The Purpose of Life is the Expansion of Happiness
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The following is a transcription of a talk given by Rick Moss Ph.D at the Pacific Coast Church, PG, CA.
Because of the experiential nature of this work, Dr. Rick suggests closing your eyes for a few parts. You can try reading a line and then closing your eyes to let it sink in, or just listen along with this audio player.
What is the Purpose of Life?
Where to begin?
I was thinking that maybe at the end of all of this, maybe there really is a final exam. Okay. Well maybe there is a final exam to life. If that were the case, what might the exam question be?
So I was thinking about that and it seemed to me that the exam question might well be "what is the purpose of life?".
So where does one go when one wants to know the purpose of life, Google, of course. So upon Googling the purpose of life, I am now ready to talk freely.
Aristotle, the Dalai Lama, and Maharishi Agree: The Purpose of Life is the Expansion of Happiness
There were three answers from three pretty reputable sources, that really solved the question for me. Aristotle, the Dalai Lama, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and they all said the same thing.
“The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness.”
So that’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about how happiness expands and how we can expand our happiness.
Maharishi went on to say, which I thought was very interesting, after saying the purpose of life was the expansion of happiness, that the significance and purpose of individual life is the same as that of cosmic life, only a different scale. So it is holographic. This purpose of life is, according to Maharishi,
“The purpose of the cosmos. All of creation is for the purpose of expanding our happiness.”
3 Levels of Happiness
There are, as I see it, three levels that happiness expands through. I’d like to talk a little bit about those three levels, and then I’d like to explore our own expansion of happiness as an experience.
The first level is that of physical pleasure: The pleasure of warm water on our skin, the pleasure of physical beauty, the pleasure of chocolate, the pleasure of sensuality.
Now all of these are wonderful, but there is a downside. These pleasures are derived through the senses and the senses are limited. After we have taken in a certain amount of pleasure through the senses, after we’ve eaten a certain amount of chocolate – well maybe it doesn’t work with chocolate, but all the others; after we’ve taken a certain amount of pleasure in through the senses, that pleasure stops being pleasurable. It becomes overloaded.
We become numb, inured that pleasure. And this pleasure has a dark side, and I’m not talking about chocolate anymore. This pleasure has a dark side and that is that the desire for this pleasure can become a doorway to addiction.
Then what happens is, that we keep seeking this pleasure but never getting fulfilled – and the saying around addiction that makes sense to me is, “You can’t get enough of that, which you really don’t want.” We think that we want the repetition of that pleasure, but it is not pleasurable after awhile. We have to expand beyond that input of pleasure as happiness to experience a greater experience and reality of happiness.
The Kama Sutra, which is a revered Indian text and guide to both pleasure and virtuous living, warns us about entrapment at this sensory level of pleasure. It says,
“A man who is greedy for fields, land, gold, cattle, horses, servants, employees, women, relatives, many sensual pleasures, is overpowered with weakness and trampled by trouble. For pain invades him as water a cracked boat.”
So this is a text that’s devoted to pleasure, and the warning is quite clear. If we get stuck at this level of happiness, if our happiness is not expanding, we are contracting.
So what’s the next level of happiness? I would offer that the next level of happiness is satisfaction.
Egoic pleasure, personality enhancement, winning in competition; these egoic satisfactions are pleasurable. They make us happy in the short run. They are prideful, they are exciting, and they are short-lived, so we can’t stay at that level of happiness either and be satisfied. It won’t work.
A more expanded level of satisfaction is fulfillment; expressing our purpose, a right job, service, artistic creation for the love of art. All very satisfying, all very happy producing, but ultimately, not completely fulfilling. And so we move onto what we can call the third level of the expansion of happiness, and that is joy or bliss.
Joy and Bliss
This level of expansion of happiness into joy and bliss is the crucial and fulfilling level of happiness because this is who we are. We are “Sat, Chit, Ananda,” as Indian philosophy would say, and that Ananda is the bliss, the happiness. It is our very being.
Why is it so Hard to Realize our Purpose and Achieve True Happiness (Joy and Bliss)?
