Finding Sustainable Happiness
A Compilation of Wisdom by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Talks on Finding Happiness
Be Happy Right Now
Every living creature wants to be happy. To be happy, people seek something: money, power or sex. But even after getting it one is not happy. God wants to see us full of enthusiasm, joy, compassion and happiness. Creation wants to see us happy. Yet we keep on postponing our happiness.
A child thinks he will be happy when he goes to college. Once in college he thinks he will be happy when he starts earning. Then he thinks he will be happy once he is married. And the story goes on and that special day never comes! All of one’s life is spent in preparing to be happy someday in the future. It’s like making a bed all night but having no time to sleep.
There are two ways of looking at life. One is thinking, “I will be happy after achieving a certain objective.” The second is saying, “I am happy, come what may!” Which one of these do you want to live?
If you look at your own life you will find that life is 80 per cent joy and 20 per cent misery. But we hold on to the 20 per cent and make it 200 per cent! It is not a conscious act, it just happens.
Your senses are trying their best to find happiness for you all the time. But the senses have their limitations. How much music can the ears enjoy? How much food can you eat even if it’s utterly tasty. The senses get tired too. You can feel sad without a reason. But you don’t need a reason to be happy. Happiness is your nature. But you are unable to experience it because you are searching for it outside.
It’s like the story of a congregation of fish, who got together to discuss who among them had seen the ocean. None of them could say they had actually seen the ocean. Then one fish said, "I think my great grandfather had seen the ocean!"
A second fish said, "Yes, I have also heard about this".
A third fish said, "Yes, certainly, his great grandfather had seen the ocean".
So they built a huge temple and made a statue of the great grandfather of that particular fish, saying, “He had seen the ocean. He had been connected with the ocean.’’ Our search for happiness is like that.
What are you waiting for? Instead of preparing to be happy, be happy now and resolve to remain naturally happy. God is trying his level best to see you happy. He has created so many things for you to be happy. But God only helps those who help themselves. So everyday make a resolution. “Today, I am just going to be happy, come what may. I will not let anything disturb my happiness. I am going to be contended and happy.”
Three Levels of Happiness
You can experience happiness at three levels:
#1 Happiness in Society And The Environment.
This is what everybody thinks happiness is, having happy situations. And it is natural! How would you feel in a place where everybody around you thinks only about himself or herself? Would you like to be in such a group where there is no sharing, no sense of belongingness, and no happiness? So happiness in the environment is the first kind of happiness.
#2 Happiness of the Mind.
When one accepts things and moves in knowledge then happiness of the mind happens. Sometimes everybody around you is happy and you are serving others also, but you are not happy in your mind; there is no fulfillment. Dedication brings the second level of happiness.
#3 Happiness of the Soul.
The third level is the happiness of the soul. This level of happiness happens when the soul is united with the Divine. When the soul is united with the entire cosmos then there is total happiness. When there is no duality, no two, when you are in deep meditation, then you experience this innermost joy.
10 Steps to Finding Happiness
In the world, people are either dreaming of happiness or remembering happiness. That is either being in the past or the future. But happiness is that which is in the present. Many times you postpone your happiness until some perfect future date, but it never arrives. Be in the present. If you are happy now, the past will not torment you and the future will take care of itself. This is the art of living!
So here are 10 important steps that you can explore to help you be happy.
#1 Take the decision that “I will not allow any situation to bog down my happiness”
You have to take this decision, nobody else can take it for you. There is nothing great in smiling when everything is normal, and when everything is going the way you want. But if you awaken the valor inside of you, and say, ‘Come what may, I am going to keep smiling’, you will notice tremendous energy rise from within you. Then problems will feel like nothing; they just come and disappear.
Being happy, keeping the environment around you happy, and not losing your smile come what may, is the real sign of enlightenment.
#2 Dedicate your life to a larger goal
The key to happiness in life is to not stay stuck in "Me, my, & mine". Dedicate your life to some larger goal or to the service of others around you, then you will find that only happiness flows through your life.
#3 Lessen your needs and increase your responsibilities
If you sit and make a note of all your responsibilities and all your needs, and if you find that your needs are more than your responsibilities, then life will lead to misery. But if you take more responsibility and have fewer needs, then you will be happy. This is the secret.
