Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 1:
What Is True Happiness? [1.3]
1.3 Happiness Is Forged amid Life’s Challenges
True happiness is not a matter of chance. It is forged through our earnest efforts to grapple with life’s many challenges.
I would like to talk a little about the subject of happiness. Happiness is the fundamental goal of life. It is also the goal of faith. And it is the goal of Buddhism. It is extremely important, then, to understand just what happiness is. I think it is fair to say that people in all ages and places have earnestly sought the answer to the question “What is happiness?” and that, for all too many today, it still remains unanswered.
Some possess great material wealth but are unhappy, perhaps becoming mean-spirited or doing nothing but fighting and quarreling with others. On the other hand, it is quite possible to be materially poor yet enjoy great happiness, being pure-hearted and seeing the beauty in all things like a poet.
Happiness is something very personal. Of two people in similar circumstances, one may be unhappy and the other happy. People are all different and perceive things differently. The reality of people’s lives is infinitely diverse.
For instance, there are many women who, though they seem to have good fortune when they are single—possessing youth, beauty, and wealth—end up extremely sad and unhappy when they get married. Living like a princess in a palace, eating food from gold plates, and wearing stylish, immaculate clothing is not happiness. It is in fact stifling and boring, illusory and empty. Though people in such circumstances may seem to be very happy, it is all a show; in reality, their happiness is very fragile and fleeting.
Some, on the other hand, may appear to be suffering misfortune, but are, with strong determination and dignity, forging a life state of happiness that is like a magnificent painting.
By surviving the tragic misfortunes of youth and experiencing many times the hardship of others, we can lead lives that are many times richer, filled with tremendous vitality and inner strength in our final chapter.
If our lives are always smooth sailing, we’ll never be able to savor real happiness. It goes without saying that the treasure of happiness cannot be found in a life of ease and idleness. The diamond of happiness can only be found by making our way into the deep mountain recesses of life with great effort and exertion. It is not to be found in idly seeking fun and pleasure amid the bustle and bright lights of the city or in leading an easy existence.
The renowned Scottish poet Robert Burns had this to say about happiness in one of his verses [that in Standard English translation reads]:
If happiness have not her seat
And center in the breast,
We may be wise, or rich, or great,
But never can be blessed!
No treasures nor pleasures
Could make us happy long:
The heart always is the part always
That makes us right or wrong.1
In other words, happiness and unhappiness, ultimately, are found within us. As Nichiren Daishonin says: “It is the heart that is important” (WND-1, 1000).
From a message to a nationwide young women’s division leaders meeting, June 16, 1999.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Cf. Robert Burns, “Epistle to Davie, A Brother Poet,” The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Burns, 1759–1796 , edited by James A. Mackay (Darvel, Scotland: Alloway Publishing Ltd., 1993), p. 87.