Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

Sources of happiness

Let us understand the human pursuit of happiness. The human heart is in search of happiness. I always ask kids tell me what makes you happy. They will give their long list. Mummy, friends, food, music, dancing, jokes, favourite TV show, reading, playing, maths!! Harry Potter books, latest toy, latest haircut, latest clothes

Ask an adult – the list is not much different – relationships figure more –

some people will say yoga, exercise, games, - tennis, cricket, football, golf, yatching

people given to academics will enjoy reading, writing, learning new things

some will say – drinking, smoking, gambling, race-horses, car races

women will say – new clothes, kitchen items, jewellry, gossiping

some will say community service… puja, satsang, good weather, thinking and exploring new concepts and ideas

The list is endless…. the different types of people are endless and what they think makes them happy is endless.

Also ask anybody when do you want happiness? Only in the afternoon? Or for an hour in the morning? No. We want happiness – ALL THE TIME…..


If we want happiness all the time, then we should examine what minimum ingredients do you need to be happy?

One of course is that the object that makes you happy. It should be available when you want. Sometimes absence of an object makes you happy – like mother-in-law – when she is absent you are happy!! Or if Dad is a very angry person, then absence of DAD can make the kids happy.

Suppose today I want to eat pizza – I feel I absolutely must eat pizza = but the ingredients for making it are not there – and the shops are closed… I am disgusted and my mood gets spoilt for the rest of the day.


So availaibility of the object when I want is very important. This is mostly dependent on the conditions externally. Sometimes the object is easily available and sometimes it is not.

The other factor is one's frame of mind.

There was this fellow from the village, who had been out of his home for a long time. He had to leave his home at a young age and go and earn in the town. He was returning home after simply ages. His mother had prepared his favourite dish – with so much love and care. When he came, naturally the whole family greeted him and made much ado about him. Then his mother came with this dish. He saw it and his mouth watered. He had not eaten this ever since he left home. He had been thinking of this dish every now and then – of how he would enjoy it when he was able to go home. He knew his mother would prepare it for him. Now it has come in front of him. It is much awaited. His mouth waters in anticipation of the ananda. It is a delicious sweet which only his mother can prepare properly … in his estimation. He picks it up. He is just about to put it in his mouth. The phone rings … he picks it up. His whole face becomes ashen as he listens to the message. His best friend just died in an accident. He is not able to eat the sweet – he turns aways and rushes into his room.

So the object may be available, yet you may not be able to enjoy, because your mood has changed. The internal frame of mind has to be right for you to enjoy the object.

In today's competitve world, there is a lot of stress and it is difficult to command a cheerful frame of mind when others also want what you want.

This husband has a new idea. He wants to break the monotony of his life. So he decides to rearrange the furniture. He is thrilled with the idea – because he can break the monotony without any charge!! When he starts to execute his idea, his better half, who is the little Queen of the House objects! She says either buy new furniture or leave it this way! He is upset… soon theie house becomes a Kurukshetra!!!

Difficulty of getting happiness always

So for you to be happy there has to be an alignment of all these factors. The object should be available and your mind should also be in the proper frame. It's not easy at all for this alignment to take place. When you mood is right, the object may not be available. And when the object is available your mood may not be right!!! Or the object is available and your mood is right and your spouse is not!!!

A common misconception – you have to fulfill every desire to be happy

There is a common misconecption that to be happy you have to fulfill your desires.

Many a time you laugh, not because you have a desire fulfilled. In fact, most of our moments of happiness are picked up when no desire is fulfilled.

I will tell you a story. It is a village episode. Some times a village episode is nice to hear. From this village a boy was getting married to a girl in another village twenty miles away. This happened in Tanjore district, Tamil Nadu. The custom here is that when the bridegroom goes to the bride's place in another village where the marriage is to take place, he is received with a lot of pomp. He is given a new set of clothes. Till then, he has to wear some clothes that look nice. The boy was wearing his shirt and dhoti all right, but
he had no
a´gavastraÆ, upper cloth. An a´gavastraÆ can look very beautiful on one's shirt. But this boy did not have one.

