Tag Archives: Nirvana

Buddhism and Happiness (Part III)

In my previous two posts I mentioned, very briefly, the path to happiness as expressed by Buddhism.

The aim of Buddhism is to reach Nirvana.  The roadmap to Nirvana 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.

Nirvana is very similar to Aristotle’s meaning of life being to find happiness.  This happiness, as expressed by the ancient thinkers as well as the modern thinkers discussed in my book, is similar to that of Nirvana.

The path to attain Nirvana is also similar to the teachings of the ancient and modern thinkers.  The path requires concentration (effort, focus), and ethics (virtues) including wisdom.

While many similarities exist, there are some distinct differences: 1) Western happiness involves a hierarchy of actions (see the six galleries in my book), 2) Western Happiness requires a proactive approach to finding happiness – involvement, exposure, call to adventure, trials, capture of the gift, and desire to return to present the gift to society, 3) Western happiness requires a proactive love of neighbor as a requirement for the adventurer’s return with the gift in hand, and 4) it is the actions of the individual coupled with the love of that individual’s neighbor that delivers the happiness to the individual and  flourishing to society.

I believe that Western happiness and Buddhist Nirvana are very similar.  The tools needed to achieve these aims are also similar.  However, Western happiness is based on a more proactive involvement with others, and the proactive love of one’s neighbor, not just a turning inward, if society is to flourish.  It is this distinctive gift of the flourishing of society, only delivered if the individual reaches happiness, that is expressed in the teachings of the great thinkers as well as the many works of the great masters of the fine arts.

The attainment of individual happiness equaling the flourishing of society is a unique and noteworthy revelation of Western thinkers and artists.

Up next – Hinduism and happiness.

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.

Buddhism and Happiness

I am no expert on Buddhism, not even close to an expert.  I am simply curious about other religions  and philosophies about life.  From what I have read, Buddhism, which has its roots in the East, very much parallels the teachings of Aristotle, with his roots established in the West.

According to its tenets, Buddhism regards the achievement of happiness as the aim of human endeavors.  Aristotle teachings were very similar – the meaning of life is individual happiness.

For the Buddhist, happiness is achieved in Nirvana – a state free of suffering and a state of spiritual enlightenment.  Achieving Nirvana is similar to achieving: 1) Maslow’s self-actualization and peak experiences, 2) the ancient philosophers’ freedom from fear and anxiety, 3) Campbell’s mastering of both the material and the spiritual worlds, and 4)  Csikszentmihalyi’s integration with other people and with universal values.

So, it appears to me that Buddhism’s Nirvana is very similar to the West’s happiness.  They both represent inner peace, freedom from suffering, pain, fear, and anxiety, and a transcendental connection with the spiritual.

But what about the steps to reach Nirvana – are those similar to what is proposed by the West as necessary to reach happiness?

The answer in my next post.