“Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity. Reduce selfishness, Have few desires”
One excellent way to be miserable is by constantly asking, “Am I happy now?”
The obsession with happiness could not only make us selfish but also miserable. The world has been designed to constantly trouble us with suffering. Take for example the unchangeable law of old age, disease and death. These miseries strike everyone with no exception. To the extent we seek happiness centered on gratifying our senses and mind, we’d surely be disappointed sooner or later.
Then what’s the Vedic alternative? To live a life centered on a noble purpose. Happiness then becomes a byproduct.
For example the order of renunciation or Sannyasa in Vedic culture is based on the principle of taking minimum from the society, and giving back the maximum that you could. Ideally a sannyasi lives on bare minimum so that he could serve others selflessly. He may have left his family, but the world becomes his family. His purpose is to make others happy and depend on God for his own internal happiness. This way he himself experiences deep, lasting happiness.
Even a householder could be a sannyasi if he or she makes pleasing God as the goal of their lives. A mother could care for her children as a service to God, and a man doing his business could work in the consciousness of pleasing God. This way as we align our consciousness to the Supreme we feel happy.
For instance many householder devotees in ISKCON have deities at home. When they serve the deities by dressing, bathing and feeding them, the desire for self-aggrandizement gets replaced by a desire to make Krishna happy. The result of this God centered life is one keeps less for self and does maximum good for others. Lord Chaitanya during his travels saw the opulent feast that was served to Him at the house of Advaita Acharya and spontaneously remarked, “I am so happy that you are serving Krishna with such a nice feast. As for me, I am happy to receive a handful of this Prasad, sanctified food for satisfying my hunger” The Lord was showing by His example how a devotee feels content when he shifts the center from his own ego to that of service to God and God’s children.
This principle also helps us during old age. As we get older we can’t enjoy our senses the way we did during our youth. Our digestion may be weak and the desire to eat palatable food may be there but we aren’t allowed by the doctor. Then irritability and angry outbursts are common. However if we have practiced during youth the principle of pleasing Krishna and deriving pleasure in service, then as we get older we’d be happy to see Krishna’s service going on nicely and other devotees being happy.
Srila Prabhupada is an excellent example of this. As he lay on his deathbed in Vrindavan he’d regularly ask about the wellbeing of other devotees, their diet and comfort was his concern. And hearing reports from his various centers on how devotional service was going on there made him happy. He even expressed a desire to circumambulate the Giriraj Mountain although it would have surely harmed his body. Since this circumambulation is a sacred act of pleasing the Lord, Srila Prabhupada was willing to undergo the risk of terrible pain to please the Lord. Later by the devotees loving and frantic pleas, Srila Prabhupada refrained from this service. Until the last moment, he also wrote books and translated his commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada said this is the mood of the spiritual world; everyone wants to serve and please Krishna. In Vrindavan, not only Krishna’s friends and parents but even trees, birds and animals think of pleasing Krishna. That’s why the place is surcharged with transcendental happiness.
If we also live our lives centered on pleasing God, we could recreate a spiritual abode even in this terrible material world.
Then an enduring, constant happiness is not far away.