What is it that we all uniformly seek in life? Everybody seeks to be happy, to be free. Happiness, shanti, freedom is what we are seeking. Is it that I want to be happy only at a particular time, place, relationship or situation? No. I want to be happy 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, in all places, in all relationships, in all situations.
We live our life assuming that happiness is the property of whatever we like. I like gulab jamuns, I like a particular person, I like power, I like money and I assume that what I like has the property of happiness and that it makes me happy. In fact our ideas of success often revolve around this conclusion that happiness is the property of what we desire.
Let us enquire if that is true.
If happiness belongs to what I like and desire, then that object should give happiness to me and others all the time. Yet we find that it does not happen that way. I love gulab-jamun. I have just received this mouth watering gulab-jamuns and I have just put one in my mouth. The phone rings and I hear that my beloved friend has had an accident and is critical and in hospital. Now, the gulab jamun cannot give me any happiness.
Again, no matter how much I love gulab jamun, the 10 th gulab jamaun does not give me as much happiness as the first one does. So happiness cannot be a property of the gulab jamuns that I seem to love.
Slaking one's thirst is the property of water. So whenever we feel thirsty we drink water. In the same way, if gulab jamun had a special property of happiness, then it should give happiness to all people uniformly, all the time. Yet my friend thoroughly dislikes gulab jamuns.
Thus on enquiry I find that happiness cannot be the property of what I like.
So then what is the source of happiness?
To understand this let us examine a moment of happiness. When something desirable happens I feel happy. What is desirable? That depends upon me, at that time. My own definition of what is desirable keeps on changing. My definition of what is desirable is different from your definition. And my definition at this moment could be different from my definition, the last moment.
And when that desirable situation happens, I am happy. Why am I happy? Let us analyse that moment of happiness.
At the moment of happiness, you are pleased with yourself. What does that mean? It means that the situation does not bring out of you the wanting person, the lacking person, the non-acceptable person.
Suppose you see a beautiful sunrise – it is quiet, it is cool and the vast expanse of the sky that you are watching is soothing to you, the colours of the sky are beautiful and you are happy.
At that moment you don't want the sky to be any different, you don't want anything to be different from what it is. You don't want the time to be different or even yourself to be different at that time. You find yourself acceptable, you find everything else acceptable.
You don't want anything to be different. That is the moment you are happy.
Thus, in a happy moment, what happens to me then, is that I see myself as free of all lack – I find myself as acceptable. At that moment I am totally free of the wanting "I". Seeing myself as totally acceptable, totally free of the wanting "I" is what makes me happy.
Thus the totally acceptable "I" is the true source of happiness. Behind our quest for happiness and success is our quest for the acceptable "I". So our real success is in discovering in ourself our acceptable self.
When can I find myself totally acceptable? Only when I see that I am free of all lack, when I see myself as whole, as complete.
You may think that this can never happen. I don't like my nose, I don't like my hair, I don't like my weight, I don't like my lack of skills. I don't like my lack of knowledge. I find myself wanting in every way – then how am I going to find myself acceptable?
This is where our Vedas, the most ancient body of knowledge of mankind, comes in and declares boldly that right now, you are the acceptable self. You are essentially divine – you are fully acceptable. In fact what you don't like about yourself is not you. You are the very source of ananda. Goodness is the truth about you. Your life is not for BEGGING for crumbs of happiness – for seeking acceptability, seeking wholeness. RIGHT NOW you are the very source of ananda, fully acceptable, totally whole. In fact your life is for owning up yourself,
the acceptable self that is the source of ananda.
How is that possible?
By living your life in a way that will not create conflict, guilt and unhappiness for yourself and others.
Living life is about making choices. On what basis shall we make our choices?
We can live our life by making choices that invoke our essential goodness and put is in touch with our intrinsic wholeness. We can make choices that increase our happiness and the happiness of others. Or we can make choices that create conflict and guilt and increase our sense of discontentment and restlessness. Our choices can increase unhappiness for ourselves and others. The choice of how we live our life is in our hands.
Our own ideas of what constitutes happiness and success is often responsible for our unhappiness. Is success an object in the world? Here is a child Avinash, whose idea of success is getting 95%+. Another boy Manoj feels he is successful if he passes with 50%. Now when Avinash gets 70% he gets dejected and feels he is a failure. And when Manoj gets 60% he thinks he is highly successful.
So what is success really? That is answered when we answer the question why do we seek success. To be happy. Why do we want to be happy? Because it our nature. Everything likes to come back to their own nature. Heat a bucket of water, leave it in the cold. The nature of water is to be at room temperature. so the water comes back to its own nature.
We already saw that we feel happy when we see ourself acceptable.
- you keep a commitment,
- tell the truth as you know it,
- act responsibly with consideration for others,
- be compassionate,
- act kindly,
- you feel good about yourself.
