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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Whither happiness?

Some of us are happy more or less all the time. Some are too busy or unused to thinking to bother about whether they are happy or not. Some brood over it all the time, and cannot figure out why they feel unhappy despite there not being obvious and pressing reasons for unhappiness. Of late I have been interacting with some people who are contemporaries or senior ex-students, and they have all been thinking of this happiness issue – one thing that is common to all of them, I notice, is that they are rather bewildered that they cannot feel happy enough as they reach or approach middle-age, despite having done everything right: becoming engineers and managers, for instance, and then settling in the US, and getting married at the ‘right’ time to the ‘right’ sort of person (as parents and society dictate), and raising children who are not handicapped in any serious way. So they have got me thinking (again, I might add: I did a lot of thinking about it once upon a time).

It may be a good idea to list a few things which, taken together, can, or at least ought to, make us happy – or at least prevent sudden strong bouts of unhappiness. I think that, under normal circumstances (not in Hitler’s Germany or Afghanistan right now), the following list should suffice:

· Sustained good health,
· A good wife and a cheerful hearth,
· An adequate income,
· Enjoying one’s work,
· A few relaxing and enjoyable hobbies,
· A few people who make it known that they are grateful to you for favours received,
· A habit of counting one’s blessings every day,
· Having a few good things to look forward to – such as the coming of grandchildren,
· Keeping company with people who are less fortunate, and avoiding the company of people far richer and snootier,
· Not socializing with people who have nothing to say except share gossip and scandal, and compare their lot with yours,
· Not regretting things that have been (this is really hard! – so many people my age, of both sexes, are finding it so difficult to accept that they are not perky and pretty teenagers any more),
· Knowing that one is leaving behind a few things that will last – such as a successful business, or a book that has become famous, or a pretty garden, or a legion of successful students, or a widely-accepted scientific theory…
· Cultivating two invaluable virtues that the Buddha taught: upeksha (equanimity over good fortune and bad) and mudita (pleasure over the good fortune of others).

You can be just plain lucky, but my opinion is that most of us have to work on all the items listed above. Sustained good health, for instance, depends a great deal on disciplined habits in connection with food, sleep and exercise which most of us avoid until it is too late; and daydreaming about how happy you could have been if you had a good wife is fine, but most of us find it a bitter pill to swallow when it is suggested that how good a wife you get depends a great deal on how good you have tried to be to her! Enjoying your work is not very likely if you are stuck with something that your parents forced you into twenty years ago. And as for having an ‘adequate’ income: remember that unless one learns contentment, a billion dollars a year is sure to keep you unhappy. Most of the unhappy people that I talk to have nice houses if not palaces to live in, at least one car, and go holidaying at least once a year, to Kashmir or Kerala if not to Singapore, Dubai or the French Riviera! And too many of them eat far too much.

One thing that I have definitely learnt is that the ability to draw happiness out of life decreases as one grows richer, at least up to the middle-class level; I meet happy rickshaw-pullers and maidservants far more often than happy doctors, engineers and managers, though the latter freely admit that they are now much better-off than they were in childhood. This certainly needs thinking about. Yet another thing is that most people stay unhappy all their lives because they could never figure out once and for all what exactly they wanted out of life, and what they could easily have done without!

If one is able to put a check beside almost all of the above, and one is still unhappy, one needs to analyse oneself closely to figure out whether it is because one enjoys being that way – one may be a habitual melancholic (dukkhobilashi in Bengali). And if one cannot put a check beside most of them, one needs to ask oneself what one is doing wrong, and what one needs to change to make things better. Change your wife, change your vocation, change your place of residence, change your set of friends – or get rid of friends more or less entirely? … and don’t tell me ‘it’s easier said than done’, because I have made many of those changes in my own life, and am happier for it.

Finally, if you can’t make those changes despite knowing that you should, you are a weak character: you deserve to be unhappy, so stop whining!

Reading (or re-reading) some good books can certainly help. Have you tried Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness lately?

[I shall be glad to answer questions on this – though not rhetorical ones, it goes without saying. Many readers have been telling me they don’t ‘dare’ to write comments here. That’s sad, because commenting does not require you to be a know-all: asking questions and sharing experiences is commenting, too!]

