Lester Levenson: Happiness

“The Road to Shambala” (Three Dog Night)


Recorded in Los Angeles, February 7, 1965

I’ll start with that which we’re all interested in, all right? The word that I like best for our subject is happiness. When we analyze that which everyone is seeking or looking for, it is happiness, right? And when you find God, your Self, that turns out to be the ultimate happiness. When we seek and find the full truth, the absolute truth, again that turns out to be the ultimate happiness. We’re all seeking the greatest good for ourselves; the ultimate good turns out to be the ultimate happiness. Every being is seeking freedom, and complete freedom or liberation is nothing but the ultimate happiness.

So in the end the words, God, good, truth, liberation, freedom, Self, turn out to be the ultimate happiness. And everyone is seeking this good, happiness, liberation, truth, God, Self. There isn’t anyone who is not seeking It. The only difference between us and others is that we’re consciously seeking it in the direction where it is, while the others are seeking It blindly through seeking happiness in the world, and never really getting the full happiness that they’re striving for. We go after it directly. We seek it where it is. We seek it within. Everyone wants a continuous, constant, eternal happiness with no sorrow whatsoever, and no one is ever satisfied until he or she finds that. Everyone is seeking what we’re all seeking; the major difference is that they are seeking it in the world and are frustrated, while we are seeking it within and are successfully becoming happier.

When we go within we discover that all happiness is there. The only place where we can feel happiness is right within ourselves; that is exactly where it is. Every time we attribute this happiness to something external, to a person or a thing, we get more pain from it than pleasure. Does anyone disagree with that? If you have experienced enough, if you’ve lived long enough, and if you’ve examined it, you’ve discovered this. The happiness that we’re seeking and thinking is out there, external to us, isn’t there. The “happiness with no sorrow” can only be found by going within. This is point number one.

The third thing we can and should know is that, according to natural truth, God alone is the sole fount and vein of all goodness, essential truth and comfort, and whatever is not God has of itself a natural bitterness, discomfort and unhappiness, and adds nothing to the goodness which is from God and is God, but rather lessens, dims and hides the sweetness, joy and comfort that God gives. – Meister Eckhart (Walshe, “The Book of Divine Comfort”)

Now point number two is that this great happiness that we’re seeking is nothing but our very own Self, our very own beingness. Our most basic inherent nature is this thing that we are seeking, and it is ours here and now. We are that happiness that we are seeking, looking for it externally and not finding it there. Looking within, we discover it to be our very own Self, unencumbered with our self-imposed limitations. There is not one of us who is not in direct touch with, in possession of, an infinite beingness that’s all-perfect, all-present, all-joyous and eternal. There is not one of us who is not in direct contact with that right now! But due to wrong learning, by assuming, over the ages, concepts of limitation, by looking outwardly, we have beclouded the view. We have covered over this infinite being that we are with concepts of “I am this physical body; I am this mind; with this physical body and mind I have heaps and heaps of problems and troubles.” So, in order to discover this truth, this unlimited being that we are, we must quiet the mind, and finally, let go of the mind. And only in this way may we achieve it.

The mind is nothing but the sum-total of all thoughts. All thoughts are concepts of limitation. If anyone of us could stop thinking right now and remain that way, he would be an unlimited being from this moment on. It is really that simple, though not necessarily easy to accomplish.

31. Question: It said that the Great Way is very easy to find and easy to follow, yet no one in the world is capable of finding it and following it.
Answer: These words are true. Being above the world, unmoved, letting go, indifferent to it, not doing a single thing, is called following the Way. Not seeing a single thing is called seeing the Way. Not knowing a single thing is called cultivating the Way. Not practising a single thing is called practising the Way. Thus it is said to be easy to enter and easy to follow. (Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind)

The job is first to undo negative thinking in order to get positive enough so that we are able to go in the right direction. Then, to drop all thinking—drop all negative and all positive thinking. When that happens we discover that we are in the realm of knowingness, of omniscience; we have no need to think as everything is known. And we are all-joyous and totally free. Knowing everything, there’s nothing to think about. Thinking is just relating some things to other things, connecting things together. Knowing everything, we know the unity, the oneness, and there’s no need to relate things to each other by thought. Thereby we are free, free of all concepts of separation and limitation. This leaves us free to use the mind should we want to communicate with the apparency of the world.