Well, if this is where happiness expands to, if this is the culmination of the realization of happiness, our very purpose, and the purpose of all of creation; the cosmic purpose of life, why does it seem so difficult to realize?
To answer that, I’ve looked to Sufi teaching. In Sufi teaching, they teach with stories. And the stories that they often use are Nasrudin stores. These teaching stories around Nasrudin are absolutely wonderful, insightful, sometimes humorous, but they really capture humanity, in that Nasrudin is like us. Nasrudin is sometimes brilliant and sometimes the holy fool.
In one story, to help understand why we are not realizing this very cosmic purpose of the expansion of happiness more fully, you may have heard this story, but listen to it again in this context.
Nasrudin is searching under a lamp post for something, when a friend comes up and says, “What are you look for, Nasrudin?” He says, “I’m looking for the keys to my house.” The fried says, “Oh, did you lose them under this lamp post?” Nasrudin says, “Oh, no, no I lost them out there in that field, but it’s so much easier to look for them here.”
So much easier to look in a place that seems well-illuminated and easy to search for, like the first three levels of happiness, but that isn’t the key to the house, as the Sufi teaching tells us.
Experience: Finding Your True Self
So let’s spend a couple of minutes in an interesting process looking for the keys to our own house in our self. In this process, and we’re going to do a couple of different eyes closed processes today, if you’re willing to be experimental, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes, take some quieting breaths, and let yourself become still. I’m going to pose a question to you. I’m going to invite you to see what answer comes, and then I’m going to ask you to release that answer and start again, afresh.
Who are you?
Maybe the thought of a man or a woman comes to mind… Let it go.
Who are you?
Maybe your profession comes to mind… Let it go.
Who are you? Now let that go.
Who are you?
Who are you?
Who are you really?
As you let that answer come into your mind, it may also come into your being and you may find that words don’t describe it. It may surpass your understanding.
Now bringing your awareness back, maybe that was a doorway to the self, to the experience of our being and so often now – opening your eyes, if you will.
Love and our Purpose in Life
So often, we don’t go to that place of being, but we identify ourselves superficially.
As this Sufi story with Nasrudin points to, when Nasrudin goes into a bank to cash a check, the teller says, “Would you please identify yourself?” Nasrudin picks out of his pocket a hand mirror, holds it up, and says, “This is me. That’s right.”
We identify ourselves superficially at times, like Nasrudin, “This is me,” and yet, we are so much more than this, but we’re looking in the wrong place. We’re looking under the lamp post, we’re not looking at the self.
This connection to true self, these keys to the household are reveled in a number of ways. Dr. Bill is always suggesting a key as meditation. Absolutely true. Breathing, chanting, yoga, silence, nature – all serve as keys, and one of the richest keys is that of love.
Jack Kornfield, one of my favorite Buddhist authors, puts it nicely. He says:
“The happiness we discover in life is not about possessing or owning or even understanding. Instead, it is the discovery of the capacity to love. To have a loving, free, and wise relationship with all of life.”
One more insight from Thomas Traherne, an Angelic and Mystic in the 1600s, who put it,
“Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed; our love for other and their love for us. If we cannot be satisfied by love, we cannot be satisfied at all.”
So we’re going to do a little work around this awakening to the true joy, the bliss, the expansion of happiness that occurs through love. Given my time, I’ve got about 12 more minutes to go; I’m going to make use of every one of those minutes.
Experience: The Depth of Love
Guided Imagery to Find and Experience Your True Self
I’m going to invite you to experience at the deeper level, because understanding, as Jack said, “It’s sort of the booby prize. Experiencing is the answer.” I’m going to ask you to follow along in this process as we look for, experience, go into the depth of this power of love as a tool for the expansion of happiness.
So close your eyes. We’re going to take an inward dive here. I’m going to ask you to look within yourselves, especially to childhood, where there are memories of moments and times, and maybe long times where you did not feel loved. These experiences of not loved leave these bubbles or gaps in our awareness, in our subconscious and our body.
These holes are places where happiness and love is not. Thus, the expansion of happiness requires that we bring healing to these gaps, these old wounds, because they form the basis of how we experience reality, of how we interact in the world. To heal these wounds, these holes, and these memories is the power of love to bring about the expansion of happiness.
