Let’s get straight to the point. Do you realize that almost all of us spend practically every moment of our life to become happy? You may say you are working for others’ happiness, but, with hardly any exception, the driving force behind such acts is to find personal satisfaction in doing so. So it comes down to the same self-centered happiness.
If you don’t agree, consider this. You are trying to make someone happy at the cost of your own happiness. Who is that someone you are trying to make happy? Is he or she dear to you? Would you do the same hard work to make that person happy if he or she belonged to some other party who you don’t like? If the answer is in yes, or even close to it, I guess you get the point. It’s about your own happiness, covered with unidentified selfishness.
And this is the reason our hard-earned happiness does not last. In absence of real happiness we have taken to fake happiness. All of us want to believe that the world is great but all of us know it is not. All of us want to believe happiness surrounds us but every honest observer knows it doesn’t.
Many people ask why although they struggle a lot they don’t become happy, and why, even if they find some happiness somewhere it does not last. I have addressed this a number of times on Quora. Almost every time I responded to such queries I quoted one of my articles published here more than a year ago.
In order to emphasize the fact that happiness derived from material sense perception cannot last, I am reproducing here what I wrote in the above-mentioned article on happiness. Remember, our mind is also one of the senses, albeit subtle. So mental satisfaction also cannot necessarily bring lasting happiness unless the mind is fully Krishna conscious. Real happiness comes from the happiness of the soul and that is possible only when we make the source of our souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, happy.
We have become addicted to be artificial. You may tell a friend that you would love to hear his difficulties and help but internally wish him to leave you alone. One may claim to dislike fame but internally wish he had a few million fans. One could be spending lavishly to impress peers but may not have enough money at home to eat healthy food. A young woman may tell her boss she respects his personal care but at heart may be afraid of being abused. A husband may tell his wife how she is his life and soul but run away with another woman in search of happiness. Similarly, a wife may tell her husband that her happiness is in living with him but abandon him at the first opportunity if he runs out of bank balance, and a student may serve his teacher with a hidden motive to get favors during exams.
All these real-life examples show how, by hook or by crook, people are trying to squeeze happiness from wherever they can. They also reveal how deceit, or hypocrisy, be it self-imposed or outright selfish, has become a way of life depriving the world from the sweet taste of originality. In search of happiness, words have become a mere tool to fake relations.
In this age of quarrel lasting happiness has become increasingly illusory, and making or maintaining genuine relationships is extremely difficult. However, since humans are interdependent by nature and culture, they cannot experience happiness without relationships. This is a reasonable dilemma but in absence of proper direction, such misguided souls take shelter of falsity and the easiest way they find to deal with this dilemma is, fake it if you can’t make it.
The question is, how long can one fake happiness? How long will one fake relations? How long will one fake oneself?
Unfortunately, quite often the answer is, a full lifetime, or even life after life. People spend whole life in believing what they know to be untruth. Not only that, they expect others to do the same and when that fails, anger takes over. This is why one needs to learn how to deal with anger that may appear righteous. Instead, since money has become synonym to happiness today, people are allured to fake happiness by flaunting their wealth, never mind they can’t sleep even an hour peacefully.
Modern psychologists and researchers have identified a whole host of tricks, like deliberate body language, behavioral patterns, set of friendly sounding words, and such other methods that help one come off as more trustworthy and honest. Often these tactics are misused by unscrupulous sales persons or liars to present untruth as truth. Similar tactics are applied by the happiness-fakers to show how content they are when in reality they are not. Even if lying were to go undetected, is pretending a prerequisite for achieving happiness? Can hypocrisy ever bring contentment? Leave others, have you ever found yourself happy while trying to be someone else?
One and the only answer to all of this is NO. In fact, you would be happier by being yourself even if you are not what you would want to be, hypocrisy is miserable under all circumstances, and lies take away one’s inner strength resulting in mental stress and even depression. Under the circumstances, where to find happiness?
Fortunately, happiness is available in abundance to those who identify themselves correctly and be themselves. The secret lies in leaning how to be yourself.
Being yourself does not mean being selfish and being indifferent to others. Being oneself also does not mean you follow every dictate of the mind. Remember, your mind is your best friend if you control it but it’s your worst enemy if you are controlled by it. This is clearly mentioned in Bhagavad Gita (6.6):
bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatru-vat
TRANSLATION: For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.
Unless we correctly identify ourselves, we will not be able to distinguish between ourselves and our mind, and unless that is done lasting happiness will remain a mirage. Being yourself actually means identifying that you are not matter but an individual spirit soul. This may sound complicated but it is possible to realize by practicing the process recommended in Vedic scriptures like Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
By identifying our constitutional position of being spirit souls, and our eternal connection with the super soul, the soul of all the souls who is known in Sanksrit as Paramatma, we distance ourselves from bodily experience of happiness and distress, which is material in nature and hence temporary.