The process of going within is a process of looking within and discovering what the mind is. Discovering that the mind is nothing but thoughts, and that thoughts are nothing but numerous concepts of limitation. We quiet the mind by letting go of these thoughts until the mind gets quiet enough so that we see this infinite being that we are. This takes away the mist, the clouds covering this infinite being and leaves us totally free.

But when we first see this infinite being that we are, the job isn’t finished yet; we still have the remaining habits of thought to do away with. Then, when there’s no more remaining thought, subconscious and conscious—and the subconscious thoughts are the difficult ones to let go of—when there are no more thoughts, that’s the end of the road of playing limited. Then we are totally free, forever.

Actually we have no choice: we are infinite beings. If there is a choice, it can only be to choose to be limited. We have chosen to be limited to such a degree that now we are blindly behaving as though we are extremely limited beings. This is the cause of all the apparent troubles. Troubles are only an apparency which is assumed to be real through our mind. Everything we see in the world, we see only in our mind. There’s nothing but our consciousness; nothing can be seen except through our consciousness. Whatever we see is in our consciousness, in our mind. When one begins to realize this, then one works to change his consciousness, and by so doing, one changes his environment.

Changing one’s environment is a step on the way. Doing this, you have the proof, you understand what I’m saying. Nothing should ever be accepted on hearsay. Never believe anything you hear. If you accept what I say to you just by listening to it, it’s only hearsay. You must prove everything for yourself. Then when you do, it’s your knowledge and it’s usable. To progress in the direction of wisdom and happiness it’s absolutely necessary that everyone proves it for himself.

As said above, truth can never be found in the world. The world as we see it now is multiplicity, dual. When we go just behind the world, we discover the absolute truth: that there’s a singular Oneness throughout the world and universe and it turns out to be our very own Self, our very own Beingness, which some call God. The world is, but not as people see it. The world is truly only our very own Self. The “I” that we use when we say “I am” is the exact same “I” falsely appearing separate and divided. When we see the truth, we see that you are me, that there is only one Beingness, there is only one Consciousness, and that we are the sum-total of all the Beingness or Consciousness that formerly appeared separate.

So, again, to find truth or happiness, you have to go within, you have to see the Oneness. You have to see the universe as it really is, as nothing but your consciousness, which is nothing but your Self. Now this is difficult to describe; it’s something that must be experienced. Only when someone experiences it does one know. It cannot be picked up from listening to anyone. Books and teachers can only point out the direction; we must take it. That’s one of the nice things about the path—there’s nothing to be believed; everything must be experienced and proved by each one to his own satisfaction before it’s accepted.

To sum it up, I can take two quotes from the Bible: “I am [what] I am,” and, “Be still and know that I am God.” Or, in other words, Thou art That which thou art seeking. Quiet the mind until you see it. Now we may go into questions.

Q: I see differences. These people, all of us in this room, each of us has a form and I see it.

Lester: You’re seeing wrongly. You’re seeing in error. When you look at me, you should see the truth; you should see your Self. Strive until that day when you will see this truth.

Q: After one has a certain amount of inner experience and begins to believe, there still comes an important decision as to what to do with yourself as you find yourself at that point. And then you have to decide what to do with the rest of your life.

Lester: Yes. You must decide whether to pursue your welfare by seeking it in the world or by seeking it within you.

Q: You’ve had a certain amount of experience but you will always be called back to a certain contact with the outer world unless . . .

Lester: Unless you make the outer world you. However, do not be attached to the world and it cannot disturb you. Then you may carry on with equanimity.

Lester: You can’t help other people any more than you can help yourself. So, the best way to help others is to help yourself. It’s automatically so, that you’ll help others to the degree that you’ll help yourself.

Q: That’s a very subtle thing, a very difficult thing to get rid of, that ego.

