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Lasting Happiness Is Impossible In The World

Vedanta says that we are not this body and mind, but are essentially divine. This divinity is at the root of our very existence and is the source of infinite Knowledge and Bliss. Man is not conscious of his divinity because of ignorance (avidya). It is this ignorance which prompts him to desire (kama) enjoyment and seek lasting happiness in the world. And desires are not merely those directed towards gross objects; there are desires for wealth, prosperity, progeny and, to cap it all, name and fame. Vedanta has a term for these desires - esana. Desires, in turn, goad man to action (karma) towards their fulfilment. Sri Shankara often refers to this triangle of avidya, kama and karma in his commentaries on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

Our search for happiness in the external world is through the five perceptions: hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell. And the instruments for these perceptions are our five sense organs: ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. The sense organs are so constituted that they are ever outward directed and tend to come in touch with their respective sense objects.

Unmixed or lasting happiness is impossible in the world. Life in the world is beset with dualities: pleasure-pain, praise-blame, heat-cold and so on. Unmixed pleasure is thus impossible in the world. It is a package deal: you have the one and the other comes in uninvited. Says Swami Vivekananda, ‘Happiness presents itself before man, wearing the crown of sorrow on its head. He who welcomes it must also welcome sorrow.’ That desire is the cause of all misery, Buddha discovered long back and declared it as one of the Four Noble Truths. A life of unbridled sense enjoyment has to necessarily end up in misery and frustration. The Upanishads also make it clear that lasting happiness is possible only by realizing the Infinite (Spirit); there can be no happiness in the finite things of the world.