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Everlasting Happiness Is A Universal Desire – But How To Achieve It?

Everlasting happiness is a universal desire. It is for happiness — both mundane and other-worldly —that humans perform various actions. But there is no end to desire. Desires keep cropping up, one after the other. On meeting mundane fulfilment, desires only increase in intensity, just like fire fed with ghee. And the pleasures of heaven end in the continuation of the cycle of birth and death: ‘Kshine punye martya-lokam visanti; they enter the mortal world on the exhaustion of their merit.’ (Bhagavad Gita, 9.21.) Thus, the chain of repeated births and deaths goes on: ‘Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam; there is birth again, there is death again.’ (Shankaracharya, ‘Charpata-panjarika-stotra’, 8) Only if all our desires could be fulfilled would we possibly be satisfied. But it is not possible to attain this state of the apta-kama without Self-realization.

Dharma, virtue, artha, wealth, and kama, pleasure, three of the purusharthas, aims of human life, are transient, and so are their results. But moksha, liberation, the fourth purushartha, is everlasting. That is why the sages proclaim moksha as the ultimate purushartha: ‘Chaturvidha-purushartheshu moksha eva parama-purusharthaḥ; among the four human ends, liberation alone is supreme.’

The Chandogya Upanishad says: ‘Tarati shokam-atmavit; the knower of Self transcends grief.’ (Chantaya Upanishad, 7.1.3.) The Shvetashvatara Upanishad announces: ‘Tam-eva viditvati-mrityum-eti nanyah pantha vidyateyanaya; knowing Him alone one transcends death, there is no other way to follow.’ (Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 3.8; 6.15.) ‘Rite jnananna muktih; there is no liberation except through Self-knowledge’ is a fundamental tenet of Advaita Vedanta. These statements affirm that moksha is possible only through the knowledge of Brahman.

Jneya or prameya, objects of knowledge, are of two kinds: vyāvahārika, pragmatically or relatively real, and paramarthika, absolutely real. All objects of knowledge other than Brahman are vyavaharika. They are valid at the vyavaharika level of worldly activity but are sublated at the paramarthika level of the Absolute. Brahman alone exists at the paramarthika level. It remains unchanged at all times; in fact, it transcends the category of time. This has been described variously in the Shruti and Smriti texts. The Chandogya Upanishad says: ‘Sad-eva somyedamagra asit; O noble one (Svetaketu), in the beginning this was Existence alone.’ (Chandogya Upanishad, 6.2.1.) It also says: ‘Tat-tvam-asi; you are That’ (Chandogya Upanishad 6.12.3). All these texts refer to the one object of knowledge at the paramarthika level, unaffected by time. It is also the sole subject matter of the Upanishads. It is only by attaining this knowledge that a jiva attains moksha.

SourceExcerpts from article titled ‘The Six Means of Knowledge in Advaita Vedanta’ by Swami Alokananda published in Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2010 issue.