With all the advancements and progress, it is hard to think that the world may be heading towards trouble. After all, we do have ways of finding solutions to different problems. There is great joy and pride in the triumph of the human mind over the challenges thrown by nature.
Yet, it somehow seems hard to believe that all is well with the world. There are several ways to create joy and to have fun. But, there is an equal measure of disappointment, and feeling lost – a profound unhappiness.
I don’t know if you have noticed it, but entire cities of people can be found to be generally unhappy until something pleasant happens in their lives. There are grumpy faces, tense foreheads and some yelling. We want exciting things to happen in our lives. Forget about lives! We want exciting things to happen even in our jobs. Work must be playful and fun. I know of a few folks who are still trying to find their life’s calling 15 years after college. Needless to say they are not happy.
If we examine this situation even slightly, it becomes clear that we have no reason to feel unhappy or tense for most of the time. Happiness is always around and can be seen to be our natural condition of being. Even simple events provide opportunity for immense gratitude and happiness. It is the habit of taking things for granted that lies at the root of most sorrow. If we pause and look around, we can find plenty of things to cherish and feel grateful for.
As much as we pride our minds in seeking solutions to problems and pat ourselves on the back for self-reliance, we do not seem to take interest in finding joy within ourselves. Waiting for an occasion to be happy is a terrible waste of life. What is stopping happiness right now? What is stopping the blissful joy that one experiences within oneself?
Knowing oneself is a clear route to joy. Being oneself is happiness. When we discover ourselves as sentient entities who find expression in different bodies, we not only learn to be peaceful with ourselves but also with others.
Taking other people for granted is usually the root cause of trouble. When we see that everyone is a conscious entity at a fundamental level modified by minds and bodies, we find a sense of ‘equal-vision’ (samadarśana) in everyone. We see ourselves in others and others in ourselves. Every single person is full of complexity and depth that cannot be summarized by He is so obtuse or She is so mean. People are not to be reduced as objects from whom we derive pleasure. There is the sacred in all. Even if this is not understood widely, it is good to treat people as stores of sacredness. They might start searching within themselves due to how we treat them.
Self-knowledge that starts within oneself and goes out can make us laugh at life itself. Beneath all the masks we wear is the profound wonder of the soul. The Vaiṣṇava system teaches that the soul, the conscious aware entity, is not just deep but also very beautiful. There is beauty to be found in everyone which is masked by the ignorance of identification with the mind or body. The purpose of spiritual life is not to attain some sense of inert awareness, but to discover this beauty, nay, be this beauty for oneself and others. It is also to see such beauty in others and be an agent of nurturing the expression of spiritual life.
At this level, happiness is simple and always present. Visiting theme parks, going to movies, doing something fun are not necessary. One can always be happy. This is not to say that one must abandon seeking happiness outside. It only appears odd that one should do so when there is so much joy within oneself. Seeking pleasure outside is invariably associated with later disappointment since everything changes. What does not change is the inner beauty of the soul that is always present as presence.