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 desires and the cropping up of the next, you are happy. Why do you sing in the shower? You don’t 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.
Everyone suffers from a sense of limitation but no one accepts that, because one cannot be happy as a limited being. Through analysis we can identify three types of limitations. The first is the limitation of sorrow. Sometimes our sorrow is very eloquent, sometimes it is only an unwept sorrow; but the basis of sorrow, the feeling, ”All is not well with me” is always there. That the human heart is subject to sorrow is a limitation no one wants to accept.
Another limitation that we feel is that of time. Nobody wants to die today; everyone wants to live a day longer. Animals and plants also have this love for life. Even a tree bends to grow towards the sun. Only if we find that this world can no longer give us happiness do we think of quitting it; if a person is healthy and happy, he or she wants to live on. Perhaps it is this love for continuity that accounts for the desire to have a son or a daughter, or urges one to engrave one’s name on a stone. No one wants to disappear without leaving a trace.
We know that we shall all die one day, and yet we want to live for at least today. The desire to live today is the desire to be eternal; we do not want to admit that we are mortal, even though we know very well that our birth and death are marked on the-sands of time. Mortality, a limitation with respect to time, is the second limitation that we cannot stand.
The third limitation that humankind suffers is ignorance. If a person is not enrolled in a school or a training institute, he or she will at least stand at the window to see what is happening in the street. This behavior is an expression of our innate love for knowledge. We cannot stand ignorance; We always want to know something more.
If you examine all your pursuits, pravritti प्रवृति or nivritti निवृत्ति, you will discover that all your life you have been trying to overcome these three limitations. You seem to have concluded that you are sorrowful, mortal, ignorant. You seek more security and more objects so that you can be comfortable in your life; much of your time is spent in going after things that are meant m make you happy, to keep sorrow at bay. Another part of your life is spent in pursuing things that will keep you going just one day more; you do exercises or take vitamins and proteins out of a desire to live a little longer. A third part of your life is spent gathering knowledge. For some, such as scientists, who regard knowledge as the most important goal in life, this is the most predominant pursuit, but everyone does devote a part of his or her life to learning. Picking up a newspaper in the morning is prompted by this quest for knowledge; reading the Gita is motivated by a desire to seek freedom from one‘s sense of inadequacy. Thus the three things we seek in all our pursuits are freedom from sorrow, freedom from death, and freedom from ignorance.
The Lord Krishna says that all the three limitations, are illegitimate; that is, all three are asocya अशोच्या, matters that do not warrant any grief. A problem can be solved only if it is legitimate. If you see a snake on the road you can choose to avoid it or chase it away, so that you can continue on the road. Encountering a snake is a’ legitimate problem and it can be solved by such actions. But if the problem looming large in your mind is illegitimate, how can you solve it by an act? Let us consider the famous example of a rope mistaken for a snake by an imaginative mind. The illegitimate, projected snake and the fear one experiences on seeing it cannot be removed by beating the snake or by throwing a stone or by praying or clapping. The snake and the fright caused by it will go away only when one comes to know that there is no snake in fact. When one sees the rope, the problem is solved and one’s fear goes. In this case, one solves the problem not by action, but by knowledge. A legitimate problem can be solved by action but an illegitimate one can only be solved by knowing that it is illegitimate.
If I can make you see that a given problem does not really exist, I have released you from it. The knowledge that the limitations of sorrow, time, and ignorance do not really exist for you frees you from these limitations. That knowledge is called sankya, that which is clearly seen. it is unfolded by Vedanta.
There are many occasions in life, many situations in life that I can change. If I have enough resources, I can change the furniture in my house, I can buy new clothes, I can eat out three times a week, I can camp out every week-end, I can have a new hair-cut, it’s endless. If it’s cold I can buy a heater. If it’s warm I can buy an air-conditioner. A new micro-wave ……yes there are a lot of changes that I can make.
If I have no resources but a lot of creativity, I can do the same things that I do every day, in new ways! I can cook food with the same ingredients, but it tastes different and good. I can lay out the table in new ways. I can sing and dance a little differently each time and enjoy it too. I can change my job, my apartment, my car. If I have a big heart, I can express the love in my heart in many different ways too.
