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The Pursuit of Happiness and Sorrow

We all probably understand the meaning of the statement: ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’. But do we know the meaning of: ‘The Pursuit of Happiness and Sorrow’? In the following paragraphs the meaning of the above statement is explained and a humble solution is presented to the state of temporary happiness and sorrow that we experience in our lives today. This article has been inspired by a few books, including people who have not been mentioned to maintain anonymity, which are listed in this article’s concluding statements.

 Aren’t we all pursuing means to be happy? In every aspect of our lives this principle is predominant. We are applying this rule to absolutely everything that we do, i.e., what is the best way in which we can derive happiness out of a particular activity? If not thinking about how best we may derive happiness out of our current activity then perhaps we are busy pondering potential future activities which will give us the most amount of happiness. Do you concur with what has just been said? The following paragraph elaborates further on this.

Consider a person who is currently employed five days a week, and 10 hours each day. This is a busy lifestyle. For most of us, Monday is the worst day and Friday is the best day. On Friday, some of us generally discuss plans for the weekend with colleagues, i.e., the activities which we consider to be the most amount of fun. Going for a movie on the weekend has become common among some people, and we make plans for going to the movie that we consider to be the best among the offerings at the theatres. Or, we may choose the best restaurants to eat out at, loudest clubs to gather at, closest friends to party with, best discourses to listen to, etc. So it’s always the best among activities that we like, and never activities that we do not like. However is such planning done only on Friday’s? My colleagues would discuss the same plans on all the days of the week, including the first working day, i.e. Monday. Some of us start planning for the coming weekend on the first working day of the week. Didn’t a weekend just pass by? Alright well at least we are only planning a week ahead. Wait a second, don’t we plan vacations months before they commence? Several examples can be obtained from our own lives which reveal the extent to which the pursuit of happiness motivates our activities. Would it be possible to find an individual on this planet that is free from the pursuit of happiness and sorrow?

Now a natural question that would enter the mind is what’s wrong with that? Why is this behavior, which is prevalent among humans today, being condemned? Well, the problem with engaging in activities that give us joy is that we get attached to it. The activity itself is not the whole problem, but our attachment to the joy derived from such activities is. What’s more dangerous is the expectation of joy that results from performing such activities. As we involve in more enjoyable activities, our attachment to them increases. This makes us dependent on such activities. Once we are dependent on activities due to the resultant momentary joy, then suffering is not far away. Why? It is due to the temporary nature of our activities. The joy obtained from having some ice-cream is temporary and the number of times it can be consumed is limited. The joy obtained from watching a good movie is temporary since it finishes when the movie ends. It cannot be experienced again and again. A second viewing of the movie is not as fun as the first time. The joy of being amongst friends is also temporary since we may not be able to be in contact forever. At some point in time we may get separated from friends and family, either due to work obligations, change of place of residence, immigrating to a new country etc. These examples happen in our lives and are not just made up. However by our association with such temporary activities we have become attached to them. And when these temporary activities are no more available to us we experience some sadness, like a withdrawal symptom. Attachment to momentary pleasures is the seed for future sorrow. Constantly engaging in such activities, which provide momentary pleasure, is like watering the seed of sorrow. In due time, by constant watering, this seed grows into a beautiful tree. However the fruits that hang from it taste of suffering, anxiety, worry, etc. Hence the activities which provided us temporary pleasure have sown the seeds of sorrow and in due time result in suffering. Due to the existence of such duality, happiness and sorrow, it is futile to think that we can forever be enjoying such activities without worry. Isn’t that our current state? This world is not utopian, both happiness and sorrow co-exist. In the pursuit of happiness, sorrow is not far away.

The above philosophy, is perhaps, better explained with a concrete example. Do we all like chocolate? Well, it is difficult to construct examples that suit everyone. If not consider an object that you like very much in place of chocolate and the same principle will apply to it. So, Chocolate tastes good. We derive some joy out of consuming it. But how long does it last? Well, it can only be described as a momentary pleasure. And such is the nature of all pleasures that we may derive with our senses, i.e. it is momentary or temporary. But wouldn’t we like to have another piece of the chocolate bar, assuming that only a part of the bar was consumed the first time. Now after finishing the bar, has my desire been satiated? Can desires in general be satiated? The answer is no, they cannot be satiated. This can be experienced from our own lives. Does it then make sense to encourage such desires, which are endless? It is not physically possible to keep satisfying the senses of the body continuously. At some point the senses will experience fatigue. For instance, eating an infinite amount of chocolates is not possible. Also, the joy felt from consumption of the second piece is less than the joy felt during consumption of the first and so on. However our desire to taste chocolate just like the first time has not dissipated. That stays with us even though it is not physically possible to satisfy it. Hence here‘s another example supporting the futility of sense enjoyment. If you are still not convinced then you may find examples from your own experiences or future experiences. The advantage of this knowledge is that it can be realized. It does not end with speculation and just remain some hypothesis which has no direct bearing on the day to day lives of people. In fact such teachings are ancient and are found in hindu scriptures.

By now you must be tired reading about the futility of sense enjoyment. So what is the solution to our condition? There is a solution to all of this. The solution for eternal peace and contentment is prescribed by ‘Sri Krishna’ in the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam and other scriptures. People generally read the bhagavad gita first and then follow it by reading srimad bhagavatam. You are certain to find peace and contentment in this life itself by following the teachings laid out in the Bhagavad Gita. Jai Sri Krishna. Jai Sri Rama.

This article was inspired by the bhagavad gita. Acknowledgements to Sri Velukkudi ji, Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji for aiding in spiritual advancement. Many videos, lectures, discussions by them can be found on youtube.

Bhagavad Gita As It is, Chapter 2, verse 14: “O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed” - - Sri Krishna to Arjuna

Written by an Anonymous Reader of the Blog



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