From a theosophical standpoint what is happiness?

Here is a favorite passage of Mahatma Gandhi's from the writer Henry Drummond to consider in relation to this question.

"The most obvious lesson in Christ's teaching is that there is no happiness in having or getting anything, but only by giving....And half the world is on the wrong scent in the pursuit of happiness.  They think it consists in having and getting, and in being served by others.  It consists in giving and serving others.  He that would be great among you said Christ, let him serve. He that would be happy, let him remember that there is but one way— it is more blessed, it is more happy to give than to receive."

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My wife Doreen and I discussed this very matter yesterday!

Yes, as Gandi says, we've gotten this matter of happiness completely backwards.  The more we try to get from the world - the more stuff we do get, the less happy we become...  Sadly we've been conditioned in this way.  This idea of getting is all around us - we're surrounded!  The Great Heresy in theosophical terms.

On the other hand, the more we give, in a sincerly selfless way, the happier we become!  Contrary to popular thought :) 

And we then discussed 'why is this true?' - why are we happier when we give vs get? ...  a good discussion! 


Happiness is unfortunately perceived as a goal, a "thing" to be achieved as if it constitutes an objective form, whereas in reality it is only a byproduct of our actions whether for good or for bad - even a malicious act can make the culprit happy albeit for a short time. So it is not happiness we ought to strife for but proper action, as explained by Krishna throughout the Bhagavad Gita:

"The man whose desires enter his heart, as waters run into the unswelling passive ocean, which, though ever full, yet does not quit its bed, obtaineth happiness; not he who lusteth in his lusts." (Bhagavad Gita, Ch 2, p. 20 in W.Q.Judge edition)

"Now hear what are the three kinds of pleasure wherein happiness comes from habitude and pain is ended." (Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, p. 127 in W.Q.Judge edition) Worth reading the answer! :-)

The ultimate happiness would be the realization of the SELF - identity with all living nature or universal brotherhood:

"There dwelleth in the heart of every creature, O Arjuna, the Master―Ishwara ―who by his magic power causeth all things and creatures to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time. Take sanctuary with him alone, O son of Bharata, with all thy soul; by his grace thou shalt obtain supreme happiness, the eternal place." (Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, p. 130-131 in W.Q.Judge edition)

Hi Pierre,

Very good point. 

At certain time,  one has to do what is "right" regardless of any personal gain or loss.  Happy or sad becomes  irrelevant  or secondary in right living.  Happiness often comes from without, a byproduct of some action.  Joy comes from within and may not have anything to do with the external.   The former is a result of activation of the solar plexus;  the latter is the awakening of the heart.   


I think this discussion gets to the heart, or to the 'key' to Theosophy. 

The key, namely to serve others, seems to not be related to any attempt to become individually happy - as after all that would simply another angle of attempting to satisfy - 'me'.   Rather, it would be an impersonal transformation, or shifting intention (or attention) from 'me' to 'you'. 

How, why, or at what point such a transformation or shift of attention from (serving) me to (serving) the all, or to others, is the interesting pivot point.        

Don;  does the reorientation of life in this direction feel a little bit like changing the direction of a tanker ship at sea?  It does not happen overnight it seems.


I get your drift, but I think it feels more like the tanker sinking at sea! 

I don't really know if time, as we know it, has a direct correlation here.  Yes, it appears that we go through much time, many incarnations before this transformation occurs.  Yet, I cannot say, nor do I know, how that timing works.  It may happen in phases, a little more now, and more later..  Gradually, it may happen more. 

What do you make of the Dalai Lama primary premise: every human being seeks happiness?

I think this is true - the human seeks happiness, but that happiness would seem to be a sense of connection or blending with Nature, the sense of oneness with all.  It is like something seeking it's home or its natural harmony with the all.  It would not seem to be something personal, or independent.  There would be no 'me' involved.   

The Dalai Lama may be referring to the (sub)-conscious drive in every human being to seek reunion with its supreme source as mentioned by Krishna in the Gita (as in the last quote above). In daily life however - due to lack of awareness - it translates in low-level desires as they are easier to come by - albeit for a price. I don't think the DL was referring to that.

I think what he is saying is very simple.  No human being ever said I really don't like happiness, I want to be unhappy.  Even masochists do what they do thinking it will make them happy.  So it becomes a very simple common bond between human beings.  The problem, as you point out, is we are going about it all the wrong ways and what we think will make us happy (getting and spending) just gets us in an endless loop wherein there is never any satisfaction.  So he uses it as a way to help people to discover their commonality with others in hope that the spark of compassion will be lit.  That is one take on it.

No human being ever said I really don't like happiness, I want to be unhappy.

Well... personally, I don't like the kind of happiness that has for its polar opposite unhappiness. There is a fundamental difference between Anand (bliss, joy, contentment, etc.) and what humans commonly refer to as happiness (which is typically not much more than an emotional state—temporary, fleeting, and prone to always be linked to (and thus lead to) its opposite: sadness, depression, boredom, etc.). Most humans spend their entire lives bouncing back and forth between these two states, either drastically (as in bi-polars or as in those who take 'drugs' to get 'high', which is always, inevitably followed by a 'low') or more subtley (as in the average person who fluxuates moderately between the two.

I believe the kind of 'happiness' the Dalai Lama means, and the kind of 'happiness' Krishna means is the joy of the Self. That joy resides above the 'pairs of opposites', including happiness-sadness.

So I do think there's something important in what Pierre points out above. Anand is the bliss of union of self with Self, which is entirely different than common human happiness, which belongs to a 'lower plane'.

To me the words of the Dalai Lama are well calculated: those who have an inkling of what Anand is will understand his words in that context, but even if someone has no idea of that bliss they'll still relate to what he's saying because they understand the desire for 'emotional happiness'. So either way, everyone can relate to what he's saying on some level. To me, that's his genius!

Well said sir, well said!

Here's an article on care2, they seem to be interested in the subject as well :-)

Happiness is Overrated

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Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 26, 2013 at 12:09pm

How do we define happiness?  What is it?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 26, 2013 at 12:08pm

How about this?  Balance and Imbalance.  Would you say I don't like the kind of balance that has imbalance as its opposite? 

Could you not say happiness is a sort of balance and  unhappiness a sort of imbalance?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on April 26, 2013 at 5:21pm

Would you say I don't like the kind of balance that has imbalance as its opposite?

