Contrary to the conventional fallacy that happiness is long-lasting and is connected with a particular activity, object, or person, I have argued that happiness is an overarching term that conflates several very different states and traits, and confuses the actual nature and process of happiness to the extent that when a man might say he is happy, he may not be saying very much at all.
True, the universal goal in life is to attain happiness but that happiness is best understood in terms of the tāntric term sukhā (सुख) or even mokṣa (मोक्ष) but the problem is that most people suffer from the illusion that an external object or person makes one happy.
I have argued persuasively that no external object can make one happy; happiness is an intrinsic state present in every human being.
An object or a person can act as the instrument that allows happiness to be reflected in the mind but is not the agent or source of the happiness; that source resides in the Self.
I have explained that happiness is a composite of three states: pleasure, engagement or enjoyment, and meaning/purpose, which I have approximated with the tāntric goals of kāma (काम), artha (अर्थ), dhārma (धर्म) with authentic happiness equated with ānandasvarūpa(आनन्दस्वरूप). Each of these goals or principles increases satisfaction as one moves from P to E to M, or from K to A to D.
I have explained that most men’s strivings, motivations, and goals represent pleasure, and are therefore dead-end pursuits.
This is the first level. All too often, their pleasure, as does any pleasure, demands more input of energies and resources, until the pleasure ultimately becomes a suffering when he shuts out all other experience in pursuit of transient pleasure.
We find examples of such situations in sex, porn, substance abuse, workaholism, social media, etc. in which brief moments of pleasure turn into overwhelming habits or consuming addictions.
The second level takes one to enjoyment or engagement, a state in which a man engages with an activity, an object, or an Other because he focuses completely, experiences joy, and enters the state called “flow” or single-mindedness; he is “in the zone.” Enjoyment brings greater satisfaction and is longer-lasting than pleasure; it enriches.
The third level is meaning. In the meaning state, a man has transcended his own body and mind and now seeks to go beyond himself, to achieve something higher, in a selfless and beneficent way. Meaning gives him a higher purpose in his life, and ennobles him.
While P, E, and M are constructs of modern positive psychology, the end result is ‘happiness,’ or more accurately a level of evolution enshrined in the tāntric concept of dhārma (धर्म), living rightly and wisely so that one’s life has meaning and purpose.
In Homoerotic Tantra: Mascul-IN-Touch℠ and Mascul-IN-Timacy℠ I teach that a man is intrinsically good; goodness is his nature. The word ‘goodness’ can be equated with dharmic in that it connotes a moral Goodness. So why aren’t all men authentically happy?
By this time the answer should be clear to my readers: Most men are not authentically happy because they are looking in all the wrong places.
They are constantly reaching outwards farther and farther from the source of happiness, which resides within him.
They are following the illusion that a certain activity, an object, or a person is capable of generating happiness.
In short, they are not allowing their intrinsic goodness and the Divine, the source of happiness, to shine through and enlighten the mind to reveal that happiness comes from the Source within, and not from something external.
Until men, mankind, humankind understand this ancient wisdom repackaged in modern psychology, the journey to attaining authentic happiness will be cluttered with obstacles and detours, filled with the sounds of screeching tires, the smell of burning rubber, and the howls of despairing, frustrated, unhappy herd-men confined in the stockyard of mediocrity.
Dāka (दाक) Aside
When discussing happiness and health, it is crucial to consider the importance of focus, discernment, self-awareness, and the role of the mind, particularly when we are discussing interpersonal relationships.
Given the discussion distinguishing the conspicuous differences between pleasure, enjoyment /engagement, and meaning/purpose, it becomes clear that most of the problems attributed to relationship failures and loneliness can be traced almost directly to ignorance about what one is actually experiencing, a lack of self -awareness, the inability to discern the real from the unreal, or how the mind may be misinterpreting the experience.
In many relationships between men — even if we set the notion of instinctual urges aside for a moment — fail because one or both of the partners is expecting the other to come up with happiness.
It’s not going to work, as my discussion makes clear. If the Other is capable of opening the door to allow ānandasvarūpa(आनन्दस्वरूप) to reflect in the mind for an instant that is one thing.
If one, hopefully both, partners find enjoyment in sharing with each other, and come away from each interaction feeling enriched, that is higher-level attainment.
If one or both partners experience pleasure and enjoyment in selflessly nurturing and loving the Other, and feels filled with joy when doing so, he has attained what we can call meaning and purpose in the relationship.
If the relationship does not progress from the P phase, it will soon stagnate, because the partners are unable to continuously provide the satisfaction of the increasing demand for novelty and intensity. Boredom or indifference soon replaces pleasure, and the partners suffer.
If the relationship moves from P to E and remains there, the partners can continue to experience pleasure but enjoyment and engagement characterizes the relationship; when together, they may enter a state of “flow,” being completely immersed in each other, and they come away with a feeling of joy.
They are enriched and nourished by the relationship but they have not yet attained true meaningful, purposeful happiness.
Few relationships evolve to the level of transcendent love, in which the partners no longer hold themselves as central for satisfaction but each focuses his energies on the Other, selflessly, and finds meaning and purpose in service and devotion, without expectations. The Beloved becomes a spring of meaning, purpose, and bliss fills the mind.
Throughout this series on men’s happiness, I have emphasized focus and awareness, and how the contemporary sociocultural, technological, and ideological environments are obstacles to a man’s attainment of the three levels of ‘happiness’ (pleasure, engagement, meaning/purpose) and recognizing true happiness.
While the skill of single-minded focus is an important component in true happiness, this skill can be undermined by one of the trending modern upskills, the phenomenon of multitasking, which is highly damaging, and the resulting inability to focus is a major obstacle to happiness.
But that’s a discussion for an upcoming article that will deal specifically with multitasking and the phenomenon of “brain fog.”