Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 863–879 | Cite as

Happiness from Ancient Indian Perspective: Hitopadeśa

  • Piyush GotiseEmail author
  • Bal Krishna Upadhyay
Research Paper


People who seek happiness intentionally often do not get it. That is, as per the paradox of happiness, in order to be happy one should forget about it (Martin in J Happiness Stud 9(2):171–184, 2008) and try to make others happy. Given that, the purpose of present article is to suggest a six-stage people-centric (rather than self-centric) theoretical model of happiness (sukha), which is constructed using a framework based on one of the eminent ancient Indian texts—Hitopadeśa. The ancient yet novel model describes a balanced path to happiness. The propounded model indicates “knowledge” (vidyā) as a foremost antecedent of happiness. The model propounded not only offers insights on achieving integrated well-being and happiness in a moral and philanthropic way, but also extends complex constructs and perspectives in the realm of happiness studies and psychology, which could subsequently promote further research. Furthermore, the proposed model seems to corroborate some of the modern well-being theories.


Key to happiness Knowledge Dharma Eudaimonic happiness Humility Righteousness Harmony Self-acceptance Self-control Moderation 



The authors would like to thank the Editor-in-chief, Antonella Delle Fave and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and supportive guidance throughout the review process. Also would like to thank Google Inc. for preserving and digitising old and rare texts and making them available online. Finally, thanks to Parijat Lanke of IIM Tiruchirappalli for lending us some of the reading resources.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Aghababaei, N., Błachnio, A., Arji, A., Chiniforoushan, M., Tekke, M., & Mehrabadi, A. F. (2015). Honesty-humility and the HEXACO structure of religiosity and well-being. Current Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s1214401593105.Google Scholar
  2. Aknin, L. B., Hamlin, J. K., & Dunn, E. W. (2012). Giving leads to happiness in young children. PLoS ONE, 7(6), e39211. Retrieved from
  3. Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Burns, J., Biswas-Diener, R., et al. (2013). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 635–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archontaki, D., Lewis, G. J., & Bates, T. C. (2013). Genetic influences on psychological well-being: A nationally representative twin study. Journal of Personality, 81(2), 221–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnold, E. (1861). The book of good counsels: From the Sanskrit of the Hitopadeśa. London: Smith, Elder and Co.
  6. Banavathy, V. K., & Choudry, A. (2014). Understanding happiness: A Vedantic perspective. Psychological Studies, 59(2), 141–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 1–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(6), 351–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bergsma, A., Poot, G., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2008). Happiness in the garden of Epicurus. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 397–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bernard, M. E. (2013). Introduction to the strength of self-acceptance: Theory, theology and therapy. In M. E. Bernard (Ed.), The strength of self-acceptance: Theory, practice and research (pp. xiii–xix). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bernard, M. E., Vernon, A., Terjesen, M., & Kurasaki, R. (2013). Self-Acceptance in the education and counselling of young people. In M. E. Bernard (Ed.), The strength of self-acceptance: Theory, practice and research (pp. 155–192). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bhawuk, D. P. S. (2010). Methodology for building psychological models from scriptures: Contributions of Indian psychology to indigenous and universal psychologies. Psychology and Developing Societies, 22(1), 49–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bhawuk, D. P. S. (2011). Spirituality and Indian psychology: Lessons from the Bhagavad-Gita. New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bond, M. H. (2013). The pan-culturality of well-being: But how does culture fit into the equation? Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 16, 158–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bronk, K. C. (2014). The role of purpose in optimal human functioning. Purpose in life: A critical component of optimal youth development (pp. 47–68). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chamberlain, J. M., & Haaga, D. A. (2001). Unconditional self-acceptance and psychological health. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 19(3), 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chatterjee, M. (1986). The concept of dharma. In M. C. Doeser & J. N. Kraay (Eds.), Facts and values: Philosophical reflections from Western and non-Western perspectives (pp. 177–187). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dambrun, M., & Ricard, M. (2011). Self-centeredness and selflessness: A theory of self-based psychological functioning and its consequences for happiness. Review of General Psychology, 15(2), 138–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. David, D., Lynn, S. J., & Das, L. S. (2013). Self-Acceptance in Buddhism and psychotherapy. In M. E. Bernard (Ed.), The strength of self-acceptance: Theory, practice and research (pp. 19–38). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Delle Fave, A. (2013). The psychological roots of health promotion. In A. Morandi & A. N. Narayanan Nambi (Eds.), An integrated view of health and well-being (pp. 141–161). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Delle Fave, A., Massimini, F., & Bassi, M. (2011). Psychological selection and optimal experience across cultures: Social empowerment through personal growth. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Wissing, M. P., Araujo, U., Castro Solano, A., Freire, T., et al. (2016). Lay definitions of happiness across nations: The primacy of inner harmony and relational connectedness. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(30), 1–23.Google Scholar
