Good morning, everyone!
I am working on another article for Mauritius. As you know, we have an opportunity there to have a full page every month in ‘Vanakkam’ newspaper. Dr. Pillai offered that to us for this year. We have six articles so far gone. This is the seventh. It is a re-making of a Pub Desk on ‘Happiness’. We know that is an important concept for everyone. So, we are trying in these articles to be practical, so everyone who reads the article and also everyone who hears it. It is also the basis for the first Sunday of the month gathering at the Spiritual Park, which is getting quite a few hundred people now on a regular basis. It is also the basis for the talk that is given there. So, it is trying to give something to do to improve their life. THen, at the end we will share the lesson of the day and I was kind of inspired – I put this together yesterday, happiness – and I opened the “Lesson of the day’ and of course, it is how to be happy, right, from Gurudeva?! I said, “That is very interesting! There must something in today’s lesson that I forgot to put in my talk!” So, we are going to look for that. Definitely feel from today’s lesson, I need to redo my conclusion, more along the lines of today’s lesson.
This month’s article is based on a Publisher’s Desk column in our magazine ‘Hinduism Today’ and focuses on how enduring happiness can be achieved through understanding the nature of desire, refining our desires, developing a religious nature and experiencing our inner joy through the spiritual practices of meditation, devotion and service to others.
The non-mystical approach to happiness is that if you attain what you desire, you are happy; and if you don’t, you are unhappy. Win the lottery, get a great job, and you are happy. Miss the lottery, don’t get a great job, and you are miserable. Webster tells us that happiness is “the emotion evoked by success or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” A reflective person knows that this kind of happiness is fleeting. When we finally possess what we have been desiring, somehow the happiness soon fades, and before we know it we are back to our dissatisfied self again, desiring something new to give us that elusive happiness.
The cycle of desire-fulfillment-pleasure-loss-pain-suffering — that is the cycle of seeking happiness in outer things, be they possessions or people. In other words, when we finally possess what we desire, somehow the happiness soon fades, and before we know it we are back to our dissatisfied self again, desiring something new to give us that elusive happiness.
What is the solution? Some say, “Give up desire!” Desire is what is causing the whole problem. It drives us to get what we want, and when the happiness of that getting eventually wears off we start all over again with a new desire. So, if you can get rid of desire, you solve the whole problem. Right?
Gurudeva looked at it differently. He said, “Desire is life, and the reason we desire things is because we are alive. Desire is energy expressing itself.” The only way you could get rid of desire would be to get rid of life. Even if the physical body has passed on, even if we don’t have a physical body, we are still alive, still active, creative and motivated by what? Desire. So, trying to get rid of desire is not really a solution to the cycle of desire and fulfillment.
So, there is an interesting aphorism. I am not going to put it in the article, I put it here to read. A famous aphorism from Gurudeva in ‘Cognizantibility’ on desire. It is deep but useful to try and ponder. It reads, “The seed of desire is a false concept in relationship to corresponding objects. The conscious mind throws into its subconscious, a series of erroneous thoughts based upon a false concept. This creates a deep rooted desire or complex. Single out the seed of desire by disregarding all other corresponding erroneous thoughts. Then destroy that seed through understanding in relation to itself and all other corresponding thoughts. The deep rooted desire or complex will then vanish.”
That is pretty profound. But, the essence of it is in the first sentence. The seed of desire is a false concept in relation to corresponding objects. What does that mean? It means we have developed a concept. “Gee! If I only had this … If only this was true … If I was only in this situation or that situation, I would be so happy, so content.”
That is the concept that has somehow developed in our mind. If we are young, maybe the advertising agency put it in there! That is what they are paid to do. They put these concepts in, they are very good at it and so, everyone thinks that if they buy what is being advertised, they will be happy. So, that is the seed of desire is a false concept, in relation to corresponding objects because we can see through that one.
There are more complex ones that can develop in our mind as we grow up. We get these concepts in our mind about what will make us happy. So that is the false concept, that a certain situation in the outside world is what is going to give us happiness. It is good to have goals in the outside world. I am not saying don’t have goals, don’t have ambition. What we are saying is, if you think that fulfilling that ambition is going to give you the happiness, and you will be unhappy until that happens, that is a false concept. You can be happy right now.
There is another concept. Since I am doing something spontaneous, there is another concept I thought of putting in, very simple, kind of bottomline, summary. The usual concept is that desire comes from getting. We get something and that will make us happy. Happiness comes from getting. Normal concept is happiness comes from getting something. “If I can get this … if I can get this … I will be happy.” Whereas, the essence of this happiness comes from giving something. That is a simple way of looking at it. It is through giving to others. This is particularly brought out in the daily lesson, that we become happy not through getting but through giving. I am thinking of putting that in there. Not through getting but through giving. Turn that around, it is a simple phrase to remember. So, that is Gurudeva’s bottomline. Through giving to others, we can be happy. If we simply look at happiness as from getting things, we won’t be happy.
