Do We Really Want to Be Happy?
Being happy is what most people would consider to be their main aim in life, although the word ‘happiness’ is often confused with the word ‘pleasure’. Pleasure arises from the gratification of a particular desire and since everything is always changing, including our desires, pleasure is short-lived. Happiness, on the other hand, is something different; happiness provides a sense of such deep satisfaction and blissfulness that our worldly desires just drop away. It is found in a state of consciousness above and beyond change and can be reached through meditation. Actually, the peace and tranquillity experienced by those who devote themselves wholeheartedly to spiritual practice affects the whole atmosphere around them. It is as pervasive as the scent of flowers in a garden. Maharaj Sawan Singh writes of an experience he had as a young officer in the foothills of the Himalayas:
Once when I was riding my horse through the Murree hills, a feeling of immeasurable happiness came over me. I could not think of any reason for this. Sometimes one gets into a happy state of that kind when one thinks of one’s children or one’s worldly position. But no, that was not the case. Then I thought perhaps it was due to the fragrance from the surrounding trees, because it was the month of April and the trees were in full bloom. Then I thought to myself, “I have not been in such a state of wonderful happiness for the last eighteen years. Why is it that I am so buoyant today?”
As I rode on farther, my buoyancy increased. And lo! I beheld a fakir in a trance sitting by the roadside. I then realized that the bliss and happiness I was experiencing was radiating from him. Therefore, I got down from my horse to pay my respects to him. Seeing me, the fakir remarked, “O friend, a man with a discerning nose is very rare.”
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Until such time as we take seriously to meditation, we are obsessed by our desires, driven by the attempt to fulfil them. In fact since we spend most of our time trying to attract pleasant experiences and push away the unpleasant ones, there is a risk that we miss the point of our existence. There is an Indian saying: “When a pickpocket sees a saint, he only sees his pockets.” In other words, since the pickpocket is only concerned with stealing the money from the saint’s pocket, he misses the golden opportunity to attain what is priceless – spiritual wealth. Let us not miss our golden opportunity. We should have only one desire: to please our Master through the daily practice of meditation and if we do this, then everything else will fall into place. As Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” We shouldn’t be overly concerned about daily necessities, but instead focus upon practising our meditation. It will help us get through the difficult times, and take us to the place of true happiness, where there is no desire, but only bliss.
Reaching our final destination requires us to repeat simran at every opportunity throughout the day, not just in the formal sitting period. As countless devotees recount, there is joy and happiness to be found by concentrating on the present moment and remembering the One. A Buddhist monastery in Thailand, for example, has a room dedicated to displaying art painted and sketched by its monks. In one picture, a monk, with an enormous smile on his face, is leaping up into the air proclaiming, “What joy! To find there is no happiness in this world.” This realization has set him free at last to look inside and find the real joy. No doubt he experiences it when he is meditating, but just as importantly, he finds joy throughout the day by practising the art of mindfulness, that is, by focusing on the present moment and not being concerned with tomorrow, next month or the year after.
We also have records of a seventeenth-century French monk, Brother Lawrence, who wrote letters about his experience of living in the present moment, some of which have been compiled in a book called, The Practice of the Presence of God. Full of inspiration, they highlight the overwhelming joy he felt in constantly thinking about God and feeling his presence whilst performing even the most mundane tasks. The following extract describes the fruits of his practice:
I do not know what God intends to do with me. My happiness keeps growing. Everyone is suffering, and I, who deserve the severest discipline, sense joys so unbroken and so great, that I have difficulty in restraining them … faith enables me to touch him with my finger, and he never withdraws from us unless we have first withdrawn from him.
Similarly, in The Way of the Pilgrim, we learn about the inner journey of a Russian pilgrim who, upon reading the words of Saint Paul in the Bible, was determined to devote his life to ceaseless prayer. His travels led him to a starets (a spiritual father) who taught him the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”, which he repeated as a mantra. Eventually he wrote:
I felt a most delightful warmth, as well as consolation and peace…. I felt a very great joy…. Sometimes my heart would feel as though it were bubbling with joy, such lightness, freedom and consolation were in it. Sometimes that sense of a warm gladness in my heart spread throughout my whole being and I was deeply moved as the fact of the presence of God everywhere was brought home to me. Sometimes by calling on the name of Jesus I was overwhelmed with bliss, and now I knew the meaning of the words, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
The experiences of travellers on the path of spirituality are inspiring; they encourage us to find the same joy and peace by repeating our simran constantly throughout the day because, in so doing, we cannot help but think of the Master. In effect, the joy comes not so much from the holy names themselves but from their association with, and therefore our remembrance of, the Master. Eventually, we too will come to realize that the ‘Kingdom of God’ is within us. This is precisely why the Masters continuously remind us that the happiness we yearn for is inside; it is not to be found anywhere else. However, there is no need to pull a long face in life. In fact the Masters encourage us to be happy, to laugh, and to enjoy the gifts that the Lord has given us. They advise us to be content and go through our karmas smilingly, whether they seem to us to be good or bad. Ultimately, the Masters want us to do our duty, not to worry and, simply to surrender to God’s will. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
What is happiness? It’s when you have no worry, when you’re relaxed … when you are in the lap of the Beloved. The real happiness can only come when the soul shines and becomes one with the Father…. The more it is nearer to the Father, the more happy it will be.
The greatest miracle of the mystics is that they change the very attitude of our life, the way of our life. They turn everything upside down in our life. That is the greatest miracle the saints come to perform in our lives.
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