Who does not want happiness and peace in life? All of us do indeed. Our whole life is nothing but a prolonged pursuit for the same. However, unfortunately, the more we try for the same the more we are distanced from true happiness and peace. This greatest paradox and irony of life call for serious probing within the nature of happiness and peace and their antagonistic relation with our mundane way of living.
More often than not by sheer mistake, we take the nearest way to happiness through temporary fulfilment of desires arising out of consumerism and demonstration effect and finally land up in drudgery, frustration and misery. In modern life we have need for too many things. There is nothing wrong in having or using the same. But we must not be possessed by the madness of obsessive compulsion for the same. Rather we should possess and consume these things with a studied sense of deliberate detachment.
Happiness is a state of mind instantly produced by sense- gratification through touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing of the desirables. At emotional level, it is produced by social interactions, love, affection, enthusiasm, patriotism, compassion, empathy etc. Intellectual happiness originates from critical appreciation of art and literature, creativity, scientific discoveries, leadership, decision-making, problem-solving etc. Higher happiness springs from giving and not grabbing, self-sacrifice for a great cause, devotion to God, self-extension through service of man etc. But happiness is invariably of dependent origin and intensely subjective. It is nothing but a distant glimpse of the characteristic peace of our innermost being.
Permanent inner peace independent of transient externals is the nature of being. Whereas impermanent happiness dependent on desired possessions and praised performance is the pastime of the ego, which never allows us to remain in peace as the ego survives on discontent. It suffers from identity crisis in case we remain in tranquillity and peace and therefore whispers from within to get something more and better and thereby remain unhappy.
Once as a child, I used to think that if I could get a tricycle I would be extremely happy. When I was gifted a tricycle, I became extremely happy for some time. At the same time, I was haunted by the anxiety that it was getting scratches, dust, and rust and getting old. When all of my friends started getting a tricycle one after another, my piece ceased to give me happiness anymore being extremely ordinary possession.
As I grew up my desire for tricycle was replaced by fresh desire for bicycle, scooter, car, good job, big house etc. The same cycle of initial happiness followed by fear of loss and decay and subsequent replacement of the same by unhappiness and fresh desires for something else repeated. I gradually came to realize that there is no such thing as permanent happiness. Happiness comes only temporarily with every wish fulfilment. The anatomy of so-called happiness was revealed unto me.
It therefore emerged that happiness is a temporary state of mind arising out of immediate wish fulfilment. Our quest for permanent happiness is self-contradictory as impermanence is the very nature of all created things. They are invariably short-lived and give short-lived satisfaction to be followed by anxiety and unhappiness. Any worldly possession becomes dull and insipid in course of time. Kafka has rightly observed that nothing in this world can give us happiness for a long time unless we are extremely foolish and dull.
Happiness is invariably connected with ego satisfaction. If everybody else gets what I have my happiness is reduced. It fosters on a sense of comparative superiority, self-centredness and separatism. Even when we derive happiness by helping others or showing compassion, we are haunted more by subtle ego-satisfaction, superiority complex and pride than sincere and genuine concern for others. The subtle and deceptive ego shrouds the truth.
Should we therefore not be compassionate and extend our helping hand? Of course, we need to be more and more compassionate. But we must not take pride or ego-satisfaction out of the same. Pride goeth before a fall and spiritual pride is a dangerous thing, which causes meteoric fall from our existing stature.
Our ego invariably thrives on unhappiness and creates desire for something more and better than others create so that its sense of separatism, isolation and supremacy can be continued. Ego therefore entangles us in inextricable web of endless desires. Ego is the nucleus of our existence with fragmentary sense of self. As long as we live, it remains with us and deludes us in a concealed manner. It justifies its operations with logic, which can be twisted to any end to suit the requirement.
We need to get rid of this stinking desire for unending quest for happiness. When the flame of desire is extinguished, we get permanent peace within beyond impermanent happiness from wish- fulfilment. Happiness is of dependent origin as it comes from outside achievements, objects, situations, persons or events. Whereas peace comes from within when the mental waves are silenced and stilled by negation of external necessities for existence at the level of being. When our constant search for happiness is stopped by wisdom, we can sincerely serve the suffering humanity rising above our egotistic existence.
We are always conscious of living in the domain of doing and having or performance and possessions as we are used to identifying ourselves only with these and nothing more. Beyond the well-known domain of doing and possessing, we have the eternal domain of being where we are free from external activities, possessions and happenings. We are always worried about out list 'to do' to be happy and bother less 'to be' to experience happiness. At the level of pure being we are nothing but peace and divine joy of our true self to which the outer waves of happiness and sorrow of dependent origin cannot reach.
The writer is a columnist AND Consultant in human resource development
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