Over the last several months we’ve witnessed a chain of shocking events involving both war and personal tragedy. Why do people fight? Why do people hate their own lives?
In large part, it comes down to a misperception about what it takes to be happy.
People fight because they have an idea of what they need to be happy. That puts them in competition with others for the desired resource. Or they feel they must be supported in their beliefs, and they demand that others do it their way — or else.
And people hate their own lives when they believe they can’t get what they need to be happy, or if in spite of all they do acquire, nothing seems to take away the pain.
But when we look at what the wise ones through the ages tell us about happiness, we find again and again that there is only one thing that leads to true happiness. And it has nothing to do with what one gets or doesn’t get in the world; it has nothing to do with what anyone else does or doesn’t do, has or doesn’t have.
The secret path to true happiness is self-knowledge. Here are some examples of what the great ones tell us…
It is right for us to be exhorted so to love wisdom that we most eagerly seek it as our treasure, acquire more and more of it, suffer many trials, restrain desires, ponder the future, so that we may preserve innocence and beneficence. Whenever we act in this way we are in possession of true virtues, because our objective is true that is in harmony with our nature in reference to salvation and true happiness.
— St. Augustine of Hippo (354)
Happy is the man that findeth Wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies; and all things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
— 3:13-15, Proverbs (400)
Nearly all mankind is more or less unhappy because nearly all do not know the true Self. Real happiness abides in Self-knowledge alone. All else is fleeting. To know one’s Self is to be blissful always.
— Ramana Maharshi (1879)
Happiness does not come into being when you seek it; it is a byproduct; it comes into being when there is goodness, when there is love, when there is no ambition, when the mind is quietly seeking out what is true.
— J. Krishnamurti (1895)
Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self, I will find Him.
— Thomas Merton (1915)
To know ourselves deeply is to understand the universe and our place in it. Through that knowledge comes unconditional happiness — happiness that is not based on any outer condition. Then we can also know forbearance, compassion, and the beautiful truth that, as Guy Finley puts it, “all things good come to those for whom the Good is all things.”
Gain the Insight That Leads to True Happiness
The self-knowledge that leads to happiness is within your reach, but it takes a bit of digging. OneJourney founder Guy Finley provides some needed facts about the process:
Nothing is wrong with desiring financial independence, but this kind of freedom isn’t what you really want.
What you really want is freedom from a self that torments you each time it compares itself to others it imagines are happier than you are because of what they possess. Truth be known, these people are possessed by a kind of spirit that can never be satisfied, as evidenced by the fact that there is no end to their appetite for more; in this cycle is the seed of greed.
Seek first freedom from fear and find there, in this interior liberty, the lasting fulfillment only Truth can give. Then, in this new richness, you will be able to do in life what it is you really want to do and, without doubt, be successful there because you have first succeeded as a human being.
Do you have a favorite quote from your own tradition that adds to this conversation? If so, click here to submit it to the OneJourney Living Book. Your contribution might add to the happiness of others.
Dr. Ellen Dickstein
The OneJourney Project