Books / Culture / History / Inspiration / Philosophy / Psychology

Happiness by Horace, Buddha and The Fray…


Bring Back My Happiness

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Ultimately, that’s all we want from life, isn’t it? To be happy, here and now. No lingering worries. No pain. Just glorious, glittering happiness. This is the reason we study for more than 20 years of our lives. This is the reason we push ourselves so hard to earn a livelihood. For that happiness.

It’s the second talk of the ‘Exploring Inner Space’ today. As Brother Piya Tan talked about the power of thoughts towards happiness, I was struck at the similarities of the teachings in Buddhism and Western psychology.

[I dare say, I have read more self-help books than I have let on to my family and friends. There was a time that I needed them. Books by Pastor Norman Vincent Peale, Anthony Robbins, Robin Sharma, Dale Carnegie, Richard Carlson and even more (oh, many more) have aided in moulding the ‘me’ today.]

These days, besides dramas — which, most people, except me, find frivolous — I’m occupying a lot of my time on self-analysis and English literature. And, as I came across Horace’s Odes, here again, I was intrigued on how different civilizations separated by centuries and continents, had the same questions and answers to happiness and our existence.

Around 560-480 BC in India, Buddha got his enlightenment. This was the birth of ‘Buddhism’.

Much later (65-8 BC) in the far West, Horace described his philosophy of life to fellow Romans in his masterpiece, Odes:

[S]apias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur,
fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula
postero. (1)

Be wise, strain clear the wine
And prune the rambling vine
Of expectation. Life’s short. Even while
We talk Time, grudging, runs a mile.
Don’t trust tomorrow’s bough
For fruit. Pluck this, here now (2)

Today, Buddhism is still, if not more, practised worldwide. In the words of Brother Piya, “Buddhism is a present-moment teaching”. Horace’s ‘carpe diem‘ that was inaccurately translated to “Seize the day!” has already become a cliché.

So, it doesn’t matter whether we are from the East or the West. Or whether we are living in ancient or modern times. We just want happiness. Unfortunately, now, we strive so hard to get it, it has become unattainable to most.

I will end off with a song by ‘The Fray’ on the hardships of getting happiness. In the end, all we need to do is to live our lives to the fullest, and happiness will come naturally.

It’s that easy, but why aren’t all of us happy? I don’t know. I think that’s why all of us need to learn to meditate. Ommmm…


(1) Horace, The Complete Odes and Epodes, trans. W.G. Shepherd (New York: Penguin, 1983), book I, Ode II

(2) Horace, Odes, trans. James Michie (New York: Modern Library, 2002), book I, Ode II


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