(warning: this is a long post, take time to read it :))
It seems there is an always increasing number of books and articles being published on “the secrets to be happy”. I find it curious how each one praises itself to be the ultimate, best-way-you-really-cant-fail-with-this, method to achieve a happy life.
There are some to which happiness is all about being you and achieving your goals (materials or not), others to which happiness is just a mental state, which you can induce, others that say that there is no “happiness” but a collection of evergoing “happy” moments, etc etc.
Two knotty questions: 1 – how to be happy? but more interesting still, 2 – what is happiness, really?
You can’t be/get/do something, if you don’t know what that ‘something’ is.
So, lets get philosophical here:
«2-1. Anukúlavedaniiyaḿ sukham.
[A congenial mental feeling is called happiness.]
Purport: If the mental waves of someone whose saḿskára happens to be the quiescent form of those waves, find similar waves emanating either from any crude object or from any other mind-entity, then those waves, in that person’s case, are said to be complementary and reciprocal. The contact of these mutually-sympathetic waves is what is called happiness.»
in “Ananda Sutram”, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
So, lets first consider that the existence of “mind” is possible only because there is a particular psychic momentum. That force, that impulse, is what guides the mind and its various expressions. When that mind finds something (object, person, action) which has a vibration similar to its own, a congenial(pleasant, happy) mental feeling is created. That is to say, in simpler terms, when the mind finds what it was yearning for, it gets some satisfaction.
You may be thinking in something like “I want an icecream. I get an icecream. I’m happy”. Altough that is true, it’s really a minor thing. It’s much more interesting to consider a bigger perspective when looking at this issue:
Let’s say you have an enormous desire for that icecream. The more time passes, the more you want it. Suddenly, you die. That psychic momentum now has a very strong imprint of a desire for icecream. As soon as that mind force gets a chance for another physical expression(life), it will also express that desire for icecreams in a very “natural” way. And when getting an icecream, then that congenial mental feeling will be created, and that mind will be “happy” (I’m really summarizing this to fit in a nutshell, it’s much more complicated ;)
If you think a little now, we are constantly setting up new goals, creating new desires, which are continuously shaping up that psychic force, giving it a unique vibration (or should we say, personality).
[Conclusion 1] Everytime a mind finds one of those objects of desire, that force is “satisfied” (happy), as it has fulfilled its purpose in driving the body/mind to the goal, and thus making it a little bit “freer” again.
Now, we can just keep going around in circles, creating desires, achieving goals, and getting “happy” about the result. And actually, this is what the big majority of people do. We are so used to have our minds turned to the outside, that we don’t even consider other ways of satisfying it. But here are quite a few disadvantages in this approach:
- it takes times. we live in a reality conditioned by the relative factors (time, place and person). what might be a desire now, might only meet its result in a next life (and what’s the fun in that? :p )
- it’s a very limited “happiness”, as it is mostly dependent on our sensory organs, that is, it effects the most crude, dense, layer of our mind, also the most limited one.
- it’s not totally under our control. as it depends (probably) on external factors, we might or might not get what we want, the way we want and when we want.
[Infinite happiness is ánanda (bliss).]
Purport: No living being is content with a little, not to speak of human beings. And so, small happiness fills nobody’s bill. One wants endless happiness. This endless happiness is a condition beyond the precincts of weal and woe, because the sense of happiness that is perceivable with the help of the senses oversteps the limit of the sense organs when established in limitlessness. This limitless happiness is what is known as ánanda [bliss].»
in “Ananda Sutram”, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
“There is in every living being, a thirst for limitlessness.” When we don’t know better, that thirst has to be expressed on the material level, so we tend to seek more of everything. Once we are aware of what that thirst is, then we can start seeking for a way to fulfill it: infinite bliss :)
Now the question is, how to get that? The way is exactly the opposite. Remember that when an object of desire is achieved, the mind gets “free” from the desire. So, what happens if we didn’t accumulate any more desires and managed to fulfill all of the current ones? If the desires are the driving force of that psychic impulse, what happens to the mind? Simply put, it ceases to exist.
[Conclusion 2] That is to say, as we get closer and closer to an absolutely desire-free state, the more our mind reflects its original source of existence: pure consciousness, pure ánanda, pure bliss, infinite happiness (along with the feelings of peace, harmony, love, etc).
These 2 conclusions are the 2 ways I understand happiness, 2 different definitions of 2 very different mental states. Both possible, one easier but extremely limited, the other a bit harder, but infinitely rewarding. In one there is a lot of “adding”, in the other a lot of “removing”. With the first, you should decide, set, do, fight achieve, while on the second… you just need to learn to flow :D
phew! thanks for reading, this was my longest blog post to date :)
This blog post by Leo Babauta on the topic of “Contentedness” is also a good read :)