Happiness Part 2

Dennis Waite dwaite at INTERALPHA.CO.UK
Wed Jan 15 11:35:34 CST 1997

Part 2

WHO (Sri K. Lakshmana Sarma) explains this brilliantly in his exposition1 of
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi's teaching:-

What we mean by happiness is something constant - something that will abide
with us in all its freshness and purity so long as we ourselves exist. What
the world has given us is not that, but something transient and variable,
and its rightful name is pleasure. Happiness and pleasure are two entirely
different things. But we assume that pleasures are the very texture of
happiness; we assume that if we can provide for a constant stream of
pleasures for all time we shall secure happiness.

But it is the very nature of pleasure to be inconstant; for pleasure is just
our reaction to the impact of outside things. Certain things give us
pleasure, and we seek to acquire and keep hold of them; but the same objects
do not give equal pleasure at all times; sometimes they even give pain. Thus
we are often cheated of the pleasure we bargained for, and find that we are
in for pain at times; pleasure and pain are in fact inseparable companions.

The sage of Arunachala tells us that even pleasure is not from things. If
the pleasure that we taste in life were really from things, then it must be
more when one has more things, less when he has less, and none when he has
none; but this is not the case. The rich, who have an abundance of things,
are not exactly happy; nor are the poor, who have very little, exactly
unhappy. And all alike, if and when they get sound, dreamless sleep, are
supremely happy. To make sure of the undisturbed enjoyment of sleep we
provide ourselves with every available artificial aid - soft beds and
pillows, mosquito-curtains, warm blankets or cool breezes and so on. The
loss of sleep is accounted a grievous evil; for its sake men are willing to
poison the very source of life, the brain, with deadly drugs. All this shows
how much we love sleep; and we love it, because in it we are happy.

We are thus justified in suspecting that true happiness is - as many wise
men have told us - something belonging to our own inner nature. Sages have
ever taught that pleasure has no independent existence; it does not reside
in external objects at all; it appears to do so because of a mere
coincidence; pleasure is due to a release of our own natural happiness,
imprisoned in the inner depth of our beings; this release occurs just when,
after a rather painful quest, a desired object is won, or when a hated one
is removed. As a hungry street-dog, munching a bare bone, and tasting its
own blood, might think the taste is in the bone, so do we assume that the
pleasures that we enjoy are in the things that we seek and get hold of. It
may be said that desire is the cause of our being exiled from the happiness
that is within us, and its momentary cessation just allows us to taste a
little of that happiness for the time being.

Because we are most of the time desiring to get hold of something, or to get
rid of something, we are most of the time unhappy. The desire to get rid of
something is due to fear. So desire and fear are the two enemies of
happiness. And so long as we are content to remain subject to them, we shall
never be really happy. To be subject to desire or fear is itself
unhappiness; and the more intense the desire or fear, the keener is the

Desire tells us, each time, "Now get thou this, and then you shall be
happy". We believe it implicitly and set about getting it. We are unhappy
for wanting it, but we forget the unhappiness in the effort. If we do not
get it, we have to suffer. Neither are we happy if we get it; for desire
then finds something else for us to strive for, and we fail to see how
desire is fooling us all the time. The fact is desire is like a bottomless
pit which one can never fill up, or like the all-consuming fire which burns
the fiercer, the more we feed it.

As desire is without end, so is fear; for the things that fear tells us to
avoid are without end.

Thus we come to this conclusion; so long as desire and fear have sway over
us, we shall never reach happiness. If we be content to remain in bondage to
them, we must as rational beings, renounce all hope of happiness." (1)

An ominous judgement indeed, since ultimately our only goal in life is
'everlasting' happiness, while desire and fear seem inevitable concomitants
of life in today's society. Our society's concern for money is, after all,
only a means to that end. Whether a new house or car, constant exposure to
music and art, or freedom to devote one's time to philosophy or scientific
research, it is our personal happiness which is the real motivator. Yet all
that is needed is a reversal in the way we look at this. If we can come to
appreciate that happiness is not to be found outside but is in reality an
aspect of our own nature, completely unaffected by external situations, what
a revelation that would be. "It is difficult to find happiness in oneself"
says Schopenhauer, "but it is impossible to find it anywhere else."