I can change my attitudes and my behavior if I choose to. I can tighten what needs to be tightened and loosen what needs to be loosened. If I am very inflexible and rigid as a person, I can become more flexible. If I am critical always and finding-fault I can try and change that too. If I am angry and always want things my way – well I can look into that too if I want to. If I always blame others for my problems, I could see if that is true. If I am a person who does not know how to draw boundaries, then I can learn how to do that. I am always emotionally dependent on someone and it has become painful for me, I can learn how to grow out of that. If I am very fearful always, I can learn to face challenges boldly. If I’m so bold that I become fool-hardy, then I can learn to exercise caution.
Whatever I can change, if I feel I need to change it – I should change.
But I don’t call all the shots in life. There are some situations which are what they are, some events that have taken place, which I cannot change. I cannot change the weather of the country. I cannot change the politicians immediately! I cannot change the fact that a near and dear person has passed away. Sometimes I have family responsibilities, my boss is a pain and I cannot change my job. Above all I cannot change people – this includes my parents, my spouse, my in-laws, my children, my boss, my co-workers, friends, employees. I cannot change my past – happy or sad. I cannot change my childhood. I cannot change my age. I cannot change the way I look very often….the list is endless.
When something cannot be changed whatever it might be – when I find that I have an incapacity to order things as I want – I feel helpless, sad, agitated and angry. I get into a depression very often too.
Now this is the hard fact – that the situation cannot be changed. If I want people to change why should they? They might want me to change too. Maybe I also don’t want to change. Nobody can make a person change unless that person really wants to change. This is how it is. Maybe if I try to understand the background from which the person comes, then I can understand them better and feel some compassion towards them instead of anger. Maybe my expectations are unreasonable. Maybe my expectations are reasonable but the person cannot meet them, or does not want to meet them. Whatever the reason, this is how it is.
Would it not be just easier to accept gracefully that this is how the person is, this is how the situation is, this is how my past was, what has happened has happened. I cannot do anything about it. If I can change something I will – if I cannot, I accept it just gracefully. When I accept, there is a relief because my resistance to a fact is gone.
But the capacity to accept gracefully what I cannot change is not something that I am able to do easily. But at least I can have a value for it. I can have a value for it only if I know what benefit I get from it. To understand the value of graceful acceptance, let’s see what I get if I don’t have this acceptance. Then we can see what can help us.
When I am unable to accept a fact that cannot be changed – I feel helpless, I feel anger and resentment. All my present moments are occupied only in brooding and thinking and repeating the scenes again and again. I lose my self-esteem and destroy any chance of joy I might have in the current moment. Supposing I am walking and there is a beautiful sunset- I am unable to enjoy this truth about my present moment – I spoil my present moments with brooding about the past, the injustice, how I would like the situation to change. And if I keep up this frame of mind of resistance and pain indefinitely, my health is affected. I get ulcers, heart-problems, headaches, body-pains. I find no joy in life and my sadness spills over to others in my environment.
Now when the fact is that I cannot change the situation, does this frame of mind help me? Or does it hurt me. Very clearly, I am hurting myself. Do I want to continue to hurt myself? That is the choice I am faced with. I can continue to hurt myself by retaining this resistance to facts and working myself up into hurting and feeling bad – or I can just let go -by accepting. Consciously dropping my will to resist an unchangeable fact.
I have to see this very clearly and have a value for the peace of mind and a certain relief that results because of this acceptance of facts. Once I have a value for it, then there are ways to help myself to let go. Here devotion to the Lord born of understanding the Lord is invaluable. For understanding the Lord come to Gita class! Here an understanding of the Lord as All-Intelligence and seeing the fact that whatever there is in this creation is in Order, ( even disorder is in ultimate order) there is a meaning behind it all, there is a purpose is very important. The purpose of my life is to grow – maybe because of these situations now I can pray. Growing devotion in the form of a growing trust in the Lord’s order, a growing trust that every situation has a purpose and meaning behind it all and it must be all for the best even though I may not be quite able to understand it right now.