13 comments:

Subhanjan said...

My personal belief is that I have not lived life if I have not lived happily.

Recently I had been reading on Spartacus. I had seen the movie too. The will of one man to be 'free' had brought down shame upon the entire Roman Empire. Though the slave uprising had been unsuccessful, it was powerful enough to shake the mighty Roman Empire. Almost single-handedly, with a few dedicated friends who had been slaves like him too, Spartacus had liberated thousands of slaves, raised an army of them, trained them in the art of sword fighting of a gladiator, and led them against Roman garrisons. Even slave women and children had taken up bows and arrows, stones and knives. You know why? To be FREE. And what can freedom possibly give them other than HAPPINESS! Without proper food and shelter they had moved around in forests for hiding themselves. Albeit such hardship, they had managed to destroy garrisons after garrisons sent to terminate them by the Roman state. And you know what happened eventually. Spartacus was finally defeated. Many died. Many fled away. But 6,600 of Spartacus's followers were crucified along the via Appia (or the Appian Way) from Brundisium to Rome. Crassus, who defeated Spartacus, never gave orders for the bodies to be taken down, thus travellers were forced to see the bodies for years after the final battle. THIS was the price of the pursuit of HAPPINESS. Such is the value of happiness.

Now, why do we, the present generations, underestimate the significance of 'true happiness' and not realise the temporary and insignificant nature of what we 'generally' call 'happiness'? Well, the very simplest of reasons is that 'happiness' was always readily available to us. We never had to struggle for getting it. We never had to fight for it. No one had ever threatened to crucify us if we ever dared to fight for happiness. And what makes this more apparent than this special month of August which had a truly historical, political, economic and social significance 56 years ago in this country? Happiness, at least that of the cheapest kind, is spread all around: Malls, movies, cafes, restaurants, bear and beef stake. But if we, the present generations, had to shade our blood for getting freedom, if we had seen a war in our own city; or a riot for that matter, we would have surely known the value of happiness. But now, since we have NOT seen these things, we would never know what happiness actually means. The joy of knowing that I am 'alive' can be a profound happiness. The joy of seeing land after weeks at the sea is happiness truly deep. When there is a sudden attack in the country, and the cities are heavily bombed, the happiness of a man when he sees his family alive on rushing to home from work is a happiness that teaches man what is important and what is not. The joy of the realisation that I have two legs to run, eyes to see my mother, and ears to listen to the song of a cuckoo, brings happiness that quenches the thirst for every other thing. That I am not dumb and can scream for help when I have fallen down the stairs must make me a very happy man. And of course there is a greater happiness: The happiness of a Bodhisattva. That is not unreachable. But how many of us have the nerves to go for it?

Abhijit-Bhabhi said...

Respected Sir

It is a matter of co incidence that I too have been thinking on the subject " Happiness " for some weeks now.

It all began with my slowly began to understand that worrying and being tensed had unknowingly become some sort of habit for me . I would always be thinking of what I need to do tomorrow at work, feel tensed about tasks yet to be completed etc.

It is during my trip to Goa , that it dawned upon me that if I continue living the way I was- I would have never lived my LIFE, and one day when it would come to an end, and when there is nothing else to look forward to-it would have been too late to live all those moments that I had missed.

So I have resolved to experiment living for the next 100 days following these points :

1) Always Always Always think POSTIVE.

2) Live life in the present , Not in the past , not the future , but this very moment.

3) Challenges ( NOT "problems" ) are necessary to grow as human beings, hence dont be negative towards it.

These seemingly simple things are quite a challege themselves. However I am trying my best to live it up.

Finally - We all can be as happy as we decide to be .

Thank you for the Post.

Regards

Abhijit Bharadwaj

bharadwaj.abhijit@gmail.com

Kaushik said...

Brilliant commentary, Subhanjan!

