宗教, 文明文化の話, 歴史, 英語の話




There perhaps is another way of understanding happiness. One alternative that receives growing attention from scholars of happiness is the Buddhist view of happiness. Buddhism assigned the question of happiness more importance than perhaps any other religion in history.



The main question of monotheist religions is, given that God exists, what does he want from me. In contrast the main question of Buddhism is, given that suffering exists, how do I get liberated from suffering and enjoy happiness. Therefore for the last 2,500 years Buddhists have systematically studied the essence and causes of happiness which is why there is a growing interest among the scientific community in Buddhism.


For example, today brain scientists are taking Buddhist monks and asks them to sit in the laboratory and meditate; and they connect them to all kinds of electrodes and brain scanners, and scan their brains to see what happens when these monks meditate. A lot of researchers of this kind are going along today. Buddhists share the basic insight of the biological approach to happiness, namely that happiness results from processes or carrying within one’s body, and not from events happening in the outside world. So this is something very similar in Buddhism and biological approach to happiness.



However, starting from the same insight, Buddhism reaches a very different conclusion. According to Buddhism, most people identify happiness with the pleasant sensations and feelings in the body, while identifying suffering with unpleasant feelings. People consequently ascribe immense importance to what they feel; people crave to experience more and more pleasures while avoiding as much as possible pain and unpleasant feelings. Whatever people do, whatever we do throughout our lives; whether we scratch our leg or move slightly in the chair, or we fight world wars―whatever we do, we are just trying to get pleasant feelings.


The problem, according to Buddhism, is that our feelings are no more than fleeting vibrations, changing every moment like the waves in the ocean. If, five minutes ago, I felt very joyful and purposeful; now these feelings from five minutes ago are gone; and I might feel sad and dejected. So if I want to experience pleasant feelings, I have to constantly chase them while constantly driving away the unpleasant feelings. Even if I succeed, I immediately have to start all over again without ever getting any lasting reward for all my troubles. Because these pleasant feelings I felt five minutes ago are gone, I have again and again and again to chase them, to get them.



What then, asks Buddhism, what is so important about obtaining such ephemeral prizes? Why struggle so hard throughout our lives to achieve something that disappears, almost as soon as it arises? These fleeting vibrations of feelings?


According to Buddhism the root of suffering is not the feeling of pain, and not the feeling of sadness, and not even the feeling of meaninglessness. Rather, according to Buddhism, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, of restlessness, and of dissatisfaction.


Because of this pursuit of pleasant feelings, our mind is never satisfied with reality as it is. Even when we experience something pleasant, some pleasant feeling, we are not content because our mind fears that this feeling might soon disappear; and we crave that this feeling should stay and intensified.



People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure which immediately disappears; but rather people are liberated from suffering when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and therefore stop craving them and chasing them; and this is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices.



In meditation, you’re supposed to closely observe your own mind and body, to witness for yourselves the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings; and thereby to realize how pointless it is to chase after them, to pursue them.

And, when the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, very clear, very satisfied. All kinds of feelings still go on; they are rising and passing; they still join anger, boredom, and lust that arise and pass. But once you stop craving to have particular feelings, then you can accept whatever comes―you can accept whatever feelings that come, just watching more, just watching it coming and going without losing your head over them.





The resulting serenity, according to the Buddhist view, the resulting serenity is so profound that people who go on living their lives in a frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly even begin to imagine what it is like to be out, to be outside of this pursuit.



Now this idea is so alien to the modern Western culture that, when the Western New Age movements encountered Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist meditation and all these Buddhist insights, they turned them upside down; turned them on their head.

The New Age cults frequently argue that happiness does not depend on external conditions in the outside world-happiness depends only on what we feel inside. So people should stop pursuing external achievements such as wealth, beauty, and status; and instead connect with their inner feelings. All, as many New Age cults put it, in brief, all happiness begins within. Now this is exactly what biologists argue, but it is more or less opposite of what Buddha said.




Buddha agreed with modern biology and with modern New Age movements in that happiness is independent of external conditions. Yet his more important, and far more profound, insight was that the true happiness is also independent of our inner feelings.


Indeed, the more significance we give our inner feelings, the more we crave for them, the more we suffer. The basic recommendation of Buddhism is not merely to slow down the pursuit of external achievements; but, above all, to slow down the pursuit of inner feelings.



If we accept this view of happiness, then our entire understanding of the history of happiness might have been misguided: Maybe it isn’t so important whether people enjoy pleasant feelings, and whether people feel that their life has meaning. The main question is whether people understand the truth about the nature of the feelings. And what evidence do we have that people today in the 21st century understand this truth any better than ancient foragers or medieval peasants? So this is the Buddhist view.



Now this is not the time and place to judge, to try to judge between all these different approaches to happiness. Scholars began the scientific study of happiness only a few years ago; and we are still just formulating initial theories and searching for the appropriate research methods. It’s much too early to jump to conclusions and to end the debate before it hardly even began. What is important at this stage is to get to know as many different approaches to happiness as possible, and to remember to ask the right questions.



Most history focus on the ideas of great thinkers on the bravery of warriors, on the charity of saints, on the creativity of artists. Most history books, however, have much to tell us about social structures, about the rise and fall of empires, about the invention and spread of technology. But most history books have much less to tell us about how all this has influenced the suffering and the happiness of individuals.



And this is the biggest lacunae, the biggest hole in our understanding of history. We don’t really know how all this impacted happiness in the world. So we had better start filling this hole because, without knowing this, we can’t say that we actually understand history; and, with this thought, we end our journey through the human past from the Cognitive Revolution 70,000 years ago to the present. During these 70,000 years, a lot of things happened: we are just not sure whether it was all good or bad.

But there is still one more subject which we need to address before terminating this course about a brief history of humankind and this subject is the future. We’ve talked a lot about the past but history also includes the future.








サピエンス全史(上) 文明の構造と人類の幸福 [ ユヴァル・ノア・ハラリ ]

(2019/1/31 14:49時点)

サピエンス全史(下) 文明の構造と人類の幸福 [ ユヴァル・ノア・ハラリ ]

(2019/1/31 14:53時点)


まんがでわかるサピエンス全史の読み方 [ 山形浩生 ]

(2019/1/31 14:54時点)


ホモ・デウス 上 テクノロジーとサピエンスの未来 [ ユヴァル・ノア・ハラリ ]

(2019/1/31 14:57時点)

ホモ・デウス 下 テクノロジーとサピエンスの未来 [ ユヴァル・ノア・ハラリ ]

(2019/1/31 14:55時点)