He is said to be the happiest man in the world. His name is Matthieu Ricard and he is a molecular geneticist turned Buddhist monk who resides at the Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal. Ricard has spent a lifetime exploring the concept of happiness. As Ricard says; “whatever we do, whatever we hope, whatever we dream – somehow is related to a deep, profound desire for well-being or happiness”. If happiness is something that is going to determine the quality of every instant of our life, then it is important that we know what it is. Not knowing what happiness is makes it much harder to find.
Happiness is often defined as pleasure, but pleasure, says Ricard, is contingent on a time, a place and an object. For example, if you eat one piece of chocolate cake you will feel pleasure; eat three and you will feel sick. Rather than a mere pleasure sensation, happiness is well-being. It is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment that pervades and underlies all emotional states, and all the joys and sorrows that come one’s way.
Very often, people pursue happiness by looking at the outer world and acquiring objects to bring happiness. However, our control of the outer world is limited, temporary and often an illusion. You might have a luxurious apartment on the top floor of a magnificent building, but if you are deeply unhappy within, you may well be looking for a window from which to jump. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people in very difficult circumstances who manage to keep serenity, inner strength and inner freedom. It is wonderful to have external trappings such as a nice place to live, a new car and travel, but these things are not enough. Happiness comes from within.