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Desire Is What Makes A Prisoner Of Us

Desire is what makes a prisoner of us. We are caught in the endless maze of seeking, and yet more seeking and never finding a place to lay our head on. How to emerge out of this maze? By cultivating a sense of contentment.

Contentment brings us true riches that we have been seeking. Asks Adi Shankaracharya: ‘Who is rich? One who is content.’

What material prosperity is it supposed to bring? Happiness. But does happiness come from fulfilling a desire?

According to Vedanta psychology, happiness is not in the object of senses. They seem to give happiness. We come in touch with them, and then they bring happiness. If we are out of sorts for any reason—disturbed or distracted or depressed due to an unpleasant event or experience such as failing in a school examination or being dismissed from our job and so on—we cannot get the enjoyment that seems to come from what we like. A sweet, for instance, may be what we like but if it is offered when we had just fractured our leg! Cruelty we call it. So, it is not just objects but object plus senses plus our mind—that is how happiness seems to occur.

But Vedanta goes further and asserts that even coming together of these factors is also not the real source of happiness. The real source is Atman, the eternal, divine and joyful nature of ours. The calmer and purer our mind is, the more we experience this now-faintly- perceived source of happiness.

Happiness comes from within, though it appears to come from outside. What happens is when a desire arises in us, our mind or Chitta becomes restless. The supply of inner happiness thus gets snapped or temporarily disrupted. The basic ground of our existence becomes hazy and unclear. But instead of returning to our pristine state of joy and calmness, we get involved with senses to fulfill the desire. A desire, thus, is a kind of distraction or diversion from the innate happiness present within. When the desire gets fulfilled, for time being, the Chitta seems to calm down, resulting in ‘happiness’. But soon this happiness or the state of joy is replaced by restlessness caused by another set of desires which emerge by then. We thus get into action, again, to fulfill the next desire (i.e. to remove what causes disruption in our inner happiness). And thus it goes on and on in our lives.

Further, how does this mistake or error in finding the right source of happiness happen? Sage Patanjali says that it is because the Self within becomes identified, through mind, with various objects of senses. He says that when we are full of calmness, the Eternal Seer within rests in his unmodified state.

Swami Vivekananda explains, the bottom of a lake we cannot see, because its surface is covered with ripples. It is only possible for us to catch a glimpse of the bottom, when the ripples have subsided, and the water is calm. If the water is muddy or is agitated all the time, the bottom will not be seen. If it is clear, and there are no waves, we shall see the bottom. The bottom of the lake is our own true Self; the lake is the Chitta and the waves the Vrittis. . . The Chitta is always trying to get back to its natural pure state, but the organs draw it out. To restrain it, to check this outward tendency, and to start it on the return journey to the essence of intelligence is the first step in Yoga, because only in this way can the Chitta get into its proper course. . . . As soon as the waves have stopped, and the lake has become quiet, we see its bottom. So with the mind; when it is calm, we see what our own nature is; we do not mix ourselves but remain our own selves.

Happiness or true joy is our very nature, and we need not search for it elsewhere!

SourceVedanta Kesari Magazine April 2015 Editorial Page 9 – 10.