Happiness/Philosophy of Happiness
Socrates (469 BC in Athens – 399 BC) is fundamental for Western thinking. Almost all the major philosophical schools of antiquity have to rely on Socrates. Michel de Montaigne called him the "master of masters" and Karl Jaspers wrote, "Socrates to have in mind is one of the essential conditions of our philosophy". (Eva-Maria Kaufmann: Sokrates. Munich 2000, p. 93 (Montaigne), p. 8 (Jaspers).)
Socrates was a mystic. There are many accounts of his extraordinary abilities. He could fall for hours in meditation, go barefoot in winter and consume excessive amounts of alcohol, without ever showing signs of intoxication. He lived in strict guidance by his inner voice, whose origin he regarded as divine. He prayed regularly. About life after death, he preferred an open perspective, "Either it is a non-being, and we have no sensation after death - or, as it is told, it is a migration of the soul from this place to another."(Plato, Apologie, Stuttgart 1982, p. 36) It is interesting to note that a significant portion of Plato's Pheado is concerned with various arguments whose purpose can be seen to prove the existence of life after death.(Plato, Phaedo, 66a-67d.)
We can regard Socrates as the spiritual father of today's scientific thinking time. He was an advocate of reason. He was highly involved with the question of the truth. What is true and what is wrong? What is the way of a true life? Socrates had no ready answers. He left it to each of his students themselves, to find their own way of truth. Three things he gave them along the way: 1. Keep interested in the truth. 2. Make sure that your soul is as good as possible. 3. To get a good soul, maintain the four virtues of prudence, temperance, courage and justice (charity).(Plato, Apologie, Stuttgart 1982, p. 36)
Aristippus of Cyrene
Perhaps the first philosopher who has developed a complete philosophy of happiness was Aristippus. He was a student of Socrates, but adopted a very different philosophical outlook, teaching that the goal of life was to seek external pleasure. Aristippus lived luxuriously. He is considered the founder of hedonism.
Antisthenes (c. 445 BCE – c. 365 BCE) was also a student of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers regarded him as the founder of Cynic philosophy. His most important disciple was Diogenes, who lived after a legend in a barrel. The way of happiness of Antisthenes is similar to the Enlightenment philosophy of Buddhism, Indian Yoga and Chinese Taoism. Through a life of peace, simplicity, naturalness, modesty and virtue (mental work) dissolve the inner tensions. Inner happiness and enlightenment appear. We find Antisthenes praising the pleasures which spring "from out of one's soul."(Xenophon, Symposium, iv. 41.)
Plato lived from 428/427 BC to 348/347 BC in Athens. He was a student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. According to Plato the human soul consists of three parts: The reason, the will and the desire. A man is happy when all three parts of the soul are in balance. Plato has thought about how to build a good society. He proposed to transfer the leadership of a society to the wise. One could say that science (the philosophy of happiness) should be the center of happy society.
A student of Plato was Aristotle. According to Aristotle, happy is he who develops his virtues and abilities. A man can be called perfectly happy if he is sufficiently equipped with external goods and spends his life according to virtue.(Nicomachean Ethics Book I.)
For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain a happy, tranquil life, characterized by peace, freedom from fear, the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. A life after Epicurus (341-270 BC) is happy when you live everything in the right degree. Everyone should know his point of enough. "Whom is enough too little, nothing is enough."(Johannes Mewaldt: Epikur. Philosophie der Freude. Stuttgart 1973, page 71.)
Epicureans often confounded with the hedonists. Both are completely different philosophical paths. An Epicurean embodies a moderate path of asceticism and a hedonist a path of extreme external pleasure. Epicureanism is wisdom and hedonism is unwisdom. Epicureanism leads to enlightenment (inner happiness) and hedonism to unenlightenment (inner tensions, addictions).
Epicurus taught positive thinking. A life will be happy when we constantly train positive thinking. Epicurus called it "philosophize." A person should philosophize every day. One should think about the meaning of life and reflect again and again to his positive goals. One should avoid it, to worry too much.
The inner happiness comes from inner peace. When a person calms down, inner happiness appears. Epicurus recommended it to live in inner peace, "Then you live like a God (Buddha) among your unwise fellow men,"(Johannes Mewaldt, ibid, page 48.) which an Epicurean also helps on the way: "The friendship dances around the globe, all of us announcing that we shall awaken to bliss."(Johannes Mewaldt, ibid, page 70.)
