Thursday, March 12, 2015

HAPPINESS & BLISS by Swami Sivananda

by Swami Sivananda

Every human being has desires, but the desires vary from person to person and from time to time for the same person. Some desire wealth, some fame, some power; one who has no children wants children, a bachelor wants to get married, and so on. But if these persons are asked why they desire all these, the answer will invariably be that they expect to get happiness by the fulfilment of their desires. So it is clear that what every human being wants is happiness, and each one has his own notion of what will bring him or her that happiness. Thus it is happiness alone that is desired for its own sake, and everything else is desired only for the sake of happiness. In Vedanta all objects of desire are denoted by the word 'Vishaya'. This noun is derived from the verbal root 'si' with prefix 'vi' which means 'to bind'. This very derivation indicates that it is these objects of desire that bind a human being firmly to transmigratory existence characterised by repeated births and deaths. The happiness experienced on the attainment of any object of desire is known as 'Vishayananda'.

'Brahmananda' is the bliss which is the very nature of the person who has realised that he is Brahman (CONSCIOUSNESS). This realisation is the consequence of the removal of the wrong identification with the body, and mind, which is natural to every living creature. Brahman being Bliss itself, one who has realised that he is Brahman remains as that very Bliss. Though Bliss is the real nature of every human being, it is only the realised soul who is aware of it.

All desires spring from identification with the body and mind, because the happiness looked forward to by the fulfilment of desires is to be enjoyed by the body and the mind. Thus Vishayananda, or the happiness arising from objects, has, as its basis, identification with the body and mind.
On the other hand, Brahmananda is the consequence of the removal of this identification. These two thus appear to be diametrically opposed to each other. However, paradoxically, as it may seem, Swami Vidyaranya says in Panchadasi (XV.1) that Vishayananda is the door to Brahmananda and is an aspect of it. We shall see how this is so. 

 Desires and their effect on man

When a person intensely desires something, his mind remains obsessed by that desire. He is full of anxiety about the fulfilment of that desire and fears about obstacles cropping up. In such a state of mental agitation he is very miserable. If he fails in his effort he becomes even more unhappy. His mind becomes filled with anger and hatred against those whom he considers, rightly or wrongly, to have been responsible for his failure. He becomes dejected and despondent. There cannot be even the slightest trace of happiness when the mind is in such a state.

When and how happiness arises
If, on the other hand, the object desired is attained, then his mind becomes calm and remains so until another desire arises to disturb it. When the mind is calm, the bliss which is the real nature of every human being, becomes clearly reflected in it, just as the moon is clearly reflected in a pond in which the water is clear and not disturbed by the wind. When the mind is agitated by anxieties, fears and other such emotions, the reflection of bliss is indistinct like the reflection of the moon in a pond in which the water is muddy or disturbed by wind. Thus happiness is the result of the calming of the mind for the time being, but it is wrongly attributed to the attainment of the desired object.

Happiness does not come from objects

Objects have no capacity to produce happiness or unhappiness. The same object may give happiness to one person and unhappiness to another person. It is also every one's experience that the same object gives happiness at one time and unhappiness at another time to the same person. Warm clothing gives comfort in cold weather, but one cannot bear even the touch of it in a hot summer. 
The mind is the cause of happiness and unhappiness

A person is happy when other living beings or inanimate objects are favourable to him, and unhappy when they are unfavourable. A thing or person is considered favourable when that thing or person responds in the way desired. If a son obeys his father, the father is happy; if he does not, the father is unhappy. A person is happy with his car or any other object as long as it functions well; if it does not, he is unhappy and wants to get rid of it. It is thus clear that happiness and unhappiness are only states of the mind, but are wrongly thought to be caused by external objects. Happiness is the result of the mind becoming calm. The mind becomes calm temporarily when a particular desire is fulfilled, and then happiness is experienced. But soon another desire crops up and agitates the mind, causing unhappiness. Thus it is clear that lasting happiness cannot be attained by the fulfilment of desires.

Detachment is the key to lasting happiness
True and lasting happiness can result only if the mind is permanently kept calm. This can be achieved only if desires, which are the cause of mental agitation, are completely eliminated. We are therefore led to the conclusion that total detachment towards all worldly pleasures (Vairagya) is the only means for the attainment of true and lasting happiness, which is Brahmananda.

Vairagya is the most essential requisite for a person who wishes to attain Self-knowledge, which alone will lead to eternal bliss. It is said by Sri Sankara that one who attempts to attain Self-knowledge without cultivating dispassion is like a person trying to cross a river on the back of a crocodile, mistaking it for a floating log of wood. He is sure to be eaten up by the crocodile midway.

It is now clear why Swami Vidyaranya says that Vishayananda is the door to, and an aspect of Brahmananda. Vishayananda is nothing but Brahmananda reflected in a calm mind.

Why the bliss aspect of Brahman is reflected only in a calm mind

Brahman is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. The existence aspect alone is manifested in inanimate objects, but not consciousness and bliss. This is because inanimate objects have no subtle body which alone can reflect consciousness and bliss. The consciousness aspect is manifested in all animate beings, even when the mind is agitated, for we see that even a person who is unhappy is conscious. But the bliss aspect is manifested only when the mind is calm. A doubt arises as to why, when Brahman has both the aspects of consciousness and bliss, only one of them, consciousness, is reflected in an agitated mind. When you look at the reflection of your face in a mirror, you find that the face in its entirety is reflected and not only some aspects of it. This doubt is answered by Swami Vidyaranya by giving two examples. When water is in contact with fire, only the heat aspect of fire is absorbed by the water and not the light of fire. But when a log of wood comes into contact with fire, it absorbs both the heat and the light aspects. The same is the case with the reflection of Brahman. 

Peace, Love, Harmony