By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Here's one example of how the ambiguity of this word can cause problems. It's likely that you came here to study and practice Dhamma in search of happiness. Your understanding of happiness, the happiness you desire, however, may not be the same happiness that is the genuine goal of Buddhism and the practice of Dhamma. If the sukha (happiness) that you desire is not the sukha that arises from Dhamma practice, then we're afraid that you'll be disappointed or even heartbroken here. It's necessary to develop some understanding of this matter.
In order to save time and make it easy for you to understand, let's set down a simple principle for understanding of happiness. The usual happiness that common people are interested in is when a particular hunger or want is satisfied. This is the typical understanding of happiness. In the Dhamma sense, however, happiness is when there is no hunger or want at all, when we're completely free of all hunger, desire, and want. Help to sort this out right at this point by paying careful attention to the following distinction: happiness because hunger is satisfied and happiness due to no hunger at all. Can you see the difference? Can you feel the distinction between the happiness of hunger and the happiness of no hunger?
Let's take the opportunity now to understand the words 'lokiya' and 'lokuttara', as they are relevant to the matter we're investigating today. Lokiya means 'proceeding according to worldly matters and concerns'. Lokiya is to be in the world, caught within the world, under the power and influence of the world. Common translations are 'worldly' and 'mundane'. Lokuttara means 'to be above the world'. It is beyond the power and influence of the world. It can be translated 'transcendent' or 'supramundane'. Now we can more easily compare the two kinds of happiness: lokiya-sukha (worldly happiness) which is trapped under the power of , governed by the conditions and limitations of, what we call 'the world', and lokuttara sukha (transcendent happiness), which is beyond all influence of the world. See this distinction and understand the meaning of these two words as clearly as possible.
We must look at these more closely. Lokiya means 'stuck in the world, dragged along by the world', so that worldly power and influence dominate. In this state there is no spiritual freedom; it's the absence of spiritual independence. Lokuttara means 'unstuck, released from the world'. It is spiritual freedom. Thus, there are two kinds of happiness; happiness that is not free and happiness that is independent, the happiness of slavery and the happiness of freedom.
This is the point that we're afraid you'll misunderstand. It you've come here looking for lokiya-sukha, but you study Buddhism which offers the opposite kind of happiness, you're going to be disappointed. You won't find what you desire. The practice of Dhamma, including a wise meditation practice, leads to lokuttara-sukha and not to worldly happiness. We must make this point clear from the very beginning. If you understand the difference between these two kinds of sukha, however, you'll understand the purpose of Suan Mokkh and won't be disappointed here.
By now you ought to understand the difference between the two kinds of happiness; the happiness that comes from getting what we hunger for and the happiness of the total absence of hunger. How different are they? Investigate the matter and you will see these things for yourself. The happiness of 'hunger satisfied' and the happiness of 'no hunger': we can not define them more succinctly or clearly than this.******
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