Ever get confused about what true happiness and pleasure are and how they differ? Ever wondered how to cultivate true happiness? Misunderstandings related to pleasure and happiness have caused me much discontentment and sent me on wild goose chases looking to others and circumstances outside of myself to 'make me happy'. Lets look at true happiness and pleasure and their differences and similarities first.
True happiness is that deep feeling of peace and contentment that is not influenced by the ups and downs of life. It is an internal state of mind that is not dependent on external circumstances. For example, as we know some people are truly content with very little money while others may be very discontent with lots. We all know how good it feels to spend the time and effort to be that helpful friend, smile or find that perfect present for someone. This is lasting true happiness that comes from our efforts to be kind to others.
Pleasure is different to true lasting happiness or contentment. Pleasure is a sensory experience, for example we enjoy the taste of nice meal, the scent of perfume, the sound of music or the sight of a beautiful scene. The pleasure lasts as long as the sensory experience of it. True happiness is lasting and like that deep feeling of peace and calm beneath the ocean is not affected by the waves of life's ups and downs.
Pleasure like true happiness both come from our kindness to others. When we give a pleasurable experience to others we create the causes to perceive sensory pleasure ourselves. The converse is also true when we practice harm we have the perception of unhappiness and displeasure.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying pleasurable things, like a nice meal, holiday, relationship or any pleasurable experience. But, we need to remember to enjoy these things with the wisdom that understands our pleasurable experience of them comes from our kind efforts to bring pleasure and happiness to others
When we think that pleasure or lasting happiness are in external things or experiences we grasp at trying to get them outside our ourselves in others, relationships, the job, and experiences. Like when I think it is someone else's responsibility 'to make me happy'. This is exhausting and futile. When I first encountered the idea that my experience of pleasure and true happiness were internal states of mind that were not dependent on the externals it was a bit destabilising, as I had been so used to trying to juggle the externals to find happiness..
However when I was able to think some more about it I realised it was liberating to think I was in control of creating the causes for my true happiness. I did not have to look for it outside of myself and also I no longer needed to blame and criticise others for my unhappiness either.
How do I change my state of mind to a happier one? It is easy really, when we understand that our true happiness and, pleasure too, come from our kindness to others we can begin to generate this happy state of mind for ourselves.
When we wisely understand where both pleasure and true happiness come from we can have fun bringing them to others and sub-sequentially enjoy them ourselves. As Mark Twain says "The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up".