Is happiness the goal?

In the Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness, the premise is that the goal of our life is happiness. Although I recommend this book extremely highly, I do have to question this premise, which many people take for granted as true. What is happiness, and why should it be our goal? If you could take a pill that made you perpetually happy, would you do so? If you could be put into an eternal but happy dream, as in the movie Vanilla Sky (or in a Utopian version of the The Matrix), would you do so? You would be happy, but your life would also be meaningless.

Rather than seeing happiness as a goal, I prefer to see it as a sign that we are on the right path. When we are at peace with ourselves and compassionate to those around us, we are generally happy. When we are selfish and greedy, we generally become unhappy. Hence, happiness and unhappiness are indicators that we are either on the right track, or that we need to adjust our behaviour. Both emotions are important. If we were to take some magical pill, or enter some lucid dream, then we might be perpetually happy, but we would no longer have indications as to how we should live.

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