The Key to Happiness & Unhappiness: Shantideva & Einstein

There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Shantideva:

 “All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy.”

Somewhere along the way many of us develop this notion that the goal above all else in life is for us, individually, to be happy. We begin to focus on ourselves to the exclusion of others. One major problem in depression is this painful self-focus as the ruminations just go on and on. And if our goal is to be happy, but others get hurt or ignored in the process, I promise there will be no happiness.

The fact is, we are not islands.

Albert Einstein said it well in a letter published in the New York Post (1972):

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

I like the piece where he says, “a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.” We walk around as delusional people at times not recognizing the interconnectedness of things. The energy we give off at home, in public, or in the office absolutely has an effect on the people around us for better or worse.

So let’s get practical and start creating change today.

Here’s an informal practice from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook:

“Human beings are social animals, and the sweetness of relationships with others and the larger world—indeed, the universe—can nourish our lives. As you deepen your connections, you’ll find increasing delight in this interplay of giving and receiving. It may even become mysterious as to who is actually giving and who is receiving.

 There are many things you can do to foster connection. Try sincerely asking a family member, friend, or anyone at all how he or she is doing, and listen deeply to what the other person says. Everyone loves to be heard and understood—to “feel felt.” Or practice random acts of kindness toward anyone, including strangers. You might volunteer to help a child, an elderly person, or anyone in need. You can offer time and energy to an organization that’s helping make the world a better place, or simply enjoy a pet, grow a garden, or pick up litter. Feel the sweetness of connecting with the world and its beings without wanting or expecting anything from them.”

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. How do you relate to this topic, what do you do? Your interaction below provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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