There is no denying that we do seem to derive pleasure from external objects
and we equate this with happiness, but there is no denying that this state
never lasts. In many examples, this is self evident. No matter how Epicurean
the food might be in a meal, you cannot sustain the pleasure by continuing
to eat indefinitely. (* An interesting adjective, this, since Epicurus
advocated the renunciation of transient pleasures in favour of more enduring
ones.) The moment passes and only a memory remains. Furthermore, true
happiness plainly exists only in the present; that associated with the past
is only the bitter sweetness of nostalgia or even the unpleasant taste the
morning after that wonderful meal.

This is the ultimate irony. We spend all our efforts looking outside of
ourselves for that elusive object or situation which will finally give us
lasting happiness. Yet is that very act of looking which takes us away from
happiness. Happiness is what remains when all the searching ceases and we
are 'left' with our Self, which is perfect happiness. Sri Nisargadatta
Maharaj said 'Only something as vast and deep as your real self can make you
truly and lastingly happy.'

In order finally to explain the mechanism that is taking place, we need to
look to the Chandogya Upanishad. Here there are two additional revelations
about happiness. Firstly, it is suggested that happiness is, in a real
sense, not the result of an action which attains a desired object but the
cause of that action. The desire is experienced as a lack; this we are
familiar with. This lack prevents us from experiencing the fullness of our
own nature. Happiness then drives us to satisfy the desire in order that
this perceived emptiness may be filled so that, in turn, the natural
completeness of the Self may be re-experienced. i.e. it is effectively the
Self seeking re-union with itself. It is the ironic and sad truth that we,
who are already complete and are bliss itself, have to go through this
process in order to achieve a brief taste of that essential nature in the
transient satisfaction of some trifling desire. It is as if the wave were to
expend all its energies trying to gain union with the ocean.

Strange though this concept might be, it does explain the perceived
phenomena. Happiness cannot be in objects because the same things do not
make everyone happy nor even one person at all times. Happiness cannot be in
the mind or why would we have to look outside? The Chandogya Upanishad tells
us that happiness is not finite; none of us, ultimately, would be satisfied
with a limited amount of happiness. Thus it could not be contained in
anything finite, neither objects nor the mind, nor a combination of these.
Basically there is nothing in the universe that is not finite, limited both
in space and in time. The logical conclusion is that happiness cannot be
found there; not in anything that can be perceived by the senses or
conceived by the mind. This leaves us with that spiritual abstraction known
variously as Absolute, Consciousness, supreme Spirit or God. This is the
only 'thing' which could be complete in itself and therefore satisfy the
requirements we have placed on happiness.

The reason, then, as to why objects appear to bring us happiness is that,
when we contact them, we are, as it were, temporarily made complete. That
desire, which obscured the knowledge that we are complete, is lost and the
realisation is possible. The reason the object is able to do this is that
it, itself, is just another name and form of that same completeness. The
experience is only temporary because the mind eventually recognises that no
'real' union has taken place. Even in a sexual union, which perhaps can
represent the pinnacle of  apparent completeness, there is an immediate
separation once again. Thus it would appear that true happiness is forever
doomed as an impossibility. Doomed that is until we realise that this
separation is only in our mind, that in truth we are already complete, the
reality-consciousness-bliss trinity of Advaita philosophy.

We need to learn to differentiate between the transient and the eternal,
truth and falsehood. This is the function of the discriminating intellect
which functions only in stillness and we need to strengthen it. To do this,
we must follow an appropriate discipline. And we need to meditate, to
journey inwards to quieten the mind and ego and find the peace of the Self.
The paltry pleasures which we continually seek day after day, the thing
which we call 'happiness', which is found and lost, seemingly beyond our
control, is transient. The true nature of the Self within is everlasting
bliss. When the mind is switched off, as in deep sleep, this state is
temporarily realised. When the ego is dissolved and the unity of the Self is
recognised, it will be known that this is the permanent condition - 'all is
always now'.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.(2)


Dennis Waite   14th January 1997


 (1).   "Who". 'Maha Yoga of Bhagavan Sri Ramana'. India Press.

(2).    T. S. Eliot. 'Little Gidding' (Four Quartets). Faber and Faber.

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