The Search for Happiness
What is the goal of human life? Each individual seems to have an apparently different goal. One wants to become a doctor, another an actor, and yet another an Olympic gold medalist. And almost all of us want to become rich. If asked, “Why do you want to become a doctor or an actor? Why do you want money or fame?”. The final answer is, “To become happy”. So, in and through all our pursuits we desire happiness alone. This is the common pursuit of all living beings. We think happiness is in 'this' or 'that' object so we make it our goal.
Is it not strange that all human beings have been searching from beginning-less time, from morning to night, from birth to death, life after life for happiness and yet do not seem to have found it? Could we not give up this desire and remain in sorrow? That too, is not possible. We cannot be happy being unhappy!
Let us look deeper, what is the nature of the happiness we seek? Do we want to be happy today, tomorrow or next year? No. We want to be happy every moment, starting from now and forever after. Hence, all fairy tales end with the sentence “And they lived happily forever after”. We seek eternal happiness. If we experience some happiness in place/object/situation/person 'A' and some more in 'B', then we seek 'B' because we want the maximum happiness possible. In fact, we want unlimited, infinite, eternal happiness.
Presently, we seek to change the following in order to gain happiness, but do we find it?
- Place: We undergo lots of travails in travel to reach a holiday resort. When the novelty of the place wears out, we return.
- Time: We always wait for better times to come.
- Objects: We change our cars, houses, TVs, ect. with regularity, hoping the new model would give us greater joy or lesser trouble.
- Circumstances/Status: The bachelor wants to get married, the married one divorces and yet another becomes a renunciate in order to become happy. We change jobs in search of job satisfaction to often find that we have jumped from the frying pan to the fire.
- People: We make and break human relations.
- Body: We have evolved over numerable lives from the unicellular organism to the human, just to be happy. But even in this life, many contemplate suicide (ie: change the body to get rid of sorrow).
So, just by changing the above, our desire for happiness does not end. It would only end when we gain eternal infinite Bliss. Where is the happiness we seek located? Are we looking in the wrong place?
Unveiling the Irony
Everything that comes together must fall apart. This is a law that cannot be avoided. It is a source of suffering that permeates our whole existence. As long as we cling to things we will suffer from being separated from them. As long as we build up something we will suffer from its collapse. Throughout history, we have repeated this pattern of union and dissolution countless times and it has generated so much unneeded suffering. Everything we can grasp with our senses will pass. Nothing is permanent. The more we search for permanence, the more we will be disappointed and perpetuate our suffering. This perpetual search for permanence in this life has its origin in the ignorance of our true self. It is only by letting go of all our abstractions, our labelling, measuring and categorizing of life (maya), that we might find something permanent in our life. But what are we really searching for when we try to perpetuate things? What do we expect? Is it happiness we are searching for? Can we really find happiness “outside”? Isn’t this impermanent happiness we try to find outside but suffering in disguise? Did you ever find lasting happiness that did not turn to suffering in the phenomenal world called Samsara?
Please do not simply read this. Go into it deeply and try to find a source of everlasting happiness “outside”. If you find a significant other and you fall in love, you might think that you have found happiness. But does this happiness not fade after several years? It might perhaps not but you certainly know how much suffering the death of a beloved one is causing and how much pain a separation is causing. And this is definitively unavoidable.
Have you ever asked yourself the reason for searching happiness? If we search something it is always something that we know. It is something that we have lost. If I search for my wallet or my keys, I know what I am searching for. Have you ever searched for something that you didn’t know, before you have searched for it? How would such a thought come about? It is very important to inquire deeply into this question.
You might want to become something that you have never been before. You might want to become famous and you have never been famous. You might want to be beautiful if you feel ugly. You might want to become rich. But the very core of these longings is a quest of happiness. In the ignorance of your true self you search for happiness “outside”. You think that fame, fortune, beauty or social position will bring you happiness. And when you have achieved all that you wanted to, you still feel unsatisfied and you might have a lot of psychiatric medication in your cupboard to balance out the fears of loosing what you think you have achieved until now.
When we plan, strive, and grasp for more, we sometimes can improve our circumstances and increase our subjective life quality, but there is a strong bias in our psychology that counters this potentiality. The planning, striving, and grasping subconsciously create expectations and attachments that often constitute a larger liability for happiness than the opportunity for gain warrants. And so the search and the suffering continues for the rest of your life.
The funny thing about that is that we all search for something that we have already and that we always had. We are happiness and we have never been separated from happiness. It is by surrendering to the now, by forgetting everything that we imagine to have or that we long to get that we will eventually dis-cover true happiness. For happiness, as our true nature is beyond what is graspable, it is beyond what is perceivable and it is beyond words. We are what we are searching for and we have ever been what we have ever searched for, hence we know what we are searching for because it happens every night in deep sleep and we sometimes perceive it briefly during the day when the mind is very calm and aware in the now, but we have to die to it to really fulfil our deepest wish. Life is not possible without death, in the same way happiness is not possible without abandoning all those worldly concerns and dying to the ego, dying to the now… simply being… and you will know that you have never been separated from the whole. It is only once we shed all self definition that will we discover who we really are.
Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the ignorance of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don’t have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don’t you experience it?