This is a book everyone should read. At the end of the day, we’re all seeking long-term happiness, so it only makes sense to educate ourselves. Here are my raw notes:
Thousands of philosophers have tried to capture the meaning of life. Broadly speaking, I think there are two observations – we’re all just seeking happiness, and we’ll all have different definitions of what the means to us.
Happiness should not be limited to a few pleasant sensations, to some intense pleasure, to an eruption of joy or a fleeting sense of serenity.
Ricard defines happiness as a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind – it is an optimal state of being. It is also a way of interpreting the world.
Suffering, like well-being, is ultimately an interior state (although it is of course influenced by external conditions)
Happiness, at a baseline, starts with purging mental toxins such as hatred and obsession. These emotions poison the mind. It is also about putting things in perspective.
Everything exists in relation; nothing exists in and of itself, immune to the forces of cause and effect.
Epicurus - one must practice the things which produce happiness, since if that is present we have everything and if it is absent we do everything in order you have it.
Wealth, pleasures, rank and power are all sought for the sake of happiness. But as we strive, we forget the goal and spend our time pursuing the means for their own sake. In doing so, we miss the point and remain deeply unsatisfied.
Pleasure vs Happiness – pleasure is exhausted by usage and is almost always linked to an activity. It naturally leads to boredom by being repeated (listening to music, eating a great meal)
Living It Up – the modern man is so consumed with the exterior world that we never look inwards. We should all be spending more time with ourselves.
Suffering and Unhappiness – these are also different. Suffering can be triggered by numerous things, some of which we can control and others we can’t. Unhappiness is the way in which we experience our suffering. There are many people who are suffering but are still happy.
The wise (or happy) man has nothing left to expect or hope for. Because he is entirely happy, he needs nothing. Because he needs nothing, he is entirely happy.
Ego-grasping and self-importance are the best magnets to attract suffering. The less influenced we are by the sense of our self’s importance, the easier it is to acquire lasting inner strength. The reason for this is simple: self-importance is a target open to all sorts of mental projectiles – jealousy, fear, greed, repulsion – that perpetually destabilise it.
Buddhism and Meditation
Meditation is about familiarising yourself with a new vision of things, a new way to manage thought, of perceiving people and experiencing the world.
Buddhism teaches 3 principal ways of making this familiarisation - antidotes, liberation and utilisation.
Antidotes – two diametrically opposed mental processes cannot form simultaneously. Neutralise afflictive emotions with a specific antidote.
Liberation – this is about recognising the empty nature of thoughts, meaning negative thoughts can leave the mind without leaving a trace.
Utilisation - this is about using emotions as catalysts. Have the skill to exploit emotions to good effect without drowning in their negative aspects.
We must not forget however that the source of disturbing emotions is attachment to the self. By giving in to anger were are not necessarily harming our enemy but we are definitely harming ourselves.
Envy – what can other people’s happiness possibly deprive us of? Nothing, of course. Only the ego can be wounded by it.
Happiness is partially influenced by circumstances – research has shown that 15% is impacted by wealth, education, social status, etc. Your genetics comprise 25%, and the rest is influenced by the way we live and think.
Avoid the hedonic treadmill – where we keep running to stay at the same level of happiness. I think this is the biggest trap to fall into.
We should keep death in mind to enrich our lives.
The wise man enjoys a very special kind of freedom: prepared for death, he appreciates every moment of life’s bounty. He loves each day as if it were his only one.