Why does happiness never last?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
chownah
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by chownah » Thu Sep 01, 2016 2:11 am

No_Mind wrote:Ask yourself the converse question. What would happen if happiness lasted?
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Best post I've seen in a long time!
chownah

pegembara
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by pegembara » Thu Sep 01, 2016 6:44 am

Because it is based on conditions being "right" and we all know that conditions don't remain "right" forever.
How great it is to be free from conditions.

Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha.
All conditions are impermanent, all conditions are (potentially) unsatisfactory.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

binocular
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by binocular » Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:37 pm

JohnK wrote:Perhaps "ordinary" existence IS satisfactory if by ordinary one means experiencing things as they really are w/o overlays of decorative mental proliferation and unnecessary grasping and identification.
In your estimate, what percentage of the human population lives like that?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

JohnK
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by JohnK » Thu Sep 01, 2016 3:37 pm

binocular wrote:
JohnK wrote:Perhaps "ordinary" existence IS satisfactory if by ordinary one means experiencing things as they really are w/o overlays of decorative mental proliferation and unnecessary grasping and identification.
In your estimate, what percentage of the human population lives like that?
Hi binocular.
I'm sitting here with the intention of right speech and an awareness of the TOS and no meta-talk. So, I'm wondering how to respond to your question. I'll share my wonderings. It feels like a rhetorical question rather than a real question about my estimate ("why would binocular be interested in my estimate?"). But if it is a rhetorical question intending to make a point, I'm not sure what the point is in relation to the quote -- so I can't really respond to that. Maybe being a rhetorical question, there is no need for me to respond? But I don't want to assume it is merely a rhetorical question if binocular is sincerely trying to engage me in discussion (just in a way that is not clear to me).
In case it was a real question, I can say that I personally have no idea what percentage of the human population lives like that -- no divine eye, right? If I had to guess, I would say very few live like that all the time, but quite a few have moments of living like that. The reason I put "ordinary" in quotes (and ended with a wink) was that I was presenting a take on ordinary that was not at all about its frequency in the population but about an alternative definition of ordinary as unadorned with extras. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my communication.
If the question was rhetorical, I may have just wasted everyone's time -- whew, right speech can be a challenge.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

binocular
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by binocular » Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:14 pm

JohnK wrote:I'm sitting here with the intention of right speech and an awareness of the TOS and no meta-talk. So, I'm wondering how to respond to your question. I'll share my wonderings. It feels like a rhetorical question rather than a real question about my estimate ("why would binocular be interested in my estimate?"). But if it is a rhetorical question intending to make a point, I'm not sure what the point is in relation to the quote -- so I can't really respond to that. Maybe being a rhetorical question, there is no need for me to respond? But I don't want to assume it is merely a rhetorical question if binocular is sincerely trying to engage me in discussion (just in a way that is not clear to me).
In case it was a real question, I can say that I personally have no idea what percentage of the human population lives like that -- no divine eye, right? If I had to guess, I would say very few live like that all the time, but quite a few have moments of living like that. The reason I put "ordinary" in quotes (and ended with a wink) was that I was presenting a take on ordinary that was not at all about its frequency in the population but about an alternative definition of ordinary as unadorned with extras. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my communication.
If the question was rhetorical, I may have just wasted everyone's time -- whew, right speech can be a challenge.
It wasn't a rhetorical question. There are days when I think some 90% of humans have figured out how to be happy with "life as it is usually lived" and that they don't need any "spiritual practice" in all that.

I know plenty of people who appear to be happy with "life as it is usually lived", people who have no moral dilemmas, no metaphysical questions, nothing of the sort that people at forums like this spend many many sleepless nights with.
In fact, if anything, modern psychology seems to hail such people who have no meatpyhsical questions as normal, as an ideal to be aspired to.
I also know people who tell me that the reason I experience that happiness doesn't last is because I'm not trying hard enough and that I am seeing problems where there aren't any.
Like I already said -- maybe those materialists are onto something after all.

Most traditional religions have a pessimistic outlook on the prospects for finding happiness in this world. This is the one thing they agree on: material possessions, work, relationships, wars, sex, food, art, social activism -- none of these things can bring true happiness.