When you take more responsibility and your needs are less, everything simply comes to you - enthusiasm, happiness, creativity, etc.
#4 At all costs, save your mind
In your day to day life, people come and put some negativity in you, and that makes your mind and your determination shaky. Don’t let this happen. Put a filter to your ears and just smile through it.
It is natural and common that people will put out some negativity, but when you are deeply connected with your self, and when you have intuition, then you will just smile through all such incidents. You will put a filter in your ears. That is how the world is. There are some pleasant and some unpleasant things. How we manage them and keep our direction—, that is what is most important.
#5 Look at people who have greater problems than you
Once a wise man drew a line on a board and told his student to make the line shorter without touching or erasing it. How would you do it? You have to shorten a line without touching it.
The student then drew a much longer line underneath that line. So, the line automatically became shorter. The lesson here is that if your difficulties appear to be very big, lift your eyes because you are only focused on yourself. If you lift your eyes up and look at those who are in a worse condition than you, you will suddenly feel that your burden is not as bad as you thought it was. If you think you have some big problem, look at people who have a greater problem. Suddenly, you will get a confidence that my problem is much smaller, and I can manage it. So a way to be happy is to see those who have greater problems, then your problems will appear smaller. The moment your problems appear smaller, you will get the energy and confidence to deal with it or solve it. And also, serve those who are in greater need.
#6 Don't be unhappy about being unhappy
Never mind if you are unhappy for a little while, so what? If you think I should never be unhappy, then that becomes a cause of unhappiness.
#7 Drop unpleasant memories of the past
How can you be happy if you’re holding onto unpleasant memories of the past? Unpleasant memories are the biggest hindrance for you to be in the present. The nature of the mind is such, it leaves all the pleasant memories and it grabs onto those few unpleasant events and chews on it. We have advanced in technology but we have not used that technology for our mind. If you are happy now, the past will not torment you and the future will take care of itself.
#8 Know that everything is temporary.
None of the events are permanent. Pleasant or unpleasant, it all moves away. When you realize that everything is temporary, and it all fades away, then you can be perpetually happy.
#9 Have faith because faith by itself can make you so happy!
What you need to remember at all times is this, 'There is someone who loves me very dearly, and is taking care of me at all times. He cannot be without me and He is capable of removing any lack that I have'.
Knowing this brings such joy in one’s life. (Sri Sri explains how Faith is linked to Happiness)
#10 Share your happiness with others and it will grow
When you are content, when you are happy, you want to share it. The nature of joy is to share with others. Joy has the tendency to spread, and whenever a person is genuinely happy and joyful from within, they want to just share it with the whole world.
The Causes of Unhappiness
Every child is nothing but a bundle of joy, but as we grow up, somewhere, we lose that joy. A child smiles 400 times a day. When a child grows up and becomes an adolescent, he smiles only 17 times a day, and when he becomes an adult, he smiles occasionally and that too when someone else smiles. The whole question is, how do we reverse this? How do we get back to the innocence we were born with? This is the quest.
There are four things that stops us from being joyful like a child which we need to get rid of:
Whenever happiness has disappeared from life, look deeper and you will see that it is because of desire. And all that we desire is happiness!
No person, animal or creature desiring unhappiness is every born; never has is happened before and never will it happen in the future.
When your small mind gets tired of running here and there, of wandering everywhere, it reaches the conclusion, "My desires have killed my happiness". A person who has conquered his desires is called "Mahavir".
If you ask me what is stress, in my opinion, I see stress as wanting to do a lot but having no energy and no time. Now to get rid of stress, either you have to reduce your needs or increase your energy. In these two things, what is most practical is not reducing your needs, but increasing your energy levels.
Now how do we increase our energy levels? Through breathing exercises, pranayama, meditation, and yoga. All of these increase the energy levels of a person in a short period time of 15 to 20 minutes. There are number of breathing techniques that help us relax and get back a lot of energy.
Relaxation that you get from sleep is dull relaxation. Another kind of relaxation is conscious relaxation. That relaxation brings your energy levels higher. That is called meditation. Meditation is not sitting and thinking something. It is going to the source of thought. So reducing and eliminating stress is the first thing.
