Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness


Tesshin invited us this week to consider the phrase “Pursuit of Happiness.”  Happiness is a universal concept in human life, but we need to understand it is not guaranteed – it must be pursued.  So how would we pursue happiness?  Well, there is physical happiness.  Do we have enough to eat?  Do we have a nice house?  Do we have enough of the material things in life?  You may think that is to materialistic!  Well, what about “quality experiences?”  Have we taken a nice vacation?  Do we have a great spouse?  Is this the answer?


Tesshin next asked the group – what do all those definitions of happiness share?  They share the fact that they are conditional and impermanent!  They can come and go and if you tie your happiness to these fleeting things, your happiness can never last or be stable.  Think about it for a minute?  What happens if you lose your job and then lose your nice house?  Is your happiness destroyed forever?  What happens if your trip is cancelled at the last second due to an unforeseen event?  What happens if you are suddenly seriously injured and your body no longer works the way it once reliability did?  Does this mean you are no longer happy?


Tesshin next related an example of this.  He recounted that a friend of his was invited to a gala celebration of Armistice Day at Versailles.  Now who would not be happy at such an opportunity?  However, happiness was short lived – the tickets were $15,000!!!  Ugh, happiness dashed!  Later, they were awarded some spare tickets for free.  Happiness restored!  However, when they arrived it was 100 degrees and everyone was formally dressed!  Misery!  However, the small group had complete run of the palace – no throngs of tourists – Joy!!  However, the wife in the couple was wearing heels which made walking the grounds torture!  Swollen feet – grief!  “Great food / sweating in the heat / the wonder of the Hall of Mirrors / cobblestones in heels”  Back and forth and up and down – Do you see the game and do you realize how fleeting this happiness really is?  We need to base our pursuit on something firmer than pleasures based on impermanence.


This is the message of our practice.  It is not to deny pleasure – rather it is to understand that transient pleasure is a weak foundation to build lasting happiness on.  Our tradition is about gaining perspective and not grasping all the time for impermanent “trinkets.”  It is the same with adversity – it is fleeting – as such we need not sink into deep depression when the reversals come.  True happiness comes with understanding and avoiding this unbalanced desire, attachment, fear, and greed.  Permanent happiness comes with truly embracing how life works and accepting the flow of good with the bad.


Tesshin wrapped up by reminding everyone about some upcoming events.  First, Yorktown Zen is organizing our Summer 1 day retreat which is still currently set for August 31st.  Please email yorktownzen@gmail.com with RSVP.  Tesshin also wanted to let everyone know about a special retreat for women only being held from August 12th through the 18th.  Please contact info@northernwestchesterzen.org