Happiness – a new website

Here’s a new website called Action for Happiness, which was featured this morning on the Guardian. And here, while we’re at it, is another website, The Spirit Level, which points to the links between equality and happiness.

The Guardian has a famously cynical and fractious commenting community, and many of the responses to the Action for Happiness were (predictably) grumpy and negative. But there was a comment by Gordonbnt which made an excellent point. He starts by quoting the original article.

But the shocking fact is that, despite massive material progress, people in Britain are no happier than they were over five decades ago. Over that same period our society has become increasingly competitive and selfish, with a culture that encourages us to pursue wealth, appearance, status and possessions above all else. In the 1960s, 60% of adults in Britain said they believed “most people can be trusted”. Today the figure is around 30%. Our growing focus on self-centred materialism has also contributed to wider social problems. We’ve seen huge increases in anxiety and depression in young people, greater inequality, more family breakdown, longer working hours, growing environmental problems and crippling levels of debt.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. The good news is that by focusing our time and energy instead on things that have been shown to consistently bring happiness, we can live rich, rewarding lives.

Can you see the contradiction in this?

You say the problem is that materialism and selfishness and individualism destroy the potential happiness of lives; then why should we turn abandon this
– so that “WE can leave rich, rewarding lives.”

The logic of an individualistic pursuit of happiness is to be supplanted – not because its wrong, or that there might be a wider society outside where 30,000 people die, globally, of malnutrition everyday – but because WE can live even happier, “more rewarding” lives by “being less selfish.”

One logic, which is fundamentally based in greed hits an obstacle – of the non-delivery of happiness – which is to be supplanted by the pursuit of a “higher, Spiritual” happiness; but its the same basica avidity that wants the second thing.

Worth pondering on from a Buddhist perspective. We too often say that we should be ethical or loving or kind because it makes us happier. Perhaps more emphasis on the interconnected happiness of all would be a good thing…

15 thoughts on “Happiness – a new website

  1. There is a wonderful book called Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vickie Robins. In this book there is curve where the top is called ENOUGH.

    I love that Joe and Vickie both reach F.I. (Financial Independent); and then donated their time and energy to help others. They both lived SIMPLE Lives; because too much materialism causes less Happiness; and more environmental issues.

    ENOUGH is define as having the basics and maybe a bit more; but that is about it. A good life to inspire for..

    They recommended also a 15 hour work week; so the other hours people could learn to be diverse by learning to do their own repairs or mow the grass; take part in community projects and get involved with art.. BE WELL ROUNDED. (and not just Live to Work and be Burnt out emotionally; physically; Spiritually.

    I live in New York State (NYC) which came last in the 50 states on the scale of Happiness.. and there is so much wealth in NYC.. so that is ironic; or maybe it is not..as we can see.

  2. I think it’s a matter of motivation. Some people may find hard to think more about welfare of others, when they can’t see their own profit in such activity. In this case I can see nothing wrong in pointing out that being helpful to others will make happier ourselves. Thus step-by-step one, hopefully, will be able to transform his/her own attitude, to be more compassionate person.

    What’s interesting even the Buddha mentioned such motivations, when he have spoked about generosity:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an07/an07.049.than.html

  3. Hmmm, I generally don’t have a problem with selfish thinking. As long as that thinking is in accordance with right view (!!!) it wont be harmful, but rather will be beneficial.

    One good example of this, is that I fully support the emergence of the Bhikkhuni Sangha, because I believe that will benefit me. And I fail to understand the thinking of those who are intent on thwarting Bhikkhuni ordination, because having Bhikkhunis around would benefit them too. In other words, the way it seems to me, is that they are thinking stupidly, they are choosing a course of action which is to their harm and detriment.

    Perhaps though “Selfish” generally refers to “Egotistical” rather than “Thinking of one’s own benefit”. You could say in this case, that some are very selfish because they are letting their own ego get in the way of the benefit of many. But it would be wrong to think they get anything out of that in the way of benefit.

    Nandiya.

  4. They probably write all that as they stare out their office windows, passed the homeless people they walk passed when they bought their coffee that morning, thinking what useless unattractive unproductive people they are…just like people who claim to be knowledgeable, compassionate Buddhists who earnestly walk around meditation halls stamping on all sorts of insects and stomping on peoples efforts to create opportunities for all people to become enlightened, not just men.

  5. Bhante,

    Your post is very serendipitous! I was just trying to call Santi Forest Monestary today but then thought I’d come by your blog as well. How marvellous to see you talking about this topic so close to my heart.

    2 days ago I started very ambitious project, a new world movement for the better called “The Moment of Peace”. My goal is to get 1 million people involved in an hour of Mindful Silence on Saturday 18th June 2011 at 8pm. It is directly intended to address this issue and our incessant pursuit of happiness through materialism and at the expense of each other.

    You can read more about it here.

    http://www.themomentofpeace.com/

    I’m writing to ask for your support to promote this idea. If you can write about it on your blog and promote that other bloggers do the same, or spread the word to associated monasteries and contacts that would be great, I’m trying to spread the word.

    I’d sincerely appreciate your help in this cause.

    Metta,
    Dean ‘Jagaro’ Crabb

    PS. I’m hoping to organise another weekend retreat at Santi sometime in the coming months. Hopefully this time we can get a chance to meet.

    • Hi Dean,

      Great idea and website. A bit like earth hour, which has grown so quickly.
      I emailed a whole lot of people with the link. Good luck with reaching the target, spreading the word & inspiring people to participate.

      With metta, Maya

    • Hi, I’ve registered to this course too and I’ve got e-mail from Analayo in March. At the end of the message it’s written: “This email is only sent to those who have registered on or before the 15th of March. Anyone who has registered later will receive a similar message later”. Maybe that’s your case?

  6. Hi Dania,

    I registered a long time ago and then got an e-mail telling me how to set up my user name and password to get access, which I did (it didn’t work at first, but does now). I don’t want to copy the e-mail I got into a public forum as I don’t know if Ven Analayo would want us to do that. I listened to the first lecture. Excellent content and Ven Analayo did a great job, but the format and recording were poor and there were some technical difficulties.

    I wonder if the e-mail you should have received went into your spam folder? Perhaps you could try registering again, and/or see if there is an e-mail address on the site for someone you could contact? And/or if you could ask Bhante Sujato for my e-mail, which I assume he has from this blog (I don’t know him personally), you could e-mail me privately & I will send the e-mail I got to you privately.

  7. Having the Right Intention in mind can have a great impact on the kind of actions we take and its outcome. That’s a very wholesome website!

  8. It is wonderful to see lay people in society expressing the intention of metta ( also part of Right Intention) by taking positive actions. They are setting good examples and inspire others to do the same.

  9. I can’t help others find happiness if I myself am unhappy (I’d more likely make them miserable instead!). So my pursuit of happiness is a prerequisite to helping others find it as well. Of course, in my pursuit I end up discovering that the way to happiness is to make others happy, and so even if I am selfishly pursuing happiness the only way to actually achieve it is through selflessness.

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