What is the Secret to Happiness?

Was listening to Happy by Pharrell Williams on the way to work today and got thinking about the centrality of happiness in human life.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Father of the United States famously said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Happiness is perhaps the most important aspect of life. And yet, it is elusive for so many of us, caught in the rigamarole of daily life. Happiness has become an important subject of modern research. Prof. Paul Zak from Claremont Graduate University notes that people find greatest happiness in connecting with those around them. (See this link for more about his research:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/06/tpl-what-makes-people-happy_n_4548604.html ).

Even governments around the world have started thinking more systematically about the levels of happiness or well-being in their people – and how they can set policies that help people live happier and be more connected. The United Nations even publishes a world happiness report! The Government of Bhutan has played a leading role in calling for a new index – one of Gross National Happiness.

But what about the individual level? What are the sutras or tenets of wisdom that we can rely on to increase our happiness levels? I found the following article by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar particularly valuable. Enjoy reading!

Every living creature wants to be happy. Whether it is money, power or sex, you seek it for the sake of happiness. Some people even seem to enjoy misery because it gives them happiness!

To be happy, you seek something. But despite getting it, you are not happy. A schoolboy thinks that if he goes to college, he will be more independent, free and, therefore, happy. When you ask a college student whether he is happy, he feels that if he gets a job, he will be happy. Talk to somebody who is settled in his job or business, and you may find that he is waiting to get a perfect soul mate to be happy. Then what? When he gets a soul mate, he now wants a child, to be happy. Ask those who have children, if they are happy. They respond that how can they relax until the children have grown up and have had a good education and are successfully settled on their own? Ask those who are retired if they are happy? They long for the days when they were younger.

All of one’s life is spent in preparing to be happy someday in the future. It’s like making your bed all night, but having no time to sleep in it. How many minutes, hours and days of your life have you spent being happy from within? Those are the only moments you have really lived life. Those were perhaps the days when you were a small kid, completely blissful and happy or a few moments when you were surfing, swimming or sailing or on a mountain top, living in the present and enjoying it.

There are two ways of looking at life. One is thinking: “I’ll be happy after achieving a certain objective.” The second is saying: “I am happy come what may!” Which one do you want to live by? Life is 80% joy and 20% misery. But you hold on to the 20% and make it 200%! It is not a conscious act, it just happens. Living in the moment with joy, alertness, awareness and compassion is enlightenment. Being like a child is enlightenment. It is being free from within, feeling at home with everybody, without barriers.

Don’t judge and don’t worry about what others think of you. Whatever they think, it is not permanent. Your own opinion about things and people keeps changing all the time. So why worry about what others think about you? Worrying takes a toll on the body, mind, intellect and alertness. It is like an obstruction that takes you far away from yourself. It brings fear, and fear is nothing but the lack of love. It is an intense sense of isolation.

Relaxing through meditation and breathing exercises can handle this. When one is relaxed, one realizes that they are loved, and connected to everybody, and are a part of the whole universe. This will liberate you and the mind will completely shift. You will then find so much harmony around.

To find harmony, it is not as if you have to physically seek it by sitting somewhere for years. Whenever you are in love, your mind is in the present, you feel joyous. At some level, to some degree, everybody is meditating without being aware of it. There are moments when your body, mind and breath are all in harmony. That’s when you achieve yoga. The Art of Living lies in the present moment.

Springtime Cherry Blossoms

 

Karma and the Guru

  • by Acharya Ratnananda

Maharishi* Kãnada was a great scholar. He wrote one of the six Darshanas (revelations) called Vaisheshika. Vaisheshika in Sanskrit means specialized knowledge. He had a large body of disciples who helped spread his teachings and wisdom.

Once, during his travels, the Maharishi met with an egotistic chieftain who began to argue with him about the effects of past Karma on one’s life. The chieftain said, “Sir, all of us understand and accept that our past karma influence out present lives – either for good or for bad; and there is no escape from it.”

“That being so, what is the point or purpose in seeking and surrendering to a Guru? Can he provide relief by removing the powerful effects of one’s past karma?

The disciples were shocked and shaken by the perverse but valid logic of the chieftain. However, they were curious to see how the Maharishi would respond.

“There is validity in your logic,” said the Maharishi smilingly, “however, let us walk a while before finding a solution to your problem.”

The arrogant chieftain mentally congratulated himself at outsmarting the enlightened Master and agreed to walk with them.

During the walk. the chieftain began to wonder about the importance of the gift of sight and the plight of blind people. He decided to hold the hand of one of the disciples and walked along with a piece of cloth over his eyes, as an experiment.

The disciples watched the curious behavior of the chieftain. The Maharishi, however, signaled them to stay silent. He then whispered a few words to one of the disciples, who ran forward and placed a bundle of coins by the road.

As they approached the bundle of coins, the Maharishi gave a rather sharp blow to the  back of the chieftain. Surprised, the chieftain cast aside the cloth covering his eyes and looked at the Maharishi in anger.

The Master calmly said, “Don’t look back, but look forward.” Though angry, the chieftain turned forward, out of respect to the Maharishi’s words. He was pleasantly surprised to find the bundle of coins in front of him.

The chieftain exclaimed, “My dear sir, I am fortunate to have found these coins! I also thank you for the beating – though I am unable to fathom your action.”

Maharishi Kãnada then gracefully explained his actions. “You were right in stating that our past karma influences our present lives. It was your past karma that made you experiment on the effect of blindness on people, and you would have missed your chances for wealth, health and happiness. But, the intervention of a Guru, in this case by giving you a beating, modified your karma, and helped you find the gift.”

“The Guru does not take away your karma, but helps to modify and soften the effects of your past deeds or misdeeds. This is the result of seeking and surrendering to an enlightened Master.”

This story illustrates the impact of an enlightened Guru on our lives. The enlightened Master’s presence helps us move inward and realize our true purpose in this world.

* Maharishi in Sanskrit refers to a wise sage.