How to get lasting happiness
Happiness is not in objects.
Theoretically, if happiness once comes from an object, then that object should always give us the same happiness. But in real life, we find that this is not true. What used to make us happy at one time, now gives us misery, whether it is a person or an object. Everyone must have experienced this. People who at one time adored each other, later hate each other; they cannot stand each other any more. Objects that are craved, and acquired with great difficulty, later produce misery. Even the wealthiest and most famous people are unhappy and restless, and they are not guaranteed happiness. These occurrences clearly show that happiness is not external and that it does not lie in objects.
Then where is happiness? Where does it come from?
If happiness is not in the external world, and it is not in people or in objects, then where is happiness? Where does it come from?
Happiness is within.
In order to clearly understand this most important topic, it is necessary to contemplate on the teachings of a Wise One who experienced perfect bliss and total peace of mind personally, and also transmitted it to others who approached him or made mental contact with him.
Listen to these words of the Great Master, Ramana Maharshi.
“That which is Bliss is also the Self. Bliss and the Self are not distinct and separate but are one and the same. And That alone is real. In no single one of the countless objects of the mundane world is there anything that can be called happiness. It is through sheer ignorance and unwisdom that we fancy that happiness is obtained from them. On the contrary, when the mind is externalized, it suffers pain and anguish.”
It makes perfect sense. How can there be lasting happiness in things that keep changing?
Ramana Maharshi explains further in the following words.
“If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external causes and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of possessions and diminish in proportion to their diminution. Therefore if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness should be nil. What is the real experience of man? Does it conform to this view?
In deep sleep the man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realize his Real Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.”
He explains the same matter to another devotee in the following words.
“You can have, or rather you will yourself be, the highest imaginable kind of happiness. All other kinds of happiness which you have spoken of as ‘pleasure’, ‘joy’, ‘happiness’, ‘bliss’ are only reflections of the ananda (happiness) which, in your true nature, you are.”
Then what is that fleeting happiness we feel sometimes in our lives? Here is the explanation from the Maharshi.
“The truth is that every time our desires get fulfilled, the mind, turning to its source, experiences only that happiness which is natural to the Self.”
Amazing truth isn’t it? Therefore, if quietness of mind for a fraction of a second resulting from a satisfied desire can give us some happiness, why not get to the storehouse of happiness directly, and always immerse in it and abide in it? If it is a quiet mind that gives happiness, why not strive to get lasting happiness by directly making the mind quiet? This seems to be the rationale of the Master’s words.
But in order to re-discover that eternal happiness and abide in it, it is not enough that we understand it intellectually. We also need to turn within and make the necessary efforts. What are they? Meditation and Breath-Control for gaining focus and one-pointedness and to quieten the mind. Self-Enquiry to dive deep into the crux of the problem – ignorance of our Real Blissful Self and taking a phantom to be real, and not realizing the True Reality. Since we have forgotten the real Self and strayed away from it, we have to rediscover It within ourselves.
We normally run around in the external world seeking happiness from people and objects. Instead we need to turn within and beseech the Real Blissful Being to reveal itself to us.
In this regard, Ramana Maharshi offers great advice. He actually read out a stanza from the hymn Tiruvachakam, which is an address to the mind. It is as follows.
“O humming bee (the mind)! Why do you take the pains of collecting tiny specks of honey from innumerable flowers? There is one from whom you can have the whole storehouse of honey by simply thinking or seeing or speaking of It (The Self). Get within and hum to It (hrimkara).”
Therefore, we can see from these words of wisdom, and from our own practical experiences, that happiness is within. So we should not look for it outside, but within ourselves. How can we do that? By following Ramana Maharshi’s advice. By meditation, breath-control and self-enquiry. By these practices, we should quieten the mind, and delve deep within ourselves. We should make an effort to know the mind better, observe what it is and how it operates. We should watch it vigilantly. We should investigate as to what it is that obscures the ever present happiness and causes misery. We should quietly enquire within, “Who Am I? Where does this “I” rise from? Then we will find that it is the ego, the phantom I-concept, that is causing all the problems that we perceive and experience. When we get to that point, and find out the Source, the Real will be realized. So says Ramana Maharshi, who experienced pure happiness and abided in it.