On Sunday 26 February, Nalandians and devotees gathered at our spiritual home to observe the monthly ‘Samaggi Day’. Through a profound Dhamma teaching, Nalanda founder Bro. Tan led the congregation in exploring the question, ‘what lies beyond happiness?’
Human beings are universally searching for happiness and satisfaction. Bro. Tan firstly talked about the many kinds of mundane happiness, and the factors contributing to it, such as (sensual) pleasure; the depth of mental engagement in our pursuits; cordial relationship with others; having meaning in life; and experiencing a sense of accomplishment.
In Buddhism, happiness (Pāli, ‘sukhā’) is considered a type of feeling, along with unhappiness (‘dukkhā’) and neutral feelings (‘adukkham-asukhā vedanā’). If we were mindful of our feelings, we will realise that they are all temporary. Attachment to something so impermanent will only lead to suffering. Therefore, we should understand the transient nature of happiness and go beyond it.
The Buddha taught us that beyond happiness is the experience of ‘well-being’ (Pāli, ‘hitayā’). This is when the mind is untroubled by the vagaries of life. There is a sense of calm acceptance and contentment amidst changing fortunes. We can still experience ‘well-being’ even when certain aspects of our lives are undergoing stress.
Beyond our own bliss is the happiness of others. We can see to their happiness through our generosity and moral conduct. Another quality that surpasses happiness is contentment. When the mind is contented, we become easy to support, needing only very little in life to be satisfied.
Greater than happiness is peace. When we have peace, our well-being is not conditional upon how people treat us; we ourselves can determine our happiness. Finally, lying beyond the quest for happiness is the pursuit of wisdom. With wisdom, even unpleasant and challenging situations can make us grow and benefit us spiritually.
By living in accordance to Dhamma, we can experience something beyond happiness – the freedom from suffering. When we have gone beyond suffering and attained to the unparalleled bliss of Nibbāna, it marks the end to all pursuits in life.
We thank Bro. Tan for this wondrous teaching. May we heed this advice and continue to live in accordance to the Dhamma, going beyond mundane joys of life, and achieving much more than mere happiness. Sadhu anumodana.