Whether I seek artha – security, in the form of food, clothes or shelter, or kāma – pleasures, it is really happiness that I seek all the time; only that I think happiness comes from these external objects and hence my extroverted nature. Even when pursuing dharma, it is happiness in the other worlds that I seek. mokṣa is really being happy here and now, and hereinafter.
prāptiḥ the word means to gain, to attain. Let us analyze this extroverted pursuit for happiness. Everyone agrees that money is essential for a happy life. We see those who don’t have money suffer, and those who have money to be happy; hence we conclude that “money gives happiness”. Based on this conclusion, we orient our lives and that of our dependents, towards earning as much money as one possibly can, so that we can remain happy everafter!!!
So also is our conclusion and the consequent pursuit, of an exemplary house, an exquisite car, exotic holidays, extravagant jewelry, and enormous power. We are so sure of the conclusion that happiness comes from these external things, that we do not pause for a moment to verify its veracity. However, therein lies the answer to our life’s seeking.
If the conclusion that “money gives happiness” is true, then all those who have money should at all times and at all places be happy, and those who do not have money, should at all times and at all places be unhappy. However, we find this is to be not true. We find that there are many people who are happy with little money, and we find many people who are very rich, to be extremely unhappy and grumpy. We find people who are comfortable but unhappy, and people who are uncomfortable but happy.
Also, whatever is gained in time is bound to be lost in time. If it were true that our happiness is gained by acquiring something external, then we are bound to become unhappy when we lose that which was the source of our happiness; and all external things that we acquire are destined to be lost in time.
prāptiḥ generally is understood as aprāptasya prāptiḥ, gaining something that we do not have. However, Prāptiḥ could also mean prāptasya prāptiḥ, gaining something that we already have. Let me explain with an example.
I had misplaced my wallet in which I had a lots of money. I was all the more worried and anxious since it was not my money. I was unhappy. My wife searched my briefcase, which was with me all the time, and found the wallet hidden inside a file. I had now “gained” the money which I had “lost”. I was happy. This is prāptasya prāptiḥ, gaining that which is already gained.
Like even a dog biting a dry bone, thinks that the blood it tastes comes from the bone without realizing that it is its own blood, so also we think that the happiness that we enjoy comes from gaining external things, without realizing that happiness is indeed our own nature. We are ignorant of our nature, and hence seek it in the outside world.
If ignorance is the problem, then knowledge can be the only solution. That is why the śruti, the scriptures say ज्ञानात् एवतु कैवल्यम् “jñānāt evatu kaivalyam”, “Liberation is by Knowledge alone”.
Everyone is born with ignorance; in fact birth is because of ignorance. At the same time, everyone is endowed with the faculty of buddhiḥ, discrimination. It is obligatory to use one’s buddhiḥ, to remove one’s ignorance. The śruti says
यः अस्मान् लोकात् आत्मानं अविद्त्वा प्रैति सः कृपणः
yaḥ asmān lokāt ātmānaṁ avidtvā praiti saḥ kṛpaṇaḥ – one who leaves this world without knowing ones true nature (as happiness), he is a miser (since he is miserly in using his buddhiḥ).
Vedānta cannot be learnt without hurting our existing conclusions. We should be open-minded and be ready to be challenged by śruti on every conclusion that we are currently living by. This open-mindedness is called śraddhā.