In fact, it is one of the suggestions I make to those who seem to not be totally fulfilled and aren’t parents. Parents have plenty of children in their lives to deal with, grand-children too. But, single people or married people who don’t have children, I say, “Do some volunteer work for children.” That is the basic idea, one example of giving. Through giving to others and getting our mind more involved with other people, we become happier. Through being selfish and focussing on getting, happiness is always elusive.
So, back to our former article here. Back to Gurudeva’s idea. Remember we are talking about desire. You cannot get rid of desire because desire is life and you cannot get rid of life.
Thus instead of trying to get rid of desire, Gurudeva suggests we focus instead on uplifting our consciousness and changing what we desire.
So, we can’t get rid of it. But, we can change it, we can refine it.
That is how we solve the problem, by channeling or transmuting our energy, desiring things that are more refined. Instead of desiring just to make ourselves happy, we desire to make our family and friends happy, too. That is a higher desire. Going to school is a way of channeling energy. As a child, first we memorize, bringing the energies up out of the chakras below the muladhara into the muladhara chakra. This is through memorization. That is why schooling is so important. It is transmuting energy. And, that is why memory is always focussed on first in school, memorizing.
Then, in the svadishthana chakra, we reason. We learn how to think. Then we learn how to push things through and accomplish them, through the force of will in the manipura chakra. We are pulling the energy up into memory, reason and willpower in the normal process of schooling. Thus, schooling is important, for it trains us to lift our consciousness, refine our character and harness the baser desires.
Cultural practices such as singing, dancing and playing a musical instrument are also effective ways of refining desire. They help raise the energies even further than the basic studying in school. In doing so, we raise our consciousness and learn to avoid the grosser states of mind – doubt, depression, discouragement – and circumvent the base problem of desires leading ultimately to sorrow.
The goal is to claim the spiritual happiness that is inside of us. Happiness is already part of our inner self, but we need to learn how to experience that part of us that is always happy. Once we have refined our desires through academic studies and cultural practices, we are a religious enough person to take the next step toward experiencing enduring happiness. Our religion gives us inner ways and outer ways to accomplish this.
The monistic or meditative way is to turn within in meditation, go deep into the lotus of the heart and experience our inner self, our inner light, our spiritual energy. That makes us truly happy.
There is also the theistic way. We can come to the temple and open ourselves to the blessings of the Deities. We come in an unhappy state, receive the blessings and go away uplifted and happy. Why? Because we have connected with our inner self through external worship. We have connected with the same blissful state that can be achieved through meditation. These are two ways to internalize our awareness, to move our awareness into our spiritual being.
Gurudeva also gives us a third way: “If you want to attain happiness, make others happy.” That is a wonderful statement. Quite often we are unhappy because we are self-centered. We are in a selfish state of mind, concerned only about our life, our problems, our challenges. “Life is not treating us fairly,” we think, so we are unhappy. What’s the antidote? Do something for other people. Try to make them happy.
Here is a story that I once heard and never forgot as it illustrates so well the challenges individuals face in striving to overcome unhappiness. A woman suffering from severe depression was told by her psychiatrist, “I have a remedy that is a sure cure for your depression if you follow it. Go out and help other people. Make other people happy.” Of course, she would not do it. We might say she actually wanted to be depressed. Or we could say she was stuck in that state of mind, that habit state of mind, unable to change.
Recently, a devotee wrote to me for advice. “The doctor has put Dad on an even stronger pain medication. He spends his days in bed. He is so very depressed. I pray daily that I can brighten his day in some small way. I offer a massage and sometimes, he is open. Sometimes he just wants to be left alone. My husband and I try very hard to care for him in the best way we know how. Most times, I feel it is never good enough because Dad is so closed down, so critical and angry. I continually look for ways to give, to serve each day. Please offer your advice and encouragement.”
Sound familiar? An aging parent is in a negative state of mind, to one degree or another and refuses to budge from that state of mind, no matter what the children do. Here was my advice.
Caring for your father-in-law is enough to do the kindly act. Whether it is appreciated or not, does not matter from a karmic point of view. You are creating good karma by fulfilling dharma. In other words, don’t allow yourself to become disappointed when you can’t change a lifetime of mental habits of a person just by smiling, being nice and helping out. He is who he is or she is who she is. All you can do is your duty. Do it to the best of your ability. If he or she is uplifted and smiles because of it or remains grumpy and depressed, don’t let that be the measure of your success. The measure of success is doing your duty and doing it with love. It is OK for you to be happy, even if your parent is not happy, even though you live in the same house. You should not allow your father’s or mother’s negativity, depression and criticalness be contagious.
