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The Beatitudes: 8 Keys To True Happiness

8 Keys To True Happiness: The Beatitudes

Picture this: a young man in his late 20s asks himself, “What am I called to do with my one, precious life?” He tries all kinds of things. He learns a trade and gets mentored by his dad in the family business (that’s not quite his thing). He studies abroad, but that’s not ultimately his path either. True happiness continues to elude him.

So, this young man decides to do something radical. He goes into the wilderness alone, a kind of Spirit Quest of his own design—to spend 40 days and 40 nights in contemplation, talking to God: “What is my purpose? What do I have to offer the world?”

Jesus how to find happiness within yourself
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He faces the relentless struggle of hunger, thirst, and building shelter in harsh weather. But there’s a deeper battle within. He confronts temptation and grapples with the questions we all must face: “What would I do for power? For wealth? Would I compromise my values for status?” These are relatable questions we all confront in one way or another, the answers to which define who we become.

Emerging from the wilderness after that long, grueling self-imposed test of willpower and fortitude, this young man is no longer just a man. He’s a teacher, a healer, a mystic…and he has found his answers.

This post is the first in a series exploring the 8 Beatitudes, which will point you in the direction of true happiness along your mystical path of spiritual development.

What Are The Beatitudes?

The Beatitudes are mystical laws that speak to us when we’re at the bottom of life. When life turns upside down, and we’re at the end of our rope, we want certainty, answers, comfort, and relief. The Beatitudes are invitations to embrace Divine Love and unlock a happiness that defies reason.

These imperishable keys to happiness were forged in the extremely intense crucible of a courageous 40-day confrontation with some of the most difficult trials that life on Earth has to offer. You can call it an accelerated degree program at the school of hard knocks.

Because of this young man’s act of self-sacrifice, the rest of us have been blessed with the glorious opportunity to imbibe the wisdom of The Beatitudes without having to endure the same crushing travails. We need not willingly invite suffering into our lives for the sake of uncovering these mystical laws. We can instead draw upon them to endure the moments of suffering that we will come to face organically as our lives unfold.

The Sermon On The Mount

When Jesus reenters civilization, there’s a fire within him. He’s fueled by an understanding of his divine purpose and what he has to offer the world. He is faced with a sea of people welcoming him back from the wilderness. They want to hear what he’s discovered. He recognizes that everyone is searching for a better way to live, a way to navigate the complexities of life. Then, he climbs up a hill so that he can see the entire crowd as he prepares to speak.

Jesus teaches The Beatitudes in the Bible
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He sits on top of The Mount of Olives, ready to deliver a message that will forever change the course of human history and spirituality. The message is distilled from his solitary communion with the Universe in the outer wilderness and the profound, transformative wisdom acquired from overcoming his personal inner wilderness. It’s a message that resonates universally, reaching out to all of humanity.

The Beatitudes In The Bible

Jesus takes a deep breath and begins to speak. From his lips flow the much-longed-for soothing stream of wisdom: the words of The Beatitudes.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

His audience listens, enraptured. Though the words, born out of complexity and struggle, seem to contradict everything they have been taught, defying conventional logic, their simple message rings true in the hearts of the people assembled before him. And so it was, on that day, a new path toward true happiness was illuminated.

A Spiritual Path To True Happiness

When we think about religion, sometimes we view it as a prescription for self-condemnation and self-flagellation—a set of practices that are meant to be difficult, unpleasant, and, oftentimes, downright boring, stripping all the joy out of life.

In reality, the true intentions behind religion have always been the exact opposite of this. As His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech,

“All religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different the ends are the same.”

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama Nobel Peace Prize
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God wants you to be happy. Religion and spirituality are not just about showing devotion to God. They are just as much about all the ways that God is devoted to you.

So, what do The Beatitudes actually mean and how can they unlock the gates to true happiness?

Keys To Happiness In Hard Times

When life doesn’t meet our expectations, when the rug is pulled out from under us, we’re struck with loss, grief, anger, and hopelessness. This is when the Beatitudes say, “God is with you right here, in the middle of your struggle.”

