True happiness is such a rare commodity that the whole of the world is continuously seeking it and failing to find it. All the people, who we consider to be the best in their fields, are seeking it too and failing to acquire it. The most brilliant of the scientists, the most gifted of artists, the most talented of poets and authors, the wealthiest businessmen, the most powerful rulers, the greatest achievers in any field – all of them have been striving for it all their lives and failed to have it. Why is happiness such an elusive thing? Is it that it cannot simply be achieved? Or is it that it is not where all of us have been looking for it?
If you pause to give it a thought it is very easy to see that somehow we have all been missing the point. It is either that we have all been looking for happiness at the wrong places or that it is simply not possible to achieve happiness. The answer is not very easy. But it is obvious that if the whole of the humanity has been trying to find something throughout the history and failing to acquire it then something must be very wrong about the concept we have of happiness.
Let us try to delve a bit deeper. What is it that we consider happiness? This is how I see it:
Happiness is what you feel when what you want to happen happens.
And if this definition of happiness is correct then we can conclude that unhappiness is what we feel when what we want to happen does not happen.
These definitions look obvious enough but for the most of the people they are not. At least not so clearly defined in their minds. It would therefore be better if we stop to ponder over these definitions.
How can we achieve happiness?
We must realize that for most of the problems, the solutions are often simple and obvious enough if one understands the problem clearly. Even more surprising is the fact that the solutions mostly lie in the problem itself. It is true in the case of happiness too.
Let us consider the above definition carefully. The main keyword in the definition is “want”. The whole trouble starts when we want something. Every moment of our lives we keep on wanting something or the other. If we could make a list of all the things we want in our lives since childhood to death, including trivial as well as very important, all the paper in the world perhaps would not be enough for this purpose. Only a small percentage of all our wishes is fulfilled in spite of all our endeavours. The percentage of wishes, which remain unfulfilled, keeps on growing with time. As a result, as we grow older, we become more and more unhappy. We grow tired of life. The blessings, which our lives and the whole existence keep showering upon us, gradually lose their charm. The frustration, of failing to fulfill most of our wishes, sets in. We start feeling weighed down. The feeling that the whole life is somehow conspiring to keep us unhappy grows. Life becomes full of miseries. We keep stumbling from one failure to another.
The solution, then is very obvious. We must explore the possibility of a life of no desires or minimum desires. Desire is a seed which grows fruits of unhappiness. Actually the trouble is that we demand too much. We keep on demanding incessantly. It seems that we do nothing else but keep producing desires and then keep struggling to fulfill them. The only solution to this problem is to break out of this cycle of desires and struggles. If one does not desire anything, he has no chance of getting unhappy due to failure in fulfilling his desire.
One may argue that a life of no desires will be bereft of pleasures. That it will become colourless and dull. But this premise is not true.
Firstly, we must realize that the world does not and cannot function as per our whims and fancies. We are too insignificant in the scheme of the existence. We can have control only over our desires and not on the factors necessary to fulfill them. During winter, we may desire that the sun shines a bit more in the sky but sun has no obligation to behave as per our desires. We may desire that every other human being around us acts in such a way that his acts do not hurt us at all and only make us happy, but the other person has his own desires and compulsions and he will act accordingly. We may desire that whenever we ask for something we get it, but the person or the force who has the power to grant our wishes may not wish to do so or may not be able to do so because of his or its own compulsions. Are we ourselves always willing or able to fulfill the demands of others around us? If not, then how can we hope that our demands must always be fulfilled. In fact if we pause to consider it carefully then it will become obvious that there always is more probability of our desires not getting fulfilled. Then why keep desiring constantly and exposing ourselves to unhappiness?
Secondly, it is a blunder on our part that we consider happiness and pleasure to be the same. They are not same. Pleasure is there all around us for the taking. Since we have become obsessed with our desires we have ceased to notice sources of pleasure and as a consequence fail to grab it when it is available. Pleasure is the essence which we extract from things we have. We may desire to visit the most beautiful sea beach in the world. When we are finally able to make it to that beach we feel happy. This happiness is the consequence of the fulfillment of our desire. But when we look at the waves rushing towards us, at the golden sand spread over a large area, the wind on our faces, the riot of colours in the sky while sun is setting or rising, the feel of sea water on our skin, what we feel is pleasure. To derive pleasure it is not at all necessary to desire. When we pass along the green fields while traveling, we do feel pleasure looking at them though we had not specifically “desired” to see them. When we look at anything beautiful we feel pleasure. Pleasure is always around us without our asking for it. It is not a consequence of our ambitions and endeavors. It is simply waiting all around for us to pause and pay attention. It is only that we are always so obsessed with our desires and wishes and the struggle to fulfill them that we have forgotten how to pleasure ourselves. Almost all of the time we live inside our minds, either making plans to fulfill our present desires or ruing the desires which could not be fulfilled and in this process miss out all the pleasures lying all around us.
Thirdly, We do derive pleasure when our desires are fulfilled but for every desire fulfilled there are numerous others that remain unfulfilled. We have to consider carefully whether we are not paying too high a price, in terms of all the frustrations we experience as a result of failures, for a few fulfilled desires. If the answer is yes, then the conclusion is obvious.
Actually, happiness and unhappiness are two sides of the same coin. They are part of the same package. If one asks for one he leaves him susceptible to the other. The desire for happiness is like asking only for the light and not for darkness. But there is not much difference between light and darkness. It is matter of degree only. We choose and therefore get disappointed. What we should do is only look for the pleasures all around us. Whatever comes our way we should try to extract all the pleasure possible from it.
If we delve still deeper, we will realize that it is not really happiness which we should seek. We should try to avoid unhappiness. When we achieve something, the payoff is not as great as the pain we suffer if we fail to achieve it. It is this pain of failure, pain of frustrated desires which is of greater significance to us. It is actually like good health. One can only define health as an absence of diseases. In order to have good health we strive to avoid diseases. You cannot purchase or achieve good health directly. You have to take steps which keep your body free of diseases. Then only the organs of body keep functioning properly and you experience good health. Similarly, when one destroys the root cause of unhappiness the problems are over. And the root cause of all our unhappiness is DESIRE.
If one can stop desiring, if one can take life as it comes, Then only one can be free of unhappiness.