But parallel to that are people who insist that it is precisely in those pursuits that happiness is to be found. What if those materialists are onto something after all? What if traditional religions are unduly pessimistic and unduly dismiss materialistic pursuits?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

davidbrainerd
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by davidbrainerd » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:51 pm

binocular wrote:
JohnK wrote:I'm sitting here with the intention of right speech and an awareness of the TOS and no meta-talk. So, I'm wondering how to respond to your question. I'll share my wonderings. It feels like a rhetorical question rather than a real question about my estimate ("why would binocular be interested in my estimate?"). But if it is a rhetorical question intending to make a point, I'm not sure what the point is in relation to the quote -- so I can't really respond to that. Maybe being a rhetorical question, there is no need for me to respond? But I don't want to assume it is merely a rhetorical question if binocular is sincerely trying to engage me in discussion (just in a way that is not clear to me).
In case it was a real question, I can say that I personally have no idea what percentage of the human population lives like that -- no divine eye, right? If I had to guess, I would say very few live like that all the time, but quite a few have moments of living like that. The reason I put "ordinary" in quotes (and ended with a wink) was that I was presenting a take on ordinary that was not at all about its frequency in the population but about an alternative definition of ordinary as unadorned with extras. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my communication.
If the question was rhetorical, I may have just wasted everyone's time -- whew, right speech can be a challenge.
It wasn't a rhetorical question. There are days when I think some 90% of humans have figured out how to be happy with "life as it is usually lived" and that they don't need any "spiritual practice" in all that.

I know plenty of people who appear to be happy with "life as it is usually lived", people who have no moral dilemmas, no metaphysical questions, nothing of the sort that people at forums like this spend many many sleepless nights with.
In fact, if anything, modern psychology seems to hail such people who have no meatpyhsical questions as normal, as an ideal to be aspired to.
I also know people who tell me that the reason I experience that happiness doesn't last is because I'm not trying hard enough and that I am seeing problems where there aren't any.
Like I already said -- maybe those materialists are onto something after all.

Most traditional religions have a pessimistic outlook on the prospects for finding happiness in this world. This is the one thing they agree on: material possessions, work, relationships, wars, sex, food, art, social activism -- none of these things can bring true happiness.

But parallel to that are people who insist that it is precisely in those pursuits that happiness is to be found. What if those materialists are onto something after all? What if traditional religions are unduly pessimistic and unduly dismiss materialistic pursuits?
Do you know these people have no metaphysical beliefs, or is it just an assumption because they don't talk about them? I'd say in modern society people are unlikely to talk about such beliefs except inside small groups of assumedly like minded people, so if you see someone who seems happy you don't know what their beliefs are and can't form a fully informed decision as to why they seem happy. Even if you ask them "why are you happy" either they haven't considered the matter thoroughly enough to determine what beliefs really contribute to their happiness or they won't want to give the full answer because of political correctness.
Most traditional religions have a pessimistic outlook on the prospects for finding happiness in this world.
I don't think I agree. The Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity, I don't think are based on pessimism regarding this life but on pessimism regarding the after life. They are all too certain that material possessions, work, relationships, wars, sex, food, art, social activism, etc. produce happiness in this life, but that's the problem(!), namely that too much happiness in this life will p-off the Abrahamic god and make him torture you in the afterlife.

chownah
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by chownah » Fri Sep 02, 2016 2:28 am

There are days when I think some 90% of humans have figured out how to be happy with "life as it is usually lived" and that they don't need any "spiritual practice" in all that.
I hope you are right. I hope that 90% of humans are good to go without "spiritual practice". Seems that I am not one of them. I think that if anyone thinks that they can pursue happiness through materiality and pleasure seeking then I guess they should go ahead and try it. I tried it and found that it doesn't work for me.
chownah

binocular
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by binocular » Fri Sep 02, 2016 3:03 am

