“The many faces of Happiness”- 3 December 2017.
When there is hunger in the stomach, intake of food gives a great sense of relief and happiness. When a poor beggar finds money on the road, he feels lucky and happy. When you are tired and sleepy after a gruelling twenty four hours of hard work, hitting the bed could be the best sense of joy and happiness. The problem begins when the stomach is full, the wallet is padded and you enjoy the luxury of working reasonable hours and having good sleep. After the satisfaction of basic needs, humans run after the ‘pleasures of the senses’ which is called in Sanskrit ‘Kama’ (pleasures, desires). The pleasures could be anything from enjoying gourmet food, listening to fine music, watching an engrossing film, enjoying the movements of dance or having satisfying physical intimacy with a partner and so on and so forth. According to the Bhagvada Gita, ‘kama’ is one of the key goals of human life and all human beings have a right to enjoy physical pleasures. It is a natural goal and hence a natural right. But, also says the Bhagvada Gita, an individual will soon stop enjoying all these pleasures at some point of their time in life. It will follow the ‘law of diminishing returns’ as you soon tire of them as they become mundane in nature and loses its sheen.
Besides pleasures and desires, humans also need material facilities for good living. For having a ‘good quality life’, man will indulge in economic pursuits to generate wealth to possess the ability of buying a good house to make a home for his family, to provide the best education to his children and to buy gold and diamonds for decorating his/her bodies. Man would also desire to enjoy the varied luxuries which wealth can buy. He works very hard to make his name and identity in the community and gain recognition and fame. According to the ‘Bhagvada Gita’ this is called ‘Artha’ (economic and material pursuits), which again is an imperative goal in everyone’s life. The economic activity is a necessity as it brings with it the comforts as well as the social and psychological recognition that comes in a natural way. Hence people must educate and train themselves according to their abilities and talents and excel in them. They must systematically develop and build their personalities and feel happy with their achievements at that level. A good footballer feels happiness and pride in excelling in his sport and winning laurels for himself and his team. A good musician feels a great sense of happiness when he is able to create music, a poet when he expresses his emotions in penning down a poem.
One does not necessarily have to be a Padma awardee to feel happiness or to be a Nobel Laureate to feel joy. Happiness lies in simple things which we do well with full attention and concentration and take pride in. A butcher who excels in his art of butchering well his meat without faltering and who at the same time keeps his mind in a serene and joyous state is a happy mind. An athlete who tones up his body regularly and keeps his mind prepared for the performance at all times is a happy mind. A soldier who keeps himself mentally-physically fit and alert for an attack by an enemy is a happy mind. A teacher of Mathematics who loves to teach well her every student and takes her profession in all earnest is a happy mind. This is precisely what we need to teach our children at school- the value of attention, concentration, doing tasks with diligence and a sense of duty towards daily tasks to be done with a serene mind. This can be achieved only in a loving, respectful and a non-threatening atmosphere in school. Excellence and perfection cannot be in multiple tasks but by its very nature is restricted and limited to a few abilities. We cannot expect a child to be perfect in science, maths, social studies, languages and even sports and the music and dance!! With a lop-sided focus on curriculum teaching, coaching and cramming to nauseating levels, and running after toppers in examinations, the school machinery is sick and lame in creating happy minds.
The wisdom of ‘Bhagavad Gita’ puts a limit to happiness achieved through the goal of ‘artha’ too and says all economic and material attainment will also not provide humans the ultimate happiness that they are seeking for there is a limit to this aspect too. A man may have a dozen Rolls-Royce and a dozen homes in a dozen countries and still be unhappy. He may have earned it through his own sheer hard work and intelligence but still feel ‘unsatisfied’ in his heart. We have heard stories of millionaires and billionaires who have committed suicide, or have donated all their riches for a cause or have suddenly started professing profuse wisdom after becoming terminally ill, when death stares them in their eye.
This brings us to the one important dimension of ‘being alive’ which we forget in our daily hum-drum. The vital force of human existence is your ‘breath’. When you take a deep breath in and release it, you realise the joy of being alive. My eighty-six year old dear Mother lies in the hospital in severe distress since a week as I write this piece, and it gives me a sense of relief when I see her ‘breathing’ in her sleep- she is alive! My Father is 90 years of age today and at this moment of time my biggest happiness is when I see both of them alive, moving around, going about doing their work and being on their feet. They have been simple, hard working, duty bound parents, fully devoted to their families, following high ethical values and morals and achievers as well. What they have taught me is the art of being disciplined, dutiful and peaceful in the face of all adversities of life and the science to lead it skilfully and cheerfully.
To be continued…………………………………….