Lester: Right. When there’s no more ego, the only thing left is the infinite being that you are. Ego is the sense of separation from the All. “I am an individual, Lester, and I am separate from the All; and all you people are other than I.” That is the sense of ego, separateness. The moment I’m not the All, I lack something and then I try to get it back. I think I need the missing parts of the All and I start trying to get them. Thus I assume I don’t have the All; I am limited. And this starts a downward spiral and we continue until we get where we are.

Q: Is growth a constant becoming aware?

Lester: Yes. You must first want to. When you want to, then you do become aware of your thinking. Then you become aware of your non-thinking which shows up as periods of peace and well-being.

Q: Like trying to find out, for instance, why one feels things or why one is sick—like these past two years of illness for me. It’s tremendous, Lester. Even this morning when I was talking to my sister on the telephone, after speaking to her I kept thinking, “Why? Why? Why?” and I tried to be still, as still as I could possibly be, and all of a sudden, a realization of why I had been so negative came to me with such tremendous clarity. And I thought of you so intensely and I thought, “Well, this is what Lester means.” It’s finding out the why, and when one sees it, one immediately turns it into something positive and one is released.

Lester: Right, very good. Keep that up until there is no more.

Q: That’s what you always meant about making the subconscious thought conscious and then letting go of it.

Lester: Yes. Pulling the subconscious thought up into consciousness and when it’s there, you’ll see it and naturally let go of it because of its negativity. But as long as it remains unconscious, you don’t see it and you can’t do anything about it, can you?

Q: No. And tremendous things come up when one begins. It’s not easy.

Lester: Ego-wise you don’t like what comes up and you tend to fight it.

Q: Many times I go along on an even keel and then something comes up in personal relationships or from other directions, and all of a sudden I feel a severe pain, and then I realize that any time I feel pain, I’m showing my own limitation. And I step back, look at it, and release myself from the whole situation.

Lester: Yes, every situation can be used for growth by observing what’s going on, the way you do. Do this all the time until there is no more to let go of, until there is no more ego.

Q: Creative work, for instance, has the ego involved in it, too. It’s very subtle. And the more one sees spiritually, the more one is able to paint a picture, or make music, or whatever one does. This is a point that has always bothered me, the ego-involvement in this. It has worried me: “How can one channel it, commercialize it, sell something?”

Lester: The answer is simple: Commercialize it, but don’t be attached to this creativeness.

Q: It’s difficult; it’s the ego saying, “I am the creator.”

Lester: It doesn’t matter what you do, do not be attached to it. Let go of the feeling that “I am the creator.” Let the creativeness flow through you.

Q: I would think that in almost any creative act there has to be a spiritual part, the stem of it is basically some pure motivation, but it’s almost always mixed with ego.

Lester: Let me clear up one thing, everything you do is creative, it’s impossible to do anything that’s not creative. That’s because the mind is only creative. But when we create things we don’t like, we call it non-creative and destructive. When we create things we like, we call that creative and constructive. But the mind only creates. Everyone is a creator. Whatever we hold in mind, we create.

Q: So all this ego of ours is our own creation?

Lester: Right. It’s better to create constructive things like beauty, health, affluence, as they do not demand as much attention from us as a sick body or a sick pocketbook. Consequently we have more time and ease to look in the direction of truth and to discover our Self.

Q: Sometimes I think that one thinks too much of the ego and then the ego grows, and you want to fight it more and you give it more importance.

Lester: Yes. But it’s too well grown right now, far more than you can see, in the unconscious part of your mind. Mind is nothing but the sum-total collection of all thoughts. The unconscious part of the mind is holding all the thoughts that we are not looking at this moment. But those hundreds of thousands of thoughts are there, and they’re active. Unconsciously you’re operating that body; you’re operating every cell. You’re working a chemical plant, a circulatory, a cooling and a heating system, all these thoughts are active and are actively operating your body. Also there are thousands of thoughts of wanting things and not wanting things, likes and dislikes. But even if they’re unconscious, they’re active. Whether we look at them or not, they are still active and they are sustained and motivated by our ego. This is the difficult part for us, to make these ego-motivated thoughts conscious so that we may let go of them. However, someday we reach a place where we will not be that ego-mind. When we see that “I am not that mind, I am not that body, I am not that ego,” then we’ll really see; and when we really see we are not that, it’s possible to drop that ego-mind-body once and for all.

