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The First Noble Truth says that cyclic existence is Dukkha. I'm not in a position to expound on the meaning of the word Dukkha, but I think everyone can agree it does not mean "happines".

Still, I think many Buddhists would say they are more happy in their lives than non Buddhists.

Would it be fair to claim that Buddhists, if they practice well, can expect to be more content and generally more happy in their lives? And if so, is this because of Buddhism or is it more generally because they have a spiritual outlook on life?

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    Ajahn Brahm gave an excellent explanation in his talk: "Joy at Last to Know There is No Happiness in the World" (ref: dhammaloka.org.au/articles/item/… ) – santa100 Nov 28 '15 at 16:11
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    @santa100 Please repost that comment as an answer; and maybe add (at least) one sentence of your own, e.g. to summarize the article or (if it isn't obvious) to explain how the article helps to answer the question. – ChrisW Nov 28 '15 at 16:50
  • The word Dukkha is often translated as "unsatisfactory". If you start to use it that way, it makes a lot of sense. It covers more circumstances than "suffering". It would indeed be ironic if the study of ending Dukkha resulted in people feeling less happy! I would say that Buddhists are happier because the teaching is truthful and effective. – user2341 Nov 29 '15 at 23:51
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If I can try to generalize, I would venture to guess that people who come to Buddhism on their own (as opposed to being born into the religion) -- are probably less happy than average, which is what pushes them to seek the way out to begin with.

The reference to suffering in the First Noble Truth is not meant as the final conclusion the Buddhists are supposed to live with, but rather as a starting point for one's spiritual journey. We are seeking an end to the painful wrongness: issues, troubles, hopeless social situation, messed up personal world etc. However, we don't believe in solving it by doing more of the same. We are tired of Samsara, tired of the rat race, we had enough of it. Buddhism promises an alternative to the rat race, this is why we like it, this is what we believe in.

That said, it's not that happiness simply comes as a passive side-effect of being a good Buddhist. Rather, deliberately cultivating happiness that does not depend on external circumstances is one of the core practices in Buddhism!

In Theravada, happiness is cultivated at the end of samatha stage, as the First/Second Jhana. In Vajrayana, this is practiced as Generation-Stage Meditation. In Mahayana, we achieve happiness by forgetting about our own problems as we take care of others.

All this is to say that happiness is not a second-class concept in Buddhism, far from it. In fact, in (Tibetan) Mahayana, one's capacity for lighthearted humor, affirming joyfulness and authentic warmth; one's capacity to be happy and to make others happy -- in the face of the most adverse circumstances -- is considered the most reliable indicator of one's spiritual progress.

So yah, it should absolutely be a fair claim to make, that Buddhists who practice well are happier than average, not because Buddhism is so awesome but because being happy is one of the main things we practice!

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Are Buddhists happier people?

The Buddha taught that doing wholesome and meritourious deeds will bring wholesome results.

Only wholesome actions can bring wholesome future resultants. That is a universal law, that can be verified by practicing insight meditation.

The Noble Eightfold Path teaches both morality and wisdom, e.g. Right Intention (Samma Sankappa), which is the opposite of the 3 unwholesome roots, namely Renunciation, Good-will and Harmlessness.

When a person does good deeds, observes ethical conduct (the precepts) and practices meditation in order to become free from suffering, then naturally that person will also become more happy, peaceful and less burdened by conditioned existence.

Why is that? Because ignorance (avijja) is what keeps a being chained to conditioned existence. Ignorance makes one believe that conditioned existence is happy, pleasant, controllable and enjoyable. Ignorance conceals the underlying impermanent, unsatisfactory and ungovernable nature of conditioned phenomena. When ignorance is present, one is increasing suffering for oneself1.

When one observes good ethical conduct and practices insight meditation correctly and consistently, then one will naturally develop wisdom, thereby slowly doing away with ignorance. The less ignorance the more happiness, roughly speaking.

Its also important to mention that one does not have to be a Buddhist to do wholesome deeds or to be happy. The word "Buddhism" is just conventional language meaning nothing in ultimate reality. We could call it any other word and it would not change anything.

Would it be fair to claim that Buddhists, if they practice well, can expect to be more content and generally more happy in their lives?

If one practices correctly and consistently, then one will not expect anything, because one has seen for oneself how expectation creates suffering and bondage.

Expectation is a hindrance and produces suffering. Expectation should be observed and noted, with mindfulness in the present moment, thereby using the hindrance to cultivate insight.


1For a detailed exposition on the process, see the doctrine of Dependent Origination (paticcasammupada).

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What allows Buddhists to be more happy than other people is the act of non-clinging. We learn how to let go and we get better at it and the more we let go, the more happy we are.

