Everybody wants happiness. However, we usually seek it in ways that are dependent on external stimulus, as if an outer cause leads to an inner effect of happiness. Surely this process of stimulus-response works to some degree; we have all experienced this in different ways, where getting what we want seems to make us feel good, and not getting what we want seems to make us feel bad.
However, what if we knew how to be happy without any stimulus whatsoever? What
if you could just rest in the deepest feeling of joy, regardless of the external circumstances?
There seems to be two polarities. Either we think we don’t have enough money, or we are striving to have more so as to feel secure and affluent, pursuing what has come to be sold as prosperity or abundance consciousness. Either we don’t have a good relationship, or we seek to find the ideal partner so that we will feel whole, complete and needed.
Either we feel lonely and unknown, or we strive to be famous in some way, to receive accolades in our personal or professional lives from our family, friends, peers, or community, so as to feel exuberant with pride. Either we have questionable health or active disease, doing little for our body with diet or exercise, or we ardently pursue physical fitness and battle disease so as to feel the satisfaction of conquering the body.
It often appears that there only these two polarities and that we have no other choice but these two. Either we stay stuck where we are, or we seek these seemingly higher goals. It is extremely common for people to use “spiritual” methods such as meditation, contemplation, prayer and mantra to attain these goals. There are many lectures,
seminars, books, video and audio programs on how to do this. We are repeatedly told that we can have anything we want, that all we have to do is visualize it, and the universe or God will provide it for us. It is very easy to not see the ego drive behind this approach to spiritual life. It means we are measuring spiritual success by our bank account, sex life, popularity and physical situation. It doesn’t take a great deal of reflection to see that these are reframes of attachment, hedonism or greed, which have generally been seen as obstacles to attenuate, rather than goals to be attained.
However, there is a third choice, which is far beyond this oversimplified perspective of having or not having the objects or circumstances of our desire world. There is a way of being, a higher goal, that has nothing to do with whether our desires are, or are not fulfilled. In fact, it completely transcends the issue of desire. This is not to suggest that one should starve in poverty, grieve with loneliness, mourn in desolation, or suffer in physical pain.
Imagine for a moment that you were in such a state of mind that you always felt complete, regardless of whether or not you have any money at all. Imagine for a moment that you truly felt whole, with or without any other partner being in your life. Imagine for a moment that you felt at complete peace, even if no person had ever heard of your name or accomplishments. Imagine for a moment that you were in constant contact with that level of your being that was never born, is not and cannot be diseased, and can never die, and is not subject to any other of the impermanent vagaries of the physical body. To know the Self, the Atman or Purusha, the center of consciousness is to rest in the awareness of, to realize that which is beyond all of these surface level sufferings. It is to seek the awareness of the pre-existing wholeness or union that is sometimes called Yoga.
This can sound like a campaign promoting poverty, loneliness, isolation and decay. Those promoting the worldly solutions will often sell their wares in this way, by saying that words such as these are designed to leave people where they are, or to be miserable in life, as if these words are suggesting some future afterlife will be more fulfilling.
This is very far from the message of pursuing Self-Realization. One who seeks to know the eternal, pure, ever-joyous center of consciousness can easily live in the world, and enjoy the objects of the world at the same time. Such a person can and will naturally have all that is needed, will have close relationships, will have active and enriching engagement with the community, and will naturally move toward physical health and well being. However, those are not the goals, but are the natural byproducts of sincerely, passionately seeking that single higher goal.
Mind is very tricky. It will try to reason that, “Okay, so to get money, sex, fame and health I need to pursue enlightenment. Good, let me do that, so that I get what I want.” That is a game of the mind. The primary goal of seeking the direct experience of that eternally joyous center of consciousness is being skipped over once again, in the name of the lesser goals. However, one who repeatedly seeks that single, higher goal, by whatever name you choose to call it, will find that those secondary goals come easily. They become pleasant experiences of life, but can have no effect whatsoever on whether “I” am feeling “good” or “I” am feeling “bad.” One who knows the Self, the Atman can live in the world, but yet be above the world. Even for one who has not attained permanent awareness of this Self, which is the Self of all, but who is consciously, persistently, though gently pursuing it, will find that the other pleasures will come, resting on the foundation of the higher.
This is so elegantly simple and profoundly practical, bringing such grand results, that it can be repeatedly overlooked. By being ever mindful that the highest joy is already there, in the inner chamber of our being, in fact, being who we really are, life becomes very straightforward and happy. Moving towards this one goal brings many fruits along the way. Life becomes poetry and song, filled with joy. And one day, when least expected, when, in a moment, there is no expectation at all, the Self, Truth, or God is revealed, and that leaves all of the other pleasant experiences pale by comparison to this which is incomparable and inexplicable.