The desire for happiness is a powerful fuel that drives human life. But throughout the passage of time, the message of the saints has always been one and the same; that this world is just an illusion and that real, lasting happiness can never be found in this creation.
The question arises, what about those who have a Master and are following a spiritual path? If one has defined his purpose in life, is striving towards a spiritual goal, and has a perfect living Master to guide him, inspire him, and protect him throughout his lifetime, isn’t that the greatest source of happiness? After all, the gift of Nam is not something that can ever be taken away or destroyed by anyone or anything.
Water cannot drown it, thieves cannot steal it, fire cannot burn it.
My Guru’s Word abides, forever within my soul.
Guru Arjun, Adi Granth
It would, therefore, be logical to conclude that every disciple of a perfect Master should actually be the happiest person in the world. And yet, this is not the case. We are still plagued by worries and anxieties, we are still tormented by our passions and we are still troubled when things don’t go our way. Why is that? Why is it so difficult to be happy when the greatest gift, the Guru’s Word, abides within our soul?
As we travel on the spiritual path, it becomes increasingly clear how much of an impact attitude has on the outcome of everyday life. Whether it is at work, at seva, in relationships, during illness or financial difficulties, it is one’s attitude that can either make or break a situation.
Time and again, mystics remind us that we cannot change our circumstances, we cannot change our destiny, and other people will not change to suit our needs. The one thing we can do is work on ourselves. It has often been said that life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react to it. The Lord is in charge of the operation of this entire, magnificent universe, but he has given every human being one, exclusive privilege - that of being completely in charge of his own attitude.
So is there a ‘correct’ attitude to have in order to be happy? Sant Mat literature is filled with advice on how best to live our lives. But perhaps, anyone actively seeking spiritual development would benefit most by developing a detached attitude.
If any person were to reflect upon his attitude when he wakes up in the morning to go to work, it would perhaps sound something like this: ‘I am going to work because I need money to provide a home for my family, to pay for my children’s education and to accumulate some savings so that I can support myself when I retire.’ On the surface it sounds reasonable, even practical, because certainly everyone needs to earn a living.
But from a spiritual perspective, the mystics tell us that this attitude can never be a source of happiness for one simple reason - the motivation behind the action is the self and the satisfaction of one’s desires. The driving force is worldly, so therefore, at best, one can only get the worldly version of happiness. So if a person’s business is successful, or if he has a good, well-paying job, he will be elated; but if the business fails or if he loses his job, he will be depressed, worried and anxious. Thus, caught up in the dual nature of the world, the individual will forever be swaying from one extreme to the other.
Inevitably, with this approach, one ends up burdening his own small frame with so much pressure to achieve and succeed, that he actually jeopardizes his ability to perform. He becomes so bogged down with stress that there is no room left for creativity and inspiration, much less, happiness.
But Sant Mat teaches us to approach life from a different perspective. The saints tell us that whatever is meant for every individual is already written in his fate, and nobody can ever take that away from him. Hazur Maharaj Ji explains this further in the following example:
Both a manager and the proprietor come to the office, but there is a difference in their attitude. The manager is not worried about profits or losses, but the proprietor, the owner, is very concerned about everything. The manager works eight or nine hours honestly and sincerely and that’s all. He doesn’t get heart attacks, but the proprietor does.
Similarly, we should think that nothing belongs to us in this creation. Everything belongs to the Father, and we have been allotted certain responsibilities and duties which we have to discharge truthfully and honestly.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
When an individual’s aim is higher or larger than the self and the aspiration is to do his duty for the pleasure of the Lord, then automatically he is unaffected by the outcome. If the business suffers a loss, he can think, “Imagine how fortunate we are that in the last ten years there was nothing but profits.” If the business is profitable, then he can think, “How can we give back to the Lord, who has given us so much?” Either way, no matter how it turns out, one’s state of mind will always be left undisturbed - neither elated nor depressed.
There is enormous power in an action when it is done selflessly, when one is driven by something beyond the self. In fact, many, if not all of us, have some experience of this when doing seva. In seva, the motivation is to please the Lord, through the Master. So when given a seva task, the attitude is, “I’m going to do my best and leave it to him.” One adopts a completely detached attitude and the focus is on putting in time, effort and attention.
And a task at the onset might seem herculean or impossible always, without fail, works out. And not just works out, everything comes together so perfectly that somehow one feels the entire universe conspiring in every possible way, through every situation, through everyone you come across to help complete the task. This is why seva projects that take place at satsang centres all over the world are always such a phenomenal success - because the actions of the sevadars are selfless and their sole objective is to please the Lord. By having this attitude, they become his instruments, and through his infinite power and grace, the impossible becomes possible.
When one lets go of the limited self and its desires and focuses on that infinite divine power, it responds. It responds in a way that boggles the mind. This response is what we call the Lord’s grace, and it descends from the fountain source of eternal bliss.
Daily meditation allows the disciple to gain access to that bountiful spring. It is for this reason the Masters tell us that ultimately, it is meditation that will make the disciple happy because it is meditation that helps us develop the correct attitude in life. Even if we don’t experience anything within, at least we enjoy what Hazur Maharaj Ji used to call the fragrance of meditation.
Hazur used to say that when a blind man goes to a garden full of scented flowers, he may not be able to enjoy the beauty of the flowers, but at least he enjoys their fragrance.
In Sant Mat, that fragrance is one’s change in attitude. Every disciple develops it as he evolves on the spiritual path. As we focus more and more on the sound current reverberating within ourselves, we automatically become more detached, more selfless, and ultimately much happier, as we make our way closer and closer to that one true source of eternal happiness which water cannot drown, thieves cannot steal and fire cannot burn - the Guru’s Word that abides within the soul.
As an ordinary tree becomes fragrant in the company of a sandalwood tree,
So do people begin to love God when in the company of his devotee.
Kabir, The Great Mystic