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  • Dianne McKinnon

What is Happiness ? For Whom do we aspire?

From the line in the Four Immeasurables prayer: *May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from sorrow* ** Question: Does this line indicate that there is a happiness with sorrow? **Geshela's Answer**: This line from the Four Immeasurable does not indicate that there is a flip side of a happiness:one endowed with sorrow, but rather indicates the happiness that exists when there is the absence of sorrow. When all suffering is absent [all its causes purified;] there exists happiness. In Tibetan there is a negation particle used translating to: *happiness without suffering. *So what is left in that state? Happiness. In the absence of suffering, there is happiness. So what we are aspiring for is for others to reach a state free from, and beyond, all sorrow. Happiness is the state of complete cessation of all suffering and sorrow. **Q For Whom Do We Aspire?** The term sentient beings (sems chen) in the general use of the term, means living beings– beings endowed with a lifeforce. In the prayer of the Four Immeasurables we say: *all sentient beings…*(sems chen tham che) *May all sentient beings be endowed with happiness and the causes of happiness…* However at this time, the general meaning of all those endowed with lifeforce is not the meaning to be understood­ – Arhats and Bodhisattvas are living beings, but they are already beyond and separated from suffering and are not in need of our aspiration to become free from suffering, etc. So that understanding of the term is not applicable at this time. Here in the In the Four Immesurables the *sentient beings *we pray for are those beings who are under governed by self-clinging and Ignorance. The term holds different meanings depending on the context at hand. At times *sentient beings* refers to living beings; at times *sentient beings* refers to ignorant self-clinging beings; at times *sentient beings* refers to those who have not yet directly realized emptiness. The latter indicates the distinction of [ordinary]* *beings without realization, as opposed to Arya (noble) beings with realization. There is further distinction in terms of living things with form and consciousness and those without conciseness: e.g. rocks and plants. So inanimate objects rocks and dirt, etc. are not the object of our prayers of …*may they be endowed with happiness,* etc*.* Basically, we can understand the *sentient beings* who are the objects of our prayer here in The Four Immeasurables, to be those beings who are without any autonomy and under sway of ignorance, and due to this they suffer over and over again.

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