Ask Deepak: What's the Difference Between Enlightenment and Happiness?
By Deepak Chopra
March 24, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Are enlightenment and happiness the same?
— Diana T., Rockford, Illinois
The simplicity and directness of you question is refreshing. But I'm being put on the spot a bit by not knowing why you ask this question. If you feel that enlightenment is a good way to be happy, such hopes are probably an illusion. Enlightenment means the awakening to full consciousness, a state where the concerns of the ego no longer exist. That is a faraway state by any measure.
But to get to enlightenment, a person must walk the spiritual path, and indeed, such a journey does increase one's happiness. That's because of where the path leads, which is closer and closer to your true self. The true self lies at the core of the self you call "me." But it isn't overshadowed by the everyday ups and downs of life. Your true self has no agenda. It is content simply to be. In being, there is a quality of bliss that is innocent and simple. We all experience it in moments when we are in a state of peaceful enjoyment—it's like gazing at the blue sky on a spring day without the slightest troubling thought inside.
Of course, not every sky is blue and not every day is spring. So on the spiritual path, one learns to find this kind of happiness without needing nice things to happen on the outside. Rather, you find happiness by being who you really are. This isn't mystical. Young children are happy being who they are. The trick is to regain such a state when you are grown and have seen the light and dark sides of life. I encourage you to try the path for yourself. For guidance, I've written a book, The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which talks about the path to happiness in detail.