- Somebody is stretched out on the road, bleeding after an accident. You stop your vehicle and take the person to hospital. The person's life is saved. You feel good about yourself.
- You give your seat on the bus, to an old man who can barely stand. You feel good about yourself.
- You give warm clothes to a poor person shivering in the cold winter night. You feel good about yourself.
- You tell the truth inspite of being pressurized – you feel good about yourself.
Thus whenever you act in keeping with universal values like honesty, commitment, compassion, respect, responsibility , love, peace, your mind is free of conflict, free of guilt and so you find yourself acceptable.
And when you find yourself acceptable you feel happy just being yourself.
When you are happy, you are able to make others happy. Thus when universal values become the basis of your choices, your decisions, your actions, you find yourself acceptable and happy.
The Basis of Values is Our Knowledge
Universal Values don't have to be taught, because we already have knowledge of them. We know very well how we want others to behave with us. We want others to tell us the truth, be kind to us, keep their commitments with us, treat us with dignity and respect, act responsibly with consideration for our feelings, forgive us for our omissions and commissions.
We also know very well how we don't want others to behave with us. We don't want others to lie to us. We don't want others to win at our cost. We don't others to treat us disrespectfully. Nor do we want others to break their commitments, and act irresponsibly without consideration for us.
This knowledge of what we want and don't want from others is what forms the basis for universal values and it becomes the norm for our behaviour with others. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. You want others to be honest with you – then you be honest with them. You want others to be kind to you – that means you be kind to others. You want others to accept you inspite of your mistakes, then be that person who accepts others inspite of their mistakes. Living thus a life of values you find yourself acceptable and you enjoy happiness.
Lord Krishna gives a clear message – 'Take responsibility for your action' and the result will come from the laws that govern actions. These laws are maintained by the law-giver who is the all-knowledge, all-intelligent Lord.
Lord's Krishna tells us a secret which we don't normally know… about the laws governing our deliberate action. The result of a deliberate action is two-fold. One is the SEEN RESULT and the others is an UNSEEN RESULT. The seen result is the result you percieve. For example if you hit a ball with a bat, it will move a particular distance.
The UNSEEN RESULT is the result for a deliberate action, in keeping with its impact on the society. So if your action benefits the society, you earn credits – called as PUNYA – which will translate into a comfortable situation for you now or later. If your action harms society in any way, you earn penalty points – called PAAPA- which will translate itself into a painful situation for you now or later.
ACTIONS based on universal values ALWAYS take into account the impact on society – and so value-based actions will always earn punya for you. And actions which are purely based on your likes and dilikes and which do not take the universal values into account will bring disaster for you in the form of :-
- Unhappiness and pain
- Broken relationships
- Loss in self-confidence
- Weakness of character – the inability to say 'no' to wrong choices
- Incapadcity to motivate others
- PAAPA – an unseen result which will translate into a painful situation for you.
So a value-based decision is always the right decision.
When to apply values?
Now comes the question, when should we apply values? The answer is 100% of the time.
Let us understand the criteria for applying values at all times. The basic criteria is that in every decision the totality or society should not be the loser.
You can have good or bad options in every decision. So what are the possible options?
- Personal Gain and Society Gain (GOOD)
- Personal Loss and Society Gain (GOOD)
- Personal Loss and Society Loss (BAD)
Why do we say that no. 2 is a good option even though we may face some kind of personal loss? This is because we are an integral part of the society in which we live – so if the society gains there is some gain in it for me also. Also because I am a part of the society, if I gain at the cost of society it has to cause loss for me – certainly I will earn penalty points … so no 3. Is a bad option.
When Ram was chosen to become the next king, Kaikayee was happy with the decision. She was thinking that Ram is the eldest son/capable son and according to family tradition he should be the next king – (she was thinking what is good for the family).
Then, Manthra gave her opinion that 'you should decide based on what is good for you (personally) and for your son, Bharat; even if it is bad for all other family members including your husband'.
So now Kaikayi was faced with :-
- Personal Loss and Family's gain – if Rama became King
- Personal Gain and Family's loss – if Bharat became the king
We all know that she chose 2 – bringing untold loss to the entire family. Even today nobody will name their daughter Kaikayi because nobody respects Kaikayi because of her decision.
When two universal values are applicable what should we do ? We should prioritize the one which brings gain to the society (totality). For example: Your friend repeatedly cheats the office, by tampering with transport log books. You advise him not do so. He repeats the action again. When there is an enquiry about this matter, and you are asked about it what should you do? Here the value for friendship is pitted against the value for honesty which will bring savings for the office and help your friend to get out his destructive nature. However if you follow the value for honesty you might lose your friend.
Here it is correct to prioritize the value for honesty over the value for friendship, even though it will bring you a personal loss of friendship, because the larger society, the office will gain.
