The Difficulty of Finding Happiness

by Anyen Rinpoche and Allison Choying Zangmo

The Buddhist teachings tell us that happiness is something that we human beings do not know how to achieve. These words may be surprising because, after all, most of us feel that we are suffering so intensely and we want to be happy more than anything. How could we actually be pushing the happiness we want so much even further away?

According to Shantideva, a quintessential bodhisattva, happiness comes from focusing on ourselves less rather than more. In Buddhism, the conduct of a bodhisattva is concentrated on gradually turning the focus away from oneself and toward others. By doing this, a bodhisattva is said to bring benefit both to oneself and to others. How does this work?

First, when we directly work in others’ interests, we benefit them by helping to place them in a state of happiness and well-being. Second, even when our energy is focused on helping others, our efforts still indirectly benefit us. We may wonder why helping others benefits us. After all, don’t we feel better when we focus on ourselves and make sure that our needs are being met? One answer to this question is that we often feel a sense of relaxation, joy, or comfort when we help someone else. Simply put, it feels good to help others. So whenever we help bring relaxation, peace, or happiness to others, we share in their positive state of mind and whatever positive situations they enjoy that we have helped bring about.


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From Stop Biting the Tail You’re Chasing © 2018 by Anyen Rinpoche and Allison Choying Zangmo. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.  Anyen Rinpoche is a tulku from the Tibetan Nyingma tradition and is the author of several books. Allison Choying Zangmo is his personal translator and long-time student. She coauthored one of his previous books as well as Stop Biting the Tail You’re Chasing.

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