Yes, happiness often lives in simplicity.
There is always a quiet self within us that silently craves for a connect with nature, the raw, the pristine- and tries to savour the simple joys of life and derive a happiness out of it, uninhibitedly, quietly…. the earthy aroma of the parched surface being kissed by the showers of the unseasonal rain, the urchins, down the alley, blissfully frolicking in the (d)rain-water and the eternally irritable canine next door, making up for a watchful, noisy night, perched perfect in a sand heap, wagging its tail, its whiskers gently caressed by the morning breeze,……….drawing the quaint smell of the yellow, damp pages of the “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”, your father read out to you ‘once upon a time’ and discovering the stains of the soup which smeared its page No 43 for which you received an unexpected drubbing from your always ‘quietly forgiving’ Grandma, fondly remembering the day you ‘accidentally’ (it’s always like that) broke the 78 rpm disc of your mother’s favourite K.L Saigal number and your brother, half-mischievously, hailed it as your ‘record breaking’ performance, the sight of the gossamer web lying intricately balanced in crooked wires of a lamppost even after lashed by the mid-summer torrents, the warm jab from a fellow colleague after a work done well, sucking with aplomb the succulent remains of a bone-marrow (with insincere apologies to the vegs), a sweaty, black-skinned peasant trudging a lonely, weary way down the brown serpentine path, improvised by those travellers who have habitually trodden it since the earliest of times (Tagore’s “Paye Cholar Poth”), and which often, unmistakably led to the farthest end of the globe … these and many more, the list is endless… makes us happy, purely, unalloyedly.


These are of course the stereo-typical, generic imageries of joy, happiness of the otherwise middle class city-bred folks, professionals of largely comparable life-styles and average tastes and dispositions, cutting across the divides of region, religion and gender, still pretty honest and making reasonably secure and comfortable livelihoods of fairly demanding avocations, making a hash for meetings, Board presentations and deadlines, and seeking, beyond the demands of ‘obstreperous’ wives and nagging children (not always, without reason, though), weekly (and weakly) refuges in the soft, dimly-lit, coarsely tuned, mildly tipsy, ‘adda’ sessions of friends and fans in homely settings with generous culinary helpings from Boudis, with liberal sprinklings of PNPC chats thrown in… or making a few odd, forays to the seas and forests, once in a while,… yes we do feel happy and contented to enjoy and live up to the modest expectations of life…

But sadly and inexorably, the ‘advancement’ of the society, its ‘demonstration effects’ tellingly felt in scaling the steep gradients of plush malls and residential scrapers, the neon bill-boards goading you to get hold of the “last vestiges of happiness that life can buy” have started casting their insidious charm on you… you feel slowly and surely drawn towards the global net. To put it glibly and with naiveté, it’s not necessary any more to merely feel happy, you need to show it to the world. The next door neighbour shows it through his myriad possessions – where the ‘ perpendicular pronoun’, ‘I’, (very distinct, metaphorically speaking, from the ‘we the people’ of yesteryears who often cried ‘I wanted everything so that I can enjoy life, instead I was given life so that I can enjoy everything’ ) holds its forte, be it through ‘i-pod’, ‘i-fone’, ‘i-10’ and you just can’t afford to sit and look the other way as if these didn’t mean anything to you. I would be dubbed a wastrel, a pretentious fool if I tried to show my happiness through ‘I like good books and music’, ‘I love nature and wildlife’, ‘I like to share and care’, ‘ I’m happy gazing at the stars’ kinds of stuff. Of course, assuming that I do find happiness in them and not just flaunting them, sanctimoniously.

Again in this net-worked society, can I really afford to say that ‘It doesn’t matter what others feel, but I feel happy this way’ ? I run the risk of being branded a recluse, a loner, a complex-ridden person suffering from the ‘grapes turning sour’ syndrome !! The pressures of competitive civility and other collective societal norms and compulsions do demand that I don’t turn into a froward and feel unaccepted and unwanted in the society ! And honestly, I don’t show the faintest traits of such path breakers as Subhas Bose who could merrily cock a snook at the power and pelf of national politics and personal academic records and had the gall to immerse himself absolutely, irreversibly in uncharted waters, where he could master ‘ultimate happiness’, and respond to the calls of destiny, unmindful of the immediately rewarding consequences!!

Or, say of Socrates , who before consuming the potion of hemlock, during the process of trial , could declare in no uncertain terms “ If you propose to acquit me on condition that I abandon my search for truth then I would say, Thank You, Oh Athenians ! But I will obey God who as I believe has set me this task, rather than you, and as long as I have breath and strength, I shall never cease from my occupation with philosophy, which gives me happiness. I know not what death is and it may be a good thing and I’m mot afraid of it. But I know it is bad to desert one’s post and I would prefer what may be good to what I know is bad.”