  24. Diener, E. (1998). Subjective well-being and personality. In D. F. Barone, M. Hersen, & V. B. Van Hasselt (Eds.), Advanced personality (pp. 311–334). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). Will money increase subjective well-being? A literature review and guide to needed research. In E. Diener (Ed.), The science of wellbeing: The collected works of Ed Diener (pp. 119–154). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Dorji, L. G. (2008). Happiness and spirituality. In Towards global transformation: Proceedings of the third international conference on Gross National Happiness (pp. 26–30). Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. Retrieved from
  28. Ellis, A. (2013). The value of a human being. In M. E. Bernard (Ed.), The strength of self-acceptance: Theory, practice and research (pp. 65–72). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Garcia, J. L. A. (2006). Being unimpressed with ourselves: Reconceiving humility. Philosophia, 34(4), 417–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gotsis, G., & Kortezi, Z. (2008). Philosophical foundations of workplace spirituality: A critical approach. Journal of Business Ethics, 78(4), 575–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoffman, L., Lopez, A. J., & Moats, M. (2013). Humanistic psychology and self-acceptance. In M. E. Bernard (Ed.), The strength of self-acceptance: Theory, practice and research (pp. 3–18). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huta, V., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Pursuing pleasure or virtue: The differential and overlapping well-being benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic motives. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 735–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jha, N. K. (1989). Cultural and philosophical roots of India’s foreign policy. International Studies, 26(1), 45–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kesebir, P. (2014). A quiet ego quiets death anxiety: Humility as an existential anxiety buffer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(4), 610–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Keyes, C. L. M., & Annas, J. (2009). Feeling good and functioning well: Distinctive concepts in ancient philosophy and contemporary science. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(3), 197–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Krause, N. (2010). Religious involvement, humility, and self-rated health. Social Indicators Research, 98(1), 23–39. Retrieved from
  37. Martin, M. W. (2008). Paradoxes of happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(2), 171–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Meldrum, M., & McDonald, M. (1995). Constructing a SWOT. In M. Meldrum & M. McDonald (Eds.), Key marketing concepts (pp. 77–82). London: Macmillan Education UK.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mitroff, I. I., & Denton, E. A. (1999). A study of spirituality in the workplace. MIT Sloan Management Review, 40(4), 83–92.Google Scholar
  40. Müller, M. (Ed.). (1864). Handbooks for the study of Sanskrit: The first book of The Hitopadeśa (Vol. 1). London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green.
  41. Muniapan, B. (2008). Kautilya’s Arthashastra and perspectives on organizational management. Asian Social Science, 4(1), 30–34.Google Scholar
  42. Newman, J. (1982). Humility and self-realization. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 16(4), 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Paine, D. R., Sandage, S. J., Rupert, D., Devor, N. G., & Bronstein, M. (2015). Humility as a psychotherapeutic virtue: Spiritual, philosophical, and psychological foundations. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 17(1), 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Panchatantra. (2015). In Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved from
  45. Paranjpe, A. C. (2002). Self and identity in modern psychology and Indian thought. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  46. Paranjpe, A. C. (2013). The concept of dharma: Classical meaning, common misconceptions and implications for psychology. Psychology and Developing Societies, 25(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pigou, A. C. (1907). The ethics of the Gospels. International Journal of Ethics, 17(3), 275–290. Retrieved from
  48. Pillai, R. (2011). Corporate Chanakya: Successful management the Chanakya way. Mumbai, MH: Jaico Publishing House.Google Scholar
  49. Radhakrishnan, S. (1922). The Hindu dharma. International Journal of Ethics, 33(1), 1–22. Retrieved from