If you feel happy by one event in your life you will surely feel unhappy by another event. This is because you are connecting your experience with body or mind when you are neither your body nor your mind. They are tools you are given to experience this world. Put differently, if you own happiness you will have to also own distress as that is the law of nature, and trying to alter it is bound to be futile.
Some say that giving up bodily conception and realizing our spiritual nature means we either become void, or merge with the super soul thus ending our individual existence. Bhagavad Gita (18.54) categorically rejects this assumption.
brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu mad-bhaktim labhate param
TRANSLATION: One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.
Happiness is one of the three intrinsic qualities of all living entities, the other two being eternity and cognizance. As such, to experience happiness is our fundamental right. The difficulty is, people do not know where to find happiness; they are looking in the wrong place for a right thing. Srila Prabhupada writes that in the material concept of life, when one works for sense gratification, there is misery, but in the absolute world, when one is engaged in pure devotional service, there is no misery. This absolute world is not a phantasmagoria; it is a reality you can experience even in this world.
“The devotee in Krishna consciousness has nothing to lament or desire. Since God is full, a living entity who is engaged in God’s service, in Krishna consciousness, becomes also full in himself. He is just like a river cleansed of all dirty water.”
Distant from fake happiness appearing out of fake identity of the self, one can find genuine happiness by following the path of self realization. Again, the result of walking this path is not imaginary nor is it difficult to follow.
Revealing more secrets to experiencing lasting happiness Srila Prabhupada says:
“Because a pure devotee has no thought other than Krishna, he is naturally always joyful. He does not lament for any material loss or gain because he is full in service of the Lord. He has no desire for material enjoyment because he knows that every living entity is the fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and therefore eternally a servant. He does not see, in the material world, someone as higher and someone as lower; higher and lower positions are ephemeral, and a devotee has nothing to do with ephemeral appearances or disappearances. For him stone and gold are of equal value. This is the brahma-bhūta stage, and this stage is attained very easily by the pure devotee.”
“The world is miserable for the materially infected person, but for a devotee the entire world is as good as Vaikuṇṭha, or the spiritual sky. The highest personality in this material universe is no more significant than an ant for a devotee. Such a stage can be achieved by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, who preached pure devotional service in this age.” (B.G. purport 18.54)
Accepting that pure devotees are always absorbed in happiness, the next big question is, how to become a pure devotee? This is both easy and extremely difficult. Easy because Lord Krishna has very clearly shown the path, and extremely difficult because while following that path none is allowed to fake. Purity is the force there. The path is to uncover our original identity of being a dear devotee of God, or Krishna.
The following beautiful set of verses spoken by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita are the key to rekindling our devotion:
Bg 12.13-14 — One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisﬁed, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence ﬁxed on Me – such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.
Bg 12.15 — He by whom no one is put into difﬁculty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.
Bg 12.16 — My devotee who is not dependent on the ordinary course of activities, who is pure, expert, without cares, free from all pains, and not striving for some result, is very dear to Me.
Bg 12.17 — One who neither rejoices nor grieves, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things – such a devotee is very dear to Me.
Bg 12.18-19 — One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contaminating association, always silent and satisﬁed with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is ﬁxed in knowledge and who is engaged in devotional service – such a person is very dear to Me.
Bg 12.20 — Those who follow this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engage themselves with faith, making Me the supreme goal, are very, very dear to Me.
While practicing these qualities is no easy task by any means, if one takes shelter of the all-merciful Lord, one steadily but surely recognizes oneself as the eternal part of parcel of the ever blissful Lord Krishna (reference Bg 15.7). This is the safest and surest path to achieve lasting happiness, even in this life.
“For those who have accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Murāri, the enemy of the Mura demon, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoof-print. Their goal is paraṁ padam, Vaikuṇṭha, the place where there are no material miseries, not the place where there is danger at every step.” (S.B. 10.14.48)
There are many philosophers who claim to show path to happiness. Instead of following authoritative scriptures, they concoct their own philosophy and attract good number of followers seeking peace and happiness. With due respect for their whatever good intention, none of them can bring you lasting happiness as they themselves are bound by the three miseries of material nature, called adhi-atmic, adhi-bhautic and adhi-daivic. A blind person cannot guide another blind person, or a person fallen in the well cannot pull out another person from the well. We need to hear from liberated souls.
It is said in the Vedic scriptures that by chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra- “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” one is easily able to purify one’s heart. It is mentioned in Siksastakam by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that by chanting the holy names of Lord Krishna one’s happiness can increase without any bound.
Happiness derived by artificial means is temporary because the objects from which it is born are themselves temporary. A piece of iron cannot produce gold no matter how much one tempers it. Intelligent persons don’t waste time in cultivating barren land. Happiness is a real thing but it is experienced only when we uncover our real identity. Those who understand and sincerely follow the path shown above are guaranteed to enter into a completely new yet eternally existing world of happiness. In this there is no doubt.