This month, DAAJI recommends three happiness habits. He also shares wisdom from the Bhagavad Gita, and from modern writers, to inspire us with confidence and help us on our way toward lasting happiness.
Santiago the shepherd boy is the main character in Paulo Coelho’s bestseller, The Alchemist. Santiago has a recurring dream of treasure, and when a gypsy fortune teller interprets this dream for him, he sets out for Egypt to find the treasure. On the way, he is robbed, does petty jobs, befriends an Englishman, loves an Arab girl, fails in love, finds a master, and finally reaches the pyramids and starts digging. That’s when Santiago realizes that the treasure he was seeking all along was not in Egypt, but back home in the ruined village church where he first had the dream.
Santiago’s story strikes a chord in our hearts. Often, in the pursuit of our goals, we jump through hoops and lunge at mirages. Sometimes, along the way, we realize that what we truly seek is in fact within us.
I had my Santiago moment in the summer of April 1981. Babuji, my guru, visited Ahmedabad for a few days. Hundreds of people from nearby towns and villages joined Babuji in meditation, and on the last day of his visit he shared a parting message, a couplet written in Urdu:
“Raahein talab mein aise bekhabar ho gaye,
manzil pe aake manzil ko dhoondhete hain.”
“We are so preoccupied with the journey that,
even after reaching the destination, unaware,
we continue searching for it.”
In those simple lines, Babuji reminded us that what we seek is already within us. Those words were so reassuring, and I was in such bliss, that if it had been my last day I would have gone dancing all the way up.
But tell me, if my heart wasn’t craving, if I hadn’t struggled, would I have realized this wisdom? Would Santiago have realized his destiny without going on his quest? The quest is necessary. Struggles open the portals of understanding. Problems arise only when we get stuck with the journey and lose sight of the goal.
Such deviations are known as curvature or whirlpools in spirituality. Social scientists also have a name for them: medium maximization. Becoming engrossed in the path and losing sight of the goal is medium maximization, and most of us experience it when we pursue happiness.
Happiness and medium maximization
We all seek happiness, and there is a good reason why. Happiness does a world of good for us. At work, happy employees do better and earn more. At home, happy parents make for happy children. In a community, happy people volunteer more often. In sports, happy athletes perform better. And in spirituality, seekers fare better when they are happy and joyful, not miserable and groveling in guilt.
Yet, happiness is so darned difficult to find. And that’s because we forget what we are seeking. Let me explain.
Professor Raj Ranganath, author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?, asks something called the genie question. It goes like this. Imagine a genie offers you three wishes, anything you want. What would you ask for? Take some time to think about it. Over the years, thousands of people have answered this question and most answers boil down to three things: A great deal of money, fame, and amazing relationships.
“If I have more money, I’ll be happy,” “If I am famous, I’ll be happy,” “If I find love, I’ll be happy.” Money, status, and relationships are all mediums for happiness, paths to happiness, but they are not the goal. Prof. Ranganath writes that rarely does anyone ask for happiness. Rarely does anyone say, “Genie, I need only one wish. Please give me happiness.”
It is difficult to find happiness because we are busy pursuing other things, hoping they will bring happiness. A child seeks happiness in toys, a youth seeks happiness in friendships, a businessman seeks happiness in money, and a yogi seeks happiness in consciousness. In all cases, they are engrossed in the journey and missing the destination.
Happiness is a quality of the soul. It’s a pure vibration that emanates from near the center of our being and radiates outwards. We find eternal happiness when we seek the mother tincture, the source itself, not by chasing the mediums to happiness. As human beings, we have the opportunity to seek that which ends all seeking.
Happiness is a quality of the soul.
It’s a pure vibration that emanates
from near the center of our being and
Babuji once asked a young Danish meditator, “If you met God, what would you ask?”
The Dane gave her answer and then flipped the question back to Babuji: “What would you ask for, Babuji?”
He replied, “I would ask for the peace-giver himself, not for peace.”
