Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Happiness

"Deep Peace"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

I recently came across what I thought was an online “spoof” about life in contemporary America, but then I discovered it was an actual report about some new trends in the business world. It appears as if some of the more cutting-edge corporations like “Google” and “Apple” have now added a new position to their roster of executive officers. Now, in addition to a CEO - Chief Executive Officer, and a CFO - Chief Financial Officer, there is the newly-added position of a CHO - Chief Happiness Officer.

As one might suspect, the main job of the CHO is to make sure that all the employees in the corporation are “happy.”  The CHO monitors employee conversations, and observes their body postures, including how often they smile – always checking for the “happiness factor.”  In order to boost corporate happiness, every morning the typical CHO adds some humorous cartoon or a funny story to the desktop of employees, guaranteed to bring a smile to their faces when they log in. The CHO also arranges for a variety of comfort foods to be served in the cafeteria, organizes “Happy Hour” events, and even runs various corporate assemblies where the employees can get together and have some fun.

As it turns out, the principle reason for adding the new CHO position is because corporate America is convinced that “happy” employees are also more “productive.”  So, while the bosses may be “happy” that their employees are “happy,” they are way more interested in the fact that this means they will probably be more “productive.”

What I also found interesting about these new CHO positions is that many of the people who occupy this role also claim to be Buddhists. After all, the Buddha has a lot to say about happiness, and in almost every Buddhist article and essay I have ever read, there is always lots of talk about finding happiness on a spiritual path.

However, as I see it, the Buddha’s approach to happiness is actually quite different from the way in which one of these new CHO officers might approach happiness in today’s work force.

When the Buddha talks about happiness, he isn’t referring to some lighthearted state of being, the kind of feeling you get when you read a funny joke; rather, true happiness is the experience a deeper peace and greater wisdom in life. The Buddha teaches that true happiness is found by the two-fold practice of mindfulness and compassion. We find happiness by being aware and awake to what life has to offer. We find true happiness when we don’t “cling onto” or “crave” anything in life. We find true happiness by showing kindness and caring for the needs of others.

Happiness is not found by seeking after the bigger, the better, the newer, clinging to and hoarding all the stuff you have accumulated in life. So, in a very real sense, even though some of the so-called “Happiness Officers” in today’s business world are Buddhists, the Buddha’s teaching is basically the antithesis of the gospel preached by corporate America in our own culture today.

It seems to me that someone can smile a lot, chuckle at jokes all day long, enjoy hour-long “happy hours,” live in a nice house and even have plenty of cash in the bank and yet, when it comes right down to it, can still be pretty miserable.

I am convinced that we can only be happy by making others happy.

We can only find true happiness when we change the focus of our lives from gazing inward at our own self-centered ego and instead look outward in relationship with others. The pursuit of happiness involves looking toward the building up of the common good - the good of the poor and the needy as well as the good of those who have nice cushy jobs in a fun corporation, the good of those who live in nice homes as well as the good of those who sleep on a piece of cardboard on a sidewalk.

I think Martin Luther King Jr, may have really “nailed it” when he talked about what true happiness means

Those who are not looking for happiness are most likely to find it
because those who are searching forget that
the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.

The Dalai Lama puts it this way:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Paul, the Buddha also taught that to practice compassion for others we first of all have to be compassionate with ourselves. It is hard to help others, be kind to others, have empathy for others if we ourselves are full of suffering. Compassion for others flows naturally and authentically, if we first of all treat ourselves with kindness. For some reason our culture doesn't encourage this, it tends to focus on being kind to others, but I know through my own experiences that if I strive to be compassionate to others it is invariably fake. But, it is a beautiful flowering when it unfolds naturally as I take care of myself. xxxx

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