Enlightenment is the central point to understand the philosophy of happiness. According to Swami Sivananda, there are three main paths to enlightenment, the path of peace (live in rest), the path of love (do good) and the path of practicing (yoga, meditation). The best way is to practice all three ways.
Everyone should find the spiritual exercises that suit him well. In order to resolve our internal tensions and to awaken our inner happiness, we need exercises for the body (yoga, walking, meditation) and exercises for the mind (self-reflection, thoughts control, doing good) . Basically you get to the enlightenment (to a life in the light / in God) through the personally right combination from meditation and mental work.
The basic principle of Epicurus was, "A philosopher lives like a God (Buddha, Enlightened) among the people." The most important enlightenment technique for Epicurus was next to a life in stillness the daily positive thinking. Epicurus called it "philosophize." A life will be happy when we constantly think positive and live with enough rest. A person should philosophize every day. He should think about the meaning of life, reflect on his positive goals and consistently go his path of truth and wisdom.
Epicurus taught to be frugal in external things and to focus on the inner happiness. His goal was to overcome all fears and to live as a God (Buddha) among men. He recommended the path of small pleasure. He was famous for the phrase, "Send me a small piece of cheese, then I can really enjoy."
Nils was from the beginning of his life in search of the great good fortune. He was looking for happiness in relationships, career and beautiful journeys. When he was thirty years old, there was a good opportunity to deepen his knowledge. He stood at the end of his legal studies. The written work of the exam had been completed. Now he had to wait three months until the inspectors had evaluated the work. These three months he was free. He wondered what he should do with this many leisure. Nils remembered his previously unsuccessful search for lasting happiness. He came up with the idea to read all books about happiness systematically. Maybe the happiness books could help him in his personal search?
He scoured in the libraries for scientific happiness literature. He looked through the whole literature on the word "happiness". He bought all the books that seemed to be helpful in this quest. Overall, he bought some twenty books. Then he retired to his study and read them all consecutively. At first he was confused by the diversity of views about happiness. But after about two months ago, he saw things more clearly. He recognized that some authors were on the wrong track. Most authors were groping in the dark in their search for happiness. They had actually understood anything. Nils recognized this by comparing their results with his own experiences of happiness. Some authors, however, had an eye for the true way. They watched the people who are happy in their lifes. And found that these people are essentially characterized by two special qualities: their positivity and their modesty. The most happiest men first thought positive and secondly, had a modest nature.
That positive thinking contributes to inner happiness is understandable. If you think positive, positive feelings are generated in your psyche. This is also confirmed by the happiness research. But what is going on with the property "modesty"? This property is at the present time very forgotten. We live in a first-person company. Modesty is considered to be unwise. Immodesty is the great idea of life. The more you want, the more you're gonna get. The problem of today's doctrine of immodesty is that the goal of life is located on the wrong place. The goal of life is seen outside. Today's consumer prophets suggest that maximum external pleasure automatically leads to maximum inner happiness. This is a false doctrine that is clearly contradicted by reality.
In particular, this approach does not work long term. May the outward pleasure be as great as it wants. After some time the mind becomes accustomed and will hardly notice it as something special. Even large external wealth does not make you happy on a deep level in the long run. You even get used to an attractive partner and good regular sex. You seek for decades after Prince Charming or work for material wealth. And then all additional happiness disappears a short time after you have reached your goals. Today's happiness research has found out that a sufficient material basis of life is important for the inner happiness. But then inner happiness is not growing more by external goods, but by psychological factors.
The pursuit of external wealth, professional success and the perfect soul mate turns out to be always after a while as a mistake. Some time after happy external events every man turns back to his normal mental happiness level. Who in his life wants to be happy at a deep level must focus on his inner happiness. He must reduce his inner tensions and maintain qualities such as inner peace, love and positivity. The real goal of life is the greatest possible inner happiness. We have to be immodest at inner happiness. We must strive for enlightenment. But we must be modest in outer pleasure. Most people confuse these two things. In Yoga we consider the more inner peace as the basis of happiness as positive thinking. Who is relaxed internally automatically thinks positive. This is the main direction of Yoga. Who wants to force his inner happiness by positive thinking easily gets inner tensions. He is only superficially positive. Anyone who is enlightened, is positive deeply in his soul.
Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand
Rand believed human beings, and the rest of the universe, all follow the The Law of Identity. Happiness is a person's emotional state when they are living in a manner aligned to their own identity, and the identity of their environment. For example, certain foods and drinks effect a person positively, and others negatively. If a person purposefully ingests the negative things, that will act against his life, and he will feel unhappy about it since he did it knowingly.
Now, perhaps another person likes to be sociable, have many friends, and contribute to the well-being of her community. Her psychological nature, i.e. identity, has this social requirement. If that requirement is met, it will contribute to her happiness.
Sometimes bad things happen in life, and people suffer. There are diseases with no cure. Storms wreck villages, and loved ones are lost. Such occurrences are no ones fault. As long as an individuals' choices are aligned with the Law of Identity, they are honest and true. The suffering will only go so deep. Underneath the grief, the individual will still feel fit to live. If, on the other hand, the person was attempting to defy the Law of Identity, eventually it will catch him, and he will know that it was his own doing, and that he is not fit. That's when the suffering reaches the core of a person.
An outstanding example of how people can be happy in a harsh environment is the true story of "Shackleton's Incredible Voyage".
Consciousness is part of the universe. Just like everything else, it also follows the Law of Identity. Science, and Physics rest on this law, along with a belief in Reason as the means to knowledge. These disciplines continue to explain more and more about how phenomena work. See the The Universal Law of Happiness for additional discussion on the physics of happiness.
What is Your Way?
The center of philosophy is the question of the meaning of life. Who goes through life without this issue, lives unconscious. A person is one only by thinking philosophical. Everyone should be a philosopher. Blessed is the one, who finds his purpose of life through his philosophical thinking. He can live wisely and strategically. He will receive a full life. Live happily. Live with the happiness research and the philosophy of happiness.
Basically, the way of the outer pleasure and the way of the inner happiness are opposites. Follow the right principles of life. The way of the outer pleasure creates tensions (a big ego, wishes, inner stress) and you become inwardly unhappy. The path of the outer pleasure causes at the long-term a growth into the inner unhappiness. We are never internally really satisfied, and thus we seek to go more extreme the way of the external pleasure. Until we recognize its failure.
On the path of inner happiness, all inner tensions dissolve . We systematically resolve the tensions from the body and the mind. If the spirit becomes free of his fears (attachment to suffering situations) and desires (attachment to external pleasures), inner peace appears. We get into a cosmic consciousness. Lasting inner happiness evolves. We are content with ourselfes and our lifes. We have released all external things at a deeper level and thus realize our true self.
The people are different and have different ways of inner happiness. For some people it is good to live as an extreme ascetic (Diogenes). For some people it is right to try the path of the outer pleasure enough, until they are ready for the path of inner happiness. For most people, a mean way with some outer joy is the best spiritual way.
1. Think about life. What are your goals? What do you want to reach in your life? "My goals are ... "
2. Think about inner and outer happiness. The happiness research found out, that happiness comes to 90% from inside and only to 10 % from outer things like a great partner, much money or a big career (Sonja Lyubomirsky). As a philosopher invest your energy in a healthy life, in meditation, in positive thinking and in working for a happy world.
3. Think about enlightenment. Enlightenment is the biggest happiness. Find your personal way of spirituality. Center your life in Logic (in a higher reason like truth, love, inner happiness or enlightenment). What are the spiritual exercise you want to do daily (yoga, meditation, reading, positiv thinking, walking, praying, doing good)?
4. Make a good plan of your life. In yoga there are four phases of a full life, learning in the childhood, work as adult, relationship or family and selfrealization.
5. Live as a philosopher of happiness. You can go the fast way to enlightenment like Diogenes (live like a yogi), the middle way to enlightenment like Epicurus (live inner and outer happiness at the same time) or the way of unenlightenment like Aristippus (outer pleasure and inner suffering). Test the best!!
- A World of Peace, Love and Happiness
- Yoga and the dance of life (a yogi life)
- Spiritual Almanac