So are humans necessarily fools running behind things that can be bought, instead of looking for happiness within? May be not, because a home, a stitch of clothing, and some food is always required. Buddha would say happiness is priceless, and the less you own the more happier you can be, as represented below.
However, happiness can be found in a bouquet of flowers, a plane journey for a vacation, or a cupcake.
It is not really a complex issue, but the engagements of daily life have turned it into a complex issue. Children always seem happy. So is it that the lesser we know, the happier we remain? This way the prodigies, educated, and elderly may never be happy. There is no end when gaining knowledge, and many times it can be involuntary. “The more you know, the more you realise there is to know”, said Einstein. So there is no end in ‘more’. The idea of more, and desires only multiply with every earning received. No matter what form that earning may be in – capital, knowledge, food.
On the other hand buddhist economics would say that (abundance or just) materialism is what leads us away from happiness. Material obstruction of defilements (kleśāvarna) is one of the two outlined defilements that keep us within entanglements, away from peace and nirvana. For Buddha, the material obstruction is what deflects our vision from happiness.
Thus, Keynes may say that is only after your stomach is full that you may find happiness, whereas the Buddha would say there is no point in life where your stomach may be full. One idea shows attaining happiness after material possesion, and the other without material possession. But they both agree on one factor, that happiness in itself, is not possession.
After a certain point one may wonder ‘what more?’. We run behind things one after the other, but imagine if you already had what you wanted to earn from your hard work. Then what you would do in your retirement is what truly gives you happiness.
Buddhist Economist, E. F. Schumacher once spoke of a quakers group called the EarthQuakers, who asked somebody “you’re looking forward to your retirement?”
“What do want to do when you retire?”
“Oh, I’ll dig my garden.. and do this and that”
“Why don’t you do it now, what are you waiting for?”
Surprised even listening to that prospect they say “Oh hey, yes! I can actually do it now”.
The 14th Dalai lama is certainly a different case, since he does not have a 9 to 5 job. But represents how a human can find happiness in doing the same acts of service for years, even beyond misfortune. Leisure time becomes toxic if acts of joy cannot be engaged with, and shared. Extending those acts of joy (from leisure time) to our daily lives maybe how we mortals can find happiness.