“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?”
– Albert Einstein
Imagine a boxer repeatedly getting knocked by his opponent. He dizzily rises, bleeding from his nose and mouth, and stands like a drooling drunkard. Again, he’s beaten, and he crashes on the rope. The referee’s final whistle has to wait for our hero rises, and takes some more jabs and punches.
You rush to stop the mayhem.
“Why do you keep fighting?” you ask panic-stricken.
His toothless smile shocks you as he exclaims, “When the cross, hook and the uppercut don’t get me, the point when I am not beaten, I am so happy.”
But that’s our story.
For most people happiness is merely a point of relief between two states of pain.
If you are suffering immensely, some things could offer relief: a movie, drugs, or sex.
When we gratify our senses, we move from the minus axis of suffering to point zero- a state of relief. However, pleasure pursuits are often like painkillers. They provide an instant reprieve, but the vacuum of the heart only gets bigger.
The positive axis of Happiness is beyond mere transitory comfort. It’s a state where life-enhancing actions and healthy choices rule our inner world. We discover joy and contentment in simple activities like exercise, prayer, meaningful conversations, and nature walks. Watching a rain on your electronic screen could relieve you momentarily, but when you witness a real shower outside your window, you enter another dimension of existence.
We may seek respite to our problems by drowning in the pleasures this world can offer, but that doesn’t cure the problem. It only traps us in a vicious cycle of continually seeking relief from our passions and equating that experience to happiness. That’s also how addiction works: you need more of the substance to feel the same pleasure that a single puff of smoke or peg of alcohol gave you earlier. That’s why a wise man once quipped that the greatest happiness in this world lies in our imagination! Once it begins to translate into reality, a cycle of cravings, relief, and then more pain grips us.
Beyond the titillation of the senses however, there is a sphere of awareness which helps us connect to our own deeper, real selves. When we live in this space, we find true happiness. At this level, we pursue a noble aspiration, contribute to another’s well-being and live a healthy life.
The world may find it strange that you rise early or eat simple foods or spend time in nature, but remember Bhagavad Gita says life for those in the positive axis is different from the men who live in the negative axis.
“What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.” (2.69)