !’ Thus should this illustration be applied: The time of gladness and delight from when he heard of the natural lake and the dense forest till he saw the water is like rapture having the manner of gladness and delight at the object in view. The time when, after his bath and drink he laid himself down in the cool shade, saying, `O bliss ! O bliss !’, etc., is the sense of ease (happiness) grown strong, established in that mode of enjoying the taste of the object.

Rapture and happiness co-exist in the first Jhana, thence the commentarial simile should not be taken to imply that they are mutually exclusive. Its purport is to suggest that rapture gains prominence before happiness, for which it helps provide a causal foundation.

Describing a meditator’s rapture and happiness the Buddha says: “A monk enters and dwells in the first Jhana. He steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness. Just as a skillful bath-attendant or his apprentice might strew bathing powder in a copper basin, sprinkle it again and again with water, and knead it together so that the mass of bathing soap would be pervaded, suffused, and saturated with moisture inside and out yet would not ooze moisture, so a monk steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness born of seclusion.”

Again, a monk, with the subsiding of thinking and pondering, by gaining inner tranquillity and oneness of mind, enters and remains in the second Jhana, which is without thinking and pondering, born of concentration, filled with delight and joy. And with this delight and joy born of concentration he so suffuses his body that no spot remains untouched.

Again, a monk with the fading away of delight remains imperturbably mindful and clearly aware, and experiences in himself that joy of which the Noble Ones say: ‘Happy is he who dwells with equanimity and mindfulness’, and he enters and remains in the third Jhana. And with this joy devoid of delight he so suffuses his body that no spot remains untouched.” [Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha p.103].

Every form of suffering grows out of mental impulse, consciousness, feeling, greed, clinging, grasping, rebecoming, birth, decay, death, and sickness. Therefore, eliminate them, you will be permanently happy. [Sn. vs. 731-750].

Buddha said just as in the great ocean there is but one taste, the taste of salt, so in his doctrine and discipline there is but one taste, the taste of freedom (vimuttirasa). When someone tastes the taste of freedom from all bondage he experiences real happiness called happiness of calmness (upasamasukha).

It is happiness, as we have already mentioned, that brings peace. Therefor the Buddha has prescribed a very practical way of cultivating loving-kindness which, in turn, brings happiness.

One who practices loving-kindness should wish, “May all beings be happy and secure! May all beings have happy minds! Whatever living beings there may be without exception, weak or strong, long, large, middling, short, subtle, or gross, visible or invisible, living near or far, born or coming to birth--may all beings have happy minds! Let no one deceive another nor despise anyone anywhere. Neither in anger nor ill will should anyone wish harm to another. As a mother would risk her own life to protect her only child, even so towards all living beings one should cultivate a boundless heart. One should cultivate for all the world a heart of boundless loving-kindness, above, below, and across, unobstructed, without hate or enmity. Whether standing, walking, or sitting, lying down or whenever awake, he should develop this mindfulness; this is called divinely dwelling here. Not falling into erroneous views, but virtuous and endowed with vision, removing desire for sensual pleasures, he comes never again to birth in the womb.” [Karaniyametta Sutta, SN.]

One who practices loving-kindness can sleep well and can get up well. He will not have nightmares. He will be pleasant to human beings, pleasant to nonhuman beings. He will be protected by the angels. No enemies will harm him. When he meditates, he gains concentration quickly and if he does not attain enlightenment in this life, he will be reborn in, a higher realm of highest deities.

You must cultivate loving-kindness within yourself first before trying to share it with others, for only when you feel the aforementioned benefits can you share them with others, and it is most conspicuous that you cannot share with others what you do not have within yourself. The technique of cultivating loving- kindness lies in the relaxation technique of meditation. Loving kindness is a universal emotion the root of which lies in every person’s mind. As it is buried under various unwholesome conditioning, most people are unaware of its presence in their minds. Moreover, all kinds of fear, anxiety, tension, worries, etc. keep it repressed. Once they are removed from their minds, loving kindness starts to operate freely, manifesting itself in compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity, all of which are the sources of happiness. Once the hatred is removed from the mind, loving-kindness grows up freely, unhindered by any of its opposites. It is the one who practices loving kindness all the time, who experiences true happiness.

Buddha said just as in the great ocean there is but one taste, the taste of salt, so in his doctrine and discipline there is but one taste, the taste of freedom [vimuttirasa]. When someone tastes the taste of freedom from all bondage he experiences real happiness called happiness of calmness [upasamasukha].

There are two types of happiness--one is experiential [vedayita)] and the other nonexperiential [avedayita]. The latter is considered to be the highest, for it does not change, and the former is placed in a lower degree of happiness, for it changes. The latter is attained after eradicating all the defilements in the mind and the former is attained without destroying them. As long as defilements including hindrances are not destroyed, whatever happiness attained is subject to change.

The highest happiness, of course, is Nibbana [Nibbanam paramam sukham]. Venerable Sariputta, as recorded in the Anguttara Nikaya, says in one of his dialogues: “This nibbana is happiness” [sukham idam avuso nibbanam]. One of the listening monks then asked: “Friend Sariputta, what is then here the happiness that is not felt in this [nibbana]?” [kim pan avuso Sariputta sukham, yad natti vedayitam ti?"] Answering this question Sariputta said: “That very absence of feeling is happiness here.” [etad eva khv avuso sukham, yad ettha natthi vedayitam.]

Nibbanic happiness is not considered to be a feeling [vedana] to experience, for it is feeling that generates desire. For instance, if the feeling happens to be pleasant, desire arises in the mind for obtaining what is felt. All happiness derived from any feeling may turn into unhappiness. If happiness turns into unhappiness, then what we experience is suffering [dukkha]. True happiness is the happiness attained by eliminating dukkha. The cause of suffering should be eliminated totally, completely, never to return again, in order to eliminate suffering. With total annihilation of the cause of suffering, permanent happiness is possible.

The happiness attained by eliminating dukkha. The cause of suffering should be eliminated totally, completely, never to return again, in order to eliminate suffering.


©2002 Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Bhavana Society