We all want to be happy. No creature wants to be unhappy. If asked when we want to be happy – morning, evening, Saturday, Sunday – we would surely say “Always”. If asked where we want to be happy – office, home, road – we would surely say “Everywhere”. If asked under what conditions we want to be happy – success, failure, health, disease, gain, loss – we would surely say “Under all conditions”. Thus we all seek “unconditional happiness”. We want to be happy irrespective of the conditions.
Now the question is, “Is it possible?” Fortunately, it is possible. If we sit and think, “if I make a resolve to be cheerful and happy, irrespective of what happens, can anyone or anything make me unhappy?” We all would answer, “No”. We all have the freedom to be happy unconditionally. Problems will be there in life. Failure, disease, loss, etc are inevitable in life. But, to be happy or sad is a choice. We all have the power and freedom to be happy. In spite of this, we are carried away by the situation and become sad. Krishna declares in the Gita, “Wise people do not grieve about the arrival and departure of people, objects and situations.” (gataasoon agataasoon ca na anusocanti panditaah – 2.11). In fact, this is the central teaching of the Gita and the Vedas.
Why do we become unhappy? Desires.
Why do we have desires? Sense of incompleteness.
Why we have a sense of incompleteness? Wrong understanding of oneself.
What is this wrong understanding? Thinking oneself to be the body or mind, or, a part, property or product of the body or mind.
This wrong understanding is the root cause of the entire problem.
If an object can give happiness, then the same object should give the same happiness to anyone at any time. At some times, I like to be in the company of people. At other times I like to be left alone. The second sweet that I eat gives me less happiness than the first. Some people like something while some other people hate the same thing. Thus, there is no direct connection between people, objects and situations, and happiness. The happiness created by an object is proportional to the desire for that object. Sometimes we get somethings without a desire for them before and they give happiness. But, when it is removed, we come to know that there is a desire for it. The desire might not have been there particularly towards that object, because of the lack of knowledge about the object. But the desire surely was there for that class of objects. Here, objects should be extended to people, pleasure, situation, etc.
Sorrow is nothing but desire. To whatever extent the mind is free from desires, to that extent, the mind is happy. The common method to remove a desire is to satisfy it. But there are problems here:
- Dependence on fulfilling a desire to be free from it makes the person dependent. It does not free the person from future occurrence of the desire. (aapekshika dosha)
- Anything that is acquired in time will be lost in time. Pains have to be undergone to fulfill the desire. There is always a worry and anxiety of when we will lose what we have acquired. In variably, what is acquired will leave. It will leave behind a bigger sorrow than before, because the mind would have got accustomed to what is acquired. (anityatva dosha)
- There is no limit to acquisition. Any amount of anything that we acquire, there is always a possibility of better quality and more quantity. So there will be a sense of incompleteness. Also, there will always be someone else who has better quality or/and more quantity. This will result in the desire not actually being fulfilled. (shaadhishayatva dosha)
Thus, acquiring something to satisfy a desire does not solve the problem at all. In fact, it only makes the problem worse. Kathopanisad says, “No man has been satisfied with money.” (na vittena tarpaniyo manushyaha) Here “money” has to be extended to all kinds of possessions, pleasures and fame.
Now, there is another way to become free from the desire. That is renunciation of the desire. As sorrow is nothing but desire, renunciation of desire also gives the same happiness as fulfilling the desire. In addition to that, this method of freeing from desire does not have the three problems listed above. So, this way of becoming free from desire is a better and permanent way.
Aananda Valli of Taittriya Upanisad has a section where it defines the happiness of a young man in good health with all the wealth and pleasures at his command as one unit. Then it defines the happiness of human musicians as one hundred times this one unit. Then it defines the happiness of divine musicians as one hundred times of that. Like this, it defines ten levels, each level with hundred times the happiness of the previous level. At each level, the Upanisad says, “This happiness also belongs to the desireless person who is full of knowledge.” (srotriyasya ca akaamahatasya) Thus, the Upanisad declares that there is no happiness more than that of a person who has renounced desires because of proper knowledge and understanding.
Thus, knowing the true nature of oneself as not the body and mind, not a part, product or property of the body and mind, making a resolve to be happy unconditionally, if a person renounces a desire, the happiness got out of that renunciation would be much much more than the happiness got out of fulfilling the same desire.
This freedom from all sorrow is called “moksha”.
Then should we not fulfill our desires? Is desire an evil? Without desire, can anything be accomplished at all?
Having desires and fulfilling them is not wrong subject to three conditions:
- Legal and ethical – The desire and attempt to fulfill it should be legal and ethical.
- Moderate – The desire and attempt to fulfill it should not jeopardize the chances of attaining long term goals.
- Non-binding – Non-fulfillment of the desire should not result in sorrow and depression. Be prepared to face the situation where the desire is not fulfilled.
Fulfilling a desire can result in development. But do not expect it to give happiness. Depending on fulfilling desires to get happiness is foolishness, because of all the discussions above. Happiness comes only from renunciation. There is no other way to happiness.