davidbrainerd wrote:Do you know these people have no metaphysical beliefs, or is it just an assumption because they don't talk about them?
I was talking about people who have no moral dilemmas, no metaphysical questions, nothing of the sort that people at forums like this spend many many sleepless nights with.
I'd say in modern society people are unlikely to talk about such beliefs except inside small groups of assumedly like minded people, so if you see someone who seems happy you don't know what their beliefs are and can't form a fully informed decision as to why they seem happy. Even if you ask them "why are you happy" either they haven't considered the matter thoroughly enough to determine what beliefs really contribute to their happiness or they won't want to give the full answer because of political correctness.
Sure. While most people probably do have some kind of metaphysical beliefs, having questions and doubts about metaphysical issues seems to be the domain of the young and the immature.
I don't think I agree. The Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity, I don't think are based on pessimism
Like I said -- Most traditional religions have a pessimistic outlook on the prospects for finding happiness in this world. I don't know inasmuch they are _based_ on pessimism, though (I can't rule out divine revelation as a basis for their doctrines).
regarding this life but on pessimism regarding the after life. They are all too certain that material possessions, work, relationships, wars, sex, food, art, social activism, etc. produce happiness in this life, but that's the problem(!), namely that too much happiness in this life will p-off the Abrahamic god and make him torture you in the afterlife.
Sure, Protestantisms tend to be materialistically oriented, but traditional Catholicism and some other traditions aren't. Traditionalist Christians describe life as it is usually lived in terms of the vale of tears.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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No_Mind
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Sep 03, 2016 6:08 am

chownah wrote:
No_Mind wrote:Ask yourself the converse question. What would happen if happiness lasted?
:goodpost: :clap: :clap: :clap:
Best post I've seen in a long time!
chownah
Danke, Chownah. Sometimes we argue but end of the day we are all kalyanamittas :toast:
I know one thing: that I know nothing

MrLearner
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by MrLearner » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:58 pm

Thanks for all the answers :). Yeah good post by no_mind, i was actually thinking about this too before. Which makes me feel to make another thread on a similar idea.

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cjmacie
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by cjmacie » Sat Nov 19, 2016 2:33 pm

Pardon dredging-up this past topic – was trolling some unread stuff…
Meggo wrote:...There is anticipatory hedonism [dopamines] and consummatory [endorphins]...
Interesting analysis. Craving "happiness" breeds motivation and action. And endorphins function to suppress pain (a hot topic in research on the physiological effects of acupuncture). Makes sense: satisfaction quells (at least temporarily) the pain (aka dukkha, "suffering") of craving (tanha, as in the 1st NT). Also corresponds, perhaps, to the distinction between the "jhanic factors" piti ("rapture") and sukha ("peace") – as in the dhamma metaphor of the parched person in the desert excited (piti) upon sighting an oasis, vs that person's experience later when actually basking (sukha) in the water.
binocular wrote:There are people who don't have this problem. It seems society at large encourages everyone to be like that -- to not view ordinary existence as unsatisfactory.
A key point may be to question where does this idea come from – that happiness should last? As noted in Meggo 's analysis, any pleasure / satisfaction in the sensual realm "gets old". (Somewhere in Buddha Dhamma: "… pleasurable vedana eventually turns unpleasurable…") Does the human mind inherently idealize the possibility of "permanent" happiness? Or is it a cultural artifact – as in age-old ideas of some eternal paradise or heaven, or also as exploited in modern advertising?

One could argue that some people, even cultures, accept the inevitable back-and-forth of happiness and suffering, live with a sort of equanimous acceptance of the flux of both. Especially "wise" elders – people who've been around the block a few times.

An early "aha" moment in my dhamma education was once reading a Theravada definition (it may be been in a book by B. Guanaratana) of paññā / wisdom, namely as simply the established realization of anicca / impermanence. It highlighted for me a sometimes accepted (perhaps culturally conditioned) notion that "wisdom" means some kind of ideal like knowing everything. The anicca view of it would be more like knowing that "everything" amounts to just fleeting bubbles on the surface of the ocean of samsara.

Reminds of a favorite passage in Brahms' music "Ein deutsches Requiem" ("A German Requiem, i.e. using texts other than the Roman Latin liturgy):
"Denn alles Fleisch ist wie das Grass; und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschens wie des Grasses Bluemen."
("For all flesh [living beings] is like the [wild] grass [on the hillside]; and all the splendors of humanity like the [fleeting] grass blossoms") – from some book of the "Old Testament", I think.

A final thought: This dialectic of dopamine-endorphins (plus a strong dose of testosterone) also would seem to shed light on the factors that drive much of the discussion in forums like this? :lol:

binocular
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by binocular » Sun Nov 20, 2016 11:48 am

cjmacie wrote:
binocular wrote:There are people who don't have this problem. It seems society at large encourages everyone to be like that -- to not view ordinary existence as unsatisfactory.
A key point may be to question where does this idea come from – that happiness should last? As noted in Meggo 's analysis, any pleasure / satisfaction in the sensual realm "gets old". (Somewhere in Buddha Dhamma: "… pleasurable vedana eventually turns unpleasurable…") Does the human mind inherently idealize the possibility of "permanent" happiness? Or is it a cultural artifact – as in age-old ideas of some eternal paradise or heaven, or also as exploited in modern advertising?
The possibility of a permanent happiness seems to be a cultural artifact, at least to some extent, and also a result of poor quoting.