I recognize that I am helpless in accepting the situation and then when I am helpless I can seek help from the Source of All- Help – the Lord in a meaningful prayer. Seeking help when I need it, is intelligent living. So I can make this prayer to the Lord:-
O Lord, may I have the maturity to accept gracefully what I cannot change; may I have the will and effort to change what I can; and may I have the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot change.
Sorrow does not happen; you contrive it. When you hear the news of someone’s death, you are only shocked; only after the news sinks in does sorrow slowly develop. Like jealousy and “other emotions, sorrow is built up. Happiness is natural to you, sorrow is not. If sorrow were natural, you would be happily sorrowful; but you want to get rid of it, and you can get rid of it, because it does not belong to you. Though it looks as if happiness comes and goes, it does not. It is only that your confused thoughts sometimes keep you from enjoying the happiness that you are. You think that this world makes you sorrowful, and that giving it up will help you; but you cannot give up the world totally as long as you are alive. As Lord Krishna has said in Gita, no one can remain without activity even for a moment:-
न हि कश्चित्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् (3.5)
na hi kaśhchit kṣhaṇam api jātu tiṣhṭhatyakarma-kṛit
In addition to meaning work, psychologically the word कर्म karma also implies causation. Any word, any action, any thought, that produces an effect is called a karma. Thus the law of karma means the law of causation, of inevitable cause and sequence. Wheresoever there is a cause, there an effect must be produced; this necessity cannot be resisted; and this law of karma, according to our philosophy, is true throughout the whole universe. Whatever we see or feel or do, whatever action there is anywhere in the universe, while being on the one hand the effect of past work, becomes, on the other, a cause in its turn and produces its own effect.
It is necessary, together with this, to consider what is meant by the word law. By law is meant the tendency of a series to repeat itself. When we see one event followed by another, or sometimes happening simultaneously with another, we expect this sequence or coexistence to recur. Our old logicians and philosophers of the Nyaya school call this law by the name of व्याप्ति vyapti. According to them all our ideas of law are due to association. A series of phenomena becomes associated with certain things in our mind in a sort of invariable order; so whatever we perceive at any time is immediately referred to similar facts in the mind. Any one idea or, according to our psychology, any one wave that is produced in the mind-stuff, or चित्त chitta, must always give rise to many similar waves. This is the psychological idea of association, and causation is only an aspect of this grand pervasive principle of association. This pervasiveness of association is what is, in Sanskrit, called व्याप्ति vyapti. In the external world the idea of law is the same as in the internal-the expectation that a particular phenomenon will be followed by another and that the series will repeat itself. Strictly speaking, therefore, law does not exist in nature. It is really an error to say that gravitation exists in the earth or that there is any law existing objectively anywhere in nature. Law is the method, the manner, in which our mind grasps a series of phenomena; it is all in the mind. Certain phenomena, happening one after another, or together, and followed by the conviction of the regularity of their recurrence, thus enabling our minds to grasp the method of the whole series, are explained by what we call law.
The next question for consideration is what we mean by law’s being universal. Our universe is that portion of Existence which is conditioned by what the Sanskrit philosophers call देश-काल -निमित्त des’a-kala-nimitta, or what is known to European philosophy as space, time, and causation. This universe is only a part of Infinite Existence, thrown into a peculiar mold composed of space, time, and causation. It necessarily follows that law is possible only within this conditioned Universe; beyond it there cannot be any law. When we speak of the universe We mean only that portion of Existence which is limited by our minds-the universe of the senses, which we can see, feel, touch, hear, think of, imagine This alone is under law; but beyond it, Existence cannot be subject to law’ because causation does not extend beyond the world of our minds. Anything, beyond the range of the mind and the senses is not bound by the law of causation, because there is no mental association of things in the region beyond the senses, and no causation is possible without association of ideas. It is only when Being or Existence becomes molded into name and form that it obeys the law of causation and is said to be subject to law-because all law has its essence in causation.
Therefore we see at once that there cannot be any such thing as free will; the very words are a contradiction, because the will is something that we know, and everything that we know is within our universe, and everything within our universe is molded by the conditions of space, time, and causation. Everything that we know, or can possibly know, must be subject to causation, and that which obeys the law of causation cannot be free. It is acted upon by other agents and becomes a cause in its turn. But that which has become converted into the will, which was not the will before, but which, when it fell into this mold of space, time, and causation, became converted into the human will, is free; and when this will gets out of the mold of space, time, and causation, it will be free again. From freedom it comes, and it falls into the mold of bondage, and it gets out and goes back to freedom again.
