What is happiness?

As a monk, Kenzo had travelled far and wide, staying in many spiritual places, in search of bits of wisdom about how to be happy. He came to reside in my neighbourhood and I jumped at the chance to learn from his experiences. I made an appointment to meet him in his small room at the meditation centre where he was staying. 

As he saw me enter the room, he chuckled and asked, “So you want me to show you how to be happy?”

Somewhat startled by this direct question, all I could manage to say was, “Yes!”

After guiding me to sit on a sofa, he spoke, “Well, let us start at the beginning! What do you think is the meaning of happiness? What does it mean, ‘to be happy’ ?”

Despite desiring to be happy for so long, I suddenly realised that I never really had thought about what being happy actually meant.

Kenzo, probably realising that my answer was not going to come in a hurry, said, “Don’t worry, I too struggled to come up with an answer when I was asked the same question many years ago. Even now, I have to ponder about it. In my current thinking, to be happy means different things to different people. To me, to be happy means to have a mind that is at peace despite all the stresses the world throws at it. Even with lots of challenges and difficult circumstances, if one’s mind can remain stress-free, in a good mood, without worry and fear, then I think we can describe that person as being “happy”. What do you think?”

Thankful that Kenzo had answered most of it, I just added my bit, “Yes, I think I agree with how you describe what it is to be happy. I suffer, in various combinations, anxiety, depression and stress. I suppose not having these would make me a happy person.”

Kenzo smiled, “Yes, that makes sense. I am sure as we go along, we will both discover more and more about what it is to be happy. I am pleased to accompany you on this journey.”