Q: Because one has re-become what one is?

Lester: Not re-become—one has remembered, rediscovered, recognized what he always was.

Q: So the ego-thing falls off like a crust.

Lester: Right, gone forever. Now that’s what we do eventually. At first, we work at dropping the ego until we get enough attention free so that we can seek who and what we are. Then, when we see who and what we are, we say, “This is ridiculous,” and we don’t identify with the ego-mind-body any more. Then we watch the body go through life like we now watch every other body. You watch it and you know that the body is not you. You’re really above that body, you’re not limited or bound by it. You know you are eternal, whole, perfect and free, and you let the body go its way, like a puppet.

Q: And then you use the body for whatever you like, if you want to, or if not; the show just goes on.

Lester: Yes. You let the show go on. It’s a show that you wrote called “Bodies Playing Limited.” However, you are free to choose to use the body to communicate with others, to help them grow.

Q: Isn’t everything we see, a piece of wood, a potato chip, part of that eternal truth?

Lester: Yes, but you have to see it as nothing but you: then you see the truth of it. The world doesn’t disappear: our perception of it changes, completely. Instead of the world being other than us, it becomes us—or we become it. When you see the world as you, it will look entirely different from what it looked like when it appeared separate. You will love and identify with it and everyone in it. When you fully love someone, you identify with and you become one with that one. When you become the universe you love the universe, or, if you fully love the universe, you become the universe. Love is absolutely necessary. When we love totally, we totally identify with the grand and glorious infinite Being that we are.


What the group would like to know is how to maintain this new-found happiness. Why don’t we have it all the time? We should! And so I thought I would give you the understanding, or the key to the understanding, that will help you develop happiness that remains.

All right, now this is the key: When you understand, when you really know what happiness is, then you’re able to establish it. Then you do it more and more until it’s all the time. But the key is knowing what happiness is. When you do know what it is, you will look for it where it is rather than where it isn’t. Looking for it where it isn’t is what causes you to drop. The key is knowing what happiness is, so that you can go directly for it. Not recognizing what happiness is makes it difficult to establish permanently. So when you get to see what this happiness really is, then when you become miserable you’ll move in the right direction and establish that happiness.

All right. what is happiness? Most people call it pleasure, but what it actually is, is escape from pain. What most people call happiness is their getting away from their pain through socializing and entertainment. It’s really an escape! They cannot stand being by themselves, with their own thoughts. They have to run to a movie, a nightclub, visit someone, just to get some action going so they are not facing their own thoughts. When their mind is taken away from their own thoughts, they feel better, and then call that pleasure and happiness. All entertainment is actually that. A happy man needs no entertainment and no socializing. He is content. However, when you become free, if you choose, you can enjoy entertainment far more than before because you are free from the hunger-need for it.

The happiness that I’m going to talk about now is not the escape-from-misery kind. It is really the only happiness. It’s the joy that results from being your own real Self. The more we are our real Self, the more we feel joyous. Sense-joy of the world is accomplished not because of the thing or the person out there with whom we associate it; it’s accomplished by satisfying and stilling the thoughts of wanting to acquire that person or thing. When we quiet those thoughts, we feel our Self more and we are happier. The quieter the mind is, the more we just are, the more we abide as our real Self and the more joyous we feel.

But this is something you’ve got to see for yourself, that the quieter you get your mind, the happier you are. It’s good to play with this. Experiment with it until you see it. Whatever that joy was, it always resulted in quieting of the mind, and then you felt happy. Seeing this, you will begin to let go of attaching happiness to people and things. You will begin to see that the joy is only in you abiding as your very own Self. Then, when you discover this, you’re not going to look for joy where it isn’t. You will immediately let go and just be. And finally, you reach the place where you need no one and no thing to be happy, you just are happy, all the time.

Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute (p. 31, p. 125). ISBN 0-915721-03-1

M. O’C. Walshe (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons & Treatises Volume III. UK: Element Books Limited.

“The Road to Shambala” was recorded by Three Dog Night in 1973; it was written by Daniel Moore.

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