Without an exception, all worldly people seek lasting happiness, pleasure, success, freedom, perfection, contentment, bliss, peace of Mind, etc. in the external world of objects, beings and experiences, in the world of time, space and causation. This extroverted pursuit of happiness, success, perfection, freedom in the external world is a wild goose chase which is paradoxical and never ending. It is paradoxical because the moment one desire is satisfied, it does not end there; another desire arises. The quest for happiness also continues in a never ending fashion. This is the paradox in our life.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a Western philosopher who had studied Vedanta philosophy, an Indian philosophy, says the following:
“It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
Let us see whether we can find out the cause or reason and a solution for this paradox in the scriptures. Scriptures also say the same thing, that is “it is the innate nature of every being to seek happiness in the world and to shun sufferings, troubles, difficulties, etc. in their life”. Adi Sankara, the greatest exponent of Advaita philosophy of Vedanta calls it “Sukhah praapti” and “Dukkhah Nivritti” respectively.
What is the mechanism by which we spend our lives chasing happiness and yet not achieve it?
- The first and foremost fallacy of humans is to pitch up happiness onto the external world of time, space and causation, onto the objects, beings and experiences. This is because of our natural tendency to be extroverted. This extroversion pitches happiness, success, freedom, perfection, etc. in the external world. This is the breeding source of desires. By this man infinitely keeps chasing happiness in the world by trying to satisfy his desires that keeps rising without any limits.
- The second fallacy is not to seek the truth and failure to learn from past experiences even after experiencing the realities of life.
- The third fallacy is not to pitch up higher ideals or noble ideals of life even after knowing the realities of life.
At some point in life mankind must realize his limitations. He / She must recognize the fallacy in chasing desires to find happiness, success, contentment, perfection, freedom, etc. in the world through extroversion. Mankind’ is obscured by these fallacies because of the ego and the insatiable desires of the Mind. Swami. A. Parthasarathy who is an exponent of Vedanta, explains this phenomenon of insatiability of Desires. He says that it is due to Neutralization effect that our desires are insatiable. We get neutralized to objects, beings and experiences of life. It simply means that we get enslaved and habituated to different desires of the Mind. Take for instance a child’s desire for eating chocolate. The child enjoys eating the first chocolate, but if given a choice would demand for more chocolates. If the happiness is really in that chocolate, the child should have got satiated with one chocolate. On the contrary, we see that the child demands for more after consuming the first chocolate. We also find that any amount of chocolate given and any number of the experience of tasting chocolates does not give satiation for the desire for chocolate eating. This effect of non satiation of desires even after contact with the object or being or experience of desire and the subsequent enslavement or habituation to those desires is called as Neutralization.
The lesson anybody can learn from this is that i) the happiness we seek is not in the object or being or experiences of the external world. ii) Gratifying Desires and Likes & Dislikes of the Mind is not the solution for achieving everlasting happiness or success, etc. we seek.
What is the solution scriptures give for this paradox of life?
Scriptures say that our ultimate purpose of this human birth and existence is Self Realization or achieving God consciousness.
“If a man knows it (Self / God) here (in this life time), truth is sustained; if not known here and now (in this lifetime), it is the supreme most of supreme loss”.
– Kenopanishad (Verse.5; Section.2)
The following are the solutions provided by the scriptures and spirituality:
- We can fix higher or noble ideals like Self Realization and steadfastly pursue it with dedication and perseverance till the end.
- We can gain and practice noble virtues of life like a) Selfless service and sacrifice with the Body, b) Non hatred towards fellow beings or Universal love, gratitude and surrender to the Divine Providence, wise or noble personalities and spiritual personalities with the Mind, c) Self study or study of scriptures, reflection, contemplation and optimal meditation in the early morning 4.00 A.M (Brahma Muhurtham), Developing and practicing humility, non egoism, non possessiveness, self control or austerity or abstinence, forgiveness, self sufficiency, etc. with the Intellect.
William Cowper in his Poem “The Pineapple And The bee” portrays our condition and finishes with an astounding statement. It is as follows:
“Our dear delights are often such,
Exposed to view, but not to touch;
The sight our foolish heart inflames;
We long for pineapples in frames;
With hopeless wish one looks and lingers,
One breaks the glass, and cuts his fingers;
But they whom Truth and Wisdom lead,
Can gather honey from a weed”.
“Tat tvam asi” is the second aphorism of the four aphorisms of Vedanta also called as Maha Vakyas.
“Tat tvam asi” literally means “That thou art”
Swami Rama Tirtha says:
1) Truth is Your Birth Right. Assert
it and Be Master of Universe. Truth
is “Tattva-Masi” – “That Thou Art” — Rama
2) Rama guarantees that anybody in this world who reads
or hears all of Rama’s speeches, would get his
doubts removed and is sure to come
to the conviction of his own Divinity