Home  |  Drops 5 Index

Drop of Dhamma Delight!


The Layman's Way to Happiness:

by Lily de Silva, Sri Lanka.

Life in the modern age has become particularly trying and problematic.
Though it remains a fact that the standard of living has generally improved,
man is still suffering immensely under the weight of present-day living-stress.
The physical condition of man has been reduced to such a pathetic level that
he succumbs to untimely death by killer diseases such as cancer, heart failure,
diabetes, etc. to an unprecedented degree. Mentally, he is so tension-ridden
that he has forgotten the art of relaxing, and he cannot even enjoy sound
sleep without the aid of tranquilizers. In this set up interpersonal relations
have become so brittle and vulnerable, that the divorce rate has indeed become
alarmingly high, thus letting loose a whole series of other social problems, such
as uncared-for children, juvenile delinquency, suicide, etc. Thus life has become
a problematic burden and a solution to make life more tolerable and enjoyable
is a crucial, great and pressing need to rectify and elevate our civilization.

As the word of the Buddha is of everlasting value and universal applicability,
and as the Buddha preached not only to monks and nuns, but also to the lay
public as well, it is useful to find a teaching of the Buddha, which is relevant
to our present-day problems:
In the Pattakammavagga of the Anguttara Nikaya (A II, 69) the Buddha
preached a text to Anāthapindika  on the fourfold pleasures of a layman.
It is our considered opinion, that this text offers adequate insight to meet
the demands of the present-day problems as well. The four types of pleasure
listed there are:
1: Atthisukha, the pleasure of possessing material wealth;
2: Bhogasukha, the pleasure of enjoying material wealth;
3: Ananasukha, the pleasure of being debtless; and
4: Anavajjaskha, the pleasure of being blameless.
Let us take these for discussion, one by one, and see how these four sources
of pleasure can be harnessed for living a happy life in the present-day world:

Atthisukha Man should not only have a righteous means of living, avoiding
blameworthy trades such as dealing in meat, liquor, poison, firearms & slavery,
he should also entertain a wholesome attitude towards his right occupation.
For instance, if a doctor welcomes epidemics in the locality in order to make
much money, or a trader hopes for natural calamities to send market prices up,
the money earned by such unscrupulous individuals, is not righteous earning as
their intentions are impure and foul. Also one should not deceive or exploit
others in carrying out one's occupation. Exerting oneself with great energy,
one should earn one's living, and such hard-earned wealth is called righteous
wealth (dhammika dhammaladdha). Again one could have great wealth, but if
one does not experience a sense of contentment with what one has, one cannot
really enjoy atthisukha or the pleasure of having. The amassing of wealth of
such a person is like trying to fill a bottomless vessel. This is one of the widely
spread maladies we see in the present-day society. Inordinate expansion of
wealth becomes a source not of happiness, but of greed, anxiety, and envy.
Such wealth exposes the possessor to the jealousies and maneuvers of other
unscrupulous individuals, hence the occurrence of blackmailing and kidnapping
from time to time. But if one does have a correct means of earning one's living
and the correct attitude to wealth, one can escape many of the hazards which
money brings in its wake to modern man... Contentment is caused by mutual joy
with other's success, and by sharing one's wealth with the worthy & the needy.


