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 respect for brahmins.
Happiness is virtue lasting through old age.
Happiness is steadfast faith.
Happiness is the attainment of wisdom.
Not doing evil is happiness. (translated by Gil Fronsdal)
The Pali word sukhā is here interpreted as happiness, but other translators have chosen “It is good” and “It’s a blessing” for these verses. Sukhā is one of those Pali words that can’t be converted directly into English in a way that conveys its full meaning.
At the risk of over-explaining, this is from the Wikipedia entry for sukhā:
According to Monier-Williams (1964), the etymology of sukha is “said to be su [‘good’] + kha [‘aperture’] and to mean originally ‘having a good axle-hole'”. … Sukha is juxtaposed with duḥkha (Sanskrit; Pali: dukkha; often translated as “suffering”).
So, if the cart ride is bumpy because the central (axle) hole in a wheel is not smooth, that’s dukkha. If it is smooth, we get a good ride and that’s sukkhā. This is a pretty good analogy for when things seem to be going in a manner we like and when they’re not. These verses are packed with descriptions of how we can enjoy a happy life. Do we have a friend when need arises? How about before the need arises? These are not unrelated questions. Do we give attention to cultivating reliable, trusting relationships?
The key line may be “contentment with whatever there is”. I remember a time during my working life when I was frustrated with my boss and a friend asked me, “How would it be different if you accepted him exactly as he is?” It took me a few seconds to realize that that was exactly what I needed to do, rather than expecting him to behave in a way that was uncharacteristic. When things or relationships are inconvenient can we accept them as they are instead of immediately thinking or saying that they shouldn’t be this way? Contentment comes from acceptance of the imperfections and flaws in ourselves and others, and in all of our situations.
Regarding others with respect can also be a source of joy. If we are lucky enough to have parents or parental figures who have supported and helped us, it is right that we respond with steady affection and good will. Spiritual leaders and teachers we admire are worthy of our time and attention and support.
Virtue, faith, and wisdom are packed into the last verse as sources of happiness. We would do well to commit ourselves to these aspects of the path if we want to clear away doubts and feel well-settled in our own hearts.