More Thoughts on Happiness

It is self-evident that a generous heart and wholesome actions lead to greater peace and that their negative counterparts bring undesirable consequences. Happiness arises from virtuous causes. If we truly desire to be happy, there is no other way to proceed but by way of virtue: it is the method by which happiness is achieved. And, we might add, that the basis of virtue, its ground, is ethical discipline.

HH the Dalai Lama

I’m not clear what he means by “virtue” and “ethical discipline.” It seems like both of those things are dependent on culture since morally right and ethical behavior varies by culture. Is there a universal path to happiness, or is it always subject to interpretation through one’s cultural lens? Or are the cultural differences in morals and virtues just in surface behaviors, and the deeper morals and virtues are universal?

For that matter, does “happiness” always look and feel the same to different people? I recently read Crazy Like Us by  Ethan Watters (well, I read half and skimmed the rest) in which Watters provides evidence to suggest that mental illness manifests itself and is effectively treated in different ways in different cultures and in different times. If depression looks different in the US than it does in Japan, does happiness look different, too?

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