Why yes. I'd be happy (wink wink) to say that. Any kind of 'balance' that requires 'imbalance' in order to define it as balance is unworthy of our admiration. The kind of 'balance' that is inherent in fundamental unity (which eternally IS, regardless of whether any single portion of manifestation is experiencing balance or imbalance), now that's worth aiming for. :) Anything that requires an opposite in order to be is eternally bound to that opposite: darkness to light, being to non-being, life to death, etc.. Being caught up in the cyclic process of birth and death is due to the fact that these opposites are bound to each other and that we obsessively thirst after (tanha) one of them (setting up an attraction-aversion relationship between ourselves and the pair), thus we continue to swing back and forth from one to the other. Same with happiness and sadness or any other manifested states of being. If we chase one, we inevitably rebound to its opposite, 'cause life in this world is built on the motion of the pendulum. Chasing happiness is a little like playing tetherball with oneself. ;)

So I think we need to go beyond our lower mind tendency to understand things through comparison to their opposite, and the way 99% of people approach and understand 'happiness' never goes beyond that level. Anand, however, is entirely beyond our kama-manasic understanding, as it is rooted in Buddhi. Anand IS, whether or not the individual is actively experiencing it, and whether or not the individual is experiencing 'happiness' or 'unhappiness', 'balance' or 'imbalance', 'sanity' or 'insanity', etc.. Anand IS.

We might say that 'happiness' and 'unhappiness' are the two lower corners of the triangle, Anand is the apex.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 26, 2013 at 10:53pm

 Is not equanimity (balance) to be desired as Krishna states in the Gita?

"Equal-mindedness is called Yoga." Chapt. 2 BG

I think the practical difficulty with this argument (happiness or balance is unworthy of admiration) is that it requires a human being to make one giant step to Ananda (the higher example stated above) when we know in fact that nothing in nature grows that way.  Everything advances incrementally.  You might say that we move from lower levels of happiness to higher and higher levels of it through the contrast we gain from duality.  Without the duality we cannot grow and we become stagnant.

The fundamental truth that all human beings seek happiness, (try as one might to discount or contort it) is precisely what the Dalai Lama is saying.

The fact that there may be some transcendent happiness (Bliss, Ananada) does not negate the value of their being levels of it which the student must ascend step by step.

Another problem we may be stuck on is equating happiness with pleasurable emotions.  Could it mean more?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on April 29, 2013 at 9:41am

Happiness is born from misfortune; misfortune is hidden in the heart of happiness. (Tao Te Ching, 58)

Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery. (Tao Te Ching, 58)

[First quote is Johnston's translation, second is Stephen Mitchell's]

I perhaps may view this a little differently, or from another angle than yourself. Thing about equalmindedness (to my view) is that it's neither happy nor sad, neither bothered nor not bothered, neither propelled to avoid pain nor drawn to seek pleasure. Happiness is akin to being drawn towards pleasure, is it not? On Earth it is the effect (emotional effect) of having (temporarily) attained to what we have determined to be pleasurable or satisfying. In "Heaven" it is really the same, but on a higher plane.

Over and over again the masters of old tell us to stop seeking the opposites, that we are ultimately beyond duality, and I think we need to take that quite literally. From the great master's letter:

"Teach the people to see that life on this earth even the happiest is but a burden and an illusion, that it is but our own Karma, the cause producing the effect, that is our own judge, our Saviour in future lives, and the great struggle for life will soon lose its intensity."

We need but look at the society based on the (seemingly noble) idea of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to see where that kind of struggle leads. People in this culture are so ravenously obsessed with being happy 24/7 that they're willing to do anything to gain that, regardless of who else might be effected. Seeking for human, earthly happiness is, in my view, one of the key roots to our societal problems. The pursuit of happiness is really just another way of saying "the pursuit of egoic satisfaction or 'fulfillment'" (even if the 'happiness' we're seeking is Anand, we're still doing it from an egoic desire for it).

For a human being to become happy they first need a concept that says: "this type of situation or state, etc., is what makes me happy while other states, situations, etc., do not." Then one need to experience the former and not the latter. The stronger the desire for the former, the stronger the aversion for the latter, and thus we become trapped in the web of duality (like a fly struggling in a web, we only bind ourselves tighter). And I think this is the kicker: strengthen one pole and you automatically strengthen the other (i.e. the stronger, higher, more important, more drastic, more intense the happiness we seek, the stronger, etc., the suffering that counterbalances it.

The movie trilogy The Matrix illustrates this well. In that movie there is a fundamental equation that upholds the Matrix, and as one side of that equation (centered upon Neo) strengthens it is automatically counterbalanced by an opposing side (centered upon Smith). The opposing forces are concentrated and no solution can be found (just as in Harry Potter: "neither can die while the other lives"). It is only when Neo gives up and utterly surrenders himself (just as Potter did, allowing himself to die) to the non-dual reality, the Master (personified by the Oracle (or by Dumbledore in the other) and her will) that the two opposites re-merge and peace is attained. Neo and Harry had to give up their own will to the will of the Master (and thus give up their own pursuit of happiness or peace (or pursuit of anything, really). The two sides of the equation could fight forever and ever and there would never be a victor (i.e. there is no final 'happiness' nor final 'suffering' (or destruction) to be attained), but the true happiness and peace Neo (or Harry) desired came only with complete surrender. "He who loses his life for my sake gains it." So long as we seek 'happiness', 'fulfillment', 'pleasure', call them what we will, so long will we be rooted to the spot, and trapped in our own egoic webs. Better to be utterly indifferent to our own experiences and simply "do the work for the sake of the work".

All the old masters seem (to me) to be telling us to surrender this attraction/aversion way of life and to give up all pursuits based on ourselves (including the Path (see impediment #5, Voice of the Silence, Part I, note 43).

Any counter-points or thoughts on where I may be going astray in this view?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 29, 2013 at 10:11am

Now… this post makes me very unhappy! :-)

Permalink Reply by Joseph Miller on July 15, 2013 at 10:39am

From Matthieu Ricard (French translator for HH Dalai Lama):

"Happiness can't be limited to a few pleasant sensations, to some intense pleasure, to an eruption of joy or a fleeting sense of serenity, to a cheery day or a magic moment . . . . By 'happiness' I mean here a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it."

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on July 15, 2013 at 11:02am

Wow. What a quote! Thanks for sharing that. :)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 15, 2013 at 11:51am

I second that.  Great quote Joe.  I think it clarifies and summarizes a great deal of the concerns of the group about looking at Happiness in too limited terms and got to the core of what a higher notion might look like.  Obviously the Dalai Lama has staked a lot of his work on this concept.

Permalink Reply by Mary Elyn Bahlert on April 24, 2013 at 10:54am

hmmm, good topic.  I don't know much about the Theosophical teachings but I have a long spiritual journey and i can draw on experience.  I know from my own experience that there is a real joy in giving, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. 

