Meditation and Happiness
All suffering in the world results from seeking one’s own happiness. All happiness in the world results from seeking the happiness of others.
– Shantideva (Bodhicaryavatara, chapter 8, verse 129)
This quote by the great buddhist master Shantideva, who flourished in the 6th / 7th century in India, is still relevant today. Indeed, after modern psychology for a century primarily focused on human deficits, the rapidly growing field of positive psychology is now seriously investigating causes and conditions of happiness.
Interestingly, a recent study by Barbara Fredrickson seems to confirm old buddhist wisdom. A group of participants were introduced to a buddhist loving kindness meditation, aiming at increasing ones love and compassion for others. Compared to a waitlist control group, participants of a 6 week loving kindness meditation programme showed an increase of positive emotions, which in turn resulted in an increase in life satisfaction.
Thus, modern sience is in line with ancient buddhist wisdom: Cultivating love and compassion towards others leads to a more satisfied life.
The contemporary buddhist master Lama Ole Nydahl expresses something similar in his unique, pragmatic style:
If you think about yourself you have problems. If you think about others you have interesting tasks and challenges.
– Lama Ole Nydahl