For example a doctor has to cut a tumor in his patient's body – here the doctor is faced with the having to go against the value of ahimsa (non-violence or non-hurtfulness). He looks at the larger gain of the patient's health. So he prioritizes the value for life over the value for ahimsa. We will not say here that he broke the value of ahimsa. Rather we will say that he priortizes the value for life.
So this is Lord Krishna's message that for your actions to be in harmony with God, Yourself and society, let them be in keeping with the universal values – also called as dharma.
When your life is in keeping with dharma, you ensure your long-term happiness. You will gain long-term happiness, improved relationships, self-confidence, respect of others, stability, strength of character, power – the capacity to lead others and prosperity.
Why we break values?
When choices based on universal values are the means for a happy life, why do we find it so difficult to live them? Simply because we have not assimilated their value. We know that we should follow values of honesty, kindness, respect, responsibility, commitment etc – because we were told to by our parents, teachers and society. We have not really chosen them for ourselves through a process of understanding what we gain when we follow them and what we lose when we don't. So they are placed in our value structures as a set of 'shoulds' only. They have not been assimilated by us.
Along with these set of unassimilated 'shoulds' in our value structure, we also hold acquired values that often conflict with our set of unassimilated universal values.
Let us look at our acquired value for money. From childhood onwards I have learnt that money is valuable – money gets for me all that I want, to have a comfortable life. I also feel that it gets me the respect and love of people. As I grow older I find that people with money have power over other people and different situations. With money I will be a somebody and so my personal value for money grows and money becomes an important priority in my life.
One day, I decide to sell one of my items of jewellry. My friend offers to buy it at cost. I hike the cost by Rs. 10,000 and sell it to her. Why do I lie to my friend? Because my personal value for money is greater than my value for honesty. My value for honesty is more a 'should' or a half-value, given by parents, teachers and society. In fact my acquired value for money is more a fully assimilated value than my half value for honesty.
Now what happens when I have told a lie. I feel very uncomfortable with myself. There is conflict in me. Then there is guilt. Guilt is natural and inevitable, because there is conflict between what I know and what I do. I know that I expect truth from others and therefore I should speak truth. Now I know that I am not telling the truth, so I cannot escape the consequence of guilt.
Now I can only hide from my guilt, by denying the guilt. And I deny it by buying all the things I want with that extra Rs 10,000. Yet the guilt is there underneath.
In this way, I live my life, making choices that make my conflict and guilt mount and I keep hiding from it. Yet, the underlying conflict and guilt adds to the tension and growing feelings of insecurity. A day will come when I will face a total break-down of my mental and physical health.
I told a lie to my friend thinking that I will be comfortable by that extra Rs 10,000. All comforts are for what? They are for seeing myself comfortable.Yet even with all the comforts that I can buy by lying, I cannot be comfortabe with myself. Is money really worth lying for when I cannot be comfortable with myself?
What I really value is not just comforts outside. What I value is the comfortable me. Yet by adding money through a lie I find I am not comfortable with myself. Is money really worth lying for, when I cannot be comfortable with myself?
Thus we see that conflict, guilt, tension, insecurity, low self-esteem, and eventual break-down of physical health, is the perceptible result of making choices that break universal values.
It is important to know that every action comes with a consequence both seen and unseen, and that we are responsible for the consequence of our actions. Our society is plagued by corruption because we fail to acknowledge our personal responsibility for the consequences of our actions.
Anything that I choose is because I see a connection between that thing and myself feeling good. If I see that my choice will make me suffer I will not make that choice. Breaking universal values makes me suffer – ALWAYS. I might get seeming temporary benefits like respect, money, fame, power, objects and even people that I like by breaking the universal values – but I end up suffering from ashanti and earning paapa, which cannot but fructify now or later.
When I see clearly that what I am seeking is comfort with myself and that it is impossible to be comfortable with myself when I do not make the choices that I expect others to make, then I have no choice but to follow the universal values. My set of 'shoulds' or half-values become my chosen full values.
Intelligent living is about making the right choices. The goal of life is to be happy. Choices based on universal values are the means for true happiness – the happiness of being comfortable with oneself. When the clarity is there about what I gain by following universal values and what I lose when I do not – I cannot but follow them.
Vedas declare dharmo rakshati rakshitah. When dharma is protected, it protects me. How can the universal values be protected? Are universal values something in the external world – like any other object? No. You cannot point them out as an object. They are to be found in the person who lives them – in thinking of the person, in the actions of the person. That knowledge of goodness is protected and maintained, when you live from your goodness. And in turn it protects you. That is the law.
How do we learn it? We learn it from our elders, our role models. May our children find their role models of dharma, of happiness and success in us. May we pass on to them
- the ability to judge what is right.
- the passion to care deeply about what is right.
- And the capacity to do what is right.
Om Tat Sat
- the ability to judge what is right.