And again, why not? It’s not always fair to harp on the murkier side of the loose-ends of my opponents’ logic!
Just as I feel downcast and mortally wounded when the people, on the other side of the hedge, show an insouciance at best and a dismissive arrogance at worst at the ingredients I would like to derive happiness from, I too do not enjoy the right to mock and chide at others who find pleasures out of a ‘purely hedonistic pursuit’ of life ! Indeed, in tune with the hierarchical needs of satiety, after the fulfillment of the basal and basic needs of life, I would like to cherish the goals of self actualization through the commonly attributable experiences of social prestige, power, recognition (and much of it, I can’t deny, does come through the acquisition and wise disposal of the physical accessories of life as Warren Buffet and others have shown and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, discovers through the life’s tribulations—the seedy, avaricious, solipsistic life experiences are as important to him as the peaceful, transcendental realizations dawning on him, to draw and balance the final contours of his life – there is the vain and hypocritical in the every Buddha and vise-versa – he realizes with rare profundity and warned prophetically that in seeking the ultimate, you should never ignore the findings that come your way- the concept of ‘Charaiveti’ of our Upanishad, or echoing the familiar strains of Ramakrishna, when he exhorted “ Periye ja, Eriye na”) and these, too may redeem me and make me happy! The wise sage, would often extol on living and experiencing fully, the world of ‘Bhog’ (gratification- sensual and otherwise) before one could even start to appreciate the ethereal joys of ‘Tyag’ (sacrifice).

Indeed, the now evolving comprehensive construct of the National Happiness Index, while factoring the elements of higher entitlement rights of education, health care of individuals, does not ignore the importance of individual financial power and security, recognition rights etc

I’ll finish off my ramblings with the a reference to Tagore of the uniquely defined twin concepts of “Sukh” and “Ananda” as tellingly commented in his “Santiniketan’’ essay : “ Sukh protidiner samogri, anondo protyoher atit. Sukh shorire kothao dhulo lage bolia shongkuchito, anondo dhulay goragori diya nikhiler shonge aponar byabodhan bhangiya churmar koriya dai. Ei jonyo sukher pothe dhula heo, anonder pothe dhula bhusan. Sukh kichhoo pachhe haray bolia bheeto , anondo jotha sarbashya bitoron koriya poritripto…….”

Let us crave for forging a right balance of this ethereal ‘anandam’ with the daily share of the mortal ‘sukh’ (that is also ineluctably needed) to make our life that much more livable!!

Regards
Kaushik Chatterjee

Subhanjan said...

Thank you for the compliment Kaushikda(in case you are elder to me). But my thoughts are portrayed in a much better way by your comment, rather than mine.

I need to narrate a personal experience that I had today in the morning. It relates to happiness, and to life in a more broader sense.

I was reading a personal experience of Sudha Murty in her book 'Wise and Otherwise'. It was a story of a man who did not want to take care of his old father because he had married an animal, and therefore lied to Sudha Murty and took the financial help of the Infosys Foundation to throw his old and helpless father at the mercy of an old-age home. Days and months went by. There was no stress of this man. Finally a day came when the old man died. It was on that very day that this devil came on hearing the news that his father was breathing his last, and claimed the money that his father had left behind for him.

Having being pained in her heart at the heartlessness of this man and the love of his father, Sudha Murty says, "Though this son had not wanted to look after him and had made him lie to me that he had nobody in this world, the old man nevertheless wanted his money to go to his son. It never would have occurred to him to give that money to the old-age home that had sheltered him in his last days. In western countries, when old people die in old-age homes, they often will their property to the home or hospital that cared for them. This is for the benefit of other senior citizens. They do no bequeath their money to their children, nor do the children expect their parents to do so. But in India we have the worst of both worlds: children neglect aged parents, and parents routinely leave their property to their children."

After having read this I was not only disheartened by the sickness of the Indian social system, but also feeling terribly uneasy when I was trying to feel the kind of mental agony that the old man must have gone through during the last days of his life.

But sometimes the merciful Lord hits us so hard that the bitter truth of this world and its people starts haunting sensitive people like me.

