There was a monk who lived in a cave, he didn’t eat any food and only drank water from a nearby lake. He spent his days meditating in a cave. Many years later when he was at the lake collecting water to bring back to the cave, suddenly a tiger sneaked up behind him, attacked and ate him. There was a businessman who built a chain of restaurants in a town. He became wealthy and his restaurants became well known in the local community. He would use his celebrity and wealth to live a lavish lifestyle buying a mansion and owning luxury cars. Many years later he got gravely ill and died.
Did the monk and the businessman live happy lives? Their approaches to life were on opposite ends of the spectrum. The monk solely focused on cultivating his inner self, being present in the now and being enlightened. He neglected external goods and only owned robes which he wore every day. The businessman focused on building material wealth, owning everything he could dream of; mansions, cars, wardrobes of high-end clothing and accessories. He neglected his inner being, such a concept didn’t exist for him. Is it Possible that Both of Them Were Happy?
Yes but the type of happiness is different. The monk’s happiness comes from within, it is eternal and not dependent on anything. Through meditation and being present (today which we call mindfulness) he is accessing the soul of his being, where peace and happiness thrive. He had inner happiness. The businessman’s happiness comes from material things, it is temporary and entirely dependent on an emotional attachment to them. His life is ‘desire led’, using his wealth to buy whatever he wanted such as owning the house of his dreams or traveling all over the world. If the businessman were to lose all his wealth and assets his desires would no longer be able to be fulfilled, and thus he would no longer be happy. He had material happiness. Which Approach is Best for Happiness?
As we see in the story, even though the monk reached eternal happiness he was eaten by a tiger. And the businessman had material happiness but became gravely ill and died. Don’t take the story literally in the sense that if you be like the monk you will get eaten by a tiger, or if you be like the businessman you will get gravely ill. The tragedies highlight the unpredictably of life. What we need to do is find a balance. Living in one extreme is unhealthy for the body, mind, and spirit; finding a balance where you cultivate your inner being as well as maintain a stable lifestyle is important in today’s modern world. Having happiness where the source of it is coming from inside of you means that if you do have additional material happiness, they can coexist together. One is not replacing the other as inner happiness is eternal and can’t be replaced, it can only be shrouded and hidden by desires. This is the reason why we hear stories of celebrities and wealthy who have the money and fame but aren’t happy. They rely solely on material happiness and have not cultivated their inner happiness. They are ‘the businessmen’, the desires which they thought would bring happiness were temporary. The monk can also have flaws if the monk is only focused on reaching his own ‘enlightenment’, his sole goal is to be enlightened, this is spiritual greed. He only cares about himself and believes that reaching enlightenment will give him the ultimate form of happiness. The businessman can have an impact on others through his endeavours, whatever they may be, the monk has isolated himself from the world for his one sole desire. Finding Balance in Happiness
In my own journey, I had been striving for material happiness, this is what society has taught me. Get a good education, then get a good job so you can have a nice lifestyle and provide for your family. It is only in the last 2 years that I have been exploring and cultivating my inner being and eternal happiness which lies within. Making the switch from material happiness to inner happiness is easier said than done. It takes time to detach from desires and discovers there is happiness within. It is a practice I do every day as thoughts and feelings surface within me. I have found daily mindfulness and meditation has allowed me to cultivate my inner happiness which I hid for so long, and ultimately reach a balance of inner and material happiness. It is a lifelong journey and lesson, as long as I am trying to find that balance of happiness, I will eventually find it.