Avoiding Suffering and Being Happy

The Buddha Shakyamuni said that all sentient beings have a fundamental wish to be happy and not suffer. It does not matter who – a king, a banker, a street cleaner, a beggar, a monkey, a horse, a cow, or a dog. All living beings want to be happy and be free from suffering. But, what makes us happy? Why can’t we be happy all the time?

We habitually search for happiness outside ourselves. Along these lines, we often think that getting a lot of money will make us happy. Wouldn’t it be great to own a mansion and drive a luxury sedan? If I only had these, I’d be on top of the world. We may believe this, but even after we possess such things, we will likely feel that there’s still something missing.

Then again, we may think happiness is associated with our physical appearance. So, we put a lot of effort into being in shape, having good skin color, and wearing the best clothes. Then we go to the health club, buy all kinds of supplements, visit the hairdresser, and work hard on maintaining our appearance.  Still, time and time again, we feel it’s a losing battle. As we age, our appearance gradually deteriorates and we’re no longer young, fit, and attractive. Oh no.

We didn’t find real happiness because the preceding types of happiness are based on external conditions that are ultimately beyond our control. If the governing conditions for our happiness abandon us, we end up suffering. Thus, we end up worrying about our mortgage payments or the payments on our car and fret about losing what we have. Or we end up getting depressed about our appearance and worry that we’re getting old.