After I finished reading that incident from the book, I stood up from my chair and started running my hand through my hair pressing my head hard as it was feeling heavy after having been given a hard blow by Mrs. Murty. As I was doing so, I went to the balcony to have a glimpse of nature to cool down myself. But what I saw was this:

A poor man – ‘chotolok’ i.e from the ‘lower-classes’ as the society identifies those of his kind – was pulling a tricycle van using every bit of strength that he has, and another man was pushing that van from behind with all his energy. On the van was a poor, and extremely shabbily dressed woman lying still, looking almost half dead. Her little child, hardly six or seven years old, was sitting beside her. These two men were using all their strength to take the woman as quickly as possible to the Bidhan Nagar hospital. It was towards this hospital that they were going.

At the first sight of this, I was rendered speechless and stiff like a stone. My eyes never left them until they went out of sight. Even after they were gone, I was standing there just like that for a few moments. I turned slowly, came into my room, closed the door behind me, and literally sat down on the floor with my hands over my head. Why on earth was I born to see these things?

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

I would try to throw some light on the issue from my experience. You are right in saying that we have got in this habit of "not being happy". I am not alien to this disease myself. If I put forth my arguments in favour they are bound to fall flat because it is always better to think it is scenario, we ourselves are the main cause. I feel unless and until one realises this particular fact, one cannot self cure oneself.

Having said that, I do feel though perhaps 90 percent of the causes are self-created there is a proportion which is beyond our control for us to get entangled into a state of self-pity. Most of us who come from a background who have studied in decent institution hoping to become successful in our own chosen fields have failed to the adjust to the shocks that growing up brings forth. I do feel, despite of having lesser choice and information, our earlier generations were much tougher both mentally and physically to handle such scenario. We in effect have grown up like “computers” were hard-disks crashes are often a reality when we are overloaded. Too much information and not knowing how to deal with it creates such a problem. While we are studying in the best colleges (these days every college is publicised much more than in earlier days with media coming out with rankings etc) we anticipate a certain kind of future life for ourselves – be it in society or in office. Slowly when we find out that reality is something different we go blank and disillusioned. India’s infrastructural woes have lot to do with it, I feel. We are a country which has not yet ensured basic needs of healthy living in proper way to its people – power, water, health, public transport, services etc. Situations in urban centres are so bad, I wonder how are villages are! While growing up most of us are practically shielded from these problems and once we face them all these collectively add to our frustrations. Same with our offices. The bigger the company it seems the worse is the management styles. We Asians have purported a very unethical work culture of working in volume and thus a person who is not self-employed (and self-employed people have their own issues too!) mostly faces the situation – we dreamt to work in such a place and how disorganised it turns out be! Living in a big Indian city (where most of the middle class hope to be!) is a tough proposition. Most of us do not realise what is affecting us and thus we suffer. I agree there are hundreds of solutions to shield oneself but not everyone can find them easily and the realisations and sufferings become a painful process in turn.

I agree such issues should be solved by self only but I guess not always it is easy for everyone. We may go on blaming such people but we must assess are we providing a scenario collectively to ensure they don’t fall apart? As a teacher and a mentor you have been helping people “lighting their own lamp” for ages now – how many people do it? How many people go and tell their friends in the government or politics to utilise their power effectively? Here in New Zealand I am amazed to see that the city council (the corporation kind of elected body) acts as a service providing organisation. You have to meet them to believe what I am trying to say. You can just call and say them to mend a particular road and they will not only apologise for their lack of knowledge but shall come within days to do the work! You can call them for any thing – any information about the city. Can we imagine that Kolkata Corporation Office becomes such an accessible office to its citizens where we can talk about our power woes, street woes, and traffic woes and hope to get a patient hearing? Most of us are scared of approaching government institutions!

How can we expect to be a nation of happy people when we live in an unhealthy state?

Here also people have their unusual happiness but they are not magnified because of these reasons. Most of their problems are related to domestic problems of bad parents, alcoholism, loneliness, abundance etc. Earlier we used to feel proud that in US students kill fellows with a gun, but something like that never happens in India since we are culturally immune! My seven year stint in Delhi and reading the daily newspapers their have made me think differently. Reading daily newspapers in Delