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Musings : International Day of Happiness

By G. Balasubramanian

20th March is declared as the International day of Happiness by United Nations. I wonder whether we need to earmark just one day of the year for happiness, as it is the very purpose of our existence. We have further gone to the extent of providing a “Happiness curriculum” clearly admitting happiness is external to a curriculum and hence it needs to be qualified through this expression!

The origin of this word ‘Happiness’ is linked to its Norse origin ‘Hap” which meant ‘luck’ or ‘chance’. In the French manifestation it referred to ‘good fortune’ and in its German avatar it again meant ‘chance’. Over long years of its existence and use, ‘happiness’ it referred to several contexts providing – satisfaction, joy, merriment, a status of well-being, delight, high spirits and the like. Closely examined all these appear to be certain facets of happiness, while the real meaning of ‘happiness’ appears to subsume all the above..” Socrates, one of the great philosophers and thought leader history has ever seen, speaks in a candid manner. “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less"

Plato explains in his own inimitable style that “Happiness comes from doing good and helping others”. He goes a step beyond to say “Caring about the happiness of others we find our own.” “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul” said Democritus.

Ramana Maharishi, one of the greatest proponents of self-realization, says “Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside." Bhagavad Gita, one of the celebrated expositions on spiritual reality, describes the human happiness in three facets as “Tamasic happiness, Rajasic happiness and Satvik happiness.” Tamasic happiness is said to be derived from fulfilment of sensory needs and desires, gratification of emotional needs and all that continues to fulfil the basic consumerist requisites of an individual. Rajasic happiness is the next level of enjoyment that is derived through illusions born out of ego, power, position, authority and by subordination of materials to fulfil one’s greed consequent to low self-esteem arising out non-realization of the true self and its glory. Satvik happiness arises out of realization of the supreme self and the understanding of the reflection of the conscious self in the universal self.

The Zen Master Chuang Tsu says “Happiness is the absence of striving for Happiness.” Says the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Nyat Hanh “Happiness is available: Please help yourself to it.” No wonder, Dalai Lama says “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; and if you want to be happy practice compassion.” Mahatma Gandhi says “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in Harmony.” This real points towards the much-needed synergy in our existence – manasa, vaacha, karmana – by thought, by words and by action. Khalil Gibran remarks “We choose our joys and sorrows, much before we experience them.” In a lighter vein, one can also consider the description of Aldous Huxley, the noted English writer and philosopher, “Happiness is like coke — something you get as a by-product in the process of making something else"

Detailing the five basic elements of happiness, Carl Jung, lists five elements that contribute to the happiness of an individual.

1. Good physical and mental health.

2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.

3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.

4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.

5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life

Once a young man approaches a Master and askes him “Can you explain what is happiness in very simple words?”. The Master smiles and gives him a piece of sweet to eat. Then he askes the young man “How is it?”. “Sweet” says the young man. “What is sweetness? Please tell me in simple words.” The youth smiles and replies “Well. It is an experience. To know what is sweetness and how sweet it is, you have to eat a piece of it and experience.” The Master smiles and tells him “The same is true of happiness. You have to experience it. You cannot explain to anybody. You can only help them to experience it.” Though happiness is not a mystical experience, to imprison the experience into explainable words appears impossible. Briefing about happiness, Atharva Veda says “Happiness does not come from happiness; but only from pain. We know the value of standing in the shade, only after roaming in the hot day sun.”

Well, as Buddha remarked “Happiness has no path; Happiness is the Path.”

Choose to be Happy Always!