We can let go of fears, insecurities, arrogance, feelings of superiority, inferiority, equality. We can let go of the 8 worldly conditions and see them as equal: praise, blame, happiness, suffering, gain, loss, good fortune, misfortune.

We can allow what is to be. We can accept what is. All this is done in the here & now.

We can share our happy and peaceful moments with everyone, doing metta. May all beings share my happiness! In sharing them we are not afraid to lose them and we don't cling to the fleeting happy moments. We share them and feel happy twice! (once for sharing) :)

We can welcome misery! Ohh misery, welcome! I can learn from you. Thus there is not much depression going on :)

I could go on but I'm pretty happy with this much :)

Have a beautiful day!

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The Buddha taught about and the way out of it.

The 1st Noble Truth or the Noble Truth of Suffering is called Noble because if you look at suffering objectively you eventually become a noble one. A noble one is a person who has transcended the state of mind which he can suffer, thus is always happy. One such path stating from suffering and extending to liberation through joy and happiness is given in the Upanisa Sutta.

The Buddhist path of practice or training can be rendered in 2 forms:

  1. Morality, mastery over the mind, wisdom and release - threefold training (ti,sikkhā)
  2. Learning (pariyatti), participating (patipatti) and experiencing (pativedha)
  3. Listen / learn, memorise, pratice

If you follow the 3 fold training, (Ekā,dasaka) Cetanā’karaṇīya Sutta does mention that your effortlessly progress through joy, happiness, tranquillity to liberation starting from morality.

With regard to the mode of leaning and putting it into practice, as in item 2 & 3 above, Vimutt’āyatana Sutta makes the same assertion, but stating from learning activities.

Hence, a properly practising Buddhist would probably be more happier than the rest. The main qualification is "properly practising Buddhist". To be one why don't you find a teacher near you and take a course with a view to practice the right way: http://dhamma.org/, http://www.internationalmeditationcentre.org/, http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/

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There was an article published in 2004, The Pursuit of Happiness. A quote from it,

They want to know how his brain may differ from ordinary people, and whether that change is related to the inner contentment the monks report.

So they test how subjects react to unpleasant sounds and images flashed into the goggles they wear in the MRI.

Normally when we're threatened one part of the brain is tremendously active, but in the monks, "the responsivity of this area is specifically decreased during this meditation in response to these very intense auditory simuli that convey strong emotions," Davidson says.

It's very preliminary work, but the implication may be that the lamas are able to move right through distressing events that overwhelm the rest of us – in other words, one of the keys to their happiness.

I read that quote as being about being immune to or unaffected by emotionally distressing stimuli.

Based on that I wonder if it's not entirely/exactly/only about "Happiness", but rather "Equanimity".

And if so, is this because of Buddhism or is it more generally because they have a spiritual outlook on life?

Yes I'm not sure what "spiritual" means -- does it imply a mind/body or matter/spirit duality that's common in Christian tradition (heaven/earth, God/man, etc.)? Etymologically the word is

... from Latin spiritus ‘breath, spirit’, from spirare ‘breathe’

and there is some of that in Buddhism (breathing, breath meditation).

If you're forgive a negative answer it might be because liberation -- liberation from dukkha, for example -- by not clinging to what's impermanent, not seeking satisfaction (nor dissatisfaction) in dissatisfactory phenomena, not building a house on sand and so on.

Buddhists should also avoid doing things which cause people (themselves and other people) to suffer.

Teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama have written popular books about Buddhism. It seems to me that Thay for example doesn't so much "pursue" happiness but rather allows happiness to find him ... so he might see it in the garden or in a glass of water etc. A Google search for 'thay happiness' for example comes up with this article Love and Happiness (which mentions the Four Unlimited Minds again).

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"Yes", Mr. Concept (if Buddhist means one who actually does the training as given). Its actually because of the right training, that one is more content training. In regard of being this or that, as the cause of contentment or discontentment, such is actually the reason for dukkha: bhava-tanha (craving for becoming/being) vi-bhava-tanha (craving for not-becoming/being).

So actually there is much dukkha, especially for those very attached to such as Buddhism and identification with it and there are also the 16 Buddhism papancas (objectivications, just replace "I" with "Buddhism")

The path is how ever no shopping and consuming tour and its merely seldom that "a life" is general more joyful, if walking on the path. There are no fruits without a good hardship first. So there are actually not a general answer how the line of practice will be for the particular person. As the Buddha told, there are people who have to go through a lot of suffering and there are others who will not have much burden on the way. How ever, the result and the fruit is finally ending of any kind of suffering and one would fail form the beginning if one is content with simply bliss and joy.

