We are lost in a world of delusion and attachment, too caught up to reflect upon the words of wiser souls. They spoke out of their divine experience to awaken us from our slumber. It is our duty to use their pearls of wisdom to discover that inner happiness. Instead of comparing ourselves constantly with “the haves” and feeling somehow cheated and deprived, it would do us a world of good to weigh our good fortunes against those who have little. Our time on this earth is not infinite. We need to welcome any opportunity to smile and can’t afford to waste one second. There’s real purpose in our desire for happiness — it’s not selfish to pursue it.
The idea of happiness is not a human universal that applies across all times and all cultures, but something that remains fluid through the eons. There is, however, overwhelming agreement that the texture of the lives of all happy people show that they connect very well with the world around them and have a purpose to their lives which buffers them from the mart of worldly strife. “Life has meaning,” as Robert Browning reminds us, and “to find its meaning is my meat and drink.” These happy people are like Mitya in The Brothers Karamazov, “One of those who don’t want millions, but an answer to his questions.” We see hordes of people who seem to have it all — money, fame, houses and cars, yet who are miserable at heart, whose lives are devoid of the peace and contentment that all this was expected to bring.
Gloom sets in when our conscience is stained by desires and impressions of worldliness. It needs to be polished by a deep journey inward. A successful journey opens our spiritual eye to the wonders we have been gifted with. Instead of comparing ourselves constantly with “the haves” and feeling deprived, we start weighing our good fortunes against those who have little. Fyodor Dostoyevsky emphasised the same point: “Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.”
Happiness has to be cultivated in our hearts and minds. It cannot be sought in the world around us; it has to be discovered in one’s inward self. For in many cases, the wealthiest classes of people may be the least contented and the poorest ones may be the ones most contended. Contentment has no relation with human needs. On the contrary, needs become defined by it.
We must abandon this delusion of selfhood and the ignorant cravings that go with it. Buddha specified them: “Craving for the gratification of the passions, craving for a future life, craving for success in this life.”
We must learn through love to get subsumed in the world and be a humble part of it. It is through such an engagement with one’s self, the world and reality that one is able to achieve a transcendental happiness. John Rockefeller reiterates these same values: “The road to happiness lies in two simple principles… find what it is that interests you and you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it, every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have.” To pursue the happiness within our reach, we must do our best to pour ourselves into faith, family, community and meaningful work. Happiness can be woven into every aspect of life, once you make new choices.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes emphasises, “Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.”