‘Happiness’ is but a fleeting emotion that lasts for just a short time, before it is displaced by other feelings. ‘Unhappiness’ on the other hand, can last for days or even years, because it can transmute into many forms – be it disappointment, jealousy or anger. Unhappiness is not so much the opposite of happiness, rather it is the absence of happiness.
Many people associate increasing material wealth with happiness. Bro. Tan explained that gaining wealth contributes to happiness only to a certain extent. Wealth, fame, and power are forms of ‘sāmisam sukham’ (“baited” happiness), which are conditional and transient, giving rise later to anxiety, fear and worry. Contrary to this is ‘nirāmisam sukham’ (“unbaited” happiness) that leads to ‘santutthi’ (contentment) without any attendant sufferings.
In aspiring for true happiness, Bro. Tan quoted a discourse from the Digha Nikāya (DN 33), where the Buddha proclaimed four kinds of resolve (cattāro adhitthānāni) to be reflected and striven for daily:
• ‘Paññā’ – wisdom, clarity, and discretion to make right decisions. One can cultivate wisdom by associating and learning from those who are wise, then meditating and reflecting on what has been learned. Doing this on a daily basis, we gradually gain wisdom over time.
• ‘Sacca’ – truth and insights into the Dhamma. This is not just learning from attending talks and courses. Through the arising of wisdom from meditation and reflection, we can see the true nature of life and the world more clearly.
• ‘Cāga’ – relinquishment, ability to care and share, and give without expectations and attachments. In so doing, we give up unwholesome qualities and learn to practice liberality, gaining freedom from the bonds of attachment.
• ‘Upasama’ – tranquillity, peace and quietude. Peace does not happen overnight, and needs to be cultivated daily over a period of time. Practise meditation every day, and make time and space for quiet reflection.