Happiness, how?

Many people say, “don’t talk of unhappiness; let us deny unhappiness. Let us say, “We are all happy,  we are all happy.” As if by shouting or repeating such phrases “I am happy” you can get happiness!  If you get happiness, it is a floating on-the-surface type of happiness.  The surface has no deep root in your life. If you throw some flowers on the surface of a lake, the flowers will float, but they have no root in the soil, and they will fade away. Similarly, you cannot get rid of unhappiness by this sort of “positive” thinking.

Kapila, the founder of the Sankhya system of Hindu philosophy, from which came the Yoga system, from which came the yoga system, began his philosophy with the  theme that life is full of unhappiness. There are three kinds of miseries: those which spring from ourselves; those that come from the environment, from the outside world; and those which come from supernatural sources. Buddha had a similar approach. Buddha was the son of a king. His father tried to keep him protected, where he would not meet with any suffering. But you cannot do that. You cannot live in perfect protection. Buddha went out one day and found some persons diseased, suffering intense pain. Thus the Buddha came in contact for the first time with misery and he was shocked. Then he found an old person tottering, “That is old age. Everyone who lifes long enough will be subjected to that state.” Finally, the worst, Buddha saw a dead person, the coffin carried by weeping relations. Buddha contemplated all this in his mind. He asked, “Is there no solution to misery?” And that question changed his life.

So you should not get alarmed if somebody says life is full of unhappiness. Those who say it is are not cynical. They are bold. They want to face things. It is said if you face death a thousand times, only then can you become immortal. In one of the Upanishads there is the story of a young man, sturdy, optimistic, strong, and virile, entering the house of Death to ask the question, “What happens to persons in the hereafter? what happens when one dies?” The God of Death replies: “Ask me anything you like; for any amount of wealth. Ask for any amount of friends and relations who will live for thousands of years. But don’t ask me about hereafter.” But the young man persisted.  And from his persistence he learned the secrets of life and death.

Why is there unhappiness in the world? We can get the solution not by ignoring the question, but by daring the lion in its own den. Find out if there is any solution. Religion begins in search of that solution. What is the modern solution for unhappiness? People have said from the days of Darwin, that it is a matter of evolution. Life was not created on a certain daate. Life is a process of evolution. The law of life is a struggle for existence and survival of the fittest. Through evolution we reach a state where we will be perfect, or nearly perfect, and be happy.  But there is  nothing to indicate that those days are near. Through evolution, it seems, people are getting into more and more misery. We find that life is becoming increasingly complicated. And this theory of survival of the fittest, the philosophy that might is right, life is for the strongest—it created a Hitler. It does not give a solution.

No system can ever make us happy, however perfect it  may be. some say, “Remove poverty; humans are economic units. Let goods be equally distributed, so that there will be no rich persons or poor persons.” But that does not or cannot give happiness. How by simply equalizing wealth, can you bring about a heaven on earth?

So you see, real happiness does not come from book learning, from political power, from philosophy or psychology. Real happiness will come only when we have knowledge of the infinite. Not objective knowledge, but direct realisation.


Vedanta Society of St. Louis – A Branch of The Ramakrishna Order of IndiaSwami Satprakashanandaji [1888-1979] was a Ramakrishna monk, who worked all his life in St Louis, USA.