Bhogasukha Wealth has only instrumental value and the proper enjoyment
of wealth is an art, which is worth carefully cultivating. Buddhism deplores both
extravagance and miserly hoarding. One must maintain a healthy well balanced
standard of living according to one's means. If, in the enjoyment of wealth,
one overindulges in sense pleasures, one is bound to run into health hazards in
a very short time. If, for instance, one overindulges in food just because one
can afford it, one will soon be overcome by diseases such as heart failure, high
blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Such a one will be faced with the situation
of "cutting his neck with his own tongue." Moderation in food is a virtue praised
in Buddhism, and it is a health-promoting habit. Often in the name of enjoying
wealth, man furthermore cultivates unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking.
It is paradoxical that man, who actually loves himself most, should act as if he
were his own worst enemy, by indulging in habits which ultimately reduce him to
a physical wreck. It is medically established that smoking causes the highest
percentage of lung cancer, and that drinking causes irreparable damage to vital
organs of the body including the brain and the liver. If only one pauses to just
ponder over one's own welfare, and if only one entertains at least some degree
of compassion towards oneself, one would not get into the clutches of these
vicious habits. Wealthy men often end up in the pitiful plight of the ant fallen
in the pot of honey. Such humans did not know the art of enjoying bhogasukha.
They regard the body only as an instrument for pleasure, and they wear out and
debilitate the body's capacity for enjoyment in double quick time, long before
the natural process of wear and tear sets in. If we love ourselves, we have to
treat our bodies with proper care without taxing it with overindulgence and
deprivation. It is with this very body that we can enjoy not only the pleasures
of the senses, but even the spiritual bliss of Nibbāna. Another aspect of the
joy of wealth is the art of sharing. Without being an Adinnapubbaka, a miserly
"never-giver," if one learns to share one's riches with those worthy, the less
fortunate and the have-nots, one will have the noble experience of rejoicing at
the joy of other beings.  At the same time one will learn the love and good will
of others, instead of becoming the target of envy, jealousy and endless intrigue.

Ananasukha The pleasure of being debtless is the third quality discussed
in our sutta. Economically if one can be completely free of debt, one is indeed
a very fortunate person. To be really debtless in society one has to discharge
one's obligations scrupulously. As a wage earner one has to discharge one's
duties for which one is paid, otherwise one can be indebted to the employer.
As a parent one has to fulfill one's obligations to one's children. In our society
children are taught to worship and look after their parents, and it is well to
bear in mind that parents too have to qualify themselves for this honour they
receive by being dutiful parents. It should be emphasized that fathers who
neglect their families as a result of their addiction to vices such as drinking
and gambling fall far short of the ideal of debtlessness. One can have the
satisfaction of being debtless only if one has fulfilled one's obligations in all
the social roles one has agreed and promised to perform.

Anavajjasukha The satisfaction of leading a blameless life is the highest
form of satisfaction that a layman can have. Every society has a code of
ethics to be followed by its members. According to Buddhism the minimum
code of ethics regulating the life of its adherent disciples, is the pañcasila:
the Five Precepts. If one practices these virtues, one can have the satisfaction
of leading a righteous life to a great extent. Refraining from doing to others,
what one does not like others to do to oneself, is the basic inviolable principle
underlying these virtues. Buddhism speaks of hiri  and ottappa, the sense of
shame and the fear of doing wrong, as deva-dhamma or the 2 divine qualities.
These are the basic qualities, which separate man from the animal kingdom.
Unlike the animals man has a conscience, which makes him squeamish about
doing wrong... Buddhism recognizes blameless mental activity and thinking as well.
Mental activities which arise from greed, hatred and ignorance are detrimental
and thus blameworthy. Let us see how such mental behaviour causes unhappiness:
Take for instance the case of a person who is angry. What are the symptoms
of anger? Hard breathing, accelerated heart beat, faster circulation of blood,
feeling hot, sweating, trepidation, restlessness, etc. these are the physical
manifestations of anger. These are certainly not pleasant physical experiences.
Each time the cause of anger is remembered, even though the rage of physical
manifestations of anger may not be that marked, one feels quite restless and
mentally not at ease. We use expressions such as "boiling with anger," "I got the
devil on to me," etc. to mean getting angry, and these sayings are literally quite
expressive of the situation. It is impossible for one to be angry and happy at
the same time. An irritable person is truly a very sad person, and what is worse
he infects others around him too with the same sadness! The cultivation of 4
sublime modes of behaviour such as loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic
joy and equanimity are truly conducive to a happy living. Those who live with
such attitudes habitually are pleasant and amicable people, who can be happy
when all alone, even in remote and desolate locations, as well as in any company.

If we truly understand the sound significance of these 4 kinds of happiness
elucidated in our sutta, and translate them into action, then our life will be
much more pleasant, easy, calm, happy and Noble even in this modern age.

Kindly shared by Ven. Vicittalankara, Mumbai, India.

Full Source text: AN 4.62 PTS:
A ii 69 Anana Sutta: Debtless
More on this Happiness, pleasure, bliss (Sukha):
Samana-Sukha, Untroubled_Yeah, Happy, Buddha_on_Bliss,

The Layman's Happiness!

Home Index