Pursuit of Happiness

By Yang Miang

Since young, I have always thought that being happy is one of the most important things in life. Whenever I wrote birthday wishes for family members and friends, I like to wish them 笑口常开 (directly translated as having a “happy face” all the time)

As I grow up, I realised that being happy is a common goal that many people have, but I don’t see a lot of people who are truly happy around. Most people, just like me, have some sort of unhappiness in certain aspects of their lives. 

At about the same time, I became interested in having a religion. This might be due to my six years in schools that are religiously affiliated. However, I did not immediately link happiness and religion then. 

After I got married and have kids, I put a lot of energy into managing and growing my marriage and family. Concurrently, I was very driven in my career and I worked pretty hard. Even though each aspect of my life gave me joy from time to time, they also presented different types of problem that I have to solve constantly. So they do not bring me a true sense of happiness.

In 2007, my career brought my family and me to Australia. With less relations around us and a more forgiving pace of life, we had had more time to explore religions in more detail. I got in touch with Jen Chen Buddhism and realised that Buddhism is essentially an age-old pathway to true happiness. To me, Buddhism is not about the superficial “happy face” (笑口常开) type of happiness that I sought when I was a teenager, nor a religious or obedient approach to happiness that I learned in school. 

As I learn more about Buddhism, I realised that the type of “happiness” that it refers to has nothing to do with emotions or feelings that our mind generates. It is actually going back to our inner self that does not think and feel. At the same time, this inner self does not reject thinking or feeling, it simply does not get attached to thinking or feeling. Once we are with this inner self, which is our Buddha Nature, we are totally natural, at ease and peaceful like a tree that sways when the wind blows and still when there is no wind. 

There is actually no need for any pursuit of happiness. This innate source of peace and bliss is actually within us all the time! All we need to do is to stop all pursuit and we will be at ease. This does not mean we stay in a cave and isolate ourselves from the world, nor meditate all the time and starve ourselves to death. We should continue to live life in accordance to our roles, and do our best in whatever we do. 

The key is to constantly look inwards and be at ease internally no matter what we are doing. What we do externally is not as critical as what is happening internally. Once we stop the pursuit of happiness internally and externally, we become satisfied and peaceful. 

How ironic… I had been searching for happiness all my life, little did I realise that I have it in me all these while.