Happiness and the Spiritual Journey – Part 2: The journey from unhappiness to happiness

by William R. Yoder on March 20, 2010

(Click here to read the whole multi-part series)

Happiness is the “destination” or your spiritual journey. Actually it is both the journey and the destination.

As we saw in the last post, virtually every mystical tradition has essentially said that happiness (joy, peace) is the criterion of spiritual awakening. A sense of deep and lasting peace and joy is how you know that you know, is how you know that you are truly self-aware.

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism provide a good example of the typical spiritual journey. The spiritual path begins with the recognition that “life is suffering” (the First Noble Truth). That means that our current experience of life is filled with fear and conflict and suffering, and unhappiness and lack of peace.

The next step is discovery the cause of our experience of suffering, which is always an inner cause based on our own beliefs. For instance, the Second Noble Truth says that the cause of all suffering is our attachment to the objects of our desire.

The next step of the path is the recognition that if we change that inner cause, we can eliminate the suffering and unhappiness in our lives. For instance, the Third Noble Truth says that we have to give up our attachment to the objects of our desires. And then we will experience true happiness.

And finally, there are typically some specific practices and techniques that can help us to do this.  For instance, the Fourth Noble Truth provides the Eight-fold Path that will enable us to give up our attachment, and allow ourselves to experience happiness.

And the point here is that when we have traveled our spiritual path, and have done whatever inner changes we need to do to free ourselves from our self-imposed suffering and unhappiness, then we will experience a deep and infinite sense of peace and happiness. That experience is the criterion of your “arrival” at the truth, your self-awakening, your enlightenment.

And no matter how much you theoretically understand religion and philosophy and metaphysics, no matter how much of an “expert” you may be on Buddhism or Taoism or  Hinduism or Christianity, if you are not happy—deeply and truly and consistently happy—then you do not yet really “know” the truth that all of these signposts are pointing to.

True wisdom is experienced as peace and happiness. All the rest of your theories and ideas are mere speculation about truth, and are not a substitute for actually knowing truth.

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