Why does happiness so often elude our grasp? Many of us long for happiness, perhaps not realising that this longing actually acts as a barrier to our goal. It is like standing with one's mouth open towards the skies waiting for the rains to quench one's thirst. Is it not more sensible to dig a well or a pond to create a lasting source of water? Similarly, we need to create a lasting ambience, within and around us, for happiness to grow in our lives. Instead of merely craving happiness, we need to create the right state of mind for it to take root and grow. We must explore how we can produce happiness from within ourselves.
Here I have summed up in five "Ds" the essence of the wisdom from some profound teachings of the world such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching:
The first D points to our present condition: Dependence. Generally, we depend on outward conditions and circumstances and on relationships for our happiness. While these are all significant sources of happiness for all humans, our dependence on them divests them of their power to meet our needs. Swami Vivekananda summed up this paradox succinctly: "The bee came to sip the honey, but its feet stuck to the honey-pot and it could not get away."
"To detach... enables the process for inner discovery. It allows us to search within for happiness, akin to digging a well to discover an underground source of fresh water."
It requires positive and healthy freedom for a relationship to grow and flourish. Dependence decays and devalues this ambience of freedom. Every time we lean on someone to excess, let us take a step back. Let us realise that our source of support also has a life of their own and needs to grow to their own potential. We exist as much in our own essence as we do in relationship to one another.
This brings us to the need for the second D: Detachment. This does not imply devaluing, disowning or disregarding our relationships or surroundings. What it does mean is non-dependence, or even more accurately, detached involvement. Yes, we must stay and grow in the happiness that we derive from outside but at the same time we must not depend on it or demand that all our requirements be met from those around us. It is essential to create a healthy space in between and around our contacts and relationships for them to flow and flourish. The Gita gives the beautiful example of the lotus leaf which remains unstuck with the waters upon which it settles so splendidly. The self-cleaning property of the lotus leaf (called the Lotus Effect) holds a valuable lesson to human beings and the way they relate with the material world.
To detach in the manner defined enables the process for inner discovery. It allows us to search within for happiness, akin to digging a well to discover an underground source of fresh water. This discovery enables us not just to extract happiness from the outside world but to infuse happiness into it. The more selflessly we do it, the more intense and plentiful the results. The source of these fresh supplies of happiness lie well beyond the egoic crust and roots of our personalities and relationships and hence the need to dig deep enough. A simple and direct way of doing it: Whenever a strong movement of malice, hatred, ill-will or fear rises up from within for anything or anyone, don't go along with it but ask yourself who is it who is feeling thus, Raman Maharishi suggests. It leads to the discovery of the true Self within. The efforts required are stupendous but immensely rewarding as they give us access to an inexhaustible source of peace and happiness. True happiness and peace go together. As the Bhagavad Gita puts it, to the unpeaceful there can be no happiness.
"[W]e have deep within us a sense of freedom that is completely independent of outward conditions and circumstances. It's a matter of gaining access to this inner free space..."
It is not enough just to have made an access to this source of happiness. We must ensure that we facilitate a sustained flow of it in our outward world. To do this, we must replenish our waters of happiness love and compassion. Hence the need for Devotion. The essence of the Sanskrit word for Devotion, Bhakti, is a profound sense of connectedness. It is the opposite of Vibhakti which implies "a sense of division, disconnect". In its broadest sense it means to connect with that which connects us all. All life is connected and we must grow in this profound sense of connectedness. The Bhagavad Gita enjoins upon us "to take stand upon oneness. See the Self in all beings and all beings in the Self".
The Tao Te Ching humbly suggests that we love the world as we do our own self so as to be able to care truly for all things. Hence the significance of connecting with larger life and nature beyond the confines of the human world and relationships. As waters rising beyond the earthly confines ensure rains, similarly our sense of connectedness with the larger life and nature ensures rich outpourings of happiness, of bliss.
But such an outpouring of happiness brings with it a deep responsibility. It calls for the Diffusion, the fifth D in this approach, of the riches of happiness which we have come to lay our hands on by the Grace of the Divine. What one has got aplenty one must share with generosity.
Many would think that with much evil and misery around, it is impossible to build an unfailing capacity for happiness. But this approach is rooted in the realisation that we have deep within us a sense of freedom that is completely independent of outward conditions and circumstances. It's a matter of gaining access to this inner free space and to rethink and redesign the course of our lives in its light. Furthermore, as we take a profound dip into these inner free spaces we inevitably feel that there is a life-enabling, life-enhancing Grace if we bother to make an access to it and allow it to remould our lives into finer hues and shapes.