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The Dalai Lama says that the "purpose of life is to be happy." And who am I to contradict the Dalai Lama? Maybe, like a friend of mine, you believe that the Dalai Lama is just spoon feeding Westerners. She is one of those people who believe that there is too much suffering in our personal lives and in the world to make happiness a real pursuit. She believes it's frivolous. Me, I'm not so sure that's true.
There is of course compassion and moral behaviour and service as things to point ourselves at, but why should those exclude our happiness? Okay try this. Sit down for a couple of minutes and make a list of the things that make you happy. You could do this right now? What's on your list? I have cats and granola with cacoa powder and listening to Dharma talks, reading Mary Oliver, a good laugh, visiting with friends, sunshine and a bunch more, lots of small things.
Happiness does arise in all of us but as Rick Hanson points out in his book "Buddha's Brain" "the mind is like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive ones" so our minds are not naturally inclined toward happiness. Perhaps the Dalai Lama is pointing us in the direction of mind training when he says "the purpose of life is to be happy." We need to continually point ourselves in the direction of sunshine.
Rick Foster and Greg Hicks, in their book "How We Choose To Be Happy" suggest that looking at our lists of "what makes us happy" might even make us feel happy. They suggest that we ask ourselves at various times during the day, "what would make me happy right now?" We might not always be able to have what we think will make us happy at the moment but it can help us orient ourselves towards the cultivation of happiness.
Including happiness as an active choice in our lives can give us more energy to do the things we feel are as important as happiness. Perhaps we can be compassionate, of service and offer kindness to others while pursuing our own happiness? Perhaps these things are themselves sources of happiness?
And we haven't even defined "happiness" here! What do you think about happiness? What role does it play in your life?