Buddha Dharma in Pharrell Williams “Happy”

I am fortunate to have teenage daughters who occasionally point out incredibly positive contemporary music videos. I think the last one was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis  “Thrift Shop” . Normally I’m a traditional “shut that noise off” dad. I listen to BBC Radio 3 if anything.

Today they managed to get me to watch the Pharrell Williams “Happy” video. I’d heard the song before in Despicable Me 2 of course but seeing the video converted me. It really moved me. Check out the embed below. There is also the 24hoursofhappy.com site where people dance to the song one after another for a whole day. Really fun to dip into.

The lyrics are sparse and not great poetry but they do convey the Dharma rather nicely. Here I point out the inner meaning Pharrell may be trying to communicate in a BBC Thought For The Day style.

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say

The Four Noble Truths are only really understandable by those who have been moved to see them (i.e. the Noble) so if this hasn’t occurred to you before it might freak you out a bit.

Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break

The Noble Truths says you can be released from suffering and that this is available to you here and now. You just have to take a break from craving things to be different.

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space

I have started to understand this truth and it feels fantastic.

With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way

I see my dependent co-existence (interbeing) with the air (and everything else) so am free of the suffering of mental striving, madam.

Because I’m happy

Because I have seen through the illusion of an independent self to my interbeing with all creation I am released from suffering.

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Clap in time if you feel your non-self nature and are open to the world like a room without a roof. Vulnerability is key to wholehearted living (Bréne Brown).

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Clap if you see this interbeing as being the Reality of the world and how cool that is.

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Clap if you know how this makes you personally free of the suffering of delusional hindrances rather than being some intellectual idea.

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Clap if you would like to continue living your life in this way of liberation

Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time

If someone brings me bad news, whatever it is, I can take it because I have seen through the delusion of a separate self and entered into the true happiness of interbeing where everything is impermanent and a source of liberation. Please don’t take umbridge if I don’t get mad with you about something. I’m done with getting mad about stuff because I am happy, happy, happy.

OK – it’s just a bit of fun but for me this video is kind of what the Dharma feels like. Buddha means Awakened One but Happy One or Free One would be good translations.

I wonder if there are  Christian, Islamic and Jewish interpretations of the video?

1 Comment on "Buddha Dharma in Pharrell Williams “Happy”"

  1. Interesting take on Pharrell’s song. In his recent interview with Oprah, he mentioned how he wrote Happy 9 times prior and ran out of ideas. At the point where he had no more ideas, this version of the song emerged. Is this concept of nothingness also a Buddist teaching? I think it’s a beautiful idea.

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