Why Western Notions Of Happiness Are Unsatisfactory And How Buddhism Can Help You Realise Deeper, Meaningful Happiness
Western notions of happiness tend to be selfish, contingent and shallow, and this book is about why I have rejected such notions as well as the commonly accepted strategies to achieve happiness. It's also a book about why I think following The Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path is much more likely to result in a deeper, meaningful and much more stable happiness. More
Overview of the book
Chapter one examines some of the different dimensions of happiness, contrasting ‘aroused’ with ‘unaroused’ happiness; immediate ‘in the moment happiness’ to ‘reflective’ happiness; ‘happiness as pleasure’ with ‘eudemonic’ happiness; and ‘egocentric’ notions of happiness compared to ‘egoless ideals’ of happiness.
In chapter two I argue that aroused, immediate, pleasurable and egocentric notions dominate the discourse of happiness mainstream western society, pointing out that our ideas of happiness have a tendency to be characterized by (1) selfishness, (2) contingency, (3) insecure temporariness, and (4) delusion. I call this conflation of factors shallow-happiness.
In contrast to this, I also suggest that ‘unaroused’, ‘reflective’, ‘eudemonic’ and ‘egoless’ notions of happiness form the general basis of ideals of happiness in the Buddhist tradition. Such notions of happiness in Buddhism are non-contingent, i.e. not dependent on doing specific things, or being in specific places or with specific people, and this, if practiced effectively, means one can be permanently happy whatever one is doing. I call this type of happiness deep or meaningful happiness.
Chapter three outlines the Buddhist path to happiness or the Noble Eightfold path. The Buddhist path to meaningful happiness ironically starts with accepting that life is inherently unsatisfactory, and then working on doing such things as developing compassion, being honest, renouncing things, working ethically, and striving to make the effort to be aware of everything and committing to engaging in formal meditation.
Chapter four examines six broad flawed happiness-strategies in which we commonly engage in mainstream western society. To my mind these broad happiness strategies seem to contrast starkly to those ideals suggested by The Buddha in the Noble Eightfold Path. Here, I explore playing the game of self expression, acting selfishly, attaching ourselves to things, being money-oriented, having mistaken ideas about freedom, and finally retreating into unconsciousness.
Finally, in chapter five, given that I am suggesting that much of what we do in the West cannot result in true happiness, I provide fourteen concrete suggestions about how we can be happier.
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