Where is Happiness?

One of the first teachings of Vedanta is that happiness is not in objects (which includes experience).

Here’s Vedanta’s definition of an object: anything that has a beginning and an end, changes, is experienced, or is known to me, the subject, consciousness.

Vedanta presents a few compelling arguments to support this teaching:

1. If happiness were in objects, everyone would gain the same happinesses from said object or experience. Is this true? No. I love jazz, you love heavy metal. I love napping, you can’t stand it.

2. Once I obtain the object of my desire, as long as I have said object, I should remain happy. Is this true? No. Fort example, I am always looking for the perfect backpack to carry my stuff. I just know it’s out there. So I find one and initially I love, love, love it but in time, I began to realize the bag’s limitations and then, guess what, my quest for the perfect bag begins again.

What fuels the quests for objects and experience? 

The root motivation: the misconception that I am, somehow, lacking and that I need experiences and things to complete me. This lack results from ignorance, not knowing who I am. 

The mechanism: when I get the object of my desire, for a moment in time, my desire is satisfied and in that moment of desire-less-ness, I am flooded with ananda (the bliss and contentment of me) which I mistakenly attribute to the object and not to my self.

The nature of objects: All objects and experiences are value neutral. I superimpose my likes and dislikes upon objects and experiences. These likes and dislikes are a function of my past karma (action) or conditioning. This is why your favorite color is green and mine is blue.

Objects are inert, a combination of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space.

Finally, objects and experience can never fulfill me because I am already whole and complete and always good. The gas tank is already full, can’t possibly top it off.

So where is happiness?

Within me, a natural expression of self knowledge. 

When I come to understand who I am as limitless, conscious, existence, the beliefs that I am limited and that objects can complete me dissolve. What remains? Happiness in the form of total satisfaction (tripti) and fulfillment (Putnam). 

I leave you with a quote from Ramji, “when we know who we are, we no longer do to get happiness, we happily do as a natural expression of the self.”

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