The Secretary- General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, had a message for the day,
"I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness! The pursuit of happiness is serious business. Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations. "
Everything is serious nowadays. It's a bit like mindulness which began as a religious practice and is now an academic subject. There are websites and on line courses to 'do' happiness. But happiness can't stand alone. For global happiness, which, I presume, is the concern of the United Nations, justice, peace, equality, freedom, sustainable development, health, education, environmental well-being are necessary. And to work for these is to work for the happiness of others and maybe even to deprive ourselves to bring this kind of happiness about.
Not so long ago Pope Francis set out his recipe for personal happiness: It included
- Live and let live.
- Be giving of yourself to others.
- Proceed calmly in life.
- move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.
- have a healthy sense of leisure.
- communicate" with each other
- Respect and take care of nature.
- Stop being negative. "Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem".
- Work for peace. "We are living in a time of many wars," he said, and "the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive and dynamic".
Buddhism says quite a lot about happiness but it sees suffering as the main ingredient of life in the sense that we live in a changing world and any experiece of happiness will come to an end - otherwise it turns into boredom, dissatisfaction, a desire to move on to something else or something new. Happiness comes from letting go, enjoying the moment but not clinging to it. This seems counter intuitive as most people have a list of things they think will make them happy but we know from celebrities and from research that the accumulation of goods, power, ambition leads more to dissatisfaction and a desire for more which then becomes a never ending cycle of wanting more and being dissatisfied with it. Happiness in the Buddhist sense is not to build up the ego but to see beyond it and feel compassion for others with whom we share the same human nature, with whom we are one at the very deepest level of our human nature.
Happiness for most religions is not seeking self but living an ethical life focussed on others rather than self. It's associated with blessing which comes from living in God's way, not our own. In Luke and Matthew's gospels the conditions for such happiness are set out in what's called the beatitudes. Happiness is not associated with immediate gratification but with those who are poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who are meek and merciful, those who are peacemakers, those willing to suffer persecution and rejection for what they believe in - not things that most people would associate with happiness but things that do bring a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment and a vision of life that is inspiring and meaningful. Is this not important?