To acquire freedom we have to get beyond the limitations of this universe; it cannot be found here. Perfect equilibrium, or what the Christians call the Peace that passeth all understanding, cannot be had in this universe, nor in heaven, nor in any place where our minds and thoughts can go, where the senses can feel, or of which the imagination can conceive. No such place can give us that freedom, because all such places would be within our universe, and it is limited by space, time, and causation. There may be places that are more ethereal than this earth of ours, where enjoyments are keener; but even those places must be in the universe, and therefore in bondage to law. So we have to go beyond, and real religion begins where this little universe ends. These little joys and sorrows and this knowledge of things end there, and Reality begins. Until we give up the thirst after life, the strong attachment to this our transient, conditioned existence, we have no hope of catching even a glimpse of that infinite freedom beyond. It stands to reason then that there is only one way to attain to that freedom, which is the goal of all the noblest aspirations of mankind, and that is to give up this little life, give up this little universe, give up this earth, give up heaven, give up the body, give up the mind, give up everything that is limited and conditioned. If we give up our attachment to this little universe of the senses and of the mind, we shall be free immediately. The only way to come out of bondage is to go beyond the limitation of law, to go beyond causation.
But it is a most difficult thing to give up the clinging to this universe; few ever attain to that. There are two ways to do it mentioned in our books. One is called “नेति नेति Neti, neti” (“Not this, not this”); the other is called “इति इति Iti Iti” (“This is This is”); the former is the negative, and the latter is the positive, way. The negative way is the more difficult. It is only possible for men of the very highest, exceptional minds and gigantic wills, who simply stand up and say, “No, I will not have this,” and the mind and body obey their will, and they come out successfully. But such people are very rare. The vast majority of mankind choose the positive way, the way through the world, making use of their bondage in order to break that very bondage. This is also a kind of giving up; only it is done slowly and gradually, by knowing things, enjoying things, and thus obtaining experience and knowing the nature of things until the mind lets them all go at last and becomes unattached. The former way of obtaining non-attachment is by reasoning, and the latter way is through work and experience. The first is the path of ज्ञानयोग jnana-yoga, characterized by the refusal to do any work; the second is that of कर्मयोग karma-yoga, in which there is no cessation from work. Almost everyone in the universe must work. Only those who are perfectly satisfied with the Self, whose desires do not go beyond the Self, whose minds never stray out of the Self, to whom the Self is all in all-only those do not work. The rest must work.
A current of water, rushing down of its own nature, falls into a hollow and makes a whirlpool, and after turning around a little there, it emerges again in the form of the free current to go on unchecked. Each human life is like that Current. It gets into the whirl, becomes involved in this world of space, time, and Causation, whirls round a little, crying out, “my father, my brother, my name, my fame,” and so on, and at last emerges out of it and regains its original freedom. The whole universe is doing that. Whether we know it or not, whether we are conscious or unconscious of it, we are all working to get out of the whirl of the world. The aim of man’s experience in the world is to enable him to get out of its whirlpool.
What is karma-yoga? The knowledge of the secret of work. We see that, whole universe is working. For what? For salvation, for liberty. From the atom to the highest being, working for the one end: liberty of the mind, of the body, of the spirit. All things are always trying to get freedom, to fly away from bondage. The sun, the moon, the earth, the planets, all are trying to H: away from bondage. The centrifugal and centripetal forces function throughout the whole universe. Instead of being knocked about in this universe and after long delay and thrashing, getting to know things as they are, we lean; from karma-yoga the secret of work, the method of work, the organizing power of work. A vast mass of energy may be spent in vain if we do not know how to utilize it. Karma-yoga makes a science of work; you learn by it how best to utilize all the activities in this world. Work is inevitable; it must be so. But We should work to the highest purpose. Karma-yoga makes us realize that this world is a world of five minutes, that it is something we have to pass through, and that freedom is not here, but is only to be found beyond. To find the way out of the bondage of the world we have to go through it slowly and surely, There may be exceptional persons, such as those about whom I just spoke, who can stand aside and give up the world as a snake casts off its skin and looks at it as a witness. There are, no doubt, these exceptional beings; but the rest of mankind have to go slowly through this world. Karma-yoga shows the process, the secret and method of doing it to the best advantage.
