Happiness and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. Without sorrow there would be no such thing as happiness. And vise versa. Both are emotions of the incarnate form, devoid of intrinsic Spiritual significance.
The Spiritual concept of life is as an opportunity for experiential growth. Pleasure is not its primary purpose. Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, with the cessation of that suffering as its goal. Perhaps it is the ability to recognize the ultimate insignificance of earthly trials and tribulations and to rise above them that is meant by divine happiness. As Kipling said, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…”
In dense (incarnate) form we are distanced from our Spiritual essence and need some motivation to fulfill our path. Happiness is the carrot on a stick dangling before us. Like the proverbial horse it is doubtful whether we ever get to eat the carrot, or whether it will taste as good as it looks.
Our mission to be happy means we strive for the right things. If we pursue happiness we shall be living purposefully and constructively.
Happiness is transient. On winning the lottery some might spend the first few days sitting by a pool sipping champagne. But it would not take long to grow bored by the utter futility of such an existence. No doubt the newly rich will soon look for new challenges, even though they inevitably carry frustration on the way to the satisfaction of ultimate fulfillment. Then for a while they would again bask in the sense of achievement. But like that champagne that too will soon wear off.
As Buddha points out even when things are going well (ie we are happy) there is sorrow in the knowledge that our existence is one of change and that our fleeting joy cannot last. I always remember feeling happy at going out for the day as a child, but in the back of my mind as soon as we got in the car we were a little closer to the day’s end. All we can do is learn to try to savor the moment.
The converse is that when things seem rough we can always look forward to their improvement. Indeed the anticipation of happiness is often preferable to its attainment.
Material success is not the elixir of happiness we might assume from watching how people (even ourselves) devote themselves to chasing it. It is true that without sufficient for our basic needs material fulfillment is of the paramount importance. But once we have enough each additional unit of wealth adds less and less.
It’s said that the more we have the more we want. Hence riches bring frustration, and of course the fear we shall lose what we have or be robbed. We certainly can’t take it back to Spirit.
Lord Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” The pursuit of wealth brings neither lasting happiness nor Spiritual fulfillment.
The best things in life are free, eg few things are better than walking by the sea watching the sun set. How much more joy might be gained from spending time with family or walking in nature, say, rather than dedicating yet more hours to the pursuit of money. But walking by the sea watching the sun set is all the more enjoyable in the satisfaction you’ve lived a worthwhile day. And that is happiness.