Happiness as flourishing

From the B. Alan Wallace interview/article mentioned in the previous post:
What is genuine happiness? I prefer the term “human flourishing,” which is a translation of the Greek word eudaimonia. The usual translation is “genuine happiness,” but “flourishing” is more accurate. Like the Buddhist notion of sukkha, and ananda—bliss, joy in the Hindu tradition—flourishing is a sense of happiness that’s beyond the momentary vicissitudes of our emotional state.

And what would that happiness entail? A meaningful life.

This definition is clarifying for me. It points to the fact that any happiness that depends on our external circumstances being lined up in a particular way is bound to fail, and sooner rather than later. There is an internal structure that we can depend on for building a happy, meaningful life.

Another Q&A from the interview:
So physical health is not a necessary ingredient? Not at all. One of my former students has a very rare disease, and every day he goes to the hospital for dialysis and drug treatment, and will for the rest of his life. You could say, “Well, that’s a tragedy, a dismal situation.” But the last time I spoke with him, he said, “Alan, I’m flourishing.” And he was. He was finding a way within the very limited parameters of what was available to him. His mind is clear. He’s reading, he’s growing, he’s meditating, he’s teaching meditation to other terminally ill patients in his hospital. He’s living a very meaningful life in which he can honestly say that he’s flourishing.

So, when we feel grumpy because we’re hungry or tired or someone has said a cross word to us, we could take a deep breath and think of Wallace’s friend in the hospital. There is always a way to come home to our internal resources.

More on recognizing the difference between relying on external vs. internal next time.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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