Happiness in philosophy and science

In Aspen at Ideas Festival, I learned a bunch about the science research on happiness to date. And here in India, I have been reading Hindu and Buddhist authors on the same: Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Buddha’s followers including the contemporary Thich Naht Hahn.

There are some overlaps. A lot. Here is what the Buddhists say, roughly.

Partly based on Thich Nhat Hanh, and partly on Lyubomirsky’s How of Happiness compendium.

Formulas for being happy, having friends, handling conflict, restoring others:

Being angry is a feeling you have. So you can calm it. Breathe. Walk. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Forgiveness and apologizing. Something to give without asking for reciprocity. Just “sorry”. Calms others. Face to face or phone or a letter or anything is better than nothing. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Loving Speech and Compassionate Listening. A generous act that calms others. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Thinking rightly is important as it will manifest. Have compassion in your thoughts. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

You may have to calm yourself before being ready to forgive, apologize, loving speech or listen compassionately. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Telling the truth is important but a skillfully done job whose purpose is to help the other person not harm them.

Acting out or airing anger (or Freudian therapy…) doesn’t help. It reinforces negative thinking. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Nourishing happiness or nourishing suffering (eg cognitive behavioral therapy). (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Savoring. I am very happy right now. (Also validated in Lyubomirsky’s summary.)

Questions it left for me:

Can a leader who struggles in face of a great challenge be at peace? And if the leader is not at peace can the followers expect to be presented with great generosity? Was Churchill kind? Could he have been? Gandhi?

In society and personal relations, everything points to happiness. Perhaps also in politics and business and war? Can we make happiness and peace the core principle as we endeavour to do very challenging things against opponents who resist our progress? Eg Buddhism vs Confucianism vs Sun Tzu? Would Sun Tzu have agreed that Loving Speech is needed across rivals?

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