In association with Acharya Das

Everybody is seeking happiness, but where is happiness to be found?

Generally, a person’s quest for happiness is an outward-looking search. They look outside of themselves for something or someone they hope will fill them up and make them happy.

A general definition of happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, and contentment. Everybody is looking for happiness in their life. Nobody wants to be miserable. Everyone is very invested in their quest for happiness. This has been going on since time immemorial, and yet we are hard-pressed to find examples of those who have succeeded.

In the 1960s, the Rolling Stones had a huge hit, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” The refrain is, “’Cause I try, and I try and I try, and I try. I can’t get no satisfaction.” That’s quite a stunning admission. Rock stars are not known to be subtle or restrained. They lead a hedonistic lifestyle, in terms of all the forms of stimulation they can experience — and yet there was this admission that, despite all this, they’re not experiencing what they’re looking for.

Life Lessons from the Bhagavad-Gita: Happiness: Part 1 of 2

Unfortunately, most people don’t question why there is such difficulty in finding happiness. Instead, they just try something different. They turn up the volume, amp it up, or do something to add a twist. But from a yogic perspective, if we examine these attempts to be happy, we learn that something can, at one time, appear to be quite heavenly to us, and then exactly the same thing can become hellish — like how a piece of music we really love becomes something we dislike after listening to it over and over.

Why does this happen?

There are a few reasons from a spiritual perspective. If we break down any material thing, like an iPad, or a candy, and break it down to its atomic parts, we find that these atoms do not contain one ounce of bliss in them. It’s not the nature of material energy to possess blissfulness. It doesn’t matter how I rearrange it or what form it takes. By putting it into my body through my mouth, eyes, ears, or rubbing it against my skin, I can stimulate my senses, but nothing actually touches me. Nothing fills me up or satisfies. That’s because there is no real bliss or happiness contained within material energy. That is not its nature.

The other thing that needs to be considered is an extremely important and foundational spiritual truth — that I am not this body that I am wearing. This body is a vehicle that “I” am using. My mind is something that “I” am using. It is not me. Therefore, no matter what I do with my body, it doesn’t affect “me”, the spiritual being within. So, I can be exposed to vast amounts of sensual stimulation and material experiences but, despite it all, I am left feeling empty.

See video: The Self Is Separate from The Mind by Jagad Guru

In the Bhagavad-Gita, there is a verse that says:

Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure or external objects but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.

Bhagavad-Gita 5.21

In this verse from Bhagavad-Gita, we are being told that we need to direct our search for happiness inwards rather than outwards. It has to become an internal quest, where we are actually experiencing our true identity. In the Sanskrit for this verse, the term Brahma-yoga is used. It means to be focused, concentrated, and absorbed in that which is eternal. We have this external world that is temporary and constantly changing. It is never going to remain the same. It is made up of a substance that, no matter how much of it we cram into or onto our body, it will not fulfill us and give us that happiness we are seeking.

Many of the things that people mistakenly think are giving them joy are, in fact, experiences which simply distract them from the boredom, loneliness, and emptiness they are experiencing. Consequently, people may erroneously believe that the different experiences which take their mind off negative things are relieving us of our unhappiness and making us happy. But this is untrue.

The Bhagavad-Gita shines a light on the fact that there is another world within, and an intelligent person does not chase the fleeting idea of happiness in the external world. Rather, he goes within, to seek out a source of spiritual experience and joy that is described as ananda, or bliss.

In the next verse it says:

An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.

Bhagavad-Gita 5.22

So-called material happiness, the little joys that we can get in life, have a beginning and, therefore, must also have an end. That is the nature of things; part of the duality of this world. So, if something has a beginning and we know that it will surely end, investing a lot of effort into that experience is not very smart. This enjoyment will not satisfy us, and it will pass.

One whose happiness is within, who is active within, who rejoices within and is illuminated within, is actually the perfect mystic. He is liberated in the Supreme, and ultimately, he attains the Supreme.

Bhagavad-Gita 5.24

There is a genuine spiritual experience that is to be had. The process of yoga is the process of undertaking that journey and re-directing this quest for happiness to a place where we can genuinely find complete fulfilment.

Speaking to Arjuna, Krishna says;

O best of the Bharatas, now please hear from Me about the three kinds of happiness by which the conditioned soul enjoys, and by which he sometimes comes to the end of all distress.

Bhagavad-Gita 18.36

Material life is inseparable from distress. It doesn’t matter how so-called perfect your life is, how privileged you may be, what sort of opportunities you have, and what experiences you have. These things will not fulfil you, and even if you are unrestricted in trying to enjoy these different opportunities, eventually your body ages, and your ability to have these experiences becomes severely limited or restricted. Eventually, you are forcibly dragged away from this body by the experience of death. So, it does not end well.

Stay tuned for the Part 2 on Happiness.

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