There is an ancient story of a poor man who struggled even to make enough money to eat.
One day this poor man was invited to have dinner with an old friend who had done well for himself in business and lived a life of wealth.
The rich man welcomed his friend into his home and garnished with him with many delights of food and drink.
Before long the poor man felt tipsy, and wearied from his troubles, soon fell asleep.
Not wanting to wake his friend, and needing to leave for business, the rich man left his good friend left a priceless jewel, which he had sown into the lining of the poor man’s robe.
When the poor man woke up, he went off in search of the happiness that seemed to be possessed by his good friend. For many years he travelled seeking fame and fortune, but in his search he simply became more worrisome and more destitute.
One day, he bumped into his good friend again. His good friend was surprised to know that his friend had remained so poor. The good friend then showed him the jewel which had been sewn into his robe.
When the poor man discovered the jewel in his robe, he was in blown away! With this jewel, he no longer needed to live a life of poverty.
This story is based on a parable taken from the Lotus Sutra in Buddhism, and has several interpretations. But perhaps today we could choose to interpret it like this:
The story is not about money but about happiness…
The poor man was lacking in happiness and went off in search of it, not knowing that what he sought was actually already in his possession.
And though he searched far and wide, the happiness he sought could not be found.
In fact the happiness that he sought was with him all the time, hidden in plain sight.
In the same way, we too often look outside of ourselves for the happiness that is already rightfully ours.
It is not that we are wrong for going on that search.
We have, after all, always been told that happiness lies outside of us. And we are bombarded every day by messages in our culture and in marketing, that only reinforce this erroneous view.
Yet at some point we find that our search is in vain. And we begin to come home and see that the solution lies within.
No matter how much money, fame, chocolate, sex, drink or drugs we consume, if our thoughts and hearts are not working for us, we will never find happiness.
Realising this and turning inwards can feel like finding a priceless jewel, sown into our coat.
Where we realise that we never really needed to look outside of ourself at all, because the happiness we have been seeking already lies within.
How does this relate to us?
It can be a useful reflection to ask ourselves – are we still searching for happiness outside of ourselves.
Maybe we think that with a different partner, or a different job, or another city or country or a different political system (and so on) … that we will be happy.
Where are you looking for happiness right now?
And is it possible that what you believe will bring you happiness, will never be able to meet those expectations?