the self-controlled man, moving amongst objects with the senses under
restraint, and free from attraction and repulsion, attains to peace.
In that peace all pains are destroyed, for the intellect
of the tranquil-minded soon becomes steady.- Bhagavad Gita 2.64-65
Search for happiness: A Game of Musical Chairs
The outstanding feature of worldly existence is that human life is always beset with duality or contradictions like misery and happiness, rich and poor, love and hatred, joy and sorrow, likes and dislikes, praise and censure, loss and gain, success and failure and so on ad infinitum. The favorable events of life are desired as “ever happening” and unfavorable ones are avoided as “never happening”. All human activities in this world, therefore, revolve around reducing these contradictions thereby hoping to lead a happier life.
To put it in another way, all human beings strive for happiness i.e. the less happy ones try to find out ways to become at least equal to those who are perceived to be happier, if not to go beyond them. In this hunt for equality, they look forward to attain happiness by attempting to fulfill their infinite desires and while doing so start facing problems which lead them to disappointment, frustration and misery. The reasons for this paradoxical situation are not far to seek.
1. Desires like fire are insatiable; satisfaction of one desire generates another. Their basic nature is to multiply like branches of a tree. While desires are many their complete fulfillment is beyond one’s capacity. The result is misery all around. We are so much entangled in the web of desires that there is hardly any time to think about the world beyond our self-created cocoons.
2. The idea that one can become equal to another is not only deceptive but irrational. True equality has never been and can never be on earth. According to one Upanishad, only in the primal state there was a perfect balance when the One (Brahman) wanted to become many and creation took place. Suppose all particles of matter are held in equilibrium, there cannot be any momentum even as per science. Only when there is some disturbance one particle rushes against the other and the thrust take place. Perfect balance of all struggling forces in all the planes can never be possible in this world. Hence absolute equality is mere wishful thinking imbalance is the sign of life and its driving force. But due to ignorance, man equates inequality to misery and runs after a mirage.
3. We assume things and situations based on a sense of perceived reality. All living creatures are assumed to be a physical system consisting of a bundle of the body, mind, intellect and the senses. We hardly recognize or perceive the Soul or Self or Atman who is the indweller of the physical system of the living beings.
4. Because of our identification with the body, mind, intellect and sense equipment we fail to realize the impermanent nature of the objects of our identification as also the eternal nature of its indweller. The result of this misplaced understanding (which is called ignorance or avidya in Vedanta) is our erroneous view of life.
5. This aberration generates in us worldly attachment and relationships which blur our vision of life and propel us to chase the unreal leaving the Real at the roadside. In this rat-race after an illusion the end is bound to be short, lived and miserable. Such an unawakened view of life prevents us from understanding and accepting the basic laws of nature like when there is birth there is bound to be death, when something goes up it will have to come down etc. which will always be operative in all places and at all times. Our failure to negotiate with this eternal realism is the root cause for all our false beliefs, false values, false knowledge and false conduct leading to a life full of agony and despair. Hence if we want to reach the correct destination of life we have to take the correct road.