What does it say? Work incessantly, but give up all attachment to work. Do not identify yourself with anything. Hold your mind free. All that you see, the pains and the miseries, are but the necessary conditions of this world. Poverty and wealth and happiness are but momentary; they do not belong to Our real nature at all. Our nature is far beyond misery and happiness, beyond every object of the senses, beyond the imagination. And yet we must go on working all the time. Misery comes through attachment, not through work. As soon as we identify ourselves with the work we do, we feel miserable; but if we do not identify ourselves with it, we do not feel that misery. If a beautiful picture belonging to another is burnt, a man does not generally become miserable; but when his own picture is burnt how miserable he feels! Why? Both were beautiful pictures, perhaps copies of the same original; but in one case very much more misery is felt than in the other. It is because in one case he identities himself with the picture, and in the other he does not.
Therefore be unattached. Let things work; let the brain centers work; work incessantly, but let not a ripple conquer the mind. Work as if you were a stranger in this land, a sojourner. Work incessantly, but do not bind yourselves; bondage is terrible. This world is not our habitation, but only a stage through which we are passing. Remember that great saying of the Samkhya philosophy: “The whole of nature is for the soul, not the soul for nature.” The very reason for nature’s existence is the education of the soul; it has no other meaning. It is there because the soul must have knowledge, and through knowledge free itself. If we remember this always, we shall never be attached to nature; we shall know that nature is a book which we are to read, and that when we have gained the required knowledge the book is of no more value to us. Instead of that, however, we identify ourselves with nature; we think that the soul is for nature, that the spirit is for the flesh, and, as the common saying has it, we think that man “lives to eat,” not “eats to live.” We are continually making this mistake; we regard nature as the self and become attached to it; and as soon as this attachment comes, there is created in the soul a deep impression, which binds us down and makes us work, not through freedom but like slaves.
Adapted from: Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works, Karma Yoga
Go back to the first day you can remember. Please come up with a day, during the time in your waking hours, when you were totally free from want and desire. You do not have desires for fun. Your desires are important to you and you want to fulfill them so that you can be happier and fuller than what you are now. When you were a child, you wanted a toy and your mother said, ‘No’. You wanted to play and your mother said, ‘Play later, study now.’ When you did not want to go to school, your father said, ‘You have to go.’ When you did not want to wear certain clothes, your father said, ‘You must wear them.’ When you wanted something else like a balloon, the answer was, ‘Not now.’ One more chocolate? ‘No.’ There were number of desires which you did not fulfill as a child, in the school or at home. This repeated day after day. As a young man or woman, again desires remained unfulfilled. Now you are an adult and the desires have only multiplied. Still many remain unfulfilled. Can you come up with one day where you were completely free from desires? Even today, you have number of desires of which some have been replaced because you could not fulfill them.
Thus you have always believed that you were a wanting, inadequate person. You want to have a bigger house in a better locality and a better job. You wish your son or daughter was a little different. Your daughter-in-law must, of course, be different! You wish everything were better. Thus, you want so many things to be different in your life.
Then suddenly, in between you hear a joke, you laugh. There are moments in your life you pick up glimpses of joy. One day, out of the blue, the stars and sky seem to be very beautiful. They seem to capture your imagination and make you happy. When a child lies there putting the big toe in its mouth, watching the sky, you feel so happy. Or it just laughs at the ceiling for no reason. You do not know why but you find yourself laughing along. You become as innocent as the child at that time. Where there is laughter, there is joy. There are moments in life, when you get what you want or when there are some desirable sensory experiences, then you are happy. You read an inspiring quote or a wonderful sentence, you become happy. You see a nice cartoon, you are happy. You observe something amusing happening on the side walk, you are happy or you simply hear a slapstick joke, you are happy. There are hundreds of occasions in life, whether desires are fulfilled or not; with all your problems, self-condemnations, opinions about yourself, in spite of all this where you find yourself happy.