I have done "service" in terms of profession, my whole life.  At this point, as I am facing a change in life to retirement and practicing as a spiritual teacher and coach, I know that I am completely grateful for having had the privilege to be of service. 

However, I'm not sure "blessed" and "happiness" can be translated as the same root word.  Good for a word study, to be sure!  Words I use other than "happiness" tend to be "joy" or "gratitude," which may not be the same thing. 

I do agree that we placed a great importance culturally on "having," and that "having " is not at all the same as "joy" or "happiness."  Is it our inherent right to have the "pursuit of happiness?"  I'm not sure of that at all, and I'm not even sure the "founding fathers" of this nation meant "everyone."   After all, they did say:  "men." (!).

And what is blessing, the word so often used to translate the teachings of Jesus?  Is that the same as happiness?

I guess I have more questions than answers!  Thanks for inviting me into the conversation, though, Gerry.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 24, 2013 at 10:55pm

Mary we all benefited.  

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 24, 2013 at 10:54pm

What do you think Lincoln meant when he said, " I think people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be."?

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Permalink Reply by Vicki Stebbings on April 25, 2013 at 8:46am
It seems that when I give to others, I give to me. And I actually get more than I perceive to be giving. I like the feeling to give without anyone knowing that it was me... That way my personality receives no credit.
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 26, 2013 at 12:17pm

"I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.  That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life.  So I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness...."     — The Dalai Lama

When asked if happiness is a reasonable goal for most of us?   The Dalai Lama replied, "Yes. I believe that happiness can be achieved through training the mind."

From the Art of Happiness:  A Handbook for Living    by the Dalai Lama

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on April 26, 2013 at 5:30pm

Thanks for sharing the quotes Gerry.

I think when we see that the kind of happiness the DL is talking about requires "training the mind", we can understand quite clearly that he isn't referring to the common human happiness people are familiar with, which can be 'attained' without any training at all. All one has to do is be there when one's wife comes home from work; or see one's child take their first steps; or fall in love; or see a nice sunset, etc., etc.. Human happiness can come easily, but it can leave just as easily. The kind of happiness that comes from training the mind is much different I think. For starters, it never leaves us, and requires no external stimuli.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on April 26, 2013 at 6:03pm

Generally, happiness is reactionary state of the personality. It is response to something pleasant that happen on the outside, like one gets a good deal on a computer, one aces on a test, it is a sunny day, etc. I do not believe the teachers ever said that that studying and living Theosophy would make someone happy. 


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on April 29, 2013 at 9:45am

I do not believe the teachers ever said that studying and living Theosophy would make someone happy.

Good points. Isn't the path of renunciation called the "Path of Woe", the path of misery, etc.?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 29, 2013 at 1:58pm

OK, but might we say that the path of the Olympic athlete is a path of pain.  The pain of training the body.  There is a higher contentment (happiness)  that comes from working hard and the satisfaction of achievement.  You hear from disciples of the truth like Gandhi that the climb is both hard and exhilarating.  Hard to let of the personal minds likes and dislikes, pains and pleasure, exhilarating to be liberated from the limitations these things impose.

Could it be the problem is how we define happiness?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on April 29, 2013 at 8:49pm

yes, it requires the student to renunicate the personality, which, in general, is not a very "happy" experience, until one learns to become indifferent to one's personal self.

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 27, 2013 at 12:24pm

Perhaps it would be valuable to distinguish between the 'happiness' which is an experience of the mind/ego and the happiness/bliss which is said to be our true being.

For example, in Advaita, ananda (bliss) is said to be one aspect of the Self (Atman) whose nature is sat-chit-ananda (reality-consciousness-bliss). It's not that there is 'a self' which has an experience of bliss, because this would indicate a duality, something blissful that is not the Self but which the Self experiences. Rather, the term ananda or bliss is indicative of the true nature of the Self.

Buddhi is not ananda (bliss), it is the sheath of bliss, called the anandamaya-kosa (kosa meaning sheath). The unconditioned 'consciousness-bliss' which is Atman is only reflected in buddhi.

According to Advaita when the mind experiences happiness or joy from, say, looking at a beautiful sunset, listening to inspiring music, reading inspiring poetry, or in moments of true silence and peace & so on, it does so because for a moment it comes into contact with the anandamaya kosa.

The anandamaya kosa is also the upadhi (karanopadhi) for one of the three general fields or states of experience (avasthas). The other two being the sukshmopadhi and sthulopadhi. (See SD I 157) The three states are that of dreamless sleep, the dream-state and waking state respectively.

All the experiences associated with each of three states (avasthas) are impermanent. Impermanence is a characteristic of all experiences. That is why in Advaita all experiences, no matter how blissful or profound, belong to the realm of relative truths only.  Atman is 'that which IS" - there never was a time when it was not.  Therefore the bliss of the Self can never be an experience of the mind. It is only realised by the true Sage when the mind is dissolved into the Self.

The saying in Advaita is similar to that of the Dalai Lama, quoted in the other messages here - namely that all beings seek happiness because all beings unconsciously seek their own true nature.  The mind seeks to return to its source. Through ignorance we believe happiness and joy reside either in the objects or people in the world (subtle and gross) or in the actions we perform. It is only on realisation of the Self that true happiness/bliss is realised as being what we truly are - and have been - all along. This is the teaching of Advaita.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 27, 2013 at 10:44pm

" It's not that there is 'a self' which has an experience of bliss, because this would indicate a duality, something blissful that is not the Self but which the Self experiences. Rather, the term ananda or bliss is indicative of the true nature of the Self."

Thanks Peter, that pretty much nails it down :-)

Here's a interesting comment by HPB in Transactions, p.24, that supports the above position.

Q. Can the Ah-hi be said to be enjoying bliss?

  A. How can they be subject to bliss or non-bliss? Bliss can only be appreciated, and becomes such when suffering is known.

  Q. But there is a distinction between happiness and bliss.

  A. Granting that there may be, still there can be neither happiness nor bliss without a contrasting experience of suffering and pain.

  Q. But we understand that bliss, as the state of the Absolute, was intended to be referred to.

  A. This is still more illogical. How can the ABSOLUTE be said to feel? The Absolute can have no condition nor attribute. It is only that which is finite and differentiated which can have any feeling or attitude predicated of it.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 29, 2013 at 2:00pm

Is it possible that the one is a reflection of the other.  Happiness, in all its forms at the lower levels are merely reflections of a larger happiness (Bliss) and in the end cannot be fully separated?

