I once attended a program on happiness.
Honestly wasn’t sure what to expect but being between jobs I was happy to engage in the extraordinary. Or well, what was not in tune with the two decades of professional pursuits that I had engaged in.
Robed in white clothes, with long flowing hair, the teacher asked us to begin with what we expected of the program. I went blank. I had walked in with no expectations whatsoever. I was to learn later, it is the best way to be.
He also asked us to make a note of the three things, or whatever one may want to call them, which if we had would help us be happy. Again, I drew a blank, while several others fervently typed onto their smart phones or scribbled on their not-so-smart tiny note pads. I was astonished to see how clear people were, in what would make them happy. At the same time, kind of worried on the lack of awareness on my part on what would make me happy.
Realizing my dilemma, as I gave a guilty look to the teacher, he gave me an encouraging smile. I was still not sure whether he was egging me on to push my boundaries in the pursuit of happiness. Or was it something else? Was it the fact that it was okay to not know what would make one happy? Probably, because you may already be at a state where happiness was not a goal one was seeking to achieve, an end in itself. It was a state of mind. A state of mind which revelled in its permanency.
A permanency – not a transient emotion like many of us are wont to describe it as. If I were to go back to the exercise my teacher involved us in and asked each one of you to undertake the same. Perhaps some of you would have a long list- my next million, billion, position, job, bungalow, car, child, recovery, and what have you. Yet, there would be others, who like me, struggled on what would be on that list- either coz we are overwhelmed by the feeling of being asked to pen down that which may have been deepest in our list of desires or because we struggle to provide a priority, humans as we are greedy to get all that we can lay our hands on.
But the issue with listing your sources of happiness, irrespective of the length of that list is that once you have attained that, then what? Is it that you keep the list live forever, adding that gives you happiness, which means it goes on endlessly? Or perhaps you keep striking off those that you may have already attained. Thus you keep at the list, striking off and adding the sources of your happiness.
One may say, why does one need to strike off anything. Well, the truth is – you do not. You can have as long a list which once attained, will provide you with all the happiness in the world. But firstly, it does not all come at once, but, over a period of time. But more importantly, the happiness you may have assumed would be yours, will last for a finite period of time. It will not last forever. In fact, the law of diminishing returns (for the students of economics) sets in. Its like the pizza slices we consume. Your happiness from the first to the fourth piece gradually diminishes as satiety makes an appearance. And in case you still continued, there would probably be unhappiness with a grumpy overfilled stomach.
So the point is, the happiness one obtains from an external source will always have a finite life. Of course this varies person to person as it does from time to time. So I may be happy with my first billion because I may have not even imagined getting to it, but for the one who may have been born with the proverbial silver spoon, the value of that first million (even if it was inherited at the age of eighteen) may not have that significance as for me.
Time and availability have an influence on the quantum of happiness one derives from varied sources, that, in our mind, give us happiness. In fact, why should necessities (or thus perceived) even be thought of as a source of happiness? So what used to be source of happiness, maybe even pride, no longer even figures in lists.
The point then is why chase after that which is transient and neither does it have the same efficacy across the human race, that which is most evolved of all species known. Why be lured by such a fickle source?
The truth is that the only permanent source of happiness is we ourselves. It is within us that we need to find our happiness. It cannot be external, it cannot be materialistic. It is a state of mind that we attain with our own efforts.
I was taught that there are three sources of such happiness that originates from within oneself. Sewa, sadhna and satsang. Satsang being to be in the company of good people, sewa being to do good unto others and sadhna being to undertake good practices. Yes, all goodness is possible for us to undertake ourselves. And goodness is what leads to happiness.
One needs to find true happiness within oneself. Its what spirituality helps us attain. I will not say that all those who have attempted to, have reached there and nor do I know whether I ever will. For now its sufficient that we have a smile on our faces because they say that it signals to my brain, its time to be happy! And if that’s all it takes to be happy, why not make a beginning in the journey to being your own source of happiness.
Why not now, why not always- be smiling, be happy. Let the spirits be high!