Sunday, September 23, 2012

Relative Happiness & Absolute Happiness

   So everybody wants to know...

Why do we all live?

Original Photo by abbybatchelder at

What is the purpose of life?

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   We study, get jobs, save money, have hobbies, spend time with family, or go out with friends...
...because we're all seeking happiness.

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We also have politics, economics, science, medicine, and the arts...
...which try to make our lives better and make us happier.

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But are we really getting any happier?

Original Word Art by purpleslog available on

The sad reality is that in the United States:
  • More than 36,909 people took their own lives in 2009.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
  • There are 8 to 25 attempted suicides for each actual suicide death.
                 It's scary to think that if each person who attempted suicide actually succeeded, suicide could contend for the leading cause of death in the U.S. It's definitely a very real cry out there for serious help and attention.

                 Looking at more recent news around the country, Obama and Romney are neck and neck at 47% a piece in the polls, a whopping 60% no longer believe in mainstream media, unemployment is still holding at about eight percent, it's the third time gas prices have risen to near $3.87 a gallon within the past year and a half, a majority of workers in their 60s say they don't have enough to retire on, climate change heats up again as ice in the Arctic may be reaching a "point of no return," health care costs are expected to rise 7.5% in 2013 according to one firm, and the chilling massacre during the film Dark Knight Rises has now embroiled into a new lawsuit against movie theater security. And there's a lot more than that going on out there in the world.

                At the end of the day, we wind up full of worry and feel anxious about our lives and our future. Everyone is just searching for happiness and peace of mind that will last. But can anyone truly be happy... all the time? Is this even possible?
Original Photo by renaissancechambara available on

   Buddhism has a definitive answer to these questions 
by recognizing that there are two different kinds of joy in life:

                          Relative Happiness & Absolute Happiness                          

So what is relative happiness?

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  • Owning a mansion with a helipad
  • Graduating from UC Berkeley with honors
  • Playing pro ball for the Lakers
  • Driving a Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster
  • Winning $100 million dollars
  • Sleeping in all day, every day
  • Sparking an exciting romance with Jessica Alba
  • Starting a family with someone you love
  • Becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company
  • Having a private chef that looks like Brad Pitt
  • Being on the cover of Rolling Stone

It's all the worldly happiness imaginable!

The problem with relative happiness is that...
1.) It doesn't last or is always changing.
Since it's going up and down, we're always anxious.

Health --> allergies, back pain, or gray hair
Family --> arguments, separations, or deaths
Relationships --> fights, breakups, or making up again
Career --> stress, layoffs, firings, retirement
They give us bliss for only a short while or require constant efforts...
...but they just don't seem to truly last.

2.) There is no completion or ending point.
There's no finish line so we're never satisfied.
Once we get what we want, we want something new, or we just want MORE! 
We study for a degree, then later get a job, but after that we struggle for a promotion.
Sometimes we struggle just to keep working! 

In this way, each of our goals becomes lost to the next one, 

and the next one,

and the next one.

But in the end...

3.) Death sweeps it all away.
 Once we die, we have to leave all relative happiness behind.

Each day we inch closer and closer toward death.
It is 100% certain that we will die in the future.
When we confront the idea of our own death, all relative happiness fades away like a dream.

                Despite this grim reality, we only seem to pass the time going after worldly pleasures. We chase after them day in, day out hoping that they will be the answer to our troubles. But no amount of relative happiness can ever make us feel the real, abundant joy behind being born as a human being.

                We can't depend on relative happiness to be there for us all the time, because life is so unpredictable. At any given moment, all the happiness we've come to know can crumble. This is exactly why our suffering never seems to cease throughout our lives no matter how great our lives become.

  Absolute happiness is the goal of Pure Land Buddhism

                This kind of happiness, available to all people without exception, never collapses through old age, sickness, or even in the face of death. Bottom line, it never fades under any circumstances.


There's a way to live happily ever after 
within this lifetime.
    Once you feel this way, you can't help but live out each new day 
overflowing with gratitude.  

                 In order to reach this state of absolute happiness, all we have to do is listen to the teachings from a true Buddhist master. The current living master of Pure Land Buddhism is Kentetsu Takamori. By listening steadily with an open mind, we can finally know in a split-second that our having achieved absolute happiness is truth.

                The next post explores the life story of the Buddha (known as Sakyamuni Buddha in Japan) and how he learned of the difference between relative happiness and absolute happiness 2,600 years ago.

Suicide statistics
Election figures
Media distrust poll
Unemployment figures
Gas prices (Click on 8-year to see the trend)
Retirement data
Climate change
Health care projection

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