That happiness is you. There is no demand there, because you are fullness which manifests when demand is absent. The mind then sheds and forgets all the problems, desires and wishes. It just gives up all that and you find you are happy. Happiness only happens when you forget about yourself! When clouds go away, the sun is seen. When the clouds come, the sun is not seen.
Similarly, the clouded mind, the demanding person that you have been with the mind, gives up the demands for the time being because of the desirable situation. You find fullness manifests. But again you demand because you do not know the truth. You only go by experience, you do not know. That the experience of happiness is you, you do not know.
Not knowing that happiness is you, inevitably a new thought arises and you begin to remember your demands, wishes, problems and you are the same old person. You become happy one moment, that is you and the next moment, you are sad, that is not you. But that is the available you, demanding you. So happy, sad, happy, sad; if you know it alternates in this way, life will be wonderful. There will be no problem because you know happiness is going to come next minute and you can be happy still. Even if sorrow comes, it does not matter, do not worry because happiness will follow. But life is not like that. The length of sorrow far outweighs the period of happiness.
In happiness, you cannot say that the world is not there. The world is very much there. You listen to music, you are happy. You listen to the Swami and he jokes, so you are all happy. At that time the world is there, you are there, the mind is there, eyes are there, ears are there, the self is there. See what is not there, then you will understand unhappiness. You do not want the Swami to be different and you do not want yourself to be different. You do not want this hall to be different, or any situation to be different. When you are happy, what happens? There is no dividing line between you and me, meaning there is no demand. You are very much present, but the demanding you is absent and you are happy.
The world does not create any dent in your fullness. It does not create any division in your consciousness. Your fullness can accommodate the whole creation. Fullness always continues. This is what happens whenever your mind is non-demanding, you are non-demanding. That happiness is nothing but fullness, limitlessness, you. This is You!
The term “Life” is easier to understand by analyzing and understanding its antonym “Death”. An organism is said to be dead when it completely ceases to receive or respond to the stimuli from external objects. In other words, “Death” is a state of total cessation of experience. Life, therefore, is defined as a continuous series of experiences – anubhavadhara, अनुभवधारा.
Since life is a series of experiences, each experience becomes a unit of life just as a brick is the unit of a wall. The strength or weakness of a wall will depend upon the quality and texture of the bricks constituting it. Similarly, the type of experiences that an individual goes through will determine the character of his life. If his experiences are happy, his life is happy and if they are miserable, his life is miserable.
An individual gains an experience when he receives and responds to a stimulus from the external world. An experience therefore is constituted of the following three entities:-
The Experiencer ….the subject,
The Experienced… the object,
The Experiencing…..the relationship between the subject and the object.
The field of enquiry of the ऋषि Rsis, was the “experiencer”, whereas that of the physical scientist was the “experienced”. Investigation about the “experiencer” is philosophy, while investigation about the “experienced” is science.
The Rsis tried to develop the inner personality of man and make him independent of the environment and happenings in his world. Thus, their goal was to raise the standard of life in man.
The scientists, on the other hand, tried to beautify and make the world a better place to live in; their attempt was, therefore, directed to raising the standard of living.
Excerpts from: Self-Unfoldment
The scriptures explain this truth and help to awaken the dormant faculty in us. Once we learn the art of quieting the mind, our mind will no longer find it necessary to pursue the objects of the world for gaining peace and happiness. At that point we will have learned the real joy of living. We will get established in a state of permanent happiness, independent of the environment or the circumstances. A person who has achieved this state stands out like a beacon-light for others.
Happiness = Number of desires fulfilled / Number of desires entertained
We can increase the amount of happiness by either of the following:
- Increasing the numerator
- Decreasing the denominator
Fulfillment of existing desires quiets the agitations created by desires. Again, if we have fewer desires, the agitations in the mind are lessened. In either case, it is the lessening of agitations that quiets the mind and therefore produces happiness.
The formula works. However, there is one caution about Working on the numerator only: Fulfilling our desires generally causes more desires to spring up.
No sooner do we have the desire for a new house fulfilled, then springs up the desire for new carpeting. As soon as the house is freshly recarpeted, a previously unknown desire for a deck looms its head. No sooner is the deck finished, then the desire for a swimming pool has us in its grips. It never stops.
And as the number of desires increases, the denominator increases, resulting in reduced happiness. Thus, the best way of establishing permanent happiness is to reduce the number of desires entertained by directing our thoughts to a higher ideal of principle.
Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati
Doing your work and raising your children are only a means to an agenda; they are themselves not the agenda. One’s agenda in life can simply be emotional maturity. We are born with an innate desire to be happy and free. When can you experience this happiness and freedom? It can happen only when you are emotionally mature. Therefore, emotional maturity becomes an agenda in itself. All the things you do, such as your work or raising children, should be done in such a way that they bring about emotional maturity. These are very demanding things. You fulfill all those duties properly to bring about emotional maturity. It is different if you cop out or take short cuts, but if you sincerely fulfill the demands that are made upon you, Whether in your workplace or in relating to your family, your friends, or the community, life will become a process of achieving emotional maturity. Whatever you do must be done in keeping with dharma so that your very life will become a means to emotional maturity.
Relating to each other requires us to drop and let go of things. As much as is possible, we must let go of our demands, our rights, and our egos in order to nourish and nurture relationships. The most important thing in any relationship is our ability to nurture that relationship. After all, most of our happiness comes from relationships. Objects such as pizza and ice cream might contribute in a small way, but as emotional beings, our real happiness or joy comes from our relationships. By relationships, I mean all kinds of relationships Whether between a husband and wife, between, parents and children, between siblings, friends or in the workplace. Each one of these relationships can be a source of great happiness just as much as each one of them can also be a problem. That’s why every relationship is important.
A friendship, for example, is a very precious relationship. It is a great blessing to have a good friend, and however many you may have, you must nourish each friendship. Just as a young plant needs you to constantly take care of it, so also, every relationship requires a commitment on your part not to take it for granted. We cannot take any relationship for granted. Nothing can be taken for granted. Each relationship requires nurturing and nourishing. It requires an investment on one’s part. In turn, the relationship is a source of great joy. Every relationship can, therefore, become a means to grow in emotional maturity.
Every relationship has its own demands. The relationship between a husband and wife may be one of the most demanding relationships. Even the relationship of the teacher and student such as between us needs to be maintained, nurtured, and nourished. Therefore, each one has to play the role of being related to another properly.
We are constantly relating to the world. That is the nature of our lives. Our minds are ceaselessly thinking about something or someone. Our interaction with the world is also a relationship. We are social beings and relationships are the most important and valuable things that We have. This demands that we value them and treat them with commitment and wisdom. Therefore, even as you live the life of a householder, it is a means to grow in emotional maturity. Guard against your ego coming in the way of your relationships. Remember that the ego is not a source of happiness, but a burden. If the relationship requires that you drop the ego, then that is good. Why don’t you drop it? When we understand this, we will be ready to let go.
Whenever I feel helpless, I feel inadequate because I cannot change what I do not want. I cannot get rid of what I do not want, and I cannot get what I want. Whenever I feel dependent, unsuccessful, or rejected, then I feel inadequate. Therefore, if I look at any moment when I am unhappy or sorrowful, I find that the cause of the sorrow is this sense of incompleteness or inadequacy centered upon myself. That I am inadequate, incomplete, limited, dependent, helpless all these are different names for the same thing-is the only cause of sorrow. Nothing else whatsoever is needed to make me unhappy.
It is this sense of inadequacy that is the cause of sorrow, and inadequacy is not the true nature of myself. If I were inadequate or incomplete by nature, then I would have no problem with inadequacy or incompleteness. Nothing has a problem with its true nature. Fire has no problem being hot; it is comfortable being hot. Ice is comfortable being cold. Night is comfortable being dark. Day is comfortable being bright. Everything is comfortable when it is with its own nature. The discomfort arises only when there is deviation or separation from the true nature.
If I am uncomfortable with the sense of inadequacy or incompleteness, that itself shows that incompleteness or inadequacy cannot be my nature. If it were my nature, I would be comfortable with it. There is never a complaint about that which conform with its true nature. There is complaint only when something is different from its nature.
