The Great Magnifier.

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How much one suffers rests on the individual. We have limited control over what happens, but we do determine our response to it. Pain it is said comes as two arrows. The first is the source of pain and the other is the narratives that we spin around the event. Most of us are in the habit of brooding. Chuck the past. Nobody can say what’s in store in the future. In this manner train the mind to be more and more in the here and now. The other thing is attention. Attention is the great magnifier. What we direct our attention on becomes our experience of life. The rest is background. You might for instance miss a glorious panorama or a virtuoso performance if your attention is somewhere else. Or you might lie in bed frightened all night mistaking a shape or a sound for an intruder. Enjoy the joy that this moment brings, and the next, and the next…

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Forgetting Yourself.

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One person is arrogant and another is terribly shy. Both these individuals are full of themselves. Whereas happiness comes from self-forgetfulness. For most of us this happens only sometimes when we are absorbed in work or playing a sport or listening to music, or when we connect with other people. Most of the time however, we are comparing ourselves to others, imagining what people are saying about us, thinking about what kind of impression we’re creating. And then we are all the time trying to be like other people, seeking to please them, always endeavoring to be regarded highly.

In the Mahabharata Arjuna asks Krishna why Karna and not he-Arjuna is held in higher esteem. Some days later to show why, Krishna gives Arjuna a mountain-load of gold and asks him to give it to a village. Over the next few days Arjuna personally goes about distributing the gold amongst the villagers deciding who gets how much. The villagers were thankful and happy and sang praise of Arjuna’s generosity. And Arjuna gave perhaps a little grudgingly for at the end of it all there is still a great deal left to give out. So, Krishna calls Karna and assigns him the task. Right away Karna on spotting a group of villagers gives away all the gold and asks that they share it with the rest of the village. After that he walks away unaffected just like that unconcerned about what people think and perhaps wary of praise that could lure him out of his peace and composure.

More Of The Same.

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We live in a world that believes that ownership produces happiness and where everybody is for that reason single-minded in the pursuit of money to the exclusion of all else. Another motivator is the pursuit of stature. Then there is envy which in itself is cause for misery to the individual. The present-day model would have us perpetually expanding wants. It should come as no surprise then that in spite of all this headless consumption happiness is elusive. So for example, after you have achieved all that you’d aspired to, you then want more of the same – more cars, more homes, more jewelry, and so on, with no end in sight?

We would all have a lot more spare cash and feel wealthier for instance, if we own that which is sufficient and not be wasteful.  Besides things we own need to be looked after and excess of anything does not add to happiness but rather brings with it its own problems. What is more, if it is experience that we seek, then stuff that we’d use only sparingly may well be rented instead of bought. Beyond a point it ought not to be about how much more can we own but about how best can we put surplus savings to good use?

The Opportunity To Serve.

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Religious texts say that there is a single selfsame underlying reality that lies at the center of every being, the experience of which is Sat-Chit-Anand (see earlier post “among secrets I am silence”). Sat or being, as it is that which truly exists with no beginning or end – Chit or knowledge, as all else is the product of ignorance and the illusion of Maya – and Ananda or bliss, as it is the one source of all happiness.

So you have oneness which is bliss itself and on the other hand there is the ego or sense of separateness which is ridden with pain. The closer we are to Satchitanand, to that oneness, more is the joyfulness in our lives. Both love and selfless service are movements towards oneness. Does this concur with our every day experience? Anger, envy and hatred are always accompanied by agitation and misery and never with joy. When you are doing something hurtful there is an unease or the instinctive inner voice of conscience that admonishes you. Then again for some reason you are looking for purpose and to contribute so that your existence seems more meaningful. And when you are helpful and caring there is always an unexplained satisfaction that you feel within. Selfless service purifies the mind and fills it with joy. Except there can be no giving without a receiving. And so, we must be thankful for the opportunity to serve and the receiver who accepts the love that we have and so desperately need to give.

The Key To Happiness.

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Happiness is of the mind or rather it is the mind that feels happy or unhappy. There is a basic rule of happiness and it is that “happiness is proportionate to silence”. We have only to look into the past to the moments in our lives that we have been happiest or the next time we are happy to note the condition of our mind. You will find the mind either focused (with hardly any distracting thoughts) or with no thoughts. You sleep deeply and you get up refreshed. You are playing a sport or an instrument or are working without anxiety and your mind is focused. You want something terribly and are miserable. But the instant that you get what you crave, there is no more wanting and you are happy. Or you are in love with no concern for the world or yourself. On the other hand you observe the mind when you are miserable or worried or afraid. For example, fear is the mind compulsively thinking – this or that will happen. How to bring about a more silent mind will be the topic of another post. To an extent it can be achieved through simply shunning thoughts as above except that thoughts are the product of interactions in the mind that we in fact have not much control over.

Children Are The Future.

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Every one of us (well the majority of us anyway) are for the most part in the rat race. We are relentlessly trying to get ahead, whether in the workplace or on the social ladder. We have very little time for family life or friends. Ambition, aggression and arrogance are especially desirable qualities. Sacrifices are made and morality takes a backseat. And we must prepare our children for the rat race? Naturally every race has its losers and the newspapers are full of reports of suicide, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, separation and stress associated ill-health. But even to those of us that are fortunate to be amongst the winners, something doesn’t quite hold right. Why are we in this rat race in the first place? Is it because we know no better and suppose that being ahead will bring us happiness?

Everything that we want is desired not for its own sake, but for the reason that we believe it will make us happy. In that case we need to change the question. As a parent I wish for nothing more than for my children to be happy. So the question ought to be – how do we prepare our children so that they lead happier lives? The traits that we encourage in our children nowadays are not going to make them very nice people and besides can only cause them misery. Our own experience will tell us that we are unhappy whilst we are envious or hateful. On the other hand children are happy to be simply playing, or doing activities that interest them, or just being with or helping their friends. May be to begin with we should be reminding them that these are truly important and get us happiness and must on no account be given up.