Zen and the Art of Happiness

Armen Hareyan's picture

Much unhappiness springs from the fact that we do not get what we want. We may feel that we do not get respect, appreciation or love from other people, so our life may become an exercise in seeking out approval.

Money can be linked into this "quest for happiness" too, because this is how, in modern society we feel we are appreciated. We do a job of work and that work is rewarded by money. If we are considered capable enough, we may get promotion and the extra money in our pay packets consolidates that promotion. So money can equate to love, acknowledgement, and respect.

When you were growing up, how often have you said or thought something like, "I wish my parents could be like my friend's parents" - most of us have. This is evidence of our dissatisfaction with the parental relationship during our childhood and it all too often follows us into adulthood. Then we may start attempting to make our spouses/partners the parents we wished we had had. The result is that there is a strong desire to make others do as we wish.

In Zen, the main aim is to liberate ourselves from such detachment and as we practice our zazen (Zen meditation), we may find ourselves naturally giving others the space to be exactly the way they are and this leads to powerful relationships. Many of us seek the recognition we felt due to us in childhood from society and even though this can lead to some of us being very successful in our careers, whilst we are attached to that need, we never experience real happiness. Real happiness comes from detachment from all needs.

I am not saying here that we need to give up looking for improvements and success in our life, but that we focus totally on each and every element of our life/career. Give it our full attention and keep looking for improvements and then, let go and move on to the next phase. If we can work with our minds focused on the present moment of now and what we are doing, our achievement will not be action of compensation for our failures in our childhood but more of an act of true creativity. We all know people who constantly find fault with others. This may be because as children, nothing they did was good enough or acknowledged. They project this "reality" on to others and away from themselves... If it is not them who are failing to meet the hyped-up standards, it is more comfortable.


It is the goal of many people to have more happiness, but what is happiness. If we were to experience happiness, would we stand still and just be with it, or would our incessant ambition drive us onward to seek out even more happiness?

In his book The Laws of Happiness, Ryuho Okawa says that there is no way a person can be unhappy if they are looking for ways to repay for what they have received in their life and unhappiness will disappear when you create happiness for others. So there is great truth in the words, "it is better to give than to receive" after all.


Derek Ayre

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Before you judge a person walk a mile in their shoes, that way when you criticize them ou are a mile away AND you have their shoes....