Since we're quoting Germans --"Verweile doch, du bist so schön" ('Stay, you are so beautiful') is one of the most famous sentences from literature, from Goethe's "Faust". The popular belief seems to be that Faust was hankering for permanent happiness. But merely reading said sentence in context reveals that it was just the opposite. Faust is actually saying that if he ever says he does want a beautiful moment to stay, then Mephisto can punish him.

Faustian themes seem to be deeply ingrained in our culture as far as ideas of happiness go. I think (based on literary evidence such as above) it is warranted to look into the original texts to see what Faust(ian characters) are actually saying -- because they might not be as idealistic and juvenile as known by popular culture.
One could argue that some people, even cultures, accept the inevitable back-and-forth of happiness and suffering, live with a sort of equanimous acceptance of the flux of both. Especially "wise" elders – people who've been around the block a few times.
I think this sort of equanimity is actually far more common than religions give people credit for.

Sure, at the time when there is happiness, people generally want it to stay and they say so, and when there is difficulty, they mourn and complain and want it to go away.

But it would be remiss, as some religious people do, to take people's utterances in those happy or difficult times as precise expressions of their metaphysical outlook.
Most people are not philosophers and they do not speak with philosophical precision, and so for them, words are as transient as tears or smiles. So it is remiss to interpret people's utterances with philosophical precision.
If anything, it seems it is religious people who are more likely to take an impermanent phenomenon and try to make it a permanent one.


A final thought: This dialectic of dopamine-endorphins (plus a strong dose of testosterone) also would seem to shed light on the factors that drive much of the discussion in forums like this? :lol:
Look -- the sun is shining.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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cjmacie
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by cjmacie » Mon Nov 21, 2016 9:05 am

binocular wrote:Since we're quoting Germans --"Verweile doch, du bist so schön" ('Stay, you are so beautiful') is one of the most famous sentences from literature, from Goethe's "Faust". The popular belief seems to be that Faust was hankering for permanent happiness. But merely reading said sentence in context reveals that it was just the opposite. Faust is actually saying that if he ever says he does want a beautiful moment to stay, then Mephisto can punish him.
Nice quotation, but I'd read that ("Verweile doch") as "Stay a while...", "Hang-out a bit..." -- not stay in a permanent sense. "Weil" is the "same" word as "while".

Curious that Thanissaro Bhikkhu does'nt mention Faust (at least much) in Buddhist Romanticism.
binocular wrote:But it would be remiss, as some religious people do, to take people's utterances in those happy or difficult times as precise expressions of their metaphysical outlook.
Most people are not philosophers and they do not speak with philosophical precision, and so for them, words are as transient as tears or smiles. So it is remiss to interpret people's utterances with philosophical precision.
If anything, it seems it is religious people who are more likely to take an impermanent phenomenon and try to make it a permanent one.
Has someone voiced such ideas here? Maybe. I was just referring to people, especially elderly, and especially in non-technological, non-commercialized cultures, who figure-out how to find some sense of peace in living and dying... :|

Edit: last sentence added...

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Mohan Gnanathilake
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Re: Why does happiness never last?

Post by Mohan Gnanathilake » Sun Jun 04, 2017 8:37 am

According to the Gautama Buddha’s teachings happiness is only a mental phenomenon which arises and falls away immediately.
All thoughts begin in the mind, mind is supreme and mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with impure mind pain follows him like the wheel the hoof of the ox.
(Dhammapada 1, Yamaka Vagga – The Twin Verses)

All thoughts begin in the mind, mind is supreme and mind –made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind happiness follows him like one’s shadow that never leaves.
(Dhammapada 2, Yamaka Vagga – The Twin Verses)

Mr.Mohan Barathi Gnanathilake
Permanent Address : No. 372 / 2 , Mahara Prison Road , Ragama, Sri Lanka.
Telephone No :+94 112957857
Email :moh.bar.gna1975@gmail.com

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