foreign meditators at Suan Mokkhabalarama
7 May 1986
Translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu
Today I'd like to talk about something which most
of you probably misunderstand. Although you've all come here with an interest in
Buddhism, you may have some wrong understanding. For this reason, please gather
your mental energies and set your mind to the task of listening. Pay special
attention to what will be said today.
The thing we'll be talking about is happiness
(sukha). This is a word that is quite
ambiguous both in Thai, kwam sukh, in the
Pali langauges, sukha, and even in English,
happiness. In all three languages, this word has many varied meanings and applications. It's often
difficult to understand exactly what people mean when they say the word
"happiness." Because this subject can get very mixed up, it is
necessary to reach some understanding of this thing, which is why
we'll be speaking about happiness today.
The happiness felt in the everyday lives of
ordinary people is one meaning of happiness. Then, there is the other kind of
happiness, the happiness that arises with the realization of the final goal of
life. There are these two very different things, but we call both of them "
happiness." Generally, we mix up these two meanings, confuse them, and
never quite understand what we're talking about.
WHICH HAPPINESS DO YOU WANT?
Here's one example of how the ambiguity of this
word can cause problems. It's likely that you came here to study and practice
Dhama in search of happiness. Your understanding of happiness, the happiness you
desire, however, may not be the same happiness that is the genuine goal of
Buddhism and the practice of Dhamma. If the sukha
(happiness) that you desire is not the sukha that arises from Dhamma practice,
then we're afraid that you'll be disappointed, or even heartbroken here. It's
necessary to develop some understanding of this matter.
In order to save time and make it easy for you to
understand, let's set down a simple principle for the understanding of
happiness. The usual happiness that common people are interested in is when a
particular hunger or want is satisfied. This is the typical understanding of
happiness. In the Dhamma sense, however, happiness is when there is no hunger or
want at all, when we're completely free of all hunger, desire, and want. Help to
sort this out right at this point by paying careful attention to the following
distinction: happiness because hunger is satisfied and happiness due to no
hunger at all. Can you see the difference? Can you feel the distinction between
the happiness of hunger and the happiness of no hunger?
Let's take the opportunity now to understand the
words "lokiya" and "lokuttara,"
as they are relevant to the matter we're investigating today. Lokiya
means "proceeding according to worldly matters and
concerns." Lokiya is to be in
the world, caught within the world, under the power and influence of the world.
Common translations are "worldly" and "mundane." Lokuttara
means "to be above the world." It is
beyond the power and influence of the world. It can be translated
"transcendent" or "supramundane." Now we can more easily
compare the two kinds of happiness: lokiya-sukha
(worldly happiness), which is trapped under
the power of, governed by the conditions and limitations of, what we call
"the world," and lokuttara-sukha (transcendent
happiness), which is beyond all influence of the world. See this
distinction and understand the meaning of these two words as clearly as
We must look at these more closely. Lokiya
means "stuck in the world, dragged along by the
world," so that worldly power and influence dominate. In this state
there is no spiritual freedom; it's the absence of spiritual independence.
Lokuttara means "unstuck, released from the
world." It is spiritual freedom. Thus, there are two kinds of happiness: happiness that is not free and
happiness that is independent, the happiness of slavery and
the happiness of freedom.
This is the point that we're afraid you'll
misunderstand. If you've come here looking for lokiya-sukha, but you study
Buddhism which offers the opposite kind of happiness, you're going to be
disappointed. You won't find what you desire. The practice of Dhamma, including
a wise meditation practice, leads to lokuttara-sukha and not to worldly
happiness. We must make this point clear from the very beginning. If you
understand the difference between these two kinds of sukha, however, you'll
understand the purpose of Suan Mokkh and won't be disappointed here.
By now you ought to understand the difference
between the two kinds of happiness: the happiness that comes from getting what
we hunger for and the happiness of the total absence of hunger. How different
are they? Investigate the matter and you will see these things for yourself. The
happiness of "hunger satisfied" and the happiness of
"no hunger" : we can not define them more succinctly or
clearly than this.