Friday, 20 May 2011

Happiness: A Serious Matter

Swami Tejomayananda
The Asian Age

At an informal gathering, someone asked me: "How do we have fun in life?" "By being serious," I said rather seriously, because the pursuit of happiness is such a serious matter. A superficial approach to anything leads one to trouble. So, the philosophy of "eat, drink and be merry" is a very shallow view of life. Only deeper enquiry will take us to the truth.

Life is constituted of perception and response. We cannot help responding to people, situations and events. A response depends on individual perceptions. Everybody sees the same object but how each one sees it makes all the difference. Perceptions, therefore, can be called as the vision of life and response as an action or reaction that depends on this vision. We consider what we experience with our sense organs as real. No wonder, we find the world enchanting with its infinite variety and matchless beauty. But when we try to understand the same world a little deeply, it becomes very mind-boggling.

This proves that the visible is immaterial and the invisible is far more significant. What is visible is only an appearance and we all know that appearances are deceptive. The one truth that is not visible is subtle and it is this truth that will solve all problems. To see this truth, we need a pure mind and a subtle intellect. This is why we need a noble (sattvik) vision. It helps us perceive that one *TRUTH* which pervades the multiple and diverse world of names and forms. Such a vision can make the difference. It can help us see oneness in the midst of variety; it can protect us from the face of temptation, frustration and fear. Great souls who have attained this vision have worked for unity, integration and happiness of all. Therefore, this answers the question of what fun or happiness is. It is nor in merely gratifying our senses. The happiness experienced as a result of such a noble vision alone can be called true and lasting happiness.

Sadly, many of us lack such a kind of vision. We are stuck either with an extroverted outlook (rajasic vision) or a dull approach (tamasic vision) to life. Lord Krishna in The Bhagavad Gita explains the pitfalls inherent in these approaches. For example, a person with a rajasic vision sees differences while perceiving the world and he considers those differences real. The actions performed by him, therefore, are born either of attachment or aversion. He is happy as long as everything runs according to his tastes and preferences. The moment something goes awry, he becomes agitated and troublesome. A person with a tamasic vision is worse. He is deeply, fanatically and exclusively attached to a particular object, ideology or cause, with the result that even the happiness he experiences reflects his conflict. His happiness is attained by unhealthy means such as fight, addiction, sleep and indolence.

In life, we get mixed results because our vision is noble, in that all of us desire happiness, success, harmony and peace. But our conviction is not ripe and that is why we are not clear when it comes to actions and results. Suppose we are informed of a crime committed by someone in some place, we immediately cry for justice, but the moment we are made aware that one of our own relatives is the culprit, we change our response saying: "No one is perfect". We can observe this pattern at an international level too.

A person with a sattvik vision is praised as someone with a balanced view of life as he has eliminated sorrow, delusion and hatred. All of us are seeking that happiness. But we end up with something else because there is a wide gap between we seek, what we do and what we get. That is why the pursuit of happiness is a serious matter. How wonderful it would be if we looked at the vast world as having human beings rather than dividing than on the basis of nationality, creed, regions, race, religion and colour.

A narrow vision is divisive and a broad vision is expansive. But the supreme vision is all inclusive. It alone helps us to transform and transcend.

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