Level 1 is finding happiness in physical pleasure and possession of material things. Level 1 is about gaining physical gratification through the fulfillment of our five senses. The double tall mocha tastes good, and I feel good having drunk it.This level of happiness is good. But, if we only live for instant gratification, we soon become bored.Suffering has no meaning at this level. When we are deprived of pleasures and possessions, we perceive pain and suffering. We question suffering and fail to see how any good can come from pain.
Level 2 is finding happiness in ego-gratification. We get a boost of ego when we succeed, are in control, are admired, or win a competition. This happiness accompanies winning a soccer game, graduating from school, or getting a job promotion. Level 2 is good. Humans need to work toward goals and finish projects. But, we have to be careful if happiness is found only in achievement or ego-gratification because we'll be living in constant competition with other people. If things don't go our way, or we embarrass ourselves, or we fail, we can sink into depression. If pain or illness causes us to lose some control or become dependent on others, we begin to see life as useless or meaningless. Suffering is seen as something to be avoided at all costs. We may begin to live in fear of suffering because it inhibits our ability to achieve.
Level 3 is doing good things for another person. This is the joy of giving a gift, teaching a child to tie his shoelaces, and baking cookies for a friend. In addition to the happiness we find in giving to others, we also find happiness in being with others. When we give our very selves by playing "Go Fish" with a child or listening to a friend who needs an ear, we find spending time in the presence of someone else can make us happy. Nonetheless, if we make Level 3 our "end," we become frustrated because we can never do enough to help others, for there is always more to do! Another pitfall is thinking someone else will bring us ultimate happiness. This is too large of a task to ask another person to accomplish for us, or for us to try to accomplish for another person. Although we can help someone find happiness, we can't be "ultimate happiness."
Level 4 is faith and participation in the unconditional, never-ending love of God. Even those who do not believe in God still have this desire for the ultimate. Some may call it a universal force, or some other name. It is believing that there is such a thing as perfect, ultimate, unconditional, and eternal Truth, Love, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice. It's learning that the only person who is without limits is God, and that God loves us so much, that He wants us to be a part of His Love forever. If we truly believe that this is our final goal, then we know what it means to be human. People are no longer problems, they are mysteries. We look for the "good news" in other people. We desire good for the other so much; it becomes just as easy to do good for someone else as for ourselves. Level 4 keeps the other three levels in their proper perspectives. Our final goal is to find happiness by accepting the perfect, unconditional love of God, and by giving ourselves away in love to others (even when this requires suffering). Sometimes loving others causes us suffering and sacrifices, but with a Level 4 outlook, we see that suffering can result in a greater good. Our suffering can actually provide others the opportunity to give of themselves through their love and sacrifice for us.