Insecurity of what? "Oh, there is nobody for me. Who will take care of me?"
I tell you, there is so much love and compassion on this planet, and there is a higher power which is all love and it will give you what you need and when you need.
If you look at your own life, in the past, how many times have you felt insecure?
All those moments you have spent feeling insecure, appears to be such a waste of time, isn’t it?
Count and see how much time you have spent being insecure in the past 20 years. How many days you spent in a gloomy mood? It is such a waste of time and energy, and not only that, it created toxins in your body. Do you know, your health gets disturbed by the feeling of insecurity.
Three things you must do:
- Look back in the past and see that it was futile feeling insecure. This gives you strength.
- Know that there are good people on this planet. They will always come to your help.
- There is a power which is going to guide you and help you out.
With this wisdom and understanding, get over insecurity.
There are many types of prejudice. There is prejudice between generations where young people will not sit and share with senior citizens. There is a generation gap. There is prejudice about class, about gender, about religion, culture, language, and so on in many parts of the world; so many types of prejudices. Wisdom is to rise above prejudice and see the whole world as one family.
If everyone has this idea of a one world family, there will be no war, no crime and none of the problems that we are facing in the world today. See how many people are being killed. There is so much violence in the world. This is all because of lack of a broad vision and wisdom.
Once you get over stress, insecurity and prejudice, then you are like a child, full of joy, and happiness simply wells up in you. Happiness is already there, it is just covered by these four things, and once you removed all these four things, it becomes obvious.
Q: What is happiness and how do we achieve it in an endearing kind of way?
I see happiness as our very nature. Peace and happiness is what we are made up of! So the quest is the quest towards the self. Every individual at some point or the other, wants to know the truth; 'What is the truth? What is the ultimate reality? Where am I going?' These questions I feel is a kind of maturity, and it should dawn on everybody.
Q: The pursuit of the self goes through many pathways. What is this journey to happiness that an average person can aspire towards?
Broadening one's vision about life. Seeing life in context of the cosmos; billions of years have passed and billions are yet to come, and our life is about 60-70 years. So when you see your life in context with the enormous space and time, your awareness broadens, compassion flows naturally. Then the commitment to do something good in the world spring forth from it.
Q: So, my wish to go out and serve people, is that the source of happiness?
It is the result of happiness I would say. It can be both: the path and the result of happiness. When you are content; when you are happy, you want to share it.
The nature of joy is to share with others. Joy has the tendency to spread, and whenever a person is genuinely happy and joyful from within, they want to just share it with the whole world.
Q: For many people, happiness is a transitory joy. I see a movie, I get an insight, or a flash of something and I feel happy. But then something happens and that happiness flies out of the window. What is the way to make this happiness permanent and perpetual.
Knowing that everything else is temporary, and it all fades away. It is in knowing that none of the events are permanent, that all pass and move away. There is something deep inside you which is a reference point of all changes in life, and when we get stabilized in that, or get a glimpse of it, it makes you unshakable from within.
Q: So you have used phrases here: 'The glimpse of it', and 'Stabilizing in that'. I think in many practitioners who do in particular the Sudarshan Kriya, there is the occasional glimpse. Now what does it take to stabilize in that glimpse, so that happiness is a permanent thing?
You know, everyone is unique in this creation. What I have to say is, do not be perturbed if you are feeling perturbed. Usually if you get upset, you get further upset because you go upset. There is no need of it, you can just be a witness. The first step is to be a witness, so even if you are upset, it is okay, it is part of life. You don't need to be happy all the time. If you become happy from time to time, or now and then, just accepting it brings that shift, and then it becomes such that your smile becomes a permanent feature which nobody can take away from you.
Q: Why don't I feel contented and happy?
Greed takes away contentment. It is the, "I want more, I want more", which makes you miserable, which makes you put so much effort! You should think that whatever is needed for me, I will get it. You should have the faith that it will come to you. It is greed which disturbs you. So not wanting too much of anything; balance!
