Sunday, June 29, 2014



The Conditions of Happiness

Part I

EVERY creature in the world is seeking happiness, and man is no exception. Seemingly man sets his heart on many kinds of things, but all that he desires or undertakes is for the sake of happiness. Every man aims at happiness If he is keen about having power it is because he expects to derive happiness from its use. If he strives for money it is because he thinks it will secure for him the conditions and means for his happiness. If he seeks knowledge, health or beauty, science, art or literature, it is because he feels that his pursuit of happiness is directly dependent upon them. If he struggles for worldly success and fame it is because he hopes to find his happiness in their attainment. Through all his endeavors and pursuits, man wants to be happy. Happiness is the ultimate motive-power which drives him in all that he does.
Intertwining of pleasure and pain Everyone seeks to be happy, yet most persons are immersed in some kind of suffering. If at times they do get small installments of happiness in their lives, it is neither unadulterated nor abiding.
Man’s life is never a series of unmixed pleasures. It moves between the opposites of pain and pleasure which are entwined like darkened clouds and shining rainbows. The moments of pleasure occasionally appearing in the life of man soon vanish, like the rainbows, which shine in their splendor only to disappear from the sky. If these moments of pleasure leave any trace, it is of a memory which only augments the pain of having lost them. Such memory is an invariable legacy of most pleasures.