  50. Renou, L., & Halperin, E. P. (1960). The enigma in the ancient literature of India. Diogenes, 8(29), 32–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Richards, N. (1988). Is humility a virtue? American Philosophical Quarterly, 25(3), 253–259. Retrieved from
  52. Rowatt, W. C., Ottenbreit, A., Nesselroade, Jr., K. P., & Cunningham, P. A. (2002). On being holier-than-thou or humbler-than-thee: A social-psychological perspective on religiousness and humility. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(2), 227–237. Retrieved from
  53. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 13–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Salagame, K. K. K. (2013a). The perspectives on reality in Indian traditions and their implications for health and well-being. In A. Morandi & A. N. Narayanan Nambi (Eds.), An integrated view of health and well-being (pp. 39–57). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Salagame, K. K. K. (2013b). Well-being from the perspective of Hindu/Sanātana dharma. In S. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 371–381). Oxford: The Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Sheep, M. L. (2006). Nurturing the whole person: The ethics of workplace spirituality in a society of organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 66(4), 357–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sirgy, J. M., & Wu, J. (2013). The pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life: What about the balanced life? In A. Delle Fave (Ed.), The exploration of happiness: Present and future perspectives (pp. 175–191). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Slack, K. (2013). Benjamin Franklin’s metaphysical essays and the virtue of humility. American Political Thought, 2(1), 31–61. Retrieved from
  61. Sommerfeldt, J. R. (1989). Meditation as the path to humility in the thought of Bernard of Clairvaux. Mystics Quarterly, 15(4), 177–183. Retrieved from
  62. Szentagotai, A., & David, D. (2013). Self-acceptance and happiness. In M. E. Bernard (Ed.), The strength of self-acceptance: Theory, practice and research (pp. 121–138). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. The Hindu. (2014, February 18). Self-control & humility. The Hindu. Retrieved Aug 29, 2016, from
  64. Tong, E. M. W., Tan, K. W. T., Chor, A. A. B., Koh, E. P. S., Lee, J. S. Y., & Tan, R. W. Y. (2016). Humility facilitates higher self-control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 62, 30–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Uchida, Y., Norasakkunkit, V., & Kitayama, S. (2013). Cultural constructions of happiness: Theory and empirical evidence. In A. Delle Fave (Ed.), The exploration of happiness: Present and future perspectives (pp. 269–280). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Van Cleemput, G. (2006). Aristotle on eudaimonia in Nicomachean Ethics I. In D. Sedley (Ed.), Oxford studies in ancient philosophy (Vol. XXX). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Vishṇuśarma. (1830). The Hitopadesha: A collection of fables and tales in Sanskrit. L. N. Nyālankār (Ed. & Trans.). Calcutta, WB: The Shastra Prakasha Press.
  68. Vyāsa. (1883–1896). The Mahabharata in Sanskrit: Book 12: Santi Parva: Rajadharmanusasana Parva: Section XXI. (K. M. Ganguli, Trans.). Retrieved from
  69. Vyāsa, (2010). Śrīmad Bhagavadgītā. (J. Goyandka, Trans.). Gorakhpur, UP: Gita Press.Google Scholar
  70. Wayment, H. A., Bauer, J. J., & Sylaska, K. (2015). The quiet ego scale: Measuring the compassionate self-identity. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16, 999–1033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Weiss, A., Bates, T. C., & Luciano, M. (2008). Happiness is a personal(ity) thing: The genetics of personality and well-being in a representative sample. Psychological Science, 19(3), 205–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wiese, H. (2011). Moderation, contentment, work, and alms—A Buddhist household theory. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 40(6), 909–918.Google Scholar
  73. Wiese, H. (2013). Microeconomic analyses of old Indian texts. Leipzig: University of Leipzig. Retrieved from
  74. Williams, M. (1872). A SanskritEnglish dictionary: Etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to Greek, Latin, Gothic, German, Anglo-Saxon and other cognate Indo-European languages. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
  75. Wnuk, M., & Marcinkowski, J. T. (2014). Do existential variables mediate between religious-spiritual facets of functionality and psychological wellbeing. Journal of Religion and Health, 53, 56–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Woodruff, E., Van Tongeren, D. R., McElroy, S., Davis, D. E., & Hook, J. N. (2014). Humility and religion: Benefits, difficulties, and a model of religious tolerance. In C. Kim-Prieto (Ed.), Religion and spirituality across cultures (pp. 271–285). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  78. Zhang, G., & Veenhoven, R. (2008). Ancient Chinese philosophical advice: Can it help us find happiness today? Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 425–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chakravarti Rajgopalachari Institute of Management (CRIM)Barkatullah UniversityBhopalIndia
  2. 2.Faculty of Human Resource Management (HRM)Indian Institute of Forest ManagementBhopalIndia

Personalised recommendations