Happiness (Merit 7)

Happiness is having friends when need arises.
Happiness is contentment with whatever there is.
Happiness is merit at the end of one’s life.
Happiness is the abandoning of all suffering.
In the world, respect for one’s mother is happiness,
As is respect for one’s father.
In the world, respect for renunciants is happiness,
As is respects for brahmins.
Happiness is a virtue lasting through old age.
Happiness is steadfast faith.
Happiness is the attainment of wisdom.
Not doing evil is happiness.

Dhammapada 331-333, translated by Gil Fronsdal

Thanissaro Bhikku translates the Pali word “sukha” as “a blessing” rather than happiness. Neither English word captures the meaning perfectly, but together they point to the kind of refined happiness that the Buddha was talking about.

If we could memorize and embody the first two lines of these verses we’d be more than halfway to the goal of attaining wisdom. If we practice being a good friend to others we will have friends when there’s need. And how do we perform the duties of a good friend? By being respectful, kind and thoughtful towards others, not just a few select candidates, but towards everyone. Virtuous behaviour by itself attracts virtuous friends.

“Being content with whatever is” — When things are nice, it’s easy to be content. When things are less than ideal – too hot or too cold, no one’s paying attention to us, our feet (or other body parts) hurt, we’re tired – can we be content with those moments as well?

“Happiness is merit at the end of one’s life” – probably means coming to the end of life with the knowledge that we’ve tried to conduct ourselves in wholesome ways throughout our life, not just in our last days. What other comfort can we bring to our final days but the memory of our meritorious (if humble) acts? And since we don’t know when our end will come, wouldn’t it be prudent to do our best each day?

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Filed under Dhammapada, Friendships, General

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