But the first type of joy or happiness is not joy at all because although it certainly expresses itself as joy it is tainted by the craving it stems from and which will inevitably turn the occasion of joy into one of frustration until the craving is fulfilled once again. It is a function of thought, whereas the second type of joy is experienced free of the intervention of thought.
I came upon this realization when I was rereading The Life of the Buddha (Bhikku Nanamoli, BPS Pariyatti Editions, 1971, 1992). When the Buddha describes the third meditation in his enlightenment, he says, “With the fading as well of happiness, I abode in onlooking equanimity.”
When I first noted this I had a shock. “What, is equanimity not compatible with happiness?” I had a few moments of consternation and questioning of what I have believed and written, when I continued reading and a few lines further, when the Buddha was describing the fourth meditation, he refers to “the previous disappearance of mental joy and grief.”
I understood then that what he had referred to as “happiness” previously was mental happiness or joy. And that was totally consistent with my understanding of the Dharma and my practice of being present free of thought.
To experience equanimity, one must truly accept oneself and one’s life exactly as it is at this moment. That can only occur when one is present free of the intervention of thought and thus free of all cravings. And just as that state of equanimity allows for feelings of Right desire, so too does it allow feelings of true joy or happiness which comes direct from the heart, from our true Buddha nature, untainted by thought or unskillful desire.