So imagine, if you will, one moment from your childhood when you did not feel seen, heard, loved, valued, appreciated 100%. That means that every one of us should be able to find at least one moment. Now imagine that you – the adult you, the being that you truly are, the love that you truly are – you are standing in a column of light and this light is God’s love for you.
Imagine that you don’t have to do anything for this love, but be. It is not given to you because of your body, your performance, your gifts, your bank account, or your ability to please. You have to do nothing but be, for love to fill you.
As you stand in this experience of love in your mind and body, imagine that you look out as this loving being and you see that child in that moment of not being fully loved. That hurt that is there is waiting for love; your love, and only your love to heal it.
Go to that child in your mind and tell that child that you have come to bring it the healing and the love that it has been waiting for. Up until this moment, that child had thought that someone else was supposed to love it other than you. That means, that part of your mind will be waiting a long time because it is your job to bring healing to those hurts, and only you can find the right way to do it.
Go to that child in your mind and tell that child that you have come to love him or her. That it was never mom or dad’s job to love it this way. They couldn’t love it this way 24/7, but you can.
Imagine spending a day loving that child the way the child wants to be loved. Now the power of the subconscious is that it cannot tell the difference between real and imagine, so as you imagine a week of love going by, the subconscious; that hurt receives it as if a week actually passes.
Imagine a week of loving that child, and a month. Imagine a year, and imagine how that child is changing as that time goes by. A year of love passes; what is that child like at maybe six, seven, or eight? Keep loving that child and imagining how he or she is changing.
The child is 10 and 12, nurtured by your love. How is that child changing? The child is 14, 16; don’t grow the child up the way you grew up. This is a different facet of the diamond of your being and it will evolve differently than you did. It doesn’t mean that what you did wasn’t perfect.
Keep watching this child mature, grow, and love, as this child enters relationships probably differently than you did. For this child absolutely knows that it’s lovable; it doesn’t have to prove it through a relationship.
What is this child like at 20, at 25? Stay with the experience of the blossoming of this part of you, for this was a part that was stuck at perhaps age six or seven, in some hurt, in some judgment, in some limited view of itself. What is this part like at 30 years of age, even if you’re not 30? What is this part like at 35 and 40?
As you feel into the growth of this part of you, I would be greatly surprised if you don’t feel a joy, a confidence, a strength, a power, a self-awareness in this part of you? So what has happened? You’ve found a part of you that was stuck in the past, stuck in limitation and judgment, and you showered love on it.
The healing power of this love is such that it reveals the self, and what you see and experience in this part is nothing but you without your limitation, without your stuff. It is the expansion of happiness of the self revealed, and love has done that.
So as happiness expands within us, we see there are these other bubbles of history, these bubbles of past experience that point to our limitation, our shadows, our darknesses. We have, in the past, sought means to avoid these hurts – coping mechanisms, addictions that distracted us from the hurts and took us to a level of happiness that is not completely fulfilling.
They will not work because you can’t get enough of what you truly don’t want, and what you want is your purpose, the very purpose of life. The expansion of happiness, the awakening of the self, the realization of all of life’s purpose.
So, if you choose – opening your eyes, we can choose pleasure, satisfaction, or fulfillment and joy. The choice is ours, just as one more Nasrudin story points to.
Nasrudin was known as a very wise man. There were two young princes who were jealous of Nasrudin and decided to trick him. They decided, we’re going to bring a bird in our hand and we’re going to say, “Nasrudin, you are so wise. Tell us is this bird alive or dead.” If Nasrudin said the bird is dead, then they wouldn’t crush it. They would open their hand and let it out. If he said it was alive, they would crush it.
So as they approached Nasrudin, they said, “So you are so wise. Tell us if this bird is alive or dead?” Nasrudin, seeing their plot said, “My friends, the answer is in your hands, just as it is with which level of happiness you allow yourself to be satisfied with.”
Thank you very much.
The difficulty in finding or gaining an understanding of yourself is the use of the apparatus that causes the confusion in the first place — the mind.
The trick is in realizing that we are truly no one in particular. We simply are.