You can’t find happiness “out there”. It’s inside you.

Zen Practice


Everyone wants to be happy. So where is this happiness? What is happiness anyway?

For many people, happiness is money, a job, status, or fame, but this kind of happiness is dependent on things outside of you.

The happiness brought about by money, position, and fame is lost when they vanish. Losing what we struggled to obtain, our minds become upset and anxious, and we feel tormented.

This happiness is not true happiness. Zen Priest Rinzai Gigen (date of birth unknown – 867), said, “Do not seek outside. When you do so, all is torment.”
Even if we earn a lot of money and temporarily feel happy, immediately greed appears, wanting more money and not wanting to lose any. Endless greed turns into a craving, which is never satisfied, upsetting us further and leading us to a world of torment.


The words of Rinzai, “Do not seek outside. When you do so, all is torment”, tell us that true happiness exists only in your heart.

Zen Priest Hakuin taught us using simple words in his “Zen Meditation Hymns of Praise” – “All creatures are intrinsically the Buddha They are like water and ice. Without water, there is no ice. Without all creatures, there is no Buddha. Ah! The futility of all creatures searching far and wide for the Buddha who is so close!

Because of our worldly desires and attachment we cannot personally experience our innate, pure mind (the Buddha-nature). It is because our heart is covered with the three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity.

However, you cannot find your pure heart somewhere outside yourself. Your pure heart and your impure heart are not two separate hearts but same heart. As Zen Priest Hakuin says, “This is the difference between water and ice”.


We are born “possession-less” and when we are just born, we don’t feel unhappy about this. As we grow older, we start looking for happiness outside of ourselves. As a result, unable to find it, we come to feel unhappy.

According to the “Survey on the Quality of Life” recently done by the Cabinet Office, the degree of happiness felt among teenagers is the highest, and declines with each generation from people in their twenties onward. This is because people understand the reality of money as they grow older.

This fact can be understood from the Cabinet Office’s “Survey on Japanese Lifestyle Preferences” as one of the items in the survey, which people regard as important in judging their degree of happiness, is “Family Budget”. In addition, another item in the survey, “Household Income and Degree of Current Happiness” shows that household income and the degree of happiness are proportional. The result shows that the families with household income of over 10,000,000 yen are the highest in their degree of happiness.

This tells us that the more money people have, the happier they are. However, is this really true? There are a lot of people who are unhappy due to a lack of money, but also there are a lot of people who are unhappy because they have money. Even in disturbing news, it feels as if there are more crime and incidents by the well-off.


Incidentally, Zen Priest Nan-in (1834-1904) who played an active role in the Meiji era once dropped his money somewhere. Ordinarily, people who lose their money worry about it being stolen or never being returned. However, Nan-in was very worried that the person who picked up the money he dropped might become a criminal.

We cannot find our happiness anywhere outside of ourselves. If we try to seek it in all types of things including money, we will not find it. This means that the only place left to find happiness is inside us. If you don’t feel happy, you should consider the words of Rinzai and Hakuin. True happiness is in our hearts.


Suppose you are thinking of changing your job because you are not satisfied with your treatment and relationships at your present workplaces. You, however, will most likely have the same kind of complaint, even if you change jobs. The reason for this is that there will always be people who have different opinions from yours and even if you receive slightly better treatment, you will come to want even better. Instead, if you think about it, it might be possible for you to be grateful for having a job that, since being hired, has paid the bills, and where, until you got your job there, you were not needed by anyone. And it’s possible for you to achieve more than before, and improve your working conditions on your own.

People tend to pursue happiness and unhappiness outside of themselves. But Zen Priest Rinzai preached the opposite. He said, “Do not pursue the solution outside of yourself. Instead, pursue it inside yourself.” Where do you pursue happiness?