‘What everyone wants from life is continuous and genuine happiness,’ said Baruch Spinoza, a Dutch-Jewish philosopher.
All our life seems to be nothing but the search of happiness. Aristotle has rightly commented, ‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’
We search for our happiness in : money, friends, spouse, children, family, work, world, home, office, sex, love and maybe even compassion. All our actions, including those which later bring us pain and misery, usually aim at happiness. People commit all types of crimes only to get something that can give them happiness.
Kings rule, dictators wage wars, students study, scientists discover, artists create art, poets write poems and musicians compose songs because that gives them happiness.
However, all our happiness seems illusionary because as soon as we achieve it, we start thinking about the next thing. Even if we are happy, we continuously worry as we fear we might lose our happiness.
It is impossible to be happy unless you gain a proper understanding of people and society, the time and the situation, and also, the world. The better your knowledge, the happier you can be, for such knowledge is likely to make you more successful in your life. This knowledge however, cannot be taught by anyone, it is not even written in any book, but has to be learned by oneself.
The true knowledge of the self and the world is spiritual and intuitional. True knowledge is same as God. If you have true knowledge, you have understood God. This knowledge cannot be expressed in words, though we can use words as a tool to understand it.
Lord Krishna, however, reminds us of the difficulty in understanding this knowledge in the Gita, ‘Scarcely, one out of thousands of persons strives for self-realisation. Scarcely, any one of the striving, or even among the perfected persons, truly understands Me.’
Only a spiritually intelligent person knows this Supreme knowledge which comes through self-realisation. Self-realisation results in a better understanding of the self and the world, and we secure happiness and peace in our lives.
When we gain a true understanding of the world, we no longer pride in what we have or feel ashamed in what we do not have. We see goodness in everyone and everything.
The following short story titled ‘How the Poor Live’ explains this beautifully:
One day, a wealthy father travelled with his son to the countryside for he was keen to show his son how the poor people live. They spent a couple of days on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. When the duo returned from their trip, the father asked his son,’How was the trip?’
‘It was great, Dad,’ the son replied.
‘Did you see how the poor people live?’ the father asked.
‘Oh yeah,’ said the son.
‘So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?’ the father asked.
The son answered, ‘I saw that we have one dog, and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a river that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our courtyard reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.’
The boy’s father was speechless.
Then his son added, ‘Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.’
The very pride of ‘what we have’ is the reason we suffer ‘what we lack’. If we shed this pride associated with our wealth, we can also avoid the pain we feel for things that are deficient.