If Buddhist monks are the happiest people in the world, why do we need "more" to be happy?

We don't. 

We just think we do, so we end up with a paradigm of "contingent happiness", hoped for, while we are experiencing more stress and angst, paying the price for be caught up into the must of "more". 

They're clear about what the purpose of life is.  They aren't confused, vague, or inundated with purposes.

There is but one purpose to life:  happiness.  Once that is clear, then we can just look at what makes us happy. 

But, especially, we Americans have to peal away layers and layers of false cultural conditioning and false beliefs about how to achieve happiness and/or what comprises happiness. 

Because the monks are clear about what is "enough", they are not at all concerned with not having the "enough" that we Westerners have added into "enough" - but added foolishly, as the net payoff of these additions is most often negative. 

And certainly it is not smart or as comforting to have our happiness be contingent on things outside of our control, such as people and circumstances.  We actually get involved in alot of games that are unwinnable in the sense that there is no true "net" benefit (i.e. the costs are greater than the benefits even if we win).  And we get involved in alot of games with no actual end zone or goal posts - a donkey running after a carrot on a string hanging just out of reach on a stick attached to the donkey's neck.  We want to be approved of (look good, be smarter, not make mistakes, etc.), seeking a vague love or "worth" of sorts, duplicating that which we needed to have as children (but no longer need! - though we think we do).   We fear not getting what we want and fail to see what we have or to appreciate it.  We live in that fear, in the form of stress.

We could just be happy with life, with a relaxed, joyful smile, and be self-actualized, so that we have dropped the stuff of no value and freed up our energies to produce, with ease and grace, all we need.  


They actually change the wiring of the brain, so that the spot that neuroscientists have identified as being the happiness part of the brain gets larger and larger. 

This part of the brain also is the screener of really stupid stuff that makes no sense but we buy into it and get stressed about it.  Although it is "subconscious" (mostly), it does a more sophisticated screening out of the nonsensicals that we make into threats (falsely). 

Here you don't have to try to be positive, you just aren't negative in the first place, so that there is nothing to get rid of or override.

Because a monk is very aware (conscious, mindful) of anything that is "off" in their moods, bodies, and minds, they spot things earlier and then follow their training to correct out of balance items, so that they are close to homeostasis balance all the time - and that is where the body and mind are most functional.

We Westerners get to be like the addict, where we swing in alot of ups and downs, going off balance on rest, being stressed, etc.   Our ability to experience pleasure, appreciation, joy, happiness actually declines, so we, like the addict, need a bigger and bigger "hit" to get back to where we want to be.  But, like the addict, the roller coaster line actually goes downward over time, taking more and more to rise to what used to be normal levels.  Our insensitivity dulls us, so we get less from any one thing in life, plus we add all sorts of pressures and stresses to it. 

Not a very good strategy, yet we get caught in it and become gradually boiling frogs, not so aware of the heat, as we boil to death (in this case to hardening and insensitivity and not-happiness).

They always know they have "enough time" and don't buy into the bullbleep that we do where we suffer if we don't get more and more of what we "need" to be happy or not fired or not rejected or ....

They know, as in their meditation training, that "thoughts are just thoughts." and that they don't need to mistake them for anything that has power over them or any real danger in them.  They know that Beliefs Are Just Recordings.   They are clear that they are 100% responsible for that area - and that they are not victims.  (Victims attribute power over them to outside sources and events; "responsibles" believe they are the ones to create most everything and to rule the world rather than vice versa - they are creators rather than "receivers" of the beneficence of people and circumstances.)

But they know that thinking controls everything.  They don't just mouth something similar, like Westerners who "know" a little bit about it do - and you can see that when there is any "victim of my thoughts" talk. 

What they are busy practicing is the art of developing the "higher self" and, simultaneously and complementarily, reducing the reactivity of the lower, unschooled, primitive, less smart brains (the lizard brain and the Monkey Mind).  As they do this they are moving further away from being in the sure unhappiness of living in the "victim" persona and more and more toward being in the "higher self" persona, wherein exists the power to create anything you want.

Well, a life of meditation and poverty seems pretty bleak to me.

You'll be relieved to know that it makes sense to follow what the Buddha finally concluded was the right approach: to go the Middle Way.  (However, note that your idea is just a belief, in the form of a "seeming", but one we believe is true.  But with basic subsistence and safety, Buddhist monks create alot more happiness than you do with your current beliefs.)

Study their lives, hang around with someone close to their level of thinking (the local Buddhist Center), read their books, get good at meditation (20 minutes a day minimum, though any amount is beneficial).

"The Happiest Man In The World"

Matthieu Ricard:

Ted.com Video


Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

This book hits all the key points and makes all this understandable:  The Buddha's Way Of Happiness, Thomas Bien
I recommend you buy it and read it twice, with a pen in hand - and then do it!