Buddhism and Happiness (Part II)

In my previous post I mentioned that the Buddhist state of Nirvana is very similar the the West’s interpretation of happiness: freedom from pain and suffering and a connection to universal values such that the individual can move effortlessly between the material and the spiritual worlds.

But what does Buddhism teach is the roadmap to Nirvana?  The answer given is the Noble Eightfold Path.  This path includes:

A) Wisdom – 1) right view and 2) right intention

B) Ethical Conduct – 3) right speech, 4) right action, and 5) right livelihood

C) Concentration – 6) right effort, 7) right mindfulness, and 8) right concentration

The eight factors of the path are significant dimensions of one’s behavior.  They are not to be understood as stages, in which each stage is completed before moving on to the next.

Again we see a similarity with Western thought regarding the need for wisdom and ethical values.  Even concentration is embraced in Western culture as a requirement for attaining happiness.

However, there are some differences.  Western thought differs in recognizing that attaining happiness is accomplished in stages, with one stage coming before the next (the stages need not be completed before the next stage may begin).  Instead of an Eightfold Path, I have presented the ideas and artworks in my book in a “sixfold path,” with each segment presented in a gallery of ideas and art.  However, each of the six galleries does rely upon either concentration – especially the early galleries (1-3), wisdom – especially gallery 4, and ethical conduct – especially gallery 5.  The stages are completed in a hierarchy since each stage is required for mastering the tools that will be needed in the following stages to reach happiness (preparation, education, social skills, self-esteem, virtues).

There are two additional differences, both of which are significant.  The first is the need for the love of one’s neighbor, required at the beginning of Gallery Six.  This love is required to return the adventurer to the everyday world.  The other is the dependency of the flourishing of society on the individual’s attainment of happiness.

While Buddhism promotes compassion, it appears less proactive than the love of one’s neighbor expressed in Western culture that is required to pull the adventurer back to the everyday world.  It is this love that brings final happiness to the individual and helps society, or the family and community of the adventurer, to flourish.

The love of neighbor is not just an outward expression of kindness, compassion, and appreciation of others around us; more importantly, it is a proactive concern for the plight of the adventurer as a selfless act to safeguard his/her return.  It is this return that brings happiness to the individual and, as important, adds to the flourishing of his/her neighbors that assisted with the return.

I will summarize in the next post.

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