The same principle applies to every thing we do for others in life. Sometimes, parents get discouraged because they do the best they can with their children and the children don’t respond in a way that seems reasonable. “Look, our daughter didn’t follow my good advice, in spite of all my love and attention. She is still doing the same old, stupid things.” The parents feel sad. But, why should they? However, a wiser approach is to feel that you have done your duty to other family members and earned good karma by doing the right things, in a loving way. Therefore, there is no need for their negativity to prevent you from being happy. Just as we don’t have to be ill, when those close to us fall sick.
Let’s look at Gurudeva in this regard. He gave so much advice and loving attention over the years. If he became unhappy every time someone didn’t take his advice and respond positively, he would have been terribly unhappy. However, as we know, Gurudeva enjoyed enduring happiness no matter how others responded to his attention or advice.
Being surrounded by family and friends is important. It is a natural and positive state to live in. It helps us live a fulfilling, dharmic life. However, the problem comes if we rely on family and friends to make us happy. This is a false concept. We want our happiness coming from ourselves. Then we can share that happiness with our family and friends.
Someone should never fall into thinking, “I am unhappy by myself. Somehow, if I get married, if I have children or if I have lots of friends, I will be happy.” It does not work that way. Any temporary happiness soon wears away in the old cycle of fulfillment of desire. We get married. If we are an unhappy person, we may be happy for a while. But eventually we will fall back into the state of unhappiness, because that is our mental habit, the mode our mind operates in. That habit does not go away just because we associate with new people. It also does not go away by our getting new possessions. The happiness derived from acquiring things, in fact, lasts for an even shorter time. New computer, new car, redecorate the home – that is fulfilling for a few months, maybe a year for the home, but eventually the charm wears off. The state of unhappiness only goes away permanently by our remolding our consciousness and the way we look at life, by refining our character to the point where we naturally live in a state of fulfilled contentment all of the time, regardless of external circumstances.
In conclusion, begin the regular practice of reflecting on your state of happiness or unhappiness. If you find yourself being unhappy, let go of the cause in the outer world that is the source. Change your perspective to the mystical one that happiness is always within us. Then claim your inner happiness through the spiritual practices of meditation, devotion or service to others. As Gurudeva says, “Life is meant to be lived joyously.”
OK … that is where it stands at the moment. Let me get our Daily Lesson, must have something important here.
“How to be happy
Look in the mirror. You have created your face through your many thoughts that have accumulated through this lifetime. Ask yourself, “Am I happy? Or, am I looking for others to make me happy?” Allow yourself to be kind. Allow yourself to express the qualities, the beautiful qualities of your soul. Your happiness then will come from within yourself, along with a deep contentment and inner peace and joy. Only a moment of thinking kindly about someone and making a plan that will enable you to help your fellowman, even just a little bit, will awaken from your soul that deep, inner satisfaction, that depth of security you are really seeking. On the other hand, if you allow your mind to dwell in the realm of critical thinking, in the realm of gossiping without the thought of helping others, you will feel insecure, unhappy. Nothing that could happen will bring you an inner satisfaction. You will be constantly desirous of acquiring and that which you do acquire will not be satisfying to you. Why? Because there will be no love in your heart. If you find yourself in that state of mind, turn the energies around and find the quietness within you through being kind, being generous, being helpful. The doing brings its own reward. Only in the accomplishment of being big enough to understand the experience of life that others go through, being tall enough to overlook the many, many things that you could take issue with and perhaps, retaliate for, only in acquiring that depth that comes from your soul, can you truly find inner happiness and peace. You let your light shine through your kind thoughts but each thought should manifest itself in a physical deed of doing something for someone else. Lift their burdens just a little bit and unknowingly, perhaps, you may lift something that is burdening your mind. You will erase and wipe clean the mirror of your mind through helping another. We call this karma yoga, the deep practice of unwinding, through service, the selfish, self-centered, egotistical vasanas of the lower nature that have been generated for many, many lives and which bind the soul in darkness.”
That is a pretty good sentence. Let me read that again.
We call this karma yoga, the deep practice of unwinding through service, the selfish, self-centered, egotistical vasanas of the lower nature that have been generated for many, many lives and which bind the soul in darkness.
I have to use that one.
“Through service and kindness, you can unwind the subconscious mind and gain a clear understanding of all laws of life. Your soul will shine forth, you will be that peace. You will radiate that inner happiness and be truly secure simply by practicing being kind in thought, word and deed. A sure indication of the manifestation of the soul nature on the physical plane is consideration for other people’s feelings, consideration for other people’s state of mind. It means appreciating their good qualities and overlooking their qualities that need improvement. Someone who is considerate is understanding. Those who are not considerate don’t understand and don’t understand they don’t understand! They don’t understand and they are not considerate and not appreciative because they are wrapped up in their individual ego. Yet, they expect everyone to be considerate to them.”
So, the bottomline … Happiness does not come from getting. It comes from giving.
Aum Namah Sivaya! Have a wonderful phase.