Man does not seek suffering; but it comes to him as an inevitable outcome of the very manner in which he seeks happiness. He seeks happiness through the fulfillment of his desires, but such fulfillment is never an assured thing, hence in the pursuit of desires man is also unavoidably preparing for the suffering from their non-fulfillment. Desire bears two kinds of fruit The same tree of desire has two kinds of fruit: one sweet which is pleasure, and one bitter which is suffering. If the tree is allowed to flourish it cannot be made to yield just one kind of fruit. The one who has bid for one kind of fruit must be ready to have the other also. Man pursues pleasure furiously and clings to it fondly when it comes. He tries to avoid impending suffering desperately, and smarts under it with resentment. His fury and fondness are not of much avail, for his pleasure is doomed to fade and disappear one day, and his desperation and resentment are equally of no avail, for he cannot escape the suffering that results.
Goaded by multifarious (a lot of) desires, man seeks the pleasures of the world with unabating hope. Changing moods His zest for pleasures does not remain uniform, however, because even while he is reaching for the cup of pleasure, he often has to gulp down doses of suffering. His enthusiasm for pleasure is abated by suffering, which often follows in pleasure’s wake. He is subject to sudden moods and impulses. Sometimes he is happy and elated, at other times he is very unhappy and down-hearted. His moods change as his desires are fulfilled or frustrated. Satisfaction of some desires yields momentary happiness, but this happiness does not last, and it soon leads to the reaction of depression. His moods subject him to ups and downs and to constant change.
Fulfillment of desires does not lead to their termination; they are submerged for awhile only to reappear with added intensity. Suffering caused by desires When a person is hungry he eats to satisfy the desire, but soon feels hungry again. If he eats too much, even in the fulfillment of his desire he experiences pain and discomfort. It is the same with all the desires of the world; they can only yield a happiness which is fleeting. Even in the very moment of fulfillment the happiness they yield has already begun to fade and vanish. Worldly desires can therefore never lead to abiding happiness. On the contrary, they invariably invite unending suffering of many kinds. When man is full of worldly desires a plentiful crop of suffering is unavoidably in store for him. Desire is inevitably the mother of much suffering; this is the law.
 If a person experiences or visualizes the suffering which waits upon desires his desires become mitigated. Mitigation of desires through sight of suffering Sometimes intense suffering makes him detached from worldly life, but this detachment is often again set aside by the fresh flood of desires. Many persons temporarily lose their interest in worldly objects due to the impact of acute suffering brought on by desires, but detachment must be lasting if it is to pave the way for freedom from desires. There are varying degrees of detachment, but not all of them are lasting.
        Sometimes a person is greatly moved by an unusually strong experience, such as seeing a corpse being carried to the burial ground, or seeing the corpse being buried or burnt. Temporary detachment Such experiences are thought-provoking and they initiate long trains of ideas about the futility and emptiness of worldly existence. Under the pressure of such experiences the person realizes that one day he must die and take leave of all the worldly objects so dear to him. But such thoughts, as well as the detachment born thereof, are short-lived. They are soon forgotten and the person resumes his attachment to the world and its alluring objects. The temporary and passing mood of detachment is known as Smashan-vairagya, because it usually arises in the burial ground and stays in mind only in the presence of the corpse. Such a mood of detachment is as temporary as it is sudden. It seems to be strong and effective while it lasts, but it is only sustained by the vividness of some experience, and when the experience vanishes, the mood of detachment also quickly flitters away, without seriously affecting the general attitude towards life.
        The passing mood of detachment might be illustrated by the story of a person who once saw at the theatre a spiritual drama about Gopichanda. Illustrative story The drama impressed him so deeply that, disregarding all his duties to his family, he joined a band of Bairagis (wandering ascetics) belonging to the cult of Gopichanda. Renouncing all his former modes of life he dressed as a Bairagi, shaved his head and sat under a tree, as advised by the other members of the group. At first he plunged into deep meditation, but as the heat of the sun grew stronger his enthusiasm for meditation began to cool down. As the day went on he began to feel hungry and thirsty and became very restless and miserable. When the members of his family noticed his absence from home they became worried about him. After some searching they found him sitting under the tree in this miserable plight. He had grown haggard and was plainly unhappy. His wife seeing him in this strange condition was furious and rushed to upbraid him. His mood of detachment had flitted away, and as he was thoroughly tired of his new life, he took her approach as a boon from heaven. So, silencing her quickly, he put on his pagri and ordinary clothes and meekly followed her home.
        Sometimes the mood of detachment is more lasting and not only endures for a considerable time, but also seriously modifies one’s general attitude towards life. Intense detachment This is called Tivra-vairagya or intense dispassion. Such intense dispassion usually arises from some great misfortune—such as the loss of one’s own dear ones or the loss of property or reputation. Under the influence of this wave of detachment the person renounces all worldly things. Tivra-vairagya of this type has its own spiritual value, but it is also likely to disappear in the course of time, or be upset by the onset of a recurring flood of worldly desires. The disgust for the world which a person feels in such cases is due to a powerful impression left by a misfortune, and it does not endure because it is not born of understanding. It is only a severe reaction to life.
        The kind of detachment which really lasts is due to the understanding of suffering and its cause. It is securely based upon the unshakable knowledge that all things of this world are momentary and passing and that any clinging to them is bound eventually to be a source of pain. Man seeks worldly objects of pleasure and tries to avoid things that bring pain without realizing that he cannot have the one and eschew the other. As long as there is attachment to worldly objects of pleasure he must perpetually invite upon himself the suffering of not having them, and the suffering of losing them after having got them. Lasting detachment which brings freedom from all desires and attachments is called Purna-vairagya or complete dispassion. Complete detachment is one of the essential conditions of lasting and true happiness, for he who has complete detachment no longer creates for himself the suffering which is due to the unending thraldom produced by desires.
        Desirelessness makes a man firm like a rock. He is neither moved by pleasure nor by sorrow; he is not upset by the onslaughts of opposites. He who is affected by agreeable things is bound to be affected by disagreeable things. Opposites If a person is encouraged in his endeavors by an omen considered auspicious, he is bound to be discouraged by an omen considered to be inauspicious. He cannot remain proof against the discouraging effect of an inauspicious omen as long as he derives strength from the auspicious omen. The only way not to be upset by omens is to be indifferent to auspicious as well as inauspicious omens.
        The same is true of the opposites of praise and blame. Praise and blame If a person is pleased by receiving praise he is bound to be miserable when he receives blame. He cannot keep himself steady under a shower of blame as long as he is inwardly delighted by receiving praise.
        The only way not to be upset by blame is to be detached from praise also. Only then can a person remain unmoved by the opposites of praise and blame. Then he does not lose his equanimity. The steadiness and equanimity which remain unaffected by any opposites is possible only through complete detachment, which is an essential condition of lasting and true happiness. He who has complete detachment is not at the mercy of the opposites of experience, and being free from the thraldom of all desires, he no longer creates his own suffering.
        Man is subject to many sufferings, physical and mental. Of these two, mental suffering is the more acute. Physical and mental suffering Those with limited vision think that suffering can only be physical. Their idea of suffering is of some kind of illness or torture of the body. Mental suffering is worse than physical suffering. Physical suffering sometimes comes as a blessing because it serves the purpose of easing mental suffering by weaning away man’s attention from the mental suffering.
        It is not right to make much of purely physical suffering. It can be borne through the exercise of will-power and endurance. The true suffering that counts is mental, and even yogis who can endure great physical suffering find it difficult to keep free from mental suffering which is rooted in the frustration of desires. Abiding happiness through desirelessness If a man does not want anything he is not unhappy under any adverse circumstances, not even in the jaws of a lion. The state of complete desirelessness is latent in every one, and when, through complete detachment, one reaches the state of wanting nothing, one taps the unfailing inner source of eternal and unfading happiness which is not based upon the objects of the world, but is sustained by self-knowledge and self-realization.

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