Magazines these days are filled with articles like ‘Ten short-cuts to happiness’. In Britain, newspapers are asking whether their nation is suffering from a ‘happiness-crisis’ quoting surveys to suggest that most Britons are grumpy, dissatisfied, depressed and unhappy. Several great philosophers since Aristotle have been searching for the secret of true happiness. Today, it’s simply rehashed as modern psycho-babble. Seems today there are over 5,000 books on the subject. Judging from this, it’s very obvious that people are not sure if they are happy or of how to be happy- a confusing state of affairs!
However, one thing is for sure. No one measures happiness in the same way. One person may be happy spending tons of money, while the miser is happy hoarding it. Some women are happy being just housewives while others find bliss in being career women. Even our own idea of happiness changes over the years. In childhood, toys and sweets made us happy. In our 20s, it was good grades, career and marriage; in the 30s, financial prosperity. In the 60s and 70s, we normally dream of growing old with our loved ones, sitting side by side, holding hands and watching grandchildren get married.
Of course, some of you might think, “Just give me two or three crore of Rupees and I shall be happy.” But if that were the case, every rich person would be happy. Think of Princess Diana. Now think of Mother Teresa. Diana had everything and yet had nothing while Mother had nothing and yet had everything. So one thing is for sure, money may ease your pain to some extent but can’t buy you happiness. It can give you bits of pleasure like buying a bigger or better house, a bigger TV, etc. but after that, your happiness pales. Our grandparents had very limited choices. Modern life has given us the power of choice but we seem to be unhappier than ever.
Today, women don’t just have to be a wives and mothers by the age of 22 or 24. We can be anything we want to be – engineers, doctors, lawyers or super-cops! Many of us can afford to have holidays in Bali, South Africa or New Zealand while our poor grandparents thought of Pune or Matheran as the ultimate treat. Today, we go shopping for cheese, butter or bread and have dozens of varieties to choose from. Do you think these choices really make us happy? Probably not! This is because we worry about making wrong decisions.
We used to hear about mid-life crisis. Today, we hear about quarter-life crisis when young adults between 25 to 30 years in age suffer panic and depression about whether they have pursued the right path of life or made correct career choices. A basically happy life is meaningful. So even after achieving fame, money and name, if happiness evades you, look for it within you or you will be like the Queen in the Kathopanishad who searched the entire palace for her necklace which she was wearing all the while. Real happiness is deeper spiritual awareness with inner peace. Trouble is, we look for it in all the wrong places. True happiness lies within us and doesn’t depend only on our outward circumstances.
In the Upanishads, there is a thought-provoking story of a musk deer (Kasturi-Mriga) which clearly elucidates the nature of real happiness. Once, while roaming about and frolicking among hills and dales, a Kasturi-Mriga suddenly became aware of an exquisite musk-scent which stirred the innermost depths of its soul so profoundly that the deer was determined to find the source of this heavenly fragrance. So keen was the deer’s longing for the scent that in spite of the severe cold winter it roamed about in a desperate search. It knew no fear and no rest for years and years until one day it fell from a cliff with a fatal injury. While breathing its last, the deer suddenly realized the scent which ravished its heart, making it roam aimlessly all through life, came from its own navel. Thus, the last few moments of the deer’s life were moments of regret for having chased after something, all life long, that was ultimately within itself.
Come to think of it, we are all like the musk deer. At a physical level, we search for love and happiness through family, marriage, children and friends. In the process, we select our own poisons and seal our own fate. At a higher metaphysical level, we search for peace, self-knowledge, inner-reality and God-realization through various books, lectures, seminars and rituals, sometimes becoming more confused than ever. All the love, happiness and peace are within us if only we have the inclination to look for them. Our real self (atma-swaroop) is so self-sufficient (sampoorna) that no external happiness or sorrow can touch it.
In most Indian cultures, the day began with prayers, spirituality and looking inwards. Early morning worship of the Sun was prevalent in ancient Egypt, Lemuria and Atlantis. The Magis of ancient Persia and the Vedicrishis started the day with Surya-Namaskar which led to spiritual introspection. Unless we realize this, we shall never free ourselves from the artificial life that enslaves us. We shall remain like the musk deer!