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 30, 2013 at 2:10am

i would tend to see it as a derivation rather than a reflection.  Everything, whether so-called good or evil on the "lower levels" would surely need its archetype or prototype in Nature.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 30, 2013 at 10:16am

Peter, could you give an example of an evil prototype in nature?

Do you see these prototypes of good and evil as independent realities of duality or as the two sides of the same coin? Or would evil just be the misinterpretation of the good and thus have no side on the coin?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 30, 2013 at 1:45pm

Hi Pierre - I'm hoping that my answer can live up to your good questions.

First of all I would want to highlight the phrase ‘so called good and so called evil’  as I am sure these must be relative terms only.  

Secondly, the universe is said to be ‘worked and guided from within outwards . . as above, so below, as in heaven so on earth’  (SD I 274) .  So whatever happens on ‘earth’ must have a correspondence in ‘heaven’ in some form or another.    Therefore, our acts of love and hate, creation and destruction, would necessarily have their roots in some more primal source or essence.  That’s not to say the outward acts are identical to the primal source, nor simply reflections, but that they are derived is some way from them.   I believe there is support for this in the SD and Collected Writings.  I’ve put just a couple of the passages below so that you and other members might judge for yourselves. 

'…if the homogeneous One and Absolute is no mere figure of speech, and if heterogeneity in its dualistic aspect, is its offspring – its bifurcous shadow or reflection – then even that divine Homogeneity must contain in itself the essence of both good and evil.  If “God” is Absolute, Infinite, and the Universal Root of all and everything in Nature and its universe, whence comes Evil or D'Evil if not from the same“ Golden Womb” of the absolute? Thus we are forced either to accept the emanation of good and evil, of Agathodæmon and Kakodæmon as offshoots from the same trunk of the Tree of Being, or to resign ourselves to the absurdity of believing in two eternal Absolutes!'  (SD I  411)

'Nature is dual; there is a physical and material side, as there is a spiritual and moral side to it; and, there both good and evil in it, the latter the necessary shadow to its light. To force oneself upon the current of immortality, or rather to secure for oneself an endless series of rebirths as conscious individualities—says the Book of Khiu-ti, Volume XXXI, one must become a co-worker with nature, either for good or for bad, in her work of creation and reproduction, or in that of destruction.'   (CW III 297)

'Nature is as good a mother to the cruel bird of prey as she is to the harmless dove. Mother nature will punish her child, but since he has become her co-worker for destruction she cannot eject him. There are thoroughly wicked and depraved men, yet as highly intellectual and acutely spiritual for evil, as those who are spiritual for good." (CW III 298)

The two references above are to adepts of both the right hand and left hand paths.  There is more that one could say and explore on this aspect, however I think it would be inappropriate to go any further in a discussion on "What is happiness?"

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 30, 2013 at 4:37pm

Thanks Peter,  very good refs.

They do live up to my questions :-)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 29, 2013 at 9:57am

Could we associate happiness with health and unhappiness with disease?   If so, would not health (happiness) be something a human being would want to cultivate?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on April 29, 2013 at 9:26pm

Health, wealth, love, and many other situations bring happiness to our personal self, but it is not something the students focus on because all these are transitory.   I like the passage that Jon posted-

"Teach the people to see that life on this earth even the happiest is but a burden and an illusion, that it is but our own Karma, the cause producing the effect, that is our own judge, our Saviour in future lives, and the great struggle for life will soon lose its intensity."

Another related one is from the Voice of the Silence -

"Desire nothing. Chafe not at Karma, nor at Nature's changeless lows.  But struggle only with the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the perishable."


Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on April 29, 2013 at 9:31pm

Good quote from the Voice Barbara, to relate it to our discussion on happiness.

Well, we've had some interesting perspectives on happiness so far. I guess what we can take with us so far is that there are different meanings to the word happiness, even to the extent that both pro and contra conceptualizations (like what the Dalai Lama said in an upbeat way vs the rather pessimistic approach in the Tao Te King) have the same underlying meaning! Also that happiness is not a goal in and by itself but rather a byproduct of our unselfish and compassionate actions as a best case scenario. There is nothing wrong with feeling or being happy as such, as what Krishna indicates in the BG, the question however is that whatever condition we may find ourselves in (in duality) runs the risk of ours becoming attached to that condition with all detrimental results as a consequence. So non-attachment or not identification with these conditions (whether happiness or any other emotion) seems to be the path to walk. So, if we are aware of the condition of happiness we may as well enjoy it and let it go, or, don't worry be happy! :-)

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on April 29, 2013 at 3:38pm

We can overthink this one.  I've been thinking and thinking about the meaning of happiness, but the more I think about it, the further I seem to get from what it is.  So, back to basics. 

It appears that the happiness that Gandhi and Christ were referring to is simple.  When we give oursleves unconditionally and truly in the interest of the other, this makes us (and others) happy.  When we're on the hunt for ourselves, finding whatever it may be that we seek - happiness, love, money, enlightenment - this makes us unhappy.  I think we can test that internally - it seems to bear out.  We can also discuss the 'why' and 'how' of this, but at some point that seems circular and goes only so far. 

The crux of our life decision-making seems to be this - we can direct our attention either outward toward the other, or inward toward ourselves.  It's one or the other.  To me, this seems to be the very pivot point, the very crux (key) of Theosophy.       

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on May 1, 2013 at 6:04pm
What is happiness? I'm a latecomer in this discussion and I haven't read every post, but I've read a few. So forgive me if I repeat thoughts that have already been presented. 

The last line quoted from the great sage Gandhi reads, "... it is more blessed, it is more happy to give than to receive". Speaking from experience, my greatest happiness in life has been during times when I was completely serving others, and my most miserable feelings during times when I was completely serving myself. What is happiness? Everyone knows what it is. Not just Theosophists, or spiritual seekers, or Christians or Jews or Atheists, or even those who just don't care - we all know what happiness is. Even my one-eyed dog knows what happiness is, (and yes, I actually have a one-eyed dog); IT'S A FEELING; it's a really good feeling. Everyone and everything that is capable of emotion wants to be happy. It's a feeling of contentment and security, well-being and joy. And for some of us, we have discovered that the greatest happiness comes by forgetting self and serving others, by giving. Gandhi is right.
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 7, 2013 at 10:35pm

If an individual were experiencing unhappiness of a serious nature, what practical steps can one take to alleviate the suffering?

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 8, 2013 at 9:27am

That's a very broad question, Gerry.  Could you say a little more as to what you mean by "unhappiness of a serious nature" so as to give us a clearer idea of what you had in mind when you posed the question?   Thanks.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 8, 2013 at 3:06pm

Peter, no need to over think this.  Everyone has felt feelings of unhappiness of different kinds.  What are some general ideas to get out of it.  It is really that simple. What helps to break the chain?

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 8, 2013 at 3:43pm

I'm only asking for clarification, Gerry. It sounded like you were asking, 'what practical steps can we take to help others who are experiencing unhappiness of a serious nature?' That's quite a complex issue not a simple one.  Hence my question.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 8, 2013 at 11:19am

What first comes to mind is a little practice I've used over the years. It seems to me that the greatest pain often arises from our resistance to pain. When I 'give myself' to pain (or unhappiness, etc.) and allow myself to simply reside in that state without liking or disliking it (to the best of my ability), then the pain, or unhappiness or depression, etc., etc., seems to automatically lessen. So that has always been a practical step that's produced good results.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on May 8, 2013 at 5:32pm
Here's some things that I do when experiencing unhappiness:

1. Awareness. Simply be aware of the unpleasant feelings; watch them; study them. Sometimes this is enough to "snap out of it".

2. Change the thoughts. Thoughts generate emotion. Changing the thought changes the emotion.

3. Humor. Think of something funny.
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on June 10, 2013 at 7:34pm

Jimmy;  I very much appreciate this post.  Thank you.  Just what the Doctor ordered.

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 9, 2013 at 1:12am

As Theosophists, wouldn't we want to understand the causes of unhappiness and suffering, not just deal with the effects alone?  

Given that in our manifest world both happiness and unhappiness are - by and large - the results of other causes, would it not be relevant to consider that it is those causes that need to be understood and addressed?

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on May 9, 2013 at 1:32am
Totally relevant. How about a causal chain like desire causes thought, thought causes emotion (unhappiness classed as an emotional state)?
Permalink Reply by Peter on May 9, 2013 at 11:10am

Jimmy, if you were to further develop the links in your causal chain starting it from, say, Ignorance (Avidya) and following through what you have already put and with the last link being  'ageing, decay and death'; then perhaps refining the whole lot down to twelve core links, you could be on to something. :-)

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on May 10, 2013 at 8:56am
Sounds like some twisted twelve step program! ;) I'm leaning toward a more pragmatic approach. In my own experience, thought determines my emotional states. Thought is the immediate cause, and emotional states can be changed by changing the thought. In other words, unhappiness and any other emotional state is immediately contingent upon thought. Again, this opinion is the result of the examination of my own psyche, my experience. Does anyone else have similar or different observations?
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 10, 2013 at 10:22am

I can relate to that Jimmy. The immediate connection to thought is something I've observed in myself as well. But then, on another level, there's another (related) problem: I'm unable to entirely 'control' or 'choose' my thoughts. So at times, and I'm sure some can relate to this, even when I can observe that my thoughts are breeding a negative emotional state, I end up relatively powerless against the thoughts themselves.

So perhaps this goes back to the quote from the Dalai Lama that Gerry shared: "I believe that happiness can be achieved through training the mind." With increased training of mind we become more able to determine which thoughts we will 'entertain' and which we won't.

Permalink Reply by Jimmy on May 11, 2013 at 1:30pm
Yes, I sometimes experience what you are describing. Would it be accurate to call these runaway thoughts an 'obsession'? Thoughts can also be habitual, so prolonged unhappiness may in some cases, perhaps all cases, be the result of habitual thinking. If true, then the upside is that it should be possible to get into the habit of being happy and joyful :)
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 13, 2013 at 10:22am

Jimmy this is precisely the premise behind the "As a Man Thinketh" treatise we started with in this Art of Living Group.  Thought is causal.  Change the thoughts, change the causes, as a man thinketh.  You stated it beautifully.

This also sheds light on the Lincoln statement, "Men are are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 9, 2013 at 10:41am

Certainly, but the causes are not always easily apparent.  When we are caught in a fit of despair it is also very difficult to be clear thinking and calm which are both necessary to gain insight into sources.  So it is critical to break out of the wave of negative emotion.  We do this frequently with children by changing the subject. "Look Johnny a white elephant walking down the street."  You know that sort of thing. (Sorry silly example but it makes the point.)

Gandhi recommended thinking about the most destitute and saddest people one had meet to break the mind out of focus on oneself.

Not dealing with the despair immediately it is a little bit like not pulling the arrow out of our leg until we discover who shot it.  (Buddhist story)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 9, 2013 at 11:40am

So essentially we want two things: a way to deal with the immediate situation (i.e. how to cope with our karma as it is manifesting itself), and a way to understand the situation in order that we might learn how to keep ourselves from falling into it again.

I think there's an important thing in what you're saying, Gerry, that we need to know how to cope with life's situations. And then I think there's something very important in what Peter seems to be getting at, that we need to better understand the whole process. And I think the two can be done simultaneously, to some degree. Perhaps something like this:

Have one or two methods that we can use to cope with the immediate effects of a tough situation, but while we're coping also try to reflect and understand what is happening.

Here's an example: diet, hydration, sleep, etc., have been positively linked to mood in several ways. Now, let's say one is suffering from depression. One may try to cope with the situation with some in-the-moment techniques, but with a little understanding one might be able to kind of step back and say: "is there something I did or didn't do today or in previous days that might've led me here?" And upon analysis one might notice that they've been busy and neglected to eat right, or they haven't been drinking enough water which has left them dehydrated, or they haven't slept well in a few days. Seeing this, one might be able to recognize that the body is struggling to operate optimally, and that this has led to a decreased mood.

And, after seeing that, and then dealing with it by getting the food, water, sleep, etc. that was needed, the person might further reflect that during that situation there was "the body" and its needs and troubles, and there was the "Self" which was effected by the body. And this might lead to further revelations.

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 9, 2013 at 12:10pm

"Not dealing with the despair immediately it is a little bit like not pulling the arrow out of our leg until we discover who shot it."


Of course, Gerry.  The really sad thing is watching people pull that metaphorical arrow out time after time after time because the underlying causes aren't explored and/or because the actions that we take which repeatedly bring us in the line of fire, so to speak, are not given up.

There are many types of suffering and many reasons we give for those different kinds of suffering.    To my mind, without acknowledging this and exploring the reasons and meaning we give for our grief, and without at least beginning to look at the deeper underlying causes, its hard to get to grips with the issue of happiness, unhappiness and suffering.

Victor Frankl wrote:

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” 

(From "Mans Search for Meaning.")

He might have been quoting Nietzsche

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 9, 2013 at 12:40pm

Here is what despair sounds like when put into a song.The pathos of human suffering.

Sheryl Crow and "Home"

I believe Theosophy addresses both the big picture and is relevant to smallest pain and the teachings aid us at ever stage and at any level. It is the duty of the student to make the connections and apply the treatment, because the medicines are given to us.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on May 9, 2013 at 9:58pm

I have seen some people who are so damaged emotionally that they need to regain their footing before they can view their situations objectively and, possibly, look at the underlying causes of their suffering. 

Then, there are also those who are so controlled by their feelings that they desperately seek ways to substitute the unpleasant feelings, whenever it arises, with pleasant ones, without ever attempting to examine the causes.  The desire to “feel good” is prevalent and is a major reason why alcoholism and drug abuse are rampant in our society.   

Unhappiness, on some occasions, is a blessing because it is a way the higher self tries to awaken the personality.   However, we often do not recognize these moments as the stirrings of the soul and lose the opportunity to go deeper into our Being.    

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 10, 2013 at 6:04am

Barbara you have offered a wise and well rounded take on the situation that sits well with Gerry's compassionate perspective.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 10, 2013 at 10:22am

Well said Barbara. :)

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 10, 2013 at 6:17am

Gerry,  I believe the same as you, i.e.  that Theosophy addresses both the big picture and is relevant to the smallest pain.  I believe that is only the case because it looks beneath the surface at the underlying causes and laws of existence.

I think a difficulty in responding to the suffering and unhappiness of others is that, while there is always an endless supply of anecdotal advice we can all offer to each other and to the sufferer, the truth is there are no simple answers and generic solutions to the immediate psychological suffering that most people experience.  At least, this has been my own experience over the last 25 to 30 years of working in a profession that seeks to help people who suffer from mental health issues, broken relationships, broken homes, bereavement, sexual abuse, spiritual crises, loss of meaning and purpose & so on.

The immediate suffering and unhappiness that people experience today is not new. In one form or another people have experienced similar unhappiness and suffering for thousands upon thousands of years. That's why I believe that we - individually and collectively - really do need to understand and tackle the underlying causes as our priority. The underlying causes aren't a million miles away from the unhappiness we experience - they are more often than not at the very root of our moment to moment experiencing and the cause of future happiness and suffering to come.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 10, 2013 at 10:49am

And that is precisely why living is an art.  Art requires skill, and skill is acquired by practice.  Each student of theosophy is an apprentice in learning how to apply principles to practice. In the journey of life. We can all share our insights and experiences with each other to help with the way forward. Sometimes the slightest off the cuff remark can make a huge difference in a person's life if they are receptive or ready..That is why these discussions are good.

I asked my grandmother, when she was here, why she was cheerful all the time? She told us she counted her blessings every day.  Hardly a day passes for me when I don't think of that advice and it has been a talisman for me. Such a little thing, with so much power to change a person's life.

Peter, working in the mental health field is surely very challenging and humbling. There, one would assume, the toughest cases of suffering are encountered.Happiness must seem, for these people, a distant possibility.

All the more the need to understand the greater mathematics of life. Then presumably the more skillful we will become in solving the various equations each one of us are given.

So I wonder, how do you aid these people, without reference to high level metaphysics? 

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 11, 2013 at 8:11am

Gerry, there are always underlying causes to explore even though they may not be ultimate ones. My own view is that all we can do is work with the understanding that each person brings to their life situation and then see how far we get. It's also important to recognise that within each being there is a source of wisdom and understanding that transcends the personal consciousness and which is potentially available for that person to draw upon - in some form or another. This inner knowing, if the person can begin to listen to it, is far wiser than the outer person seeking to help them.

In addition, whenever we seek to help another person we need to take karma into account. If that particular karma has still some way to go before it is exhausted it's possible that not much will change outwardly, no matter what we try - or it might just return but in another form. What we can do is help the person find a place 'to stand' from which they can meet with the circumstances of their life, so that our sense of beingis not so dependent on events.

All the above is just about a starting place really, the ongoing work we undertake with ourselves and with others varies greatly from person to person.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on May 11, 2013 at 9:33am

"This inner knowing, if the person can begin to listen to it, is far wiser than the outer person seeking to help them."

Peter, that's an excellent point, and indeed other people trying to extend a helping hand whether as friends or professionals will not be able to eradicate the karma that is still 'in suspension' for that individual. There is no vicarious atonement either. Just as true understanding can only come from within, so does change. 

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 11, 2013 at 10:04am

Well said Peter and Pierre.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 11, 2013 at 1:55pm

So many good points by all the participants here.  Thank you.  I think the hope is that something said by somebody at some time might help to make a difference.  Or maybe we ourselves will need some of this advice when trouble comes our way and challenges our stability.

Learning to rely upon the higher within us seems to be a particularly important point brought out by Peter and emphasized by others.

It is also interesting to me that in all our talk about happiness we all had trouble actually defining it.  Is it an emotion, a feeling, a state of mind, an attitude, state of consciousness?  All the above?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on May 11, 2013 at 2:11pm

Indeed all of the above Gerry, depending on the perspective with which you approach the definition of happiness. I don't think respondents had trouble defining it, the word happiness was used in many contexts and each one gave an answer from their own perspective.

Again I guess, an example that nothing in the manifested world is singular, meaning a reality in and by itself, everything is relative to something else, which reinforces the concept of unity, everything is mutually connected and dependent and consequently allows for a multiplicity of perspectives, excluding mistakes made in conceptualizations of course. It also prevents us from drifting into a dogmatic position that only one perspective is the correct one.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 14, 2013 at 5:32pm

Here's another verse on the nature of happiness from the Bhagavad Gita (2:66):

"There is no soul-vision for him who is not united, nor is there any divine experience for him; without experience of the divine, there is no peace, and what happiness can there be without peace?" (CJ)

"The man whose heart and mind are not at rest is without wisdom or the power of contemplation; who doth not practice reflection, hath no calm; and how can a man without calm obtain happiness?" (WQJ)

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 15, 2013 at 10:10am

Wow what a great find.  I wonder what the relationship is between Peace and Happiness from the point of view of the Gita?  Krishna does seem to indicate that they are intertwined.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 15, 2013 at 10:44am

Another term I'd throw out there in relation to this is "contentment".

The Sanskrit term translated here as "happiness" is sukham (see also:

It seems to carry with it a sense of comfort, ease, mildness, etc.. For instance:

sukha [ su-khá ] ... comfortable, pleasant, mild ... soothing, agreeable to (the ear etc.), ... ease, comfort, pleasure, enjoyment, happiness, joy ... happily, comfortably, agreeably, easily, without trouble... (from MacDonell Sanskrit dictionary).

So this, to me, kind of distinguishes it from the kind of 'happiness' that relates to 'excitement' or 'emotional highs' or whatnot. It seems to indicate a restful, calm, eased state of mind.

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 15, 2013 at 1:22pm

Jon, just to add to your good thoughts above.  Perhaps we should keep in mind that the most intense feelings of happiness and bliss can accompany states of complete illusion. This suggests the happiness we are most familiar with doesn't seem to have any correlation with truth or reality.

In relation to the term "sukha", the Mahatma KH informs Sinnett that Deva-Chan is the land of Sukhavati described allegorically by the Buddha. He explains.

'Of course it is a state, one, so to say, of intense selfishness, during which an Ego reaps the reward of his unselfishness on earth. He is completely engrossed in the bliss of all his personal earthly affections, preferences and thoughts, and gathers in the fruit of his meritorious actions. No pain, no grief nor even the shadow of a sorrow comes to darken the bright horizon of his unalloyed happiness: for, it is a state of perpetual “Maya” . . .'

(ML 16 Barker edition. answer no. 3)

it seems to me that happiness might be a very pleasant state while at the same time being a rather dubious goal to have or measure of reality.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on May 15, 2013 at 1:58pm

I don't know that anyone is saying that happiness is "the goal" here.  But could it be that happiness is a measure, amongst other measures, to indicate to the individual that they are moving in the right direction? 

This might indicate that there are levels of happiness that culminate into something very much higher which the ancients called Bliss.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 15, 2013 at 2:32pm

But could it be that happiness is a measure, amongst other measures, to indicate to the individual that they are moving in the right direction?

I don't necessarily think so. It might indicate that they're moving in a certain direction, but that doesn't imply that its the right direction. They might be moving, essentially, towards the Pratyeka path and goal, and while that may be 'spiritual' in a certain sense, it's not the same as moving in the direction of the Nirmanakaya (the path of renunciation)... on the latter path one might very well experience drastically increased suffering through several stages of the path.

From another angle, let's say one goes on a journey to a beautiful paradise full of white sandy beaches and sun, but between one's home and that beach is a dark forest full of thorns and marshes and bogs. With every early step the path might get darker and darker and muddier and more difficult until one is covered in mud, the sun is veiled, and there's still no sight of the goal. If one were to measure whether they are heading in the right direction by whether or not the path is getting nicer and more pleasant (i.e. by whether they're getting happier or not), they might falsely determine that they're heading in the wrong direction.

Reminds me a little of this guy:

Main point: while there may be bliss at a certain stage of development, the path may not be a steady increase of bliss, so it may not be a very good measure of our direction.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on May 15, 2013 at 3:08pm

"But could it be that happiness is a measure, amongst other measures, to indicate to the individual that they are moving in the right direction?"

Nope, I don't think this is necessarily the case. As Peter pointed out:

"we should keep in mind that the most intense feelings of happiness and bliss can accompany states of complete illusion."

The thief or banker who succeeds in ripping somebody off will also have that happiness in a certain measure but I doubt he'd be moving in the right direction.

So again, as I see it, happiness is rather a byproduct of our actions that result from having our desires satisfied whether those desires are base or of a spiritual quality. So happiness in itself is neither good nor bad (nor is desire), it all depends - again - on the motive. Like HPB said, even the buddha at some point in a previous life had to have the desire to benefit mankind. See also the term Kamadeva in HPB-Glossary p.170

"Kama is the first conscious, all embracing desire for universal good, love, and for all that lives and feels, needs help and kindness, the first feeling of infinite tender compassion and mercy that arose in the consciousness of the creative ONE Force, as soon as it came into life and being as a ray from the ABSOLUTE. Says the Rig Veda, “Desire first arose in IT, which was the primal germ of mind, and which Sages, searching with their intellect, have discovered in their heart to be the bond which connects Entity with non-Entity”, or Manas with pure Atma-Buddhi."

So happiness seems to be the result from satisfying either the Eros (divine desire) and the other from satisfying Cupid (selfish desire). The one from Eros probably less ephemeral than the Cupidic desire :-)

The goal is the satisfaction of our desires, whether base or noble and happiness the feeling then that accompanies (as a byproduct) the success of our lower AND higher actions, not a goal in and by itself.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 15, 2013 at 3:50pm

Nice tie in with Eros and Cupid. :)

There's a whole realm of psychology today studying the biological mechanisms of desire and satisfaction (the reward circuitry of the brain) and what they're finding is that satisfaction of a desire, while it brings a kind of happiness in its wake, leads automatically to a follow-up low or rebound (a 'peak' and then a 'valley'), which then sets up a new reactionary draw towards the state just experienced and lost. They can track this occurring in the brain in terms of 'dopamine rushes' (dopamine is the central neurotransmitter of the 'reward' centers of the brain). So dopamine spikes when we experience reward/satisfaction of a desire and the resulting 'happiness' (of that type), but over time the experience is dulled because the receptors become 'fatigued', so we end up seeking more extreme measures in order to feel the same result. And this is at the heart of addiction. So, as one author puts it: cupid's arrow is poisoned.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on May 15, 2013 at 5:54pm

That's an interesting reference there Jon, as to the release of chemical substances that accompany a thought or a feeling. It is my understanding (from several unrelated references, so I can't quote on this) that theosophy teaches that every thought and feeling (they always accompany each other) releases a minute substance in the blood (a large contributor to this are hormones and related substances). For instance the hormone and neurotransmitter adrenaline (epinephrine) related to fear and the fight or flight response is the effect of a feeling (with accompanying thoughts) arising in the lower mind introducing adrenaline into the bloodstream with all its ramifications. Now, would this feeling with its chemical release be the only exception in the whole range of feelings we can display? Or would - following this example - EVERY thought and feeling release to a larger or lesser extent some substance in our blood - many of which are most likely still unknown to science? The influence of our thoughts and feelings related to chemical substances may explain a lot about our health. Recall that HPB points out that more than 90 percent of our illnesses are directly related to our thinking and feeling. So - as Jon points out - dopamine seems to be related to the feeling of happiness with its resulting exhaustion of the receptors leading to a downer or the blues and our seeking further stimulus to maintain the “high”. This seems to indicate that there must be a distinction between happiness as experienced in the lower mind (of which the brain is the vehicle) and happiness as experienced in the higher principles of our being? Again the distinction between Eros and Cupid or the Noetic and the Psychic?

Could it be that the happiness (bliss in this case) in our higher triad also leads to the release of a “substance” (perhaps of an akashic or pranic or jivic nature) in our spiritual vehicle - whatever that may be? I’m thinking for instance of the “Ambrosia of the Gods”, keeping in mind that this term has many other meanings as well? 

The above may then perhaps illustrate the distinction between happiness as a byproduct of brain-thinking and the reciprocal influence of chemical substances in the blood on our state of mind, versus happiness usually referred to in spiritual literature (Gita, Patanjali and so forth) as bliss?

What are your thoughts? - This is not a rhetorical question :-)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 16, 2013 at 10:55am

I think scientists would take it as the substance (dopamine or adrenaline or whatnot) that is the cause, but I'm with you that it is likely but the effect or the resulting manifestation on this plane from thought (or the psychic plane). And it does seem reasonable to me to assume that this would occur for every thought-feeling, with various substances on this plane responding. However one looks at the cause-effect relationship, there is definitely correlation.

And I think you make a good point about the ambrosia of the gods (amrita). It's an interesting idea! Perhaps this would relate to the idea of Anand, and the Anandamayakosha (the sheath of bliss) of Vedanta (SD, Vol. 1, p. 157). Perhaps Anand is the effect on the spiritual man of Amrita, which perhaps is caused by Union... Perhaps it is a case of a "fluid" or "substance" released and flowing through higher Manas in roughly the same way as a substance is released and flows through the brain. (just throwing ideas out there).

If we were to look at the way the brain and nervous system work on the physical plane, we see that every 'signal' sent and received is electrical in nature. Perhaps there would be equivalents on the higher planes then, relating to the flow of Kundalini (or Fohat?)? Would the 'union' of higher Manas with Buddhi produce an 'electrical' effect in higher Manas similar to the way in which the 'union' of the psychic nature (kama-manas) and the physical brain/body produce electrical effects in the brain/body?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 15, 2013 at 2:32pm

Fascinating. Thanks for the quote Peter.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on June 12, 2013 at 11:25pm

John said:

"If we were to look at the way the brain and nervous system work on the physical plane, we see that every 'signal' sent and received is electrical in nature. Perhaps there would be equivalents on the higher planes then, relating to the flow of Kundalini (or Fohat?)? Would the 'union' of higher Manas with Buddhi produce an 'electrical' effect in higher Manas similar to the way in which the 'union' of the psychic nature (kama-manas) and the physical brain/body produce electrical effects in the brain/body?"

That's an electrifying thought, shocking! :-)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on May 15, 2013 at 12:46pm

Here's another translation, from S. Radhakrishnan, along with the Sanskrit text:

The sanskrit seems to reveal a good deal. Literal, word for word might read something like this (pardon my beginner's Sanskrit):

"there is not | buddhi | not engaged (ayuktasya)".
"(then) there is not | not engaged (ayuktasya) | cultivation (spiritual cultivation) (bhavana)".
"(then) there is not | becoming/arising (bhava) of control (yata) | (and) peace (shanti or śānti).
"the unpeaceful (aśāntasya) | from where (kutah) | happiness (sukham)

So, if I can venture a paraphrase: without being engaged in Buddhi there is no engagement of spiritual cultivation, then there is no arising of control or peace, and in such a state (the unpeaceful) from where is happiness to come?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on June 1, 2013 at 12:15pm

Another fine quote from the Bhagavad Gita on the nature of Happiness. This is from Charles Johnston's translation, Book 18:36-39:

Hear now from Me the three kinds of happiness, O bull of the Bharatas, through following which one finds delight, and makes an end of pain.

That which at the beginning is as poison, but in the outcome is like nectar, that is the happiness of Substance [Sattva], springing from clear vision of the Soul.

The happiness which springs from the union of the senses with the objects of desire, in the beginning like nectar, but in the outcome like poison, that is declared to be the happiness of Force [Rajas].

The happiness which, in the beginning, and to the end, causes blindness to the Soul, springing from sleep, sloth, negligence, that is declared to be of Darkness [Tamas].

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on June 1, 2013 at 1:08pm
Ok, so we've got three types of manifested happiness, a sattvic happiness (based on wisdom), a rajasic happiness (based on lower desires and actions) and a tamasic happiness (based on ignorant enjoyment of "sinful" things).
So the ultimate happiness that Krishna is referring to is the one that transcends all these types of "material" or manifested happinesses. based on a sudda-sattvic consciousness. Could we call that "Happy-ness" (pun intended) as in Be-ness :-)
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on June 1, 2013 at 8:41pm


Nicely done. :)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on June 3, 2013 at 11:24am

This idea of three manifested happinesses and one happiness above and beyond seems also to perfectly corresponded with the three worlds (bhur, bhuvar, svar) with the fourth above, as well as to the three states jagrat, svapna, sushupti, with turiya above (thus also with the three halls of the Voice of the Silence). We could also correspond this to the four planes of manifestation, the four 'horizontal levels' of the tetraktis, and so on.

It seems like this division pops up everywhere. So it makes sense that the ultimate happiness would stand above as the fourth.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on June 3, 2013 at 10:04am

Here is an idea:  Happiness it the natural condition of the soul.  It is not something we strive for but rather something that is intrinsic to the soul.  When there is unhappiness, discontent etc. there is an imbalance and a distortion of sorts that must be rectified by action (could be an act of thought for example).  In the Gita Krishna says, " A man is said to be confirmed in spiritual knowledge when he hath forsaken every desire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and content in the Self through the Self."

So the practical question to ask, when unhappiness strikes is, Who am I?  Because the Self, does not need or want anything.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on June 3, 2013 at 10:22am

Good point Gerry.

People ignorant of their own true nature are thus intrinsically unhappy - that's us :-)

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on June 3, 2013 at 11:18am

Well said. One thing seems amiss to me though.

If happiness is intrinsic to the soul (i.e. it is ultimately our natural state), then when unhappiness strikes (which would thus be an "altered state", so to speak), then is it really an action that is needed to rectify it? In the Gita, Krishna also makes the point that we are not the doer, but have deluded ourselves into thinking we're the doer. It seems to me that acting in order to try to remove unhappiness is the kind of action that binds. So it would seem that what we want is disinterested action—action which is not motivated by the seeking (or avoidance) of some thing or of some experience.

In my own life, when unhappiness (or a similar state) has arisen, the act of trying to get out of it has only brought me in deeper—a little like the way struggling in quicksand only causes one to sink faster. Not caring one iota whether or not I'm happy or unhappy, and thus not acting with either in mind seems to do the trick. Then I feel content ("happy and content in the Self through the Self"?)

Any thoughts?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on June 3, 2013 at 4:40pm

I'm happy with that :-)

Like the quicksand example, except when I'm in it !