“As the body becomes steady and at ease, the breath begins to come under control, the mind begins to experience peace and the journey to our true self begins…”
Our Search For Lasting Happiness - by Sri M (Part 1)
We at M Yoga Center are happy to share with you the transcription of Sri M's talk on "Our Search for Eternal Happiness".
The question that has been asked for centuries is a question we ask even today. What are we searching for?
What is it that human beings look for? Search for? All the time we are working, looking for more, collecting things, trying to become – Now that’s the catch word – trying to become ‘what’?
I think, and this is not just my thought, it’s been what has been recorded in the ancient scriptures. This search, this constant search of the human being is for happiness. Happiness is one thing that all human beings – irrespective of caste, creed and religion – search for.
We search for happiness all our lives, in our own way, whatever we have – (as our) ideas of happiness. A child has his own idea of happiness. As we grow up, we have our own ideas of happiness and then we are middle aged and we have our own idea of happiness; and then we are retired and we have our own idea of happiness.
How much money should I have in the bank when I retire? How am I going to continue with my life and be happy and keep my luxuries still with me? And so on and so forth; we know the whole thing. This search for happiness leads us on, goads us on to live a life. The question is do we really find it? It has a very simple answer. Somebody says ‘Yes’ I can find it in this, somebody says I can find it in that. But if one finds it finally then why does one go on looking for it, searching for it constantly?
One answer suggests itself for this question which is perhaps – although we search for happiness all our lives in things external, thinking that by acquiring this or by acquiring that or having a big bank balance or a beautiful wife – you know the whole theme, so on and so forth – we will find happiness but it looks like we don’t.
We don’t find real happiness because we are not satisfied ever with anything that we have. Maybe there is satisfaction for a short time but in the long run we are still looking, searching, sometimes grabbing. The main thing is that the happiness we seek seems to evade us, seems to be so slippery that the moment we get hold of a little bit of happiness, we try to hold on to it with all our life. Why? Because we know that it is so rare and it can vanish at any time.
Now, suppose I have defined happiness as finding A or B or some such thing, I have found it. Okay! So I think I am happy, but deep down my subconscious mind knows that it is going to go away very soon. So what do I do? I try to hold on to it as fast and as firmly as I can, fearing that it might slip away! If I hold on to something and there is at the back of my mind the fear that it will slip away, where is the happiness now? There is insecurity.
Can insecurity produce happiness? Can I ever be happy wondering when this happiness is going to slip away from my mind? So this is not happiness really; so then I search again and the search continues endlessly. Mind you, I am not saying that we should not enjoy the little joys that we find in life day to day. Please do it. We should, because that’s the greatest, most wonderful thing that the world can offer us. These little joys of life, but then also I think we should remember that the lasting happiness that we seek is not to be found outside oneself.
So the question is, If it can’t be found outside oneself, can it be found inside oneself? Is there some happiness in each of us which can be tapped? Is there a happiness which is independent of anything external? Is there some way by which we can remain happy deep inside us, fully satisfied and yet continue to live in this world and do the right thing?
The great books – the great scriptures of this country (India) – The Upanishads and the Vedas seem to suggest that there is a way to find lasting happiness within, which is independent of all external things; and the great sages who have experienced it are on record saying that ‘that’ happiness when it comes, is an ecstasy that is so beautiful and all embracing that you feel like sharing it with the entire humanity.
Then life becomes joyful. Every little thing is full of joy. The dew drop you find on the grass in the morning, the breeze that blows in quietly, bringing in the perfume of the jasmine, the smell of the earth after the first rains. The ice clad peaks of the distant mountain, the laughter of the child, the song of the peasant. Everything becomes the festival of joy and the root of it is within oneself. It’s only when the inner being becomes full of joy that the world becomes full of joy.
You must have heard of the great weaver, singer and saint called Kabir Das, who lived in Benares. In one of the beautiful songs of Kabir, there is a beautiful example of man’s search for happiness – humankind’s search for happiness. He gives the example the musk deer. This musk deer whose habitat is usually the Himalayan regions, the foothills of the Himalayas, carries kasturi (musk) in a little bag just under its tail. In the breeding season, the musk exudes a lovely perfume which attracts the females. So Kabir Das says, when the season comes and the lovely perfume comes forth from under its tail, the poor deer goes around searching in the forest, trying to find the source from which this beautiful perfume is wafting in and he does not find it. Because he looks everywhere, except right under its tail. So there we are!
This is a perfect example. We search for happiness like the kasturi deer, all over the world, forgetting that happiness can be found within and only when it is found within, does one derive complete satisfaction that one is looking for.
There is a beautiful word in Sanskrit for completeness –‘poorna’. Upanishads say poorna which means fulfillment, fullness, completeness, this is the essential characteristic of one’s essential being which is one’s own consciousness, free of all distractions, which is called the ‘atman’. It is when this atman or the real self , which is the center and core of the consciousness of every human being is found, that one reaches the state of prefect happiness and realises that this is in every single living being, although untapped.
This center of our consciousness can’t be exclusive to anybody. All human beings have it deep down and that is the true consciousness. The process of finding it is what is known as ‘Sādhanā ‘. If there is something, there must be a way to find it. Its futile to say that there is no way to something, because if there is no way, it doesn't matter if it exists or it doesn't exist. The Rishis (sages) have thankfully, fortunately for us, discovered that there is a way by which this happiness can be found, can be tapped. It can be taught and it can be shared with other human beings.