– By Acharya S. N. Goenka
The Buddha used the word sukha to refer to different kinds of happiness because suitable words were not available to describe the various kinds of happiness in the language of those days. He sometimes qualified his usage of the term; for example, he enumerated four types of worldly happiness for ordinary householders:
1. Ānaṇya sukha: The happiness of being free from debt. Every honest householder knows what misery it is to be burdened by debt. When the debt is repaid, one becomes happy.
2. Atthi sukha: The happiness of possessing wealth and property, even if one is not enjoying it or using it. “My credit balance is increasing; the turnover of my business is increasing; the price of my property is increasing; the price of my stocks is increasing.” This sukha is the joy of possession.
3. Bhoga sukha: When the joy of possession becomes the joy of enjoying possessions. When this happens, one’s happiness increases. Due to one’s wealth, one enjoys various comforts: one sees pleasing sights; one hears melodious music; one smells sweet fragrances; one tastes delicious foods; and one enjoys pleasant physical contact. All these comforts give happiness.
4. Anavajjasukha: To abstain from deeds which go against the Truth. For a householder, there is a happiness that is greater than the preceding three. It is to abstain from those deeds that go against the Path. A householder examines oneself and ensures that he abstains from unwholesome conduct: he abstains from killing; from stealing; from sexual misconduct; from lying and deceiving others; from harsh speech, backbiting, and slanderous speech that hurts others. He abstains from the use of intoxicants. He ensures that his livelihood does not involve dealing with weapons, poisons, animals for slaughter, meat and intoxicants such as alcohol. His mind delights in this. He remains free from fear of laws of the government or censure from society in the present life, as well as fear of descending to the nether worlds in the after-life. He also remains free from the agony of remorse. Remaining joyful, calm and fearless, such a pure-minded person experiences a type of happiness that is undoubtedly superior to other worldly pleasures.
It is not possible to give a different name to each type of happiness. Even so, while comparing various types of happiness, the Buddha once explained, in detail, which happiness is lesser and which is greater:
1. The happiness of home and the happiness of homelessness (of a monk or a nun) — of the two, the happiness of homelessness is greater.
2. The happiness of sensual pleasures and the happiness of renunciation — of the two, the happiness of renunciation is greater.
3. The happiness of various realms and the happiness beyond all the realms of existence — of the two, the happiness beyond the realms of existence is greater.
4. The happiness accompanied by āsavas (intoxicating impulses) and the happiness not accompanied by āsavas — of the two, the happiness not accompanied by āsavas is greater.
5. The happiness of material comforts and the happiness transcending material comforts — of the two, the happiness transcending material comforts is greater.
6. The happiness of the ariyas (noble ones) and the happiness of anariyas (of unenlightened ones) — of the two, the happiness of ariyas (noble ones) is greater.
7. The happiness of body (one that comes from physical comfort) and the happiness of mind — of the two, the happiness of mind is greater.
8. The happiness accompanied by pīti (pleasurable sensations in the body) and the happiness without pīti (beyond the pleasurable sensations in the body) — of the two, the happiness without pīti is greater.
9. The happiness of indulgence and the happiness of restraint — of the two, the happiness of restraint is greater.
10. The happiness of a scattered mind (of the mind not in jhāna) and the happiness of a concentrated mind (of the mind in jhānic states) — of the two, the happiness of a concentrated mind is greater.
11. The happiness with pīti (pleasurable sensations in the body) as its object and the happiness beyond pīti as its object — of the two, the happiness beyond pīti as its object is greater.
12. The happiness dependent on indulgence as its object and the happiness dependent on restraint as its object — of the two, the happiness dependent on restraint as its object is greater.
13. The happiness with form as object and happiness with formlessness as object — of the two, the happiness with formlessness as its object is greater.
The Buddha has enumerated many types of happiness such as:
kāyikasukhaṃ, cetasikasukhaṃ, dibbasukhaṃ, mānusakasukhaṃ, lābhasukhaṃ, sakkārasukhaṃ, yānasukhaṃ, sayanasukhaṃ, issariyasukhaṃ, ādhipaccasukhaṃ, gihisukhaṃ, sāmaññasukhaṃ, sāsavasukhaṃ, anāsavasukhaṃ, upadhisukhaṃ, nirūpadhisukhaṃ, sāmisasukhaṃ, nirāmisasukhaṃ, sappītikasukhaṃ, nippītikasukhaṃ, jhānasukhaṃ, vimuttisukhaṃ, kāmasukhaṃ, nekkhammasukhaṃ, vivekasukhaṃ, upasamasukhaṃ, sambodhasukhaṃ.
So the term sukha (happiness) is dependent on circumstances and has different meanings in different contexts.
Thus, we see that this great sage enumerated different kinds of happiness by providing detailed, analytical explanation in words. But even more importantly, he taught a clear method to allow its practitioners to experience the superior kinds of happiness:
Cittaṃ dantaṃ sukhāvahaṃ – Restraint of mind brings happiness.
Cittaṃ guttaṃ sukhāvahaṃ – Guarding one’s mind brings happiness.
Dhammo ciṇṇo sukhāvaho – The practice of Dhamma brings happiness.
Wherever he discussed dukkha (suffering), he explained its cause, how to eradicate this cause, and the actual practice of its eradication. Anyone who says that the Buddha was a pessimist who discussed nothing but misery is only displaying ignorance of the Buddha’s original teaching.
Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ — May all beings be happy!