In the cultivation of happiness, we often seek to eliminate suffering. When we do, we operate under the belief that suffering is the opposite of happiness. Yet it is not so.
Suffering is an embodiment of attachment – that is, you suffer because of the clinging desire you feel toward that which makes you suffer. You suffer bodily because of your attachment to your physicality, you suffer socially because of your attachment to your reputation, and you suffer materially because of your attachment to wealth and ownership. Without that base desire, there is no suffering. Without suffering, you have no method by which to apprehend and eliminate your misplaced desire.
Happiness and suffering are inseparable in the mortal context. Suffering is the very university by which you attain happiness. The courses of illness, mourning, and struggle are the elevating process; the trials and tribulations are the cleansing and purification that transform our minds into fit companions for the divine in eternity. First the crucifixion, then the resurrection. Winter, then spring.
We are tried again and again. There is temptation and malignant encouragement all around us as we trek up out of earth and back down into dust. The temptation toward bad desire is not the opposite of happiness either, for we gain our constancy of devotion and purity of heart through our built resistance.
The truth of it is, you would not suffer if you had not chosen wrongly and you would not be tempted if you were not being built up to profound illumination. There is happiness in both suffering and temptation – because they both indicate that you still have time yet to make it right, to choose again and this time rightly, to yet prove yourself worthy. You can still release your attachment, still regain your center, still yet come back home into your enlightened essence.
Suffering is a time of exultation no less than grace. Whether it is best for you to rest comfortably or to train deeply, you can rejoice in following the dictates of the holy One and seeking to release your emotional baggage and karma. You must rejoice, for you are still being wanted, called back home. If you do not suffer yet also do not walk in holy companionship, there is much to fear – perhaps the universe has grown apathetic to your case. The brightest students are given the toughest lessons.
The opposite of happiness is not suffering, but rather confinement and limitation. The opposite of happiness is boundedness. Through your suffering, you become unbounded – free, liberated.
In the cultivated garden of happiness, we weed out the undesirable plants by suffering. We water the beautiful plants with merit. In that garden, deep in your soul, may the infinite tree of life, enlightenment, and holy union prosper.