Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #16 – Happiness: What It Is and What It’s Not

April 22nd, 2019

Quickly, without thinking, say the first thing that comes into your mind: I will be happy when _____?


Whatever answer you gave fits into one of two general categories: I will be happy in the future when I change the world to conform to what I want, or I will be happy now when I change my consciousness to conform to what the universe or God wants.


If you chose the former, your faith is misdirected for three reasons: you are not the controller, so the world will not conform to your desires; even if you were successful, your achievement would be temporary; and even if that change was permanent it still wouldn’t be happiness. Real happiness is in the heart and not just the world.


The world is beyond our control.


Our quest for happiness will fail if our objective is solely in the future, because no matter how much power we amass in the form of wealth, beauty, or fame to achieve that goal, we still are not the ultimate controller. Something will surely go wrong and frustrate us. In fact, even the littlest thing out of our control can negate all of our material happiness. Think of Bill Gates with a toothache. In other words, to really be the enjoyer of the world, we need to be totally the controller of the world or our destiny, and we are not.


The world is temporary.


Even if we could control the world to finally conform to our desires, we still wouldn’t be happy, because anything achieved in this world is temporary and filled with duality. Duality means that even the best of material things is also imbued with distress, because when something is temporary there is fear of loss, and always pain when we do.


The world is not happiness anyway.


Even if you could control the world to finally conform to your desires forever, still happiness would allude you, for real happiness is not what you have, but how you feel. It is not power and consequent material accruement, but an internal state of flourishing.


Real Happiness


Two of the main words for satisfaction are very revealing concerning the internal nature of happiness: contentment and fulfillment.


The word “contentment” indicates that to be content (satisfied within) depends on your content (what is inside of you). One of the suspected etymological explanations of this connection between the two definitions of this one word is a phrase first used by Shakespeare, “heart’s content” [1], which means doing something to your full satisfaction. In other words, reaching the point when you are fully satisfied or content is not just how much you accrue but the content of the heart, the point where you feel full. In that regard, fulfillment as a synonym for contentment has the same connotation — that we will be happy not just with what we have but also by how much the heart is fulfilled. How many times have we seen people with everything but not feeling satisfied or full?


We aren’t talking renunciation here. It’s not that one shouldn’t pursue their needs, or that family and career cannot be connected or important to one’s fulfillment. Done properly, they should be. They are just not ultimate happiness in themselves, and to pursue anything external without a connection to the eternal will surely fail.


There is a saying I have quoted often that really sums up this concept of what happiness is and what it is not, which merits repetition and a very short analysis:


“Pleasure is the happiness of a madman and happiness is the pleasure of a sage.” The words can be synonymous, but in the first phrase pleasure is used to indicate external stimulation in terms of the senses and ego, which is a foolish goal. Happiness in the second phrase is defined as contentment, or an internal flourishing, which for the enlightened is actual pleasure or joy.


I will leave you this week with another of my oft-repeated phrases, one I heard from a simple vrajavāsī gardener. I consider it like a mantra to describes the true and internal nature of happiness:


Happiness is a heart filled with devotion.






[1] This phrase is first put into print in Shakespeare’s plays and there’s every reason to believe that he coined it. He used it in at least two plays:

Henry VI, Part II, 1592 — “Her grace in Speech, Makes me from Wondring, fall to Weeping ioyes, Such is the Fulnesse of my hearts content.” 

The Merchant of Venice, 1596 — “I wish your Ladiship all hearts content.”


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