Generally, you get these things only after the marriage, at the
cost of the father-in-law! But he had a friend of his own age who was rich. He had many gold-laced
a´ga-vastraÆs. They are nicely folded and when they are opened they look like a hand-fan. It is very beautiful.
He asked his friend, "Give me the best one that you have. I will give it back to you after I get my new ones."
He thus borrowed a very good
a´gavastraÆ from him and wore it. His friend also wore one. The bridegroom and his friend went to the other village along with all others in the

A marriage is a very important event in any village. The whole village is out. In fact, they stop cooking for four days. When these two well dressed young men were seen in the marriage group, naturally, the ladies in the village were all curious to know who the bridegroom of their girl was. They figured out that one of these two must be the bridegroom. Everybody else was older. These were the two fellows who looked bright with nice clothes and so on. One woman came forward and asked who the bridegroom was. They won't ask the bridegroom directly. In front of him they would ask who the bridegroom was. This bridegroom is old-fashioned and therefore he is shy. He does not answer saying, "I am the bridegroom". Else they would come to a conclusion. These people are very judgmental.

So his best friend has to answer. The bridegroom, in fact, requires a best man even to button his shirt. I don't
know whether they are nervous on that day. So, his friend does the buttoning of the shirt and even the dhoti he has to tie. The best man has to answer because the bridegroom won't answer.

His friend therefore said, "This is the bridegroom but the jarry a´gavastraÆ is mine". Then another woman came and asked "Who is the bridegroom?" The friend
answered, "This is the bridegroom but
the jarry
a´gavastraÆ is mine!" The bridegroom got upset. He pulled him by his ears and told him, "Idiot, why did you say the a´gavastraÆ is yours? Let it be mine for some time. I'll give it to you later. Don't say it is your a´gavastraÆ." The friend said, "Okay".

Another woman came and asked, "Who is the bridegroom?" The best man said, "This is the bridegroom. The a´gavastraÆ really belongs to him". One more person asked the same question. He said the same thing. The bridegroom got so upset that he called him aside, and said, "You shut up. Don't talk about the a´gavastraÆ!" The best man said, "Okay." Then, another person came and asked "Who is the bridegroom?" He said, "He is the bridegroom but don't ask me anything about the a´gavastraÆ"!!!

You all laughed. How many desires did you fulfil now? It is very clear you don't require to have a desire fulfilled to laugh.


Behind the pursuit of ananda is the 'displeased 'I'

Happiness is an active pursuit of all beings … and human beings are very creative about it as we saw… they have endless likes and dislikes relating to happiness. An active pursuit means one actively goes after it. So happiness is something that we actively go after.

Yet it is very difficult to have 24 hours of happiness .. why? because the ingredients for it are not fulfilled .. either the object of happiness is not available the way I want … this includes people … because the other person may be available but not in a good mood … or my own frame of mind is not okay.


Now that we have understood some facets about the pursuit of happiness, let us look at why do we pursue happiness.

We will actively pursue something when we think it is desirable and when we feel that we do not have that desirable object. Happiness is a frame of mind that is desirable because when we are happy we do not feel any sense of limitation. At that time we escape from all our feelings of limitations and feel pleased. In fact the PLEASED "I" comes out.

The experience of sensory or other pleasures creates strong likes in us .. called as raaga. Then there is dependence on our raagas – we think that I can be happy only if the objects of these raagas are present… and I keep trying to REPEAT the expereince of pleasure from the raaga. Which means that behind the raaga is the feeling that "I cannot be happy without this" and behind that feeling is the DISPLEASED "I"…. the insecure "I", the insignificant "I" - the one who feels that "all is not well with me". So this feeling that "all is not well with me', that "I am not happy', "I am not content" is centered on "I".

Once this feeling is there… there is a natural urge to be free of it … and so I project on different objects and situations and people, that they will make me feel okay about myself… and then I go after them.


Now we should ask ourself that can happiness due to different objects, situations or people really REMOVE for good the feeling of "all is not well with me" or "I am unhappy"?

Happiness from this and that cannot remove the sense that "All is not well with me". Why? time-bound happiness, mood-bound happiness – all centered on "not-I"

Pujya Swamiji tells us this story always.

Here is a person, an absolute miser. He has a lot of money but would not go to a restaurant because he does not want to spend the money. Some people talked to him about a milk-shake called Falooda. He wanted to have this drink, but his wife did not know how to make it. He mustered enough courage and went to a restaurant and ordered this milk-shake. The drink was brought with a straw. He began to sip. As he began sipping, the level of the milk-shake in the glass started receding. He was alarmed. He said to himself, "I have paid so much money. Alas! The level is going down." Therefore he could not drink the milk-shake nor could he just watch it! What a plight!!

Every sukha is like this milk-shake sukha. As you experience it, the object is exhausted, the sense organs are tired and the mood changes. Sukha is possible only when all the three are in proper alignment.

