Higher Levels of Happiness
Excerpt from My Buddhist Journal; A Year in the Life of a Buddhist
... and that begs the question, “Is there a higher form of happiness that is less transient?” It turns out there may be.
And on to still another Buddhist list and a higher form of happiness
1 loving-kindness or benevolence
3 empathetic joy
Love and kindness. We want this intention to manifest itself in some physical form. It’s not merely saying I have the intention of kindness, but taking the intention and turning it into a physical activity. Turning your intention into actual acts of kindness. It’s one things to have the intention to go down to the homeless shelter and help out over a busy time, but a completely different thing to actually go down and help out during a busy time. Politicians may get credit for having the intention to lower our taxes, but in Buddhism, we really only get the credit for manifesting the intention. Going to help at the homeless shelter will actually have the effect of changing peoples lives and probably even your life. But note the focus isn’t on ourselves, but on others - we are helping others. And that’s where the compassion comes in.
Compassion. Simply thinking about the suffering of others is one level of compassions, but actually going to help is true compassion. It’s taking the abstract and turning it into concrete action that will help relieve suffering. The physical act of helping others, paradoxically, seems to help us just as much!
Altruistic or Empathetic Joy. Finding happiness in the success of others. I have to say, I have trouble with this one. Altruistic joy means finding my happiness in the good fortune of others. Finding my happiness in the good nature of others and finding my happiness in the good deeds of others. Sometimes, I just want it to be about my good deeds or my good fortune. Why did they win the lottery and I didn’t? Well, just like love and kindness, the paradox is that if you can take joy in the success of others, you, yourself will find greater happiness. Given the world population of, what, 7B people, if I could find happiness in their good fortune, then I’d have 7B ways to be happy! That’s worth thinking about. It’s no longer just about my happiness and how I can get happiness, it’s about how I can enjoy the happiness of 7B other people!
Equanimity. Perfect balance of mind. No reason to pick sides. Sit gently in the middle and have no preferences, no unhealthy attachment no immovable opinion. We don’t seem to use this much of Facebook, but maybe it’d be nice if we could.
Those are the four Brahmavihāras. Love and kindness, the activity of compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity. These, if practiced and taken to heart, will improve our happiness quotient - and importantly the happiness of others - quite a bit and, importantly, in a more permanent manner than merely using our “sense doors” to lead us to happiness. The two forms of happiness are not mutually exclusive and can both be practiced, but just remember that sense doors tend to be ethereal and passing, while the four Brahmavihāras (or the Four Immeasurables) lead to long term happiness for ourselves and others. But it’s still not permanent! - Higher, for sure, but not permanent. But the Buddha taught a way to find permanent happiness and that leads us to the subject of Nirvana.