Once a physician came where we were studying, and all the students lined up to see him. The doctor asked one fellow, “What is your problem? The fellow responded, “I feel hungry.” The doctor replied, “That is good. That is not a problem. There is no medication for that.” To be hungry is natural. In fact, nobody should complain to a doctor about being hungry. I would complain if I did not feel hungry, if I did not have a good appetite. Then this fellow said, I sleep. Again the doctor replied, “That is also not a problem. There is no medication for that, either. If you do not sleep, then we can do something for you.” The idea is that there cannot be a complaint or discomfort with what is my nature. Discomfort is there only when I am in some way separated or deviated from or denied my nature. And this is the problem with the human being, who is always suffering from an inner discomfort.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says
न हि कश्िचत्क्षणमपि जातु तिष्ठत्यकर्मकृत् (3.5)
na hi kaschitkshanamapi jaatu tishthatyakarmakrita |
a person is not able to sit quietly or inactively, even for a moment. Why is it so? Helplessly, he is made to do something because of the discomfort existing in his mind. We are born with this discomfort. Children are lucky because they have not yet grown to feel this discomfort. All living beings other than human beings are also lucky, if you want to call them lucky, because they have not evolved sufficiently to become aware of this discomfort. Not that animals are free or happy, but the point is that they are spared this thing that creates sorrow, this discomfort centered on the self. Apparently to be unhappy with my own self, to be dissatisfied with myself, requires a great amount of sensitivity and evolution, and other creatures are not evolved to the extent that they become sensitive about their own selves.
On the one hand, sensitivity is the name of the game. On the other hand, sensitivity is what makes me unhappy. If I do not know much about music, for example, then you can sing however you want, everything is fine. The more I know, however, then the more I become sensitive and tuned in to every little deviation in pitch or rhythm. Similarly, if you do not know Sanskrit grammar, or any grammar for that matter, then it is all fine, there is no problem. But once you know, then you start noticing grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and so on.
The human being is the most evolved and sensitive creature because a human is sensitive about his own self. I am a self-conscious being, meaning that I am sensitive about myself, and sensitive about the fact that I am incomplete or inadequate. Along with that awareness comes the non-acceptance of myself because of inadequacy or incompleteness. I am not comfortable with myself, I am not happy with myself because I am incomplete, inadequate. This conclusion or opinion about myself that I am inadequate or incomplete arises on account of my failure to separate the self from the non-self. What I am uncomfortable about is really not the self; what I am uncomfortable about are the notions arising from the combination, or lumping together, of self and non-self.
At some point, there must be some awareness that I am limitless because there is a natural love for limitlessness. There must be some awareness that I am free because there is a natural love for freedom. Somewhere I should know that happiness is my nature because there is a natural love for happiness.
So also, in the state of deep sleep we do experience freedom and unconditional happiness. We are not aware at that time that we are experiencing it, but the experience is there nevertheless. And that experience of happiness or freedom becomes the frame of reference with which I constantly keep on judging and evaluating myself. Finding myself always inadequate with regard to that reference point 18 the reason why I am constantly seeking to be free from unhappiness and constantly seeking to be happy.
Sukha~prapti, attainment of happiness, and duhkha-nivrtti, avoidance of unhappiness, is natural for all living beings. Avoiding death and seeking immortality is natural. Avoiding ignorance and seeking knowledge is natural. Avoiding unhappiness or sorrow and seeking happiness is natural. And thus, life consists of a constant search for happiness, knowledge, freedom, immortality, thinking that all of these things are somewhere else, in a location other than myself.
This is a very sad situation. It is like an animal, such as a deer, running toward water in the distance when it is thirsty. In fact, it is only mirage water, but thinking that it is real, the deer runs toward it. As it runs toward the mirage, the water seems to recede farther and farther, and the poor deer can never reach it. Ultimately, it collapses along the way.
Similarly, the poor human being is running toward happiness, freedom, immortality, wisdom, knowledge, and never seems to find it. That is the situation – I am searching, not knowing that what I am searching for is, in fact, my own nature. You can also call it the nature of brahman, the absolute, or the nature of imam, the Lord.
Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati