Everyone wants to be happy—everyone. Yes, even masochists want pain in order to gain satisfaction; fulfill a need—in order to be happy. Happiness is our inherent yearning for fulfillment in some form; to gain pleasure or avoid pain. We believe fulfilment is earning more money, acquiring fame, starting a business, a great relationship, having a family, acquiring knowledge, traveling, staying healthy, and much more. We rarely question further about happiness. Yet, these successes may not, ultimately, cause happiness. We find their rewards are only temporary. They may, in fact, create more desires to which we reach for again and again, gradually leading us to the same void.
When striving for happiness in this way, there is a cost. For in a dualistic world (a reality where both subject and object exist), there is always a seed of sorrow that flows with every happiness attained. Nature/creation balances itself through its opposite. Therefore, in the reality we live, the physical world, there can only be the exact and equal reaction to the force we project. (See Newton’s law of motion) For each favourable moment we gain, an equal sorrow must follow in its own time.
For the creation of the physical reality, it is necessary for opposites to exist. The yin, yang symbol depicts a white circle within black, and a black circle within the white. Within every dark, there is light, within every light, there is darkness. Although these forces seem opposing, they are actually complimentary. One could not exist without the other, for how would you know if you were happy unless you also knew sorrow? Likewise, how would you know ‘up’ if there were no ‘down’ to compare it? In the physical world, opposites are necessary for one to form a ‘reality’.
Yet, the Buddha and other spiritual masters described our personal reality as an illusion. They taught that truth lives in the present moment where one’s experience lives. Later, our experience becomes that which we can only remember, talk about, compare, diagnose, or judge. All this is a matter of the standard we set, the interpretation we adhere to. No longer living in the present moment, we continue in the cycle of duality, happiness and sadness, birth and death.
These ancient spiritual masters along with modern teachers have taught that there is a state of being that goes beyond the dual nature of the physical world where true joy, unimposed by sorrow, exists. The eastern term, Advaita, or non-duality was taught in ancient times and also by modern philosophers such as Rupert Spira and Francis Lucille (to name a few). Many ancient teachings from Vedic books, including the Bhagavad Gita, along with the deeper mystical teachings of Jesus Christ have taught how to rise above the world of duality to the ultimate supreme state of non-duality where a true bliss* state exists. (” …Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer, and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the kingdom”. – Gospel of Thomas, Saying #22).
*Note: Bliss is a term used to describe an internal joy that is not encumbered by more desires and ultimately by sorrow. It is the ultimate state of consciousness by which we all, knowingly or unknowingly, seek.
So have we been looking for happiness in ‘all the wrong places’? Paramahasa Yogananda, a great enlightened spiritual master who brought eastern teachings to the west in 1926, wrote a wonderful book on the subject, called “The Science of Religion”. In his book, he explains that our sensory self, that which perceives all outer influences, all material processes, may be the main cause of our seeking tangible objects or situations, i.e., being a success, buying a new car, or boat, or assorted financial gain, for what we believe will achieve happiness. Still, we can acknowledge that our happy moments are later encumbered by bouts of sadness or depression. Yet, he explains, once we control the outer senses and go inward we discover an internal silence that holds the deepest experience of ourselves and our true nature. The art of controlling our senses through pranayama (yogic breath control) and the complete Kriya yogic methods, he learned from his own spiritual preceptors, will help us to raise above the dual nature of the world and eventually attain the non-dual state, where true eternal joy exists. Lessons in Kriya yoga can be found at www.yogananda-srf.org or www.ananda.org.
So, we can continue to pursue our dreams though means of sensory stimulation or dig deeper into our true nature though reliable practices taught to us by realized souls. The lessons require effort. We achieve nothing great without effort and hard work. Through this work, eternal joy is waiting at our doorstep.