The Pursuit of Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy. This is the motivational force for everyone. The Vedas acknowledge this. The first part of the Vedas – karmakANDa – is effectively aimed at those who look for their happiness in external, limited, objects and pursuits; the latter part of the Vedas – j~nAnakANDa – is aimed at those who are looking to find the happiness within, through gaining knowledge of their true nature.

Here is a brief article from Ramesh Pattni, called

WHAT IS VEDANTA? VEDANTA AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

The pursuit of happiness has been the foremost goals of humanity from time immemorial. There is, however, a diversity of understanding and experience of happiness across traditions and cultures around the world. Eastern traditions which offer great insights into the human condition and psychological processes, have a universal appeal which point towards attainment of happiness by different means.

The development of Positive Psychology in recent decades has focused on the study of happiness and wellbeing and examined evidence for the ways and means to happiness.  Currently there are two dominant Western approaches to human happiness and well‐being: Hedonic and Eudaimonic perspectives. The former is based on the idea that pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and obtained through the contact with the world of objects. The eudaimonic approach is that happiness is an end in itself and the highest good and based on a life of virtuous living and contemplation.

There is, however, an alternative approach that is found in the Eastern traditions and which recognises that unlimited happiness can be found within a self which is free of personal strivings. This at first sight appears paradoxical since happiness has been associated with fulfilment of desires through striving for things of the world. Life appears to be an unending cycle of desires followed by actions and their results. The results of these actions are often disappointing because specific expectations have been placed on the outcome of actions. Even if they match the expectations to any extent, the happiness which arises out of the fulfilment of the desire does not last and the cycle starts again. Inherent in this pursuit is the idea of limitedness of one’s self and that the acquiring of certain things, beings or conditions will make one complete. Acquiring, hoarding and protecting to experience the completeness is the way life proceeds and ultimately does not bring the completeness which was the underlying goal.

Vedanta states that the search for happiness in the world is based on a mistaken idea about the source of happiness. The things of the world are seen as objects of one’s desire for achieving completeness and therefore satisfaction and happiness through actions directed at attaining those objects. Objects themselves are neutral, says Vedanta, but one projects a positive or negative bias on the object according to past experience and conditioning. As long as there is the belief that the objects of the world are the source of happiness the endless cycle of desire, action, result, and experience will continue, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Vedanta says that the real source of happiness is one’s own True Self which is beyond the ego identity and which is of the nature of Pure Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. The means of reclaiming this true identity are also given by Vedanta as a systematic science of reflection and meditation, discipline and devotion, and selfless service.

Chinmaya Mission, the worldwide, charitable spiritual organisation, are holding an inaugural, all-day event entitled ‘The Science of Happiness’ Vedanta (Universal Wisdom for Modern Times) at Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London  NW1 2BJ on Saturday, 7 May 2016 from 11am-6.30pm.

Admission is free; there are lots of activities for the whole family (many not directly relevant to Advaita). Details may be found at www.thescienceofhappiness.co.uk with a timetable of events at  http://www.thescienceofhappiness.co.uk/pdf/schedule.pdf.

Leave a Reply