This one question has baffled humans throughout history! For thousands of years billions of us have been looking for happiness and yet it eludes us. In short, the search for happiness is the single biggest manhunt in human history! Given human intelligence and the growth in science and technology, one would imagine that we would have found the answer by now. However, the answer still eludes us. Why?
In my work I come across some of the most intelligent people on this planet: businessmen, academics, political leaders, etc. They are brilliant at what they do: making billions of dollars, researching at the cutting edge of science, manipulating people and systems at will, etc. However, surprisingly enough, they too have yet to crack the puzzle of how to be happy. They too, like you and me, manage to find passing joy but permanent happiness continues to elude them. This tells me that happiness cannot be found in money, intelligence and power. However, most people like us look up to these so called “very successful” individuals and think: If I was like him/her, then I would be happy. Ha! What a sublime irony. If only we knew that they too go through the same highs and lows that we do. However, don’t be too sad, you’re not alone in your folly, for centuries people have tried to find happiness in wealth/money, success, intelligence, beauty and power. A few popular examples are: Alexander, Napoleon, Chengiz Khan, Julius Caesar, etc *. Needless to say, they failed miserably!
So then, why is happiness so elusive? Why can’t we find it? The answer is so simple that when I first discovered it I could not believe that that which people have been looking for centuries and all over the world is simply here and now! The answer is this: Happiness is our natural state and thus the quest for happiness is illogical! Let me give you an example: the Kasturi (Musk) Deer produces a divine fragrance, it smells it and then goes in search of the source without realising that the source is itself! This is the predicament of humanity with respect to happiness.
So then, if happiness is our natural state then why are we unhappy? Now you are asking the right question! The answer is very simple: we fail to recognise that happiness comes from within and like the Kasturi Deer go in search of it in objects outside us, for example: clothes, money, homes, cars, people, etc. A word of caution here, there is nothing wrong with any of those objects! Clothes, money, home, car, people all have their role to play in our lives however excessive indulgence and attachment to them is what causes unhappiness. In short, the causes of our unhappiness are “Sticky Substances”^.
If we work towards getting rid of or reducing these sticky substances from our life by using the tool of “Need vs Greed”~ we will soon find that unhappiness stops arising. And then what is left is simply our natural state i.e. Happiness! In short, we don’t need to find happiness; we just need to remove the things that bring unhappiness. Most people think that the way to remove unhappiness is to find more things to cling/stick to. NO! Ironically, those “sticky” things become the very cause of our misery. In fact, the solution lies in the opposite direction^^. And thus it eludes us because we, billions of humans for millions of years, have been looking for it in wrong places and wrong ways**!
*It is a real irony that we call these people “Great”. Majority of their lives were dedicated to doing the following: kill, rape, humiliate, plunder and destroy. In short, they were selfish & ruthless murderers & rapists. The fact that we still call them “Great” reveals the collective perversity of the human mind.
^Please refer to the essay titled “Sticky Substances” on this website for a detailed discussion on the same.
~Please refer to the essay titled “Need vs Greed” on this website for a detailed discussion of this tool.
^^ I do not mean we should all become ascetics but only that we should reduce our attachments to the objects involved in our daily living i.e. to strike a balance between self indulgence and self mortification.
** I am not the first one to propose this solution, it has been suggested by many great individuals prior to me, for example: the Buddha, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Ramana Maharshi, etc. These were truly “Great” humans: full of kindness, compassion, wisdom and selflessness. Always helping others, down to earth and simple in their habits, devoid of any desire to enslave others and be proclaimed as Great. On the contrary they spent their entire lives very humbly dedicated towards helping others become free from unhappiness. They did not do this to become famous or respected, the only reason they did this was out of compassion.