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The Elusive Happiness

Gopinath-Lotus-Feet“O my Lord, the people of the world are embarrassed by all material anxieties—they are always afraid. They always try to protect wealth, body and friends, they are filled with lamentation and unlawful desires and paraphernalia, and they avariciously base their undertakings on the perishable conceptions of “my” and “mine.” As long as they do not take shelter of Your safe lotus feet, they are full of such anxieties.” (Lord Brahma’s prayers for creative energy, Srimad Bhagavatam 3.9.6)

The mind is a reservoir of dissatisfaction; even if you have the best things possible in life, the mind will point out some unacquired delight. Or if that is also your possession, the mind would express fear of losing it. And if you were to actually lose it, the mind would drown in an ocean of lamentation. The mind is constantly tossed between hankering and lamentation. And then there is also the insecurity crisis.

Stalin had the best men willing to lay down their lives for him. Yet, as they got closer to him or rose in power and influence, he got them killed. He was insecure they’d take over his position. Slowly, one by one his confidential associates mysteriously died. The word secretly spread that Stalin himself was ruthlessly getting them killed. Yet men hankered to be trusted by him; each of them felt maybe he’d be an exception. While Stalin was insecure of losing his power and position, his men hankered for the same.

In this fleeting world where our bodily sojourn is even briefer, we are distracted by a host of possessions, and positions. And for such an ambitious seeker, happiness is ever elusive. As long as we desire to be the enjoyer of material things of this world, we are subject to all the effects of being in this consciousness; we are repeatedly tossed by the mind, and guaranteed to suffer endlessly.

One may find these conclusions not only painful to the ego, but also inconsistent with many modern self-help books that goad us on to enjoy life. If such a thought crosses our mind, we need to remember that the verse quoted abovehas been revealed to us by none other than Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma was empowered to create various manifestations in this world; he is therefore the great great grandfather of all living entities of this world. He knows exactly how this world works. If you want to know how your automobile works, the manufacturer is the best person to educate you. Similarly no one is a better authority than Brahma to instruct us on the nature of this world; he is the manufacturer of this universe; therefore we need to take seriously his instructions on overcoming anxieties.

The solution Lord Brahma proposes is to take shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet. In simple words this means, simplifying our lives; ‘simple living and high thinking’.  A lifestyle centred on reviving our relationship with God, Krishna is the answer to all these anxieties. As we focus on reconnecting to God through the process of devotional service, led by the chanting of His Holy Names, we become peaceful. Simultaneously we need to also reduce our material comforts. Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur, a great Vaishnava saint of the nineteenth century was also a responsible magistrate with the British Government. He advocated a lifestyle that balances our material and spiritual needs, and of the two he emphasised on the latter. This means we give more importance to our spiritual duties and do the needful regarding our material duties.

This is a paradigm shift for most as we have been educated to give more importance to our material life and often do the bare minimum for our spiritual duties. However as we realign our lives to spiritual principles, we not only become more peaceful individually, we also add meaning and substance to the lives of people around us. We then realize we do not really need so many of the material luxuries that we are attached to. Life then becomes a happy experience, even as our external world continues to inflict miseries.

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