Take a look at your life and see if it's not true that the pursuit of pleasure and happiness involves just about everything you do. From watching TV or playing on the internet, to working at a career in order to make money - so that you can spend it and be happy with the resulting pleasure or save it and be happy with the resulting pleasure of security. To pursuing sensual sights, wonderful smells, sensual sensations, great food, great sex, warm family interactions, self expression . . . etc., etc.

Can you think of one thing you do that is not geared to eventual pleasure or happiness as either the long or short term goal? We might put up with unhappiness at times as long as it leads to eventual happiness, but unhappiness that has no chance of future contentment is not tolerated too well, and we usually react against that kind of unhappiness with strong negative emotions such as anger or violence.

The significance of our obsessive and all pervading quest for happiness must mean that happiness requires effort. And it does; it requires persistent mental and physical energy to ferret out the means of obtaining our happiness.

It also means that we are inherently not happy. We are always sinking into state of discontent which is only abated by our ingenuity to escape it by various distractions and pursuits. These distractions and pursuits at best give us a moment of happiness before we must immediately climb the next mountain of boredom and unhappiness - in an endless search for happiness and pleasure.

That life is like this; that life is naturally discontented is a Noble Truth. But because our minds are not wise in these ways, it believes that life is naturally all love and light - an entirely erroneous view. Therefore, when the discontent arises, it always surprises us as if it shouldn't be happening.

This kind of backward view of things that flies in the face of reality is a major cause of the many other misunderstandings of life that promote disharmony and harm to each other.

When we think of happiness as an endowment, we view anything that seems to cause us unhappiness as an enemy, when in fact unhappiness is a natural state of being. To prove this out, just sit quietly for a few hours and do nothing but watch the second hand of a clock go round. You probably can't do it, but if you could, you would be very unhappy, maybe even look for someone to blame. Maybe me! But the fact is, without pleasurable experiences, which means constant stimulation of the six senses - eye ear, nose, tongue, physical feelings and mental states, you will experience unhappiness as long as you view life from the skewed perspective of constant happiness being a birthright and unhappiness an anomaly that must be overcome.

Another Noble Truth about life is that our constant discontent is caused by the very thing we use to attempt to allay our discontent - wanting and desire. This is part of our lack of wisdom about life, and only exacerbates our discontent to the point of confusion, emotional instability, and a misunderstanding of what life means.

Religions that don't address this problem of life and offer no solutions other than putting up with things until we die so that we can go somewhere else, misses the point of understanding life so that we can live without so much confusion and trouble.

When we escape our discontent by means of seeking pleasure in order to be happy, we are in effect taking out a loan - we borrow some pleasure to remain happy for awhile. But the Second Noble Truth about life claims that the loan must always be repaid - with interest! Meaning that the amount of pleasure experienced will be paid back in pain, more pain in fact than the original pleasure when considering the interest. This is karma, cause and effect, and if you do not believe it, you only have to reflect honestly on your life to find the truth of this matter, unless of course, your view is so clouded and delusional that nothing can be reflected upon rationally.

The First Noble Truth of life is basically one of discontent, and the Second Noble Truth of life is negative as well, stating that our attempted escapes from this discontent only exacerbate our problems. If this was where the Noble Truths of life stopped, then they would be very discouraging, but the Third Noble Truth of life says that there is a cure for our problems. That unhappiness can in fact be overcome. But not in the ways that we are presently attempting to overcome it.

The Fourth and last Noble Truth of life is a formulae that insures real happiness, not contrived happiness driven by pleasure motives that boomerangs as if we grabbed a snake by the tail, and it whips round to bite us.

Part of the formulae is dependent upon a clear state of mind, which begins with a factual view of life, not an idealistic or romantic view. The Fourth Truth also insists upon a different way of thinking, an open mindedness that reveals that we can in effect solve our problems regardless of what they are.

To make changes in our life and begin seeing and acting in a different way requires a certain amount of discipline and morality. We can't continue to indiscriminately and with insensitivity interact with nature and others, which includes lying, cheating, working at dishonest or harmful occupations such as dealing in things that harm others physically or mentally, or killing innocent beings. This is all also part of the Fourth Noble Truth.

Also, if we want freedom from discontent, that requires our constant escapes from it, we must begin to refine our minds to the point where discontent is no longer discontent. We do this by three steps, all also a part of the Fourth Noble Truth.

The first step is refining and calming the mind that is presently so wound up and scattered. This is done by meditation. The next step is using that new mind, refined by meditation, to understand and see what is what from the standpoint of reality.

And the third step is to remember to do both the meditation and the contemplation of reality constantly until the mind can clearly see that within material existence everything changes, and hence everything is discontent. And further that there is no one behind it all.

When the mind becomes refined to the point that these understandings are transcendent, then the mind, as well as all discontent, is gone, replaced by what one can only describe as enlightenment.

And then, "What's Your Pleasure?" becomes "What Is Pleasure?" and the answer becomes obvious . . . . pain!

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika addie) is a meditation teacher at:

http://www.dhammarocksprings.org/ and author of “A Year to Enlightenment:


His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.