Maybe its worthy to add, that the Buddha actually just taught Dukkha and the cessation of Dukkha. That is a very important fact, since most people who are simply seeking for joy and sukkha, not understanding that those are Dukkha as well, have a lot of reasons to suffer unnecessary. Buddhas teachings are not designed to give you known desired, but release of the fundamental cause.

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I agree with the top reply that you need to differentiate between the meaning of happiness as something that depends on external circumstances i.e the world of rapture, or the "true happiness" you gain as someone who surpasses obstacles and manifests their buddhahood or buddha nature in their lives in doing so.

Also I agree with their mention of the tibetan mahayana tradition that we see the ability to be warm, generous, calm & steadfast in stormy times is an indicator of your practice. If on the other hand you seek Rapture, one of the six lower worlds, and synonymous with externally induced, short term happiness, you're likely to be pushed in the direction of good things happening to you so you can stay in that happy comfort zone, and "go with the flow" instead of sticking to what your actual dreams or objectives were. The happiness you get from this is just the knowledge and confidence that you did the right thing, surprised yourself with your capabilities, helped out when it was needed, etc, and that if it all happened again you'd know just what to do.

I guess it's like if you have 2 brothers, one rich and one poor, but the rich one, although he has lots of gold, has no friends or confidence and feels trapped in his isolation, whereas the poor one knows and is loved by everyone in his village and never has a worry. Which is really richest?

  • Both will get old, sick and die, and both will continue this circle, if they fail to abound delight in this very live. Merits are not for sure as well. What ever kind day are. So its good to add more hardship if currently on a mound. Jhana without insight and investigation is "just" waste of merits. – Samana Johann Dec 28 '15 at 14:52
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Yes, several scientists seem to think that Buddhists are happier than others

Scientists say they have evidence to show that Buddhists really are happier and calmer than other people. ...experienced Buddhists, who meditate regularly, were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry compared to other people (source BBC news article 2003).

and

Along with enhancing cognitive performance, meditation seems to have an effect on emotional well-being (source New Scientist article 2012)

However, both articles mention that it's regular meditation that is the cause of being more happy, so I guess you don't really have to be a Buddhist.

  • Thanks for the links, and I think a lot of scientists would say it's not buddhism per ce, but I really don't know how they separate the one from the other. – Mr. Concept Dec 28 '15 at 8:33
  • @Mr.Concept Separate Buddhism from meditation you mean? Most research seems to have been conducted on experienced Buddhist monks, but the articles I've read are not very clear on what exactly it is that makes people more happy (just meditation or the combination of being a Buddhist and meditating). However, I've also read about school teachers being able to handle emotions and their class better after meditation practice, so I suspect that meditating regularly without following a specific Buddhist tradition can lead to increased happiness. – THelper Dec 28 '15 at 15:05
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Your question needs to delineate - happier than who? Happier than all people, even the Himalayan yogis or the masters of Vedanta? I dare you to try and compare the happiness of such Vedic yoga masters to the masters of Tibetan Buddhism. You will see such comparisons are merely rooted in pride of sectarianism. It is very dangerous to cultivate this attitude of my religion is happier, my religion is better. These are ideas rooted in the ego. Better root them out. Be happy with your Buddhism, but keep your mind open to all forms of happiness. If you do not see them, you will.

The system of philosophy of a religion is what compels people to live a certain way. It is the lifestyle they choose to live that cultivates their happiness. Whether you do good because you believe God wants you to do good, or that the whole world is God, or that people are suffering in illusion, if the heart possesses the same qualities there is almost no difference. The philosophy of Buddhism without practice is just empty. You see too many book-Buddhists who know the philosophy but do not embody the qualities.

Was Jesus Christ a Buddhist? Was Krishna a Buddhist? There are so many saints from different religions. The importance is the practice, in ones conduct. Non-violence, love, truthfulness these are qualities every religion teaches. The reason why you see Buddhism being a stream of power is because of its tradition of meditation that is very strong and developed. It is a powerful method of attaining truth and peace for many people. But it does not appeal to everyone. Adapting such attitudes that universally Buddhists are happier is ignorant.

Buddhism may be good for you, and keep it at that. But just remember that what defines in actual lifestyle a buddhist is common to a giant of religion, hinduism - vegetarianism, ahimsa, prayer, meditation, puja, sanskrit, guru, temple, mantra, tantra. You see many saints and happy people in hinduism. So it is the practice that really gives the life and happiness of the religion. It is following the dharma. The dharma is not dependent on whether you attribute phenomena to God or illusion, that is just a label. It is dependent upon how you act.

  • Edit: Added line-spacing to increase readability. – Lanka Dec 31 '15 at 9:56

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