What is Happiness? See the Story.


One of the best teaching stories about happiness that I have read comes from Buddhist teachings.  Here is a story about happiness.

Each person reading this story will have a different take away, and that is a good thing.  What I hope that everybody understands from this story is that our happiness stems from how happy we are at the time we examine our happiness.

As the last line of the “Loving Kindness” Meditation says, “May you be happy!”



“Once I was staying with my mother in London. At the time she was the housekeeper for a very wealthy Canadian who lived in a luxury flat just off Hyde Park. They all went off for a while, and I had the flat to myself. There I was in London, living in this luxurious flat with two huge colour television sets and all the food I could possibly eat! I had enough money for whatever I wanted, lots of records, lots of everything. But I was so bored!  I told myself, “Please remember this. If you are ever tempted to think that physical comfort gives happiness, remember this.”

But then, another time I was staying in a cave, not my cave but another cave, which was very small. It was so small that you couldn’t stand up in it, with a tiny box you could only just sit in, and that was the bed as well. It was full of fleas, so I was covered in flea bites. You had to go half a mile down a very steep track to bring up water. There was also almost no food at all, and it was hot. But I was in bliss. I was so happy. It was a very holy place, and the people there were wonderful. Although from a physical point of view the situation was difficult, so what! The mind was happy. I remember that whole place as being bathed in golden light. Do you see what I mean?” 

—from Ani Tenzin Palmo, from “Reflections on a Mountain Lake: Teachings on Practical Buddhism

About the Author – Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (born 1943) is a bhikṣuṇī in the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. She is an author, teacher and founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India. She is best known for being one of the very few Western yoginis trained in the East, having spent twelve years living in a remote cave in the Himalayas, three of those years in strict meditation retreat.