back to home pdf share

The happiness calculation is an economists' way to measure the ideal income a person needs to be happy. Its innovative aspect is that it considers that more money does not necessarily equate to more happiness. The ideal income would ultimately depend on where one lives and on one's personality. Of course, factors such as comfort and safety come into play, but they may vary according to the value one gives them – which can be influenced by the value that is attached to these things in the environment in which that person lives.

Taking the, already classic, duality between what is “material” and what is “spiritual” (duality, which is more didactic, than true), it is certain that, from a spiritual perspective, happiness cannot be circumstantial. It is not a matter of hitting some points in life, such as having a good job, a good family, a good social position, health and similar things, but rather to discover what is left when you take it all away.

For those who walk on a spiritual path, there seems to be no alternative but to consider matters from this perspective. People who disregard spiritual matters have the right to regard well-being or "quality of life" as happiness. However, it is with very little property that they do so, for an essential characteristic of happiness is that whoever has it cannot lose it: it must be a full, constant possession.

Happiness for some philosophers

The leading philosophers of history (even those considered practical or averse to mysticism) agree that happiness must be a complete state. This is the case of Aristotle, the 4th century B.C. Greek philosopher. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he states that indeed human beings need many things to be happy (a good income, good friends, a good reputation etc.), but he also states that these things will only contribute to the happiness of someone if one has moral virtues and discernment – which one learns from practice. Consequently, young people can not be happy or moral, for they have no experience and are dominated by passions; poor people can't be happy or moral either, because they have to worry about survival. That is, in Aristotle's view, happiness is not for everyone. For ancient Greeks, it was quite natural to think so. 

But Aristotle also argues that, even if depending on material goods, happiness is not be something that can be lost, because for the individual to lose it, he would have to make a mistake; but if he is happy, it is because he is virtuous and has discernment; and if he is virtuous and discerning, he makes no mistakes.

The Aristotelian vision of happiness runs counter to the Christian thinking, which considers the human being to be a fallen being and naturally tending toward evil: a being unable to attain true virtue on its own and, therefore, entirely dependent on God. This situation could only be reversed if the person answered the divine call, and those who followed God would be filled by Him in an inconceivable manner. 

Augustine, philosopher, and theologian of the fifth century A.D., said that the grace of God is irresistible. This means that, from a certain point, it is not about the believer wanting to “serve God,” it is that he cannot do anything else. This would also be complete happiness since it comes from God, but in this case, it would be totally independent of the circumstances.

About this matter, the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) wrote in his Metaphysical Discourse (§14) that, if suddenly the whole world was destroyed, including its material body, and only its soul and God were left, the relation of the soul with God would remain untouched.

Happiness and spirituality

Those who seek spiritual fulfilment, acknowledge that they lack happiness, but if it was necessary to remain uncertain throughout the search, without any sign indicating that they were on the right track, that would be too much to ask of a human being.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said to Nicodemus:

The wind blows where it wills, and you hear its noise, even though you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. This happens to everyone born of the Spirit.  (John 3: 8)

The history of early Christians provides incredible examples of how something unexplainable acts in humans. Just consider how far they were able to go for what they believed in: from being beaten to going to prison, always hearing news about the last dead apostle. Poverty was the smallest of the problems. This is incomprehensible behaviour by human standards, as the general rule is to seek pleasure and escape the pain. Maybe they were all crazy and fanatical, but if that was the case, they wouldn't be able to talk about the stages of the path they professed so clearly, as they did in the New Testament letters and in the documents found in Nag Hammadi in 1945.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna (who would later reveal to Arjuna his divine nature) is even more precise regarding the fruits of spirituality. He enumerates the qualities of a pure yogi and describes his thinking:

Actions do not imprison oneself who has renounced actions through yoga, and who has cut-off his doubts through knowledge. (BG 4:41 )

The "self" in question is the much sought after Atman of the Indian spiritual tradition. The ultimate substrate of being, the Atman is the divine principle that is in everything, also called the true self, as opposed to the false self, which constitutes the egoic personality of the human being in its unawakened state. To own oneself, therefore, means to overcome the particularized nature of the false self and to stand in the universal consciousness of the true self – that is, to attain the Atman.

At this stage, the actions performed by the individual are said to be of a different kind: they are not intended to bring him or her self-benefits, but they happen spontaneously, without calculation, without anxiety, with his or her consciousness established in the Atman. This “renunciation of actions” means to liberate oneself from karma – the chain of causes and effects which holds human beings as prisoners.

Finally, as the knowledge resulting from the new consciousness is a knowledge of the essence of things and not merely of their manifestations, it is like a sword that cuts through the doubts and uncertainties typical of human beings. The spiritually accomplished person does not wonder where he came from or where he is going, what is the meaning of life, and such questions. These are questions from the seekers, but not from those who are engaged in what they have already experienced.

Happiness is possible

Considering all these statements and accounts of happiness, one is unlikely to disagree that happiness is truly desirable and worthy of being taken as the ultimate end of life. However, there have always been doubts that something of this kind can be achieved.

These doubts, however, are precisely the reactions of the self to the hope of fullness, a hope that the self interprets as a threat since it consists in the dissolution of the particularism, typical of the human personality. The mistake of the self lies in its identification with this particularism. Hence the attempt to establish a “happiness calculation”, in order to quiet his natural yearning for fulfilment while remaining in control, as he can still calculate happiness.

Happiness becomes possible as soon as fullness is no longer a threat to the self. And it becomes real as soon as the self becomes aware of its true identity, immersed in its fullness.

back to home pdf share