Conditional happiness is not yet freedom

I wanted to transcribe this because it’s been on my mind since I heard it – and listened again to it on Facebook via the live feed stream that Mary did that night. I found the idea that chasing happiness causes a dependency in us, a form of bondage, a critical idea. Please read below. If you want to hear Howie give the talk, you can search for Mission Dharma on Facebook and go back to 11.1.16 for the live stream. Here is the first 4 minutes of the talk:

“We all want freedom. We all want to be happy. We all want to be free of anxiety, worry [and] suffering… and it is possible. But the way that we ordinarily try to discover that sense of  well being is by trying to experience as many moments of pleasure as we can. And then devote a lot of our time to seeking pleasure. And when we get a little pleasure, we say, “Oh, I’m Happy” but we don’t actually realize that this very means of seeking happiness is actually making us, creating in our mind much more dependency on having some pleasure to be happy. The Buddha described the happiness that depends on things being the way we want them – he called that ‘conditional happiness’. He called it ‘worldly happiness’. He called it the happiness that depends on satisfying some kind of hunger. He also called it the happiness of bondage because it just creates … less and less feeling of freedom; much more dependency on things being the way we want.

The Buddha said that we have to have these kinds of pleasures in our life, but we also have to understand a few things about them: their pleasure; their defects – they don’t deliver in the long haul; and what it means to be free from this kind of dependency. We want to know the dangers of getting caught up in the wheel of endlessly looking for sweet experiences. And we also want to experience the pleasure because our senses need to be glad.

That kind of happiness is part of our life, but it hasn’t made anyone truly happy. It has mostly made us feel bound and dependent on conditions for our sense of wellbeing. On the other side, the Buddha said there is this kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on conditions.. called ‘lokuttara sukkha’ the happiness that is unstuck from conditions… beyond the common influence of whatever is happening.. it’s called the happiness of freedom… so that’s what the teachings really aim for, a reliable kind of freedom.”


-Howie Cohn

November 1, 2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *