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Happiness cannot be the purpose of life || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2014)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Question: Sir, what is the purpose of life? Is it earning money, or happiness?

Speaker: The lady is asking, ‘What is the ultimate purpose of life?’ She has already presented us two options:

  1. Earning money or,
  2. Happiness.

But you already know. You have already discounted everything else and zeroed in on to two options. What are they? That the purpose could be either to earn money, or to be happy.

Alright. So let’s first look at these two. What does one earn money for?

Listener 1: For livelihood.

Speaker: And, why does one want a livelihood?

Listener 2: For comfort.

Speaker: What does comfort give you?

Listener 3: Satisfaction and happiness.

Speaker: So, it is very obvious that if one has to choose between money and happiness, one would quickly choose happiness because the very purpose of money is happiness.

See, you have a Rs. 500 note with you, that is what you call as ‘money’. If that Rs. 500 note can buy you nothing or if it can only buy those things which will not give you happiness, will there be any worth of that Rs. 500 note? If that Rs. 500 note can only buy you stuff which will not give you happiness, will there be any value of that note?

So, money has a value only if it can give you happiness. So, between money and happiness, one obviously decides for happiness. That is the easy and obvious part. But what is this ‘happiness’?

If we do a small experiment right now and ask you to write five things that make you happy, and then I ask you to exchange your sheets with your neighbor, what would you find?

Listener 3: That we have written different points.

Speaker: Yes. You would have written extremely different points. In fact, some of the points would be opposites of each other. Now, how does one decide that what makes him happy? How does the mind decide that what makes it happy? How do you come to say that this is what gives me happiness?

Alright. There is a particular tournament going on and the Indian cricket team is meeting the South African cricket team. The bowler throws a beautiful yorker and the Indian batsman is bowled out. Who would be happy?

Listener 4: South Africans.

Speaker: There are South African supporters and there are Indian supporters. Who would be happy? The South African side would be happy and the other side would not be happy. The next batsman, who comes in, sends the next ball into the stands, straight six, eighty meters. Who would be happy?

Listener 4: Indian side.

Speaker: How would you come to see what makes you happy? How do you decide your happiness? Why is one side happy? When the Indian batsman got out, why did the South African side get happy?

Listener 5: The condition got applied.

Speaker: What is that condition? Why does the South African side become happy when the South African bowler gets a wicket?

Let us go back to the past. Now there are two-year old South African kids, and on the other side are two-year old Indian kids. The same event is happening, the South African bowler has bowled out an Indian batsman and these two-three years old South African kids are watching this incident. Would they still be happy at this?

Listener 5: No.

Speaker: Now there are eight year old kids watching this, the same event happens. Would they still be happy?

Listener 6: Probably, Yes.

Speaker: What changed between three years and eight years?

Listener 6: The kids have developed an Ego .

Speaker: And, what has he been told? Ego comes from outside. What has this side been told? That you are a South African, and hence when your team wins, you should be happy.

All this is trained happiness. Can we even call this their happiness? But the fellow will say, ‘I am feeling happy.’ When the very thought of when to feel happy has been drilled inside you by somebody else, can you even claim that this is ‘my’ happiness?

Do we even have the right to say, ‘I am feeling happy’ when my happiness is a totally conditioned and trained happiness? I have been trained to feel happy in certain situations and the other side is trained to feel happy in just the opposite situations. So, there is no truth in this happiness. You feel happy when ‘X’ happens, and the other feels happy when ‘Y’ happens, because you have been trained to feel happy when ‘X’ happens and they have been trained to feel happy when ‘Y’ happens.

Now, suppose one kid from this side accidentally came over to the other, when he was three years old. He would also feel happy when ‘X’ happens. Right? There is nothing intrinsic in this happiness, nothing innate. It’s just that you are born in a particular land, you are surrounded by a particular type of people who have constantly told you that this is what is meant by happiness. When this happens, start laughing. This is happiness. ‘When the Indian batsman hits for a six, start laughing’, this is happiness.

All this is conditioning , not really happiness. We do not know what is it to be happy. You go to school, and as a kid when you go to school, it is just another place where you meet other kids, and there is a building, there are toys and teachers. And as you are six-eight years old, you are told that if you come first in the class then it is a matter of great celebration.

‘You will get a new dress, you will get a cake and we all will laugh’. So, what is the message that goes to the kid’s mind? What is happiness? He concludes that coming first in the class is happiness. He picks up a journal and on the cover page of the magazine is a photo of a board-exam topper and he is smiling, everyone is congratulating him. Now the child himself has not written the board exams, but he looks at all those faces and comes to the conclusion that this must be called as ‘happiness’.