But rather than providing a quick fix or a motivational pep talk to climb out of whatever state you’re in, the Beatitudes flip what we think of success and happiness on its head. They invite you into a way of being in the world that can help heal your wounds. The Beatitudes show you that you don’t need to wait for the storm to clear itself away completely in order to experience happiness. Take it from another wise Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh:

“The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don’t overlook all the healthy trees. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life—the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk and author

Happiness is not just a luxury. It is not something that is incompatible with religion or spirituality. In some sense, it is a spiritual duty because it enables you to be grounded in love, humility, and peace, even in hard times.

True Happiness

There are many things that we think will make us happy and many states of being that we think of as happiness because of how they feel in the moment. But fleeting happiness is not true happiness. Genuine happiness is not a consequence of external circumstances. It is a state of being rooted in love for its own sake.

This is so easy to forget! That’s why we have the Beatitudes. They are the wake-up calls we all need now and then.

Like much of the wisdom from Jesus and other spiritual teachers, the words of The Beatitudes are enigmatic for a reason. Jesus speaks in parables, paradox, and enigmatic language because these are the modes of communication that really make us have to pause and do some of the hard work ourselves. They are the modes of communication that make us rethink our assumptions about life.

But once you learn to navigate the paradoxical depths of these teachings, they open doors to a profound experience of true happiness and inner peace.

The thing about true happiness is this: once you have it, it’s yours forever. There’s nothing else to seek. There’s nothing to gain or achieve. But that’s not how most of us experience happiness. We tend to chase fleeting happiness, moving from one source of cheap pleasure to another, without even realizing it. We pursue temporary happiness instead of consciously and deliberately pursuing the joy that our hearts truly long for.

How To Find True Happiness Within Yourself

When you think about how you can be happier in life, where do you look for solutions? Do you reflect on the things in your own life that are sources of lasting happiness and ask yourself how you can lean further into those things? Or do you doom scroll through social media (it’s okay, we all do it), looking at all the happy faces frozen in fleeting moments of time for clues about what will make you happy?

The human tendency to look for happiness from external sources is an error that has been commented upon by prophets, mystics, and other wise figures throughout human history. One of the Ten Commandments says not to covet what your neighbor has. But this is not just a social law for peacekeeping. It is a reminder not to view what others have as guides for your own happiness. Here’s another such reminder from the Daoist sage Chuang Tzu:

“The fact is that those who do not see themselves but who see others, who fail to get a grasp of themselves but who grasp others, take possession of what others have but fail to possess themselves. They are attracted to what others enjoy but fail to find enjoyment in themselves.”

Chuang Tzu, ancient Daoist sage

The reason the Beatitudes are so powerful is because they call for self-examination and inner transformation. They challenge us to step beyond comfort and familiarity, examine our motivations, confront our fears and aspirations, and engage deeply with whatever is in front of us.

So, turn off your Instagram notifications for a second and just listen. Listen to what your heart says about what makes you happy. TRULY happy. What do you hear?

Happiness Is Love

In the mid-2010s, Harvard University wrapped up one of the world’s longest studies of adult life: the Harvard Study of Adult Development. For nearly 80 years, Harvard researchers followed the lives of 268 male students, including future President John F. Kennedy. The goal of the study was to examine which kinds of factors influence physical and mental wellbeing in people’s lives.

You know what they found? 

According to George E. Vaillant, one of the lead researchers, “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points, at least to me, to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’

True happiness is Love
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Wow. How powerful is that? It’s a message so clear, so simple, and yet took nearly 80 years to discover.

Actually, this is not new knowledge. It’s something that mystics and religious figures have been trying to teach us for millennia. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what the key to true happiness is. It’s just that we keep forgetting. We don’t listen. We get distracted by all the other flashy things in life that are sources of fleeting pleasure.

The True Meaning Of The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes are over 2,000 years old, but they continue to hold tremendous spiritual value as reminders of a few simple facts.

  • True happiness is loving the people you are given to love.
  • True happiness is living the life you’ve been given to live, and living it with all your heart.
  • True happiness is unreasonable joy. It’s not the result of circumstances or particularities.
  • True happiness is without a cause—it’s a genuine love for life itself, for its own sake, and not for the sake of what you can gain from it or what you can make of yourself.

In the next 8 posts, we will explore each of the Beatitudes in more detail so that you can absorb the true weight of their wisdom. And remember, it’s not just about understanding these principles intellectually, but about truly internalizing them, letting them shape your attitudes, your actions, and your life. This is how you will deepen your mystical life and find lasting, true happiness. And I’m so excited to help you get there!

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