Where does happiness come from? Why is it always fleeting?


Happiness and sorrow, sukha सुख and duhkha दुख, come and go unpredictably in any persons life, with sorrow reigning longer than happiness. Everybody does pick up happiness now and then – even’ the most unhappy person laughs helplessly at a slapstick joke. That momentary happines – सुख sukha, gained once in a while, keeps one going, for it gives one hope that a future day will be happier; otherwise, one would commit suicide. Where should we look for more of that happiness?

Is Happiness an Object?

Among the countless objects in the world, is there an object called happiness? You can make someone happy by giving him or her a piece of sweet, but you cannot say that the object is happiness. For a naturopath a cup of half-cooked, unsalted bitter gourd is happiness; but for some others nothing could be more bitter. For one who loves rich sweet food, a heavy dessert is happiness but for one who does not like such food, it is only an invitation to indigestion. No particular object can be called happiness, for no single object can provide happiness to everyone.

Neither can you say that happiness is a quality of an object, as color is a quality of a lotus. There is no object with happiness as its quality, for if such an object existed, everyone would become happy by having that object. Sugar or salt tastes the same to everyone, but no object gives the same taste of happiness to all.

Still, people do seem to pick up happiness from contact with objects. If that happiness does not lie in the objects, where it?

Is Happiness within Me?

If happiness lies within you, is it in your liver, intestines, heart, kidneys, or pancreas? It is, of course, absurd to say that any one of these internal organs is happiness, or that they secrete happiness. Neither are your sense organs a source of happiness, for if they were, you would. always be happy, because these organs are always in your body. Neither can one say that thoughts are the source of happiness, for often thoughts are a source of great sorrow.

You Are Happiness

If happiness is neither inside nor outside you, where is it? Only one possibility remains: the Self – because of which you are aware of your body, your emotions, your thoughts, and all the objects of the world – must be the source of happiness.

If you are happiness, why is it that you seem to become happy only when you come in contact with certain people, situations, or objects? If you analyze what happens in a given moment of happiness, you will discover that contact with anything that you like creates in you a pleased mind. When you desire something, the mind; is restless; when the desired object is gained, the restlessness is resolved and the mind is satisfied. The happiness you discover is in this satisfied, pleased mind, not in any object. People, situations, and objects that can bring about in you a pleased mind are the ones you love. Not all objects can do this; because of your background, values, and upbringing, only certain objects and individuals please you. But the happiness that you feel never comes from objects or people, however dear they may be. Happiness is manifest only in a satisfied mind, a mind that desires nothing, because the Self is the source of happiness. The joy that you feel when you see something beautiful or hear a pleasing song is an expression of your own nature – a Speck of the limitless happiness that you are.

Sleep, a State of Happiness

The experience of sleep confirms that your nature is indeed happiness everyone likes to sleep and is reluctant to get up, and because sleep is a happy experience, a respite from having to carry the burdens that we do during the day. There is a total absence of sorrow in sleep, because all differences are resolved under the blanket of sleep. All forms of duality vanish; there is no difference between the sleep of a king and that of a beggar. In the total absence of all else, you are with yourself alone. The happiness that you experience is yourself.

Happiness is the Absence of Desires

Whenever your mind does not long for anything, you are happy. In the interval between the fulfillment of one desire and the cropping up of the next, you are happy. Why do you sing in the shower? You do not do it to please yourself or anyone else; you do it simply because you are happy. At that time, the mind does not long for anything; all the window dressings, the masks you wear for people, are removed with your clothes – you are with yourself. Your singing is an expression of the happiness felt by a mind that rests in the Self.

A person who understands that the Self is the source of all happiness will be free from all desires. In the last section of the second chapter, the Lord describes such a person to Arjuna, saying:

प्रजहाति यदा कामान्सर्वान्पार्थ मनोगतान् ।

आत्मन्येवात्मना तुष्ट: स्थितप्रज्ञस्तदोच्यते || 2-55

When one completely renounces all the desires entertained by the mind, satisfied in the Self, by the Self, one is called a person of steady wisdom.

Just as fire is hot not because of any reason but – by nature, so a wise man is happy not because of any reason, but because happiness is his nature. Since a wise man knows that the Sell is the source of happiness, he requires nothing; by this knowledge, he casts away all desires.

Neither a ripple nor a breaker can add to the greatness of the ocean, each is only a fleeting expression of its greatness. The ocean remains unaffected even when these forum disappear. When you gain an object of your desire, the happiness that you experience is like a wave in the ocean. It is only a momentary expression of the happiness that is Yourself; and when it comes to an end, the fullness, ananda, that you are, remains unchanged. The one who recognizes that the Self is sat-chit-ananda सत्चितनान्द – existence, Awareness, and fullness is wise. That person is called sthita prajjan स्थितप्रज्ञ -, well rooted in wisdom.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from The Teaching of Bhagvad Gita

Link to Library of Swamiji’s talks and discourses


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