‘O! everyone laughs when someone tops the board-exam, so surely, this must be happiness’.

You are being trained into believing that this is what is happiness. Then you go to watch a movie in which there is a man living in a huge mansion, riding a mammoth car, eight-wheels and it is being displayed with great fanfare. What is the conclusion that your mind draws? That this must be happiness.

‘O! so happiness means having a great palace, lots of money and this big car’.

Then after that you move in life and what do you see? Somebody gets married and after a couple of years of marriage, they post a photograph on social networking sites in which they are holding a baby in their hands and the woman is smiling from ear-to-ear. Now you do not know anything about having a baby, you have not had a baby yet, but you look at the face of the woman with the huge smile and what do you infer? ‘This must be called as happiness. Otherwise why is she happy?’

You go and ask that woman, ‘Why are so happy about it?’ She will say, ‘Because everyone told me that this is happiness, having a baby is happiness.’ And if you ask her, ‘Who told you?’ She will say, ‘Those three people told me.’ You go to those three people and ask, ‘Why did you tell her that this happiness?’ They will say, ‘Oh, everyone told me that this is called as happiness.’

Is it really happiness? And if this is really happiness, then why does it fade away so soon? Why does it always have sadness lurking around? In fact, why does it require sadness for its presence, if it is really happiness?

Have you noticed that you cannot be happy unless you are sad? The deeper is your sadness, the greater is the possibility of happiness .

Results are about to be declared, there are two subjects. One, about which you are apprehensive, and the other, in which you are confident that you will pass. You go and you find that you have passed in both the subjects. What makes you more happy? Passing in the one in which you are already confident, or passing in the one in which you were afraid that you might fail? What makes you more happy?

Listener 7: Sir, passing in the one in which I had a doubt whether I will pass or not.

Speaker: So, the deeper is the tension, the greater is the happiness. So, if you go there sweating, terrified, thinking, ‘I am going to fail’, and you find that you have passed, you will start dancing. You will be so happy.

Such is the stupidity of happiness. How can this stupid thing be the purpose of life? The common happiness that we know has two characteristics:

First, it is an acquired conditioning. And second, it depends on the presence of sadness.

So if you want to be happy, you should be sad. How many of you want deep happiness? You must go and must become deeply sad. Obviously, this kind of happiness is of no use, it is coming from others, it is situation dependent, there is no intelligence in it. There is another happiness, that is called as ‘joy’.

Joy is not a product of conditioning, joy is not a product of anything, joy does not depend on situations, and joy is not stupid. Joy is reasonless!

How do you know that you are joyful or happy? If there is a reason behind your happiness, then it is the stupid kind of happiness. If someone asks you, ‘You are looking so happy, what is the reason?’ and you are able to come up with a reason, then you should know that this is that stupid kind of happiness, the acquired conditioning.

However, if you find that you feel light, the mind is playful, you are unnecessarily singing a song and there is no reason why you are doing all this, then you should know that you have discovered the real happiness. And that real happiness, we will not even call it as happiness, we will call it ‘joy’.

The unreasonable happiness, that happiness which does not come to you as a product of circumstances, that happiness which cannot be taken by others, that happiness which you do not work for and attain, that happiness which does not lie in the future. That happiness is called as ‘Joy’.

It is wonderful to be happy, but you hurt yourself if your happiness is that stupid variety of happiness, because that happiness will definitely turn into sadness. Stupid happiness is waiting to turn into sadness. It depends upon its opposites.

I am asking you to quickly, effortlessly, find that happiness which nobody has given you and nobody can take away, which is your own nature. Lightness, simple pure lightness! A lightness in which you understand, a lightness in which you are not bogged down, a lightness which is not threatened, in which you are not afraid.

And you know what happens when you are not afraid and when you are joyful. You become capable of love, that mysterious thing suddenly happens. Only a mind whose mind is not bogged down under the weight of a thousand types of conditioning, only that man is capable of love.

Then that Lightness, that Joy, that Freedom cannot be called a purpose, because all purposes are in future. When you already have it, will you call it a purpose? When you say that ‘X’ is the purpose of life, then you mean that I am working towards ‘X’, I want to attain ‘X’.

‘Happiness’ is what you want to attain, ‘Joy’ is what you already have. So, ‘Joy’ cannot be a purpose. It’s a purposeless ‘Joy’; already there.

Be light, be aware, be loving, that is the purpose of life. Simple!

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

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