Happiness and contentment comes, the only thing you have to ensure is:
- You are not lazy. If you are lazy and you say, "Let happiness come to me", it is not going to come to you. Lazy people will not be happy
- Don't be selfish. If you are selfish, happiness is not going to come to you. If you only say, "Me, mine, only me", you are not going to be happy. Selfish people will not be happy
- Don't be greedy. A greedy one will not be happy. If you are greedy and say, "I want more and more and more", you will not be happy
- People with the feeling of revenge will not be happy. If you want to take revenge on anybody, then you cannot be happy
Q: When we are in pain, we are centered. But when we are happy, we move away from this centeredness. How should we remain happy and centered at the same time?
Yes, this is a good question. When we are happy, we experience a sense of expansion; the mind expands. And when we are miserable, we experience a certain depth. That is why whether you experience happiness or sorrow in life, treat both as equal because happiness bring expansion and sorrow brings depth, and both make you stronger. And the way to go beyond both of these is meditation.
By meditating and being in knowledge, both centeredness and expansion start to co-exist within us. And that is because this is the nature of the self.
Q: It is said that wisdom is to have a smile on your face even in bad times. Should I put on a fake smile? I don't feel very good when I do this.
There is a proverb in America which says, "Fake it till you make it". When in difficult times, you experience pain. I am not saying you should never express the pain that you are experiencing, and fake it with a smile, no! If you feel there is a problem and if you feel like crying, cry, but snap out of it. What makes you snap out of it is knowledge. What does knowledge do? It brings back the smile.
I want to tell you an incident. A lady had lost her teenage daughter and she was in a lot of pain. But with the help of knowledge, she could get over the pain.
Then she started going to parties, but it was pinching her. She was feeling guilty, "I am smiling. How can I simply smile when my daughter died just a month ago?"
With the help of knowledge, she realized that anyway her daughter was sick and she had to go, so she went. But now when she smiled she felt guilty. She didn’t feel any pain anymore for the death of her daughter, and for that she felt guilty. I have seen many people like this.
A lady who had lost her husband six months ago felt vey guilty for wearing nice dresses. She thought, "What will people think?" She felt like wearing, but she didn’t wear. She felt like going for a movie, but couldn’t go because what would people think?
This is where I say, drop all these hesitations and listen to your heart. With knowledge you will be able to smile, and it comes to you naturally.
Wisdom is something that brings the natural smile within you even in tough times. When everything appears to be falling apart, why should you lose your smile?
In everybody's life this happens. Some things that you like happens, some things you don’t like happens. This is part of life. When such things happen, why do you have to blame yourself and get bogged down?
Wisdom gives you the strength to smile even in tough times, and that is a real smile. Everybody anyway smiles when everything is fine. What is the great thing about it? A baby smiles when there is no pain, but an adult can smile even when there is little pain.
Q: What would be your best memory of happiness?
Happiness is when you want nothing, and you want to give. Where the wanting and desires end, and the sharing begin, happiness is exactly there. Memory is not happiness. When you are happy, you forget everything. It is when happiness is gone that you dwell in its memory. In the world, people are either dreaming of happiness or remembering happiness. That is either being in the past or the future. But happiness is that which is in the present. And it is your very nature.
The Happiness Program: Our Core Workshop
Be Happy & Make Others Happy
Founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, The Art of Living combines spiritual practices, service and celebration with the goal of bringing an unshakable smile onto everyone’s face.
The Happiness Program is the core workshop of The Art of Living Foundation. It teaches a mix of yoga poses, breathing exercises, and practical wisdom to help us unlock the joy and freedom within.
The Happiness Program
At the core of every living person, there is a longing for happiness. The problem is that we usually seek happiness in things outside of us and in the future. Happiness is really here right now.
It is one thing to understand that happiness comes from within, and another thing to know it and live it. This is possible only through meditation, where we get in touch with the core of our existence.
But this again is easier said than done.
How do we bring our mind to the present and get that experience of deep, silent meditation?
For this reason, Sri Sri created the Sudarshan Kriya. After teaching meditation for many years, he found people were having a hard time quieting their minds.
Discover the Secrets to Long-Lasting Happiness
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Discipline & The 3 Types of Happiness
How to Always be Happy
Peer Reviewed Research Results from the Happiness Program