The Art of Happiness
Happiness Challenge / September 27, 2019
Elvis Presley was blessed with popularity, amazing talent, and good looks. Despite this, his personal life was miserable, and he was extremely unhappy.
We spend our lives chasing material goals in the hope that they will make us happy. If you are at a point in your life where you feel unsatisfied because some aspect of your life is not going the way you want it to, think carefully about whether happiness truly lies in your desires being fulfilled.
Once desire develops, it gives birth to two more problems—greed and anger. Greed comes from the fulfillment of desire.
Jimi pratilābha lobha adhikāī (Ramayan) [v54] “If you satisfy desire, it leads to greed.”
Thus, desire is never eliminated by satiating it -
The art of being happy lies in being content with what we have been bestowed with. All the success, wealth and fame in the world cannot make us happy if our mind cannot make peace with who we are and where we are in life. On the other hand, even with limited resources and faculties, our life can be called a success if we have trained our minds to be happy by seeing the good in every situation.
Swamiji contrasts the lives of two famous personalities to prove that our minds hold the key to elevate or degrade us - Elvis Presley, the king of Rock and Roll, and Helen Keller, a famous American author who lost her hearing and vision at a young age.
Podcast - Better Person, Happy Person
Video Transcript - Better Person, Happy Person
Over the last one hundred years of human history, the number of millionaires on the planet earth has increased a thousand fold. But have you read or heard anywhere that the number of happier people multiplied even 10-fold? If not, then does it not mean that the external luxuries and opulences are not correlated to the inner happiness? Today, on this eleventh day of this happiness challenge as we proceed deeper into learning the art of happiness, I am going to discuss with you the connection between becoming a happier person and becoming a better person.
If happiness lay in success and fame and popularity, why then was Elvis Presley so unhappy? He holds the record of the maximum number of albums sold in the history of published music. In the 1960s, he was the icon of an entire generation. He was called the king of rock and roll or merely the king. However, what was his public life? In his last few years his daily routine went something like this. When he returned from his evening performance, he would tell his servants, “Give me the first hit.” They would offer him different colored crystals, barbiturates, and shoot a syringe under his shoulder blade. He would just revive himself in time to go for his public performance with the help of chemicals. And when he returned, the same routine would repeat itself. When he died, people could not figure out whether it was a suicide or an overdose of drugs. Look at this person who had tremendous good looks, a golden voice, immense popularity, and a huge amount of wealth. Yet he was bankrupt from the inside.
Contrast him with somebody else who had practically nothing, and yet seemed to have discovered the art of happiness. This was Helen Keller, one of the very popular philanthropists of the last century. When little Helen was only 18 months old, she was stricken by an infection as a result of which she lost her sight and hearing together. When somebody touched her, she would throw a tantrum. When she became six years old, her mother took her to a nearby school for the physically challenged. Anne Sullivan, the principal of that school, touched little Helen, and she threw a tantrum as usual. Anne Sullivan told her mother, “Leave her here tonight. I will try to communicate with her.” Anne then placed little Helen’s hand under a water faucet. And on the other hand, she wrote the letters, water. All of a sudden, a light went on in Helen’s mind. For the first time in her life she realized that physical objects have designations or names. She became so excited. She wanted to learn more names. By night she had learnt the names of thirty objects. After that, there was no stopping her. She grew up and started reading books through Braille language for the blind. She took admission in the women’s wing of Harvard called Radcliffe college. She started touring and serving humankind. But she was still not satisfied. She wanted to give lectures. So, while Anne Sullivan spoke, Helen through Kinesthetics understood, how she was moving her throat and lips. And miraculously she was able to replicate those sounds. She started travelling the world giving lectures and died at the ripe age of 87. She said at the end of her life, “This world has been so beautiful. I have enjoyed every moment of my life.”
Now contrast Helen Keller with Elves Presley. What did Helen have that Elvis Presley did not? One western philosopher, John Milton, expressed it so well, when he said, “The mind is a place of its own, and in itself can make heaven out of hell and hell out of heaven.”
This mind of ours is so powerful! Sitting in the midst of heavenly luxuries, it can make us experience the torments of hell. And sitting in the inferno of hellish conditions, the mind, if it is calm and peaceful, can make us experience heavenly pleasures. That is why happiness is not a function of the externals, but dependent upon the inner state of our own mind. Think about this today. And think about how so many people are rushing for external enhancement in the illusion that it will bring them happiness, while actually they are merely chasing a mirage. And then tomorrow I will complete the dots and show to you how all you need to do to be happier is to become a better person.