  1. The object should be there in desirable quality and quantity,
  2. the senses should be fit and
  3. the mood should be proper. It is not humanly possible to keep all these three in alignment for a good length of time.

    It is like putting a carpet on the back of three horses and riding them at the same time!!!!


Through Happiness What you are seeking is moksha alone

Faced with these facts, we need to ask ourselves that " what do I want? is it that I am seeking the objects of happiness' or 'am I seeking to be free of the displeased I"? What is it that I love? Is it the PLEASED I that I love or is it the object of happiness that I love?

In fact the object of happiness is only a medium for me to be in touch with the PLEASED I. It is at all times the PLEASED I that I love. W Whhat is it you are seeking? Only the PLEASED self. Why are you seeking the pleased self? Because I find myself displeased with myself. So I want to find myself pleased.

In Brhad Aranyaka Up. it is said

atmanastu kaamaaya sarvam priyam bhavati

Anything that becomes dear to you .. it is not for the object's sake. It is for your own self's sake.

You seek all the time yourself alone. Even people who are given to social work. .. who try to help other people. Even there you discover your own happiness. It is not that you are helping others only. You are helping others alright, but at the same time, you discover yoruself to be happy, because if you don't help, you will be unhappy. You are mature.. more sensitive to other's pain. So you emphatize and pick up the pain of the other. And once you have picked up the other's pain, if you don't help you feel unhappy. And so you help.

In India, you will discover this to be especially true. ….


Conclusion of analysis

Therefore my kaama pursuits are ont going to be successful to keep me pleased, to help me discover the pleased person that I am. So look at this now! My artha pursuit does not really help me, give me security. Therefore "I want…. " continues. Really what I want is freedom from insecurity. Here, I want freedom from what? The unhappiness, the displeasure centered on "I".

Always centered on "I"…. The human problem is always centered on "I".

You are a self-conscious person. In that self that you are conscious of is seen unhappiness. And that, I want to get rid of. For which I make attempts. These attempts sometimes seem successful. Then I feel happy, I feel acceptable. And it goes away.


Happiness has to be centered on yourself alone

So our kaama pursuit is not really for a momentary happiness, for a coming-going happiness. The pursuit is for getting rid of the feeling of unhappiness. Or to put it positively ananda-avaapti dukha – nivritti. Getting rid of dukha centered on "I" and getting happiness centered on myself. In other words I have to see myself as the happy person , not depending on any situation. This is also called moksha. The permanent dukha nivritti is called moksha, for which you have to see yourself to be the happy person.

Thus we see that the constant pursuit of happiness indates only moksha.


Declaration of Vedas & Lord Krishna

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita declares that "I am that happiness. Everybody is after Me. I am that "I" … the happy "I". Lord Krishna says "I am your 'I'".
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People follow my tracks in all ways… they are all after me, who am their I.

Here the Vedas also come and tell us that the truth about us that by nature we are limitless – the very source of the happiness that we seek.

What is this Veda? It is a scripture – a body of knowledge.

Who is the author of the Veda? When did it start? It has been coming down to us for generations and we say it has no author – because it is KNOWLEDGE. Physics has no particular author. Yet physics is a growing science. Many heads have gone into understanding physics.

Veda also is a body of knowledge … still it is not a growing body of knowledge, because of its subject matter. It's topic is something you cannot figure out… meaning you cannot know its topic with your perception pratyaksha) and inference (anumana). It's topic is the SELF – who cannot be objectified – and yet who objectifies everything.

Now Veda declares that in fact HAPPINESS or LIMITLESSNESS is centered on You alone … amrtasya putraah.

There is a law in nature that everything likes to/ wants to get back to its own nature. For example, water's natural state is to be at room-temperature. You have gone to a hill station in the monsoon.. To Kedarnath say … and early morning the waiter brings you a hot cup of coffee. You think you will brush your teeth and come in 5 minutes. You leave it on the tray. When you come back after 5 minutes … what has happened to the hot water? …. It has come back to its own nature … which is room temperature.

 Now what is that we want all the time? We want to be happy. And we want to be happy all the time. That itself proves that happiness is our natural state.

Nobody wants sadness. Sadness is like a foreign body in the body. When a foreign particle gets into your eyes how hard your eye tries to get rid of it by watering. So too when we are sad … sadness is foreign to us … we want to get rid of it as quickly as possible … and we strive hard to get back to being happy. Which shows us that happiness is our natural state.

We will see more about this subsequently.

Om Tat Sat