Peace-giver is the goal, peace is the medium.
If happiness is your goal, seek happiness and not the mediums that you think will get you there. Happiness is the heir of peace and rest. What we call worry is the mind’s itch, which is a result of the ever-changing and never-ending nature of desire. So long as any desire is not fulfilled, it will keep disturbing the mind.
Lord Krishna explained the same idea to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. He showed Arjuna the domino effect of desire, and I would like to share those verses with you here.
While contemplating the pleasures of the senses, one is attracted to them.
From attraction arises desire, and from desire arises anger. (2.62)
Anger leads to confusion of the mind, which results in loss of memory.
When the memory is lost, the intellect is destroyed;
and ruin of the intellect leads us to destruction. (2.63)
But one who controls the mind, and is free from likes and dislikes,
even while using the objects of the senses, attains the Grace of God. (2.64)
There is no wisdom without harmony,
and without harmony, there is no contemplation.
Without contemplation there cannot be peace.
How can there be happiness if one lacks peace of mind? (2.66)
The mystery of all happiness lies in steadying and settling the activity of the mind. Contentment steadies the mind, as we discovered last month. The foundation of inner peace is contentment. So, I am sharing three practices that help to cultivate deeper contentment and create happiness. These three practices can become your happiness habits.
Three happiness habits for life
Give to be happy
I grew up in a village. One day, one of my uncles came to visit and stayed with us for a few days. The day he left, he slipped a hundred-rupee note into my shirt pocket. He didn’t say a word about it. A few days later, I discovered the money when I wore the shirt. In those days, getting a hundred rupees was like getting five thousand rupees today. I was a king overnight! I knew this was a silent act of kindness from my uncle. When I think about the incident, I see the power of giving anonymously. Many relatives gave me money while I was growing up, but even after fifty years, I still remember the money my uncle gave me.
Giving makes us happy. Giving anonymously has its own grace.
Give your money. Give your time. Most importantly, give your love. Just as the muscles of the body need to be exercised, the qualities of the heart also need to be exercised. And you know what they say about exercise – it makes us happy.
A grateful heart is a happy heart. Gratitude is the moral memory of mankind, according to sociologist Georg Simmel. Feeling grateful helps us build better bonds with people. It makes us generous and increases overall satisfaction in life.
In your journal, once or twice a week, write down what you are grateful for. If a work colleague helped you, write it down. If the barista made your coffee as you walked in, to save you time, write it down.
In the morning, right after you wake up, sit for a couple of minutes and send waves of love to God and to all those who surround you.
Live in the present
I once saw a picture where little kids were performing on stage. The parents all had their phones out trying to record the show, not realizing they were missing the action. The caption on the picture said, “Don’t miss the moment.”
We struggle to live in the present. The moment we try to live in the present, that moment is already gone. It has become the past. Even before we finish saying the word, the “present” has become the “past.” So, what does living in the present mean?
The Gita inspires us to be like the tree that witnesses the ever-flowing water of the river in front of it, while it is eternally in the present moment. Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna that one who is in a Stithapragya state lives in this state.
Live in the present that always was, always is, and always will be with you. Live with the original Source that came with you, that is present with you.
Before you go
Nathaniel Hawthorne once famously said, “Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
When you sit down quietly, with a humble heart yielding in love, a vacuum is created within and Mother Nature rushes to fill it. I pray that your practice allows you to experience such moments of grace, where peace and happiness become mile markers on the journey to a much grander destination.
The Heartfulness way of meditation will grant you the gift of the nectar of Transmission from the heart of the Great Master to the meditative heart. Like a fine fragrance, it will make your life fulfilling.
lllustrations by JASMEE MUDGAL
Kamlesh Patel is known to many as Daaji. He is the Heartfulness Guide in a tradition of Yoga meditation that is over 100 years old, overseeing 14,000 certified Heartfulness trainers and many volunteers in over 130 countries. He is an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the fields of spirituality and science, blending the... Read more