The Search for Happiness
An excerpt from To Know Yourself, by Sri Swami Satchidananda
The universe is full of life. You can see the life force constantly. Everything is living: there is no dead matter. What is called inanimate or dead matter is not really dead. This is even well proven by present day science. Although you can’t see its movement with your eyes, if you look through the proper instrument you see an upsurge of force—atoms moving very fast.
But what is their purpose? Why do they run around? What do they want? If you observe carefully, throughout nature you will find one common goal in everybody and everything—even in the atom. All are searching for happiness. In the case of human beings, you see hundreds of individual, social, communal, national, and international efforts. It could be anything: a carnival, a festival, travel, war—yes, even war. The common purpose behind all these efforts is the search for happiness.
When you go before an altar and pray to God, what’s the reason? Not for the sake of God, but for the happiness. You want to be happy by making this or that effort. This is the common goal.
Ask anybody, even a burglar who robs a bank, why he does it.
“I want to make some money.”
“To buy more things.”
“I want to be happy.”
Ask the policeman, “Why are you chasing the burglar?”
“To catch the culprit. That’s my duty. I want everybody to be happy, not to lose things and be sad.”
Ask a man why he drinks. “Oh, I want to be happy.” Smokes? “I want to be happy.” Whether he is getting happiness or not, he wants it for that purpose. He things this will make him happy. The common goal is to put an end to sorrow and keep one’s self always happy.
The goal is approached by many in different ways. Some people want to be happy quickly, so they take short-cuts and get temporary happiness. But borrowed joy comes and goes. The happiness we seem to be getting by our daily efforts is fleeting and mixed with a lot of troubles, worries, and unhappiness. Happiness cannot come without unhappiness before and after. We keep trying to find that happiness and we keep missing it. When we finally tire of searching for happiness outside, we sit quietly and wonder, “What is this? Why am I unhappy? Why do I lose the happiness that I have? If we’re sincere and analyze well, we find, ultimately, that the happiness never comes from outside.
You never get happiness by doing something or achieving something, including so-called spiritual practices, prayers, or the search for God. Even God cannot give you happiness. If God gives, God might take away. Anything that comes, goes. Even in the name of searching for God we see people becoming unhappy. Here is my answer: happiness is not to be sought outside. It can never come from outside or from inside. It can’t come—because it simply is. It is always. Where? Everywhere. It is just happiness.
You are Happiness personified. You are that Supreme Bliss. You are that joy. You are the image of happiness. If you want to use the word of God, who is God? What are God’s qualifications? Always being happy. So, as the image of God, how can you be unhappy?
You have forgotten you have eyes and you are running to see your eyes. But what you search with is your eyes. So you can say, “I don’t see my eyes; I want to see them.” You are the Seer yourself and you can never see your Self.
The mere ignorance or forgetting of this makes you unhappy. The basic sin or mistake is to forget your true nature. It’s a form of Self-suicide. By forgetting your Self, you kill your Self. So you become unhappy. Naturally, when you are unhappy, things become worse.
With an unhappy mind you look for happiness. Imagine a big basin filled with still water, no waves. Naturally it shines well. The surface is clean and still. When you bend down you see your face very well. In still water you can see a reflection. As you are seeing it, imagine that something falls into the basin. Immediately the surface is disturbed and you see a distorted image of your Self. Forgetting your real image, you take that to be your true nature; you identify yourself with that image and sit and cry. Then you run about saying, “I have to get myself in shape.”
You can make the mind straight and undisturbed by taking away the cause of its disturbance. What fell into your mind to disturb it? Certainly nothing from outside can fall in, unless you allow something to happen to your mind.
You allow associations with things or words to fall in and disturb your mind. If somebody uses a word that isn’t pleasing, you say, “He’s scording me,” and become upset. You allow his word to come and disturb your mind. Then you say, “He is making me unhappy.” But really you disturb your own mind.
It’s better to say, “I am happy,” than, “I want to be happy.” The minute you say, “I want to be happy,” that very want disturbs the mind. And suppose the want is fulfilled? How many people go crazy over a small piece of paper, a stamp printed some one hundred years ago? They pay thousands of dollars to get that piece of paper. They give value to it and struggle to obtain it. If you are caught up in this, you will say, “I can’t be happy without the stamp,” so you pay the price. Then you say, “Ah, I got it.” It’s simple enough. First you said, “I want it.” After all the effort you say, “I got it.” Where are you now? The same place you were before you wanted it: happy.
Understand this well. You were happy before you wanted the stamp. But the moment you wanted it, you became unhappy. And the moment you got it, you were happy again. So where did the happiness come from? Not from that thing. The thing by itself didn’t give you any happiness. You regained the happiness when you took the want back, or when you fulfilled the cavity or depression which was created by the want.
Once the want-stone falls into the mind, you are depressed. A depression is a hollow space. The mind is de-pressed, you have to ful-fill it. You create the depression, fulfill it, then come back to the normal level and say, “I’m happy now.” So it goes with everything, whether it is an old stamp, a position, a place, money, a name, or fame.
I say, “Want not, waste not.” You may wonder why I have changed the beautiful proverb, “Waste not, want not.” Since I always want to be a Yogi, I seem to put things upside down. Want not and waste not your happiness. Sometimes we have people say, “He is happy because he is above wants.” What does that mean? Not that he has everything in the world. If that were s, he would never be happy. It means he has rained himself above wants; he no longer wants anything.
This is easy to say and nice to hear. But such understanding comes only after running around quite a lot, facing failure everywhere and in everything, and finally becoming disgusted. “I’m tired. I don’t want anything more.”
That’s why scriptures say that if you want God, give up everything else. Do not want anything, including God, and you will have God. God is always there.
The goal is to realize your true nature, to realize your peace, your happiness, your godliness, your image of God. Without that, you can never be a hundred percent happy. You will be happy, then unhappy. Nobody can always be completely happy without knowing that he or she is happiness. This is what God is.