All glories to Jagadguru Shree Kriapluji Maharaj
Many people know Indians, especially some of our parents, operate under the loser mentality. If you are familiar with tennis, then you know what I mean. You know someone is playing with a loser mentality in tennis when his only goal is to simply get the ball in; the objective is to keep the ball in play and not go for any big shots or finishers. The key is to play it safe. On the other hand, the one who plays with the winner mentality generates the pace and goes for big shots and finishers and takes more risks. So many Indian parents push their kids into engineering, medicine, or other STEM careers because it is the safe way. Those careers usually have high levels of job security and good pay.
Many parents, not just Indian, argue that you need a comfortable lifestyle, and I totally get it. As I grow older, I see more and more value in this mindset. I want to make sure my wife and kids are provided for. I want to make sure they have food, a place to sleep, and access to education. I do not want to worry if I have enough money to pay next month’s bills. However, many of our parents confuse comfortability with luxury. Comfortability is when you and your family are fed, in good health, and safe. Anything beyond that is luxury.
Jagadguru in a lecture once explained why we do anything. Happiness. Why do people care about attaining luxury? Happiness. The Vedas also say everything we do is to attain happiness. The immediate answer may not be happiness though. For example, if I ask why you study, the answer would be to get a good grade. Why do you want a good grade? I want to get into a good college. Why do you want to get into college? I want to get a good job. Why do you want to get a good job? The good job will give me a lifestyle I want. Why do you want that lifestyle? I will be happy with that lifestyle. Vedas say everyone does something for some reason, even a fool. The reason may make sense only to him, but there is a reason, nonetheless. When we keep asking for the reason to why we do something, the eventual answer is happiness.
Scriptures say that in our current time, a man’s worth will not be determined by how he upholds Dharma, but rather by how much money he has in his pocket (you have known this fact long before you started reading this). This explains why so many parents push certain careers on their kids; they believe attaining a certain career, prestige, and wealth will lead to happiness. However, our Vedas say only a fool thinks eternal happiness can be found in material pleasures.
Before moving on, let me make a clear distinction on what Ved means when the topic of happiness arises. Are there some feelings of happiness or pleasure in this material world? Yes. The distinction made here is on the nature of eternal happiness and not the fleeting happiness we get in the material world. Hopefully, you understand what I mean at the end of this.
Ved explains three qualifications for true happiness. 1. Happiness must increase in amount. 2. Happiness must be unlimited in amount. 3. Happiness must be eternal. Based on these qualifications, there is no happiness in this material world.
Take the first qualification. The law of diminishing marginal utility states that each subsequent action leads to less utility than the previous action. For example, after eating food in your college dining halls for several months, you finally come home and eat dosa. The first dosa tastes wonderful. The next tastes good. The third is ok. After 3 dosas, you tell your mom no more because your stomach cannot take it. If you eat more, you start feeling unhappy. Within a matter of 20 minutes, the same action which made you happy will make you unhappy.
Let’s look at the second qualification. When you take the first bite out of the dosa, the happiness is only limited in amount. You get a certain amount of happiness which may be higher than eating cereal but lower than eating ice cream. Eating dosa only gives you a certain amount of happiness; you do not feel unlimited bliss when you eat the dosa. After you eat dosa, you do not stay in an ecstatic state (if you do stay ecstatic, you must really love dosas, and I don’t blame you). The happiness associated with eating dosa is not unlimited bliss.
The third qualification is the most obvious. When you eat the dosa and you get happiness, the happiness only lasts for a short time. There has never been a time when you ate your favorite food and never desired to eat it again. Think of it like this. If the happiness from eating the dosa was eternal, then you would have to eat the dosa once and never have to eat it again to attain the same level of happiness. However, you know this is not the case. When you eat a dosa, you desire to eat it again at some point or another.
Why explain this? Well, I needed an excuse to write about food. More importantly, the dosa example applies to enjoying all material pleasures. Whether it is eating dosas, hearing nice music, or seeing a beautiful scene, the concept is still the same. I also wanted to emphasize we do not need to concern ourselves with what we do physically or worry about material gains. If we are upholding Dharma and society, what more can we ask for? When I was younger, I would try to find ways to earn money to buy the newest iPhone, tablet, gadget, etc. I would look at nice cars and think to myself, “I am going to make enough money one day to drive that.” After having the newest phone, nicest laptop, living in a big house, and driving around in fancy cars, I can tell you I am no happier than when I did not have these things. Is this cliché? Of course. Is it true? Yes. Did I listen to the wise elders when they warmed me about chasing material pleasures? Of course not.
I stopped worrying about my place in society, if I was going to make a lot of money, if people will respect me, if I can buy nice clothes, if I will have nice cars and a big house. There is no need to care about such trivial desires when none of these things gave me true happiness. If eternal happiness is not in the temporary material world, then where is it?
Jai Shree Radhe
Part Two can be found at http://www.hindustudentscouncil.org/2020/05/03/nature-of-happiness-part-2/.