Perhaps the greatest delusion surrounding Buddhist practice and non-secular mindfulness is that they bring happiness. They do not. Both Buddhist practice and non-secular mindfulness, when meaningfully realized, can bring greater awareness, understanding, peace, kindness, and liberation. No one said anything about happiness. Happiness is an emotion that, like any other emotion, comes and goes. And yet we cling to it and delude ourselves with the addictive notion that happiness is a permanent, solid, Big-Rock-Candy-Mountain-style land that exists somewhere out there, and some have found it, but (usually) we are not among those happy few.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, a Bhutanese lama and Buddhist teacher, writes wonderfully on this phenomenon in his recent article for Shambhala Sun, entitled “Not for Happiness.” He says,
Millions of people in this world are interested in some version of meditation, or yoga, or one of the many so-called spiritual activities that are now so widely marketed. A closer look at why people engage in these practices reveals an aim that has little to do with liberation from delusion and has everything to do with their desperation to escape busy, unhappy lives, and heartfelt longing for a healthy, stress-free, happy life. All of which are romantic illusions. So where do we find the roots of these illusions? Mainly in our habitual patterns and their related actions. Of course, no one of sound mind imagines any of us would willingly live in an illusion. But we are contrary beings, and even though we are convinced we would shun a life built on self-deception, we continue to maintain a strong grip on the habits that are the cause of countless delusions.