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For those who want happiness || Acharya Prashant, at DTU (2023)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner (Q): Thank you for coming here and enlightening us with all your knowledge. I have two small questions. I have written this so that I can deliver clearly. I have heard from multiple sources that we should not chase our happiness because happiness is already within us. So, is this right?

And another question is: if this is right, then what's the purpose of doing our work? A person wants to become a doctor because after becoming he will be able to serve the society and he will feel better after that. But if I am already happy, if I am already powerful, then what's the motivation behind doing our work?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Good. Both questions are useful. No, it's not that you should not chase happiness; you should chase great happiness, true happiness, high happiness, lasting happiness, happiness free of sadness, happiness free of fear. And this will tell you that usually the happiness that we chase is not high, is not lasting, comes with fear, and comes with sadness. Does it not? And that's the problem with the normal kind of happiness.

So, the knowers have said, “Happiness is not the goal of life, absolute happiness is the goal of life.” They were such super hedonists, you could say. We talk of ambition, think of the ambition of the sages and the great philosophers. They did not even say that you should go for ordinary accomplishment or ordinary happiness, they said absolute happiness, happiness without a second, happiness without an end. That's the purpose of life.

And that's the reason they said that the usual happinesses that you chase are all nonsense. Because those happinesses come on back of fear. Those happinesses are just shadows of sadness, those happinesses won't last. Those happinesses would leave long periods of wanting and longing and shallowness in their wake. So, it's a very misplaced notion that ‘wisdom’ or ‘spirituality' is about dropping happiness or not chasing happiness. No, no, no. Have you heard of the word ‘ Sacchidānanda '? Sat-cit-ananda; getting it? ‘Truth-Consciousness-Joy’ — and if the first two are there, then the third one is the proof. Your Joy is the proof that you are living in Truth, that you are living consciously. How can then ‘wisdom’ be against happiness?

Do you see the nature of the sages? They were such greatly ambitious people: they wanted total happiness. We picture them as serious, grave, almost gloomy old fogies; no? If I ask you: can you visualize a Ṛiṣhi , how do you visualize him? ‘Serious.’ And if you are not told that he is a sage, you’ll say, “Oh, he is some homeless destitute. Poor fellow! My sympathies are with him.” It's just because we are culturally conditioned to look at the image of the Ṛiṣhi as something respectable, therefore we don't say all these things.

There is a great problem in the way we have thought of the sages. The sages were very-very joyful people, very joyful people. And that's probably the reason they chose to live in the jungle because our cities and villages are joyless. Getting it? And if you exhibit joy to joyless people, they get very frustrated, even violent. If there are people who have condemned themselves to live morose, dull, boring, dead lives; if they come across someone who is truly living it, as they say, ‘king size’, he gets very frustrated and envious and therefore violent. So, the sages said, “No, no, no, we would rather retreat to the jungles,” and in the jungles, they could freely exhibit their joy.

Now this ‘Joy’ is such a superior kind of happiness that you cannot very easily visualize it. If ‘happiness’ in your opinion consists of laughing or is expressed through laughter, then ‘Joy’ does not mean a guffaw. You'll say, “When you are ordinarily laughing then you stretch these two points by half an inch. And in Joy, obviously, the stretch extends to two inches.” No. Which basically means that Joy is not in the same plane as happiness. Joy is not a linear extension of happiness, Joy is a dimension different from happiness. You cannot say: “Two units of excitement is happiness and five units of excitement is Joy.” No. Happiness, if it lies on the x-axis; Joy lies on the y-axis — it's a separate dimension.

So, the purpose of life is total happiness. ‘Total happiness’. Think of your happinesses now, are they total? If they are not total, don't stick to them. Search for something higher, search for something that won't abate, search for something that is not dependent on others or conditions. “If he smiles, I'll be happy”; but it's not necessary that he'll smile, irrespective of how hard you work for him, right? “If I get the right results, I'll be happy”; but the results are not, and never, totally in your control.

So, the more you start seeing that our happinesses are all conditional, finite, infested with sadness and suspicion, the more you become capable of Joy. It's just that in the beginning it might be a little frustrating, even depressing. Because we are conditioned to happiness and when that normal happiness is taken away, there is frustration. You'll have to pass through that period of frustration. That's the answer to your first part.

The second part, he said, “But if you are already happy, why would you work?” You would work because you are happy. Now, that's again beyond your conception, because so far probably you have worked only because you wanted something; correct? Which means your incompletion makes you work. I don't have something, so I work to attain that thing. So, my feeling of incompleteness becomes my engine, my driver, my fuel.

It becomes very difficult for us to imagine how is it possible to work even if fully satisfied. Yes, now, a superior quality of work happens when you do not work to gain satisfaction. Now you work because you already have satisfaction. Then the quality of work is something worth watching! It is that quality of work that is called Niṣkāmakarma , as well. That is the only thing worth doing. Not working to attain something; working because I have something. Not speaking so that you will applaud for me; speaking because I have transcended the need to be applauded. Do you understand this?

Dancing, not because somebody would make a reel or a short and gain me. It's very difficult to find somebody dancing without a camera on. If you can dance and particularly if you can dance well, what do you immediately do? You record it. You record it even if you dance very badly actually. But can there be a dance where there is no cognition, no remembrance of the camera? You're dancing because you just… (shrugs shoulders). And somebody asks, “But why are you dancing?” You say, “Stupid! He thinks there must always be a ‘why’, there is no ‘why’.”

“But, what do you get out of dancing?” “I'm not that kind of a beggar! What do you think, I'm dancing in the Town Square to collect arms? No!” Start practicing this thing. Start doing things from which you get nothing, and slowly, you will develop some taste. Better still, if you start doing things where you not only get nothing but actually lose something. It will appear bitter, almost intolerable in the beginning but slowly, you will start saying, “But there is a strange kind of pleasure in this. I'm loving it.” Happens with practice.

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