Everyone wishes to have happiness and peace. It is surprising that in so many countries where I visit to lecture, this is the most wanted topic though these countries have all the so-called material to be happy. They have beautiful landscapes with mountains, lakes, beaches and greenery all around with excellent roads, trains and air connections. Outwardly people look very happy but when you start talking to them, you find that they do not have peace of mind. Even at the age of 40 years, they do not want to get married as the cost of divorce is more than the cost of marriage. Since divorces take place in a couple of years after marriage, they are afraid to burn their fingers by getting married.
In Germany, I was talking to a Gujarati lady who was a widow. She said that there were four members in her house – she herself, her son, a German lady and their child, but the son and the German lady were not married to each other. Everywhere people are having problems with no peace of mind. Earlier, we monks used to be invited to speak on Vedanta, Indian ethos etc, but now everywhere we are being requested to speak on ‘stress management’. Elderly people everywhere are under tension because they may be asked by their children to go to old age home any time. The middle aged men are stressed as they are apprehensive about loss of their jobs and offer of Voluntary Retirement Scheme. Their wives are under stress because of the high cost of living, managing the home within the limited budget, managing the husband, children and the in-laws.
Parents of children who are in Class XII are under further tension to such an extent that in Rajkot, we had to organise a retreat on how to overcome the stress of Class XII science examination. I remember meeting a very small girl once who told me that she was under tension because she stood first class first in junior KG and now in senior KG her mother wanted her to repeat the same accomplishment. Thus tension is everywhere at all levels. With the advancements in technology, physical distances have been reduced due to fast planes and air connections. Communication is instantaneous now because of e-mail, mobile phone, STD and ISD connectivity, all through satellite technology. The husband and wife sitting side by side on the sofa set in their drawing room can chat with their children thousands of miles away in USA, Canada or Australia on phone with clear voices and no disturbance. But between the same husband and wife sitting side by side, there has been no proper communication for the last two months. That is the paradox of today. There is no proper communication or relationship between husband or wife, parents and children, brother and sister and with in-laws and relatives.
There are many books dealing with these problems such as Final Exit, Complete Manual on How to Commit Suicide, Suicide: A User’s Manual etc, all on how to commit suicide and have become best sellers. Because of mental disorders and high rates of suicides, psychiatrists are in great demand in the western countries and Japan. Japan overtook USA in economic development some years ago. But a study showed that 42 per cent of Japanese executives over 44 years suffer from mental disorders. The executive with his hard work, increases productivity of his company, but when he returns home after two months, finds his wife has eloped with someone and the children have become drug addicts and he becomes a psychiatric case. “To Have or To Be”, a book by Erich Fromm, says man has himself become a commodity because of mass consumerism. The popular equation states that “H” is proportional to “M”, where “H” is happiness and “M” is money. The three countries with the highest per capita income are USA, Japan and Sweden. The same three countries have the highest rates of suicides and psychological problems, making the equation now as “H” is inversely proportional to “M”.
In a happiness survey carried out by London School of Economics and World Economic Forum a few years ago, it was discovered that the happiest country in the world is Bangladesh, having very low per capita income, India was 5th, USA was 45th and Russia was 65th. The so called developed countries are not happy and the developing countries are happy. Some time back, Oxford Dictionary included a new word “Affluenza”, which is the result of acquiring more and more goods for comfort, creating more and more tension and lack of peace of mind. In USA, they formed Affluenza Resistance Society to protect their children from falling prey to this syndrome. These parents take their children to villages to show the living conditions of the poor to create awareness among their children and cut down on their pocket expenses and wasteful spending. In India too, the dowry custom has resulted in the prospective bridegrooms getting literally auctioned. Money is no doubt important for happiness and to enjoy life, but money cannot buy happiness. The purpose of earning money is to enjoy the comforts that money can buy. But presently money enjoys us in many instances by which we have become slaves of money.
In this context, I am reminded of the story of a fisherman who was sleeping in his boat at noon. A consultant came around, woke up the man and asked him why he was sleeping when he should be fishing. The man said that as he got a good catch in the morning, his quota for the day was over. The consultant said that he should go for fishing again, catch more fish, make more money to buy a bigger boat and then a trawler to catch more and more fish to make more and more money and then he would advise him to invest that money in very good schemes. The fisherman then asked him what he was supposed to do after earning all that big money. To this the consultant said that he could then rest and relax. The fisherman then retorted that he was already sleeping and relaxing and it was the consultant who had disturbed his sleep. The moral of the story is obvious – the aim of life is to have happiness and peace. Vedanta says that instead of searching for peace outside, you should look for infinite joy and peace which is already within you. Sant Kabir also said that fools search for happiness and peace outside, instead of searching within. You should look for consciousness behind the consciousness, that is, superconsciousness. We are like fish out of water. The very nature of fish is to remain in water and it is restless outside water. Similarly, our very nature is “Satchitananda” –infinite truth or knowledge, infinite consciousness or existence and infinite bliss or enlightenment. If we have not realised that, we are restless like the fish out of water. Eternal or supreme reality is present within each one of us, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sex or religion. Everyone wants unlimited or infinite happiness and peace and that supreme reality is within each one of us. The external sense objects bring only temporary happiness which does not last long. For infinite and everlasting happiness, joy, peace and bliss, we have to search within.
Most of us are like the Himalayan musk deer which kept searching for the source of the musk fragrance it was getting and it kept running round and round getting dog tired and dying, without realising that the musk smell originated from its own navel. In the same way, we are unaware of the hidden happiness within us. Sri Ramakrishna said that your human birth is in vain if you do not realise God. God, divinity, reality, happiness, peace, joy or bliss resides in everybody’s heart and we have to manifest the same. Some of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna asked him as to how they could believe this statement. To this, he gave a simple practical demonstration. He asked the devotees whether they could see him, to which they said “yes”. Then he covered himself with a blanket and asked them the same question and they said “no”. Then he asked, “Am I not here?” They said “yes”. Then he asked again, “How do you know?” Then he went on to explain that just as the blanket was hiding him, the veil or screen of ignorance keeps them unaware of the presence of God or divinity within them. For removing this veil of ignorance, Swami Vivekananda said, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal of human life is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature internally and externally.” For this, one has to follow the four paths of Yoga – Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Raja. In Karma Yoga, the path is through selfless action and service, in Bhakti Yoga, love and devotion are the path chosen, in Jnana Yoga, reading of scriptures and good books with positive thoughts is the path whereas in Raja Yoga, it is mental mastery through Ashtanga Yoga. The more you practise the four Yogas, the more you will become divine. You can remain in this world and still practise these Yogas with a detached attachment. Sri Ramakrishna very aptly put it by saying that you should live the life of a maid servant who was hired by a rich, fat lady in the city for looking after her son Hari. The maid kept looking after Hari with full sincerity and devotion, giving him bath and feeding him regularly. Though she was attached to the child, she knew that this Hari is not her own, her own Hari lived in her remote village. She was seeing her own son through the rich lady’s son. One day when the maid was fired by the rich lady for breaking a precious crockery item, the maid simply packed up her belongings and walked away without any bitterness, as she was never attached to the house, the lady or her son. She could easily pick up another job.
To be continued…
(The writer is a head, Ramakrishna Ashram based in Rajkot .)
Friday, 26 July 2019 | Swami Nikhileswarananda | in Devbhoomi Spiritual
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