What is my individual capacity to appreciate? The word “appreciate” comes from the Latin pretium= price. So to appreciate means to recognize the full worth of something, to be grateful for something. The more I am able to extend this ability to see the value of the most simple and everyday things, the higher will be my degree of happiness. My first teacher said that as long as I am not in that intensive care unit with all the tubes wires attached to me, I don’t have a problem. In other words, the simple fact of my heart beating and my lungs breathing is already so valuable that no one can put a price on it. Even the wealthiest man will come to the point where the doctor will tell him that he can do no more even for the highest price; it is out of his hands.
This Happiness Equation is what Krishnamurti meant when he said, “My secret is that I don’t mind.” He was able to appreciate everything and so he had an absolute degree of happiness.
Ending Notions of Happiness
Each of us has a notion of how we can be happy. It would be very helpful if we took the time to reconsider our notions of happiness. We could make a list of what we think we need to be happy: “I can only be happy if … ” Write down the thing you want and the things you do not want.
Where did these ideas come from? Are they reality? Or are they only your notions?
If you are committed to a particular notion of happiness, you do not have much chance to be happy. Happiness arrives from many directions. If you have a notion that it comes only from one direction, you will miss all of these other opportunities because you want happiness to come only from the direction you want. You say, “I would rather die than marry anyone but her. I would rather die than lose my job, my reputation. I cannot be happy if I don’t get that degree or that promotion or that house.”
You have put many conditions on your happiness. And then, even if you do have all your conditions met, you still won’t be happy. You will just keep creating new conditions for your happiness. You will still want the higher degree, the better job and the more beautiful house.
A government can also believe that they know the only way to make a nation prosper and be happy. That government and nation may commit itself to that ideology for one hundred years or more. During that time its citizens can suffer so much. Anyone who disagrees or dares to speak against the government’s ideas will be locked up. They might even be considered insane. You can transform your nation into a prison because you are committed to an ideology.
Please remember that your notions of happiness may be very dangerous. The Buddha said happiness can only be possible in the here and now. So go back and examine deeply your notions and ideas of happiness. You may recognize that the conditions of happiness that are already there in your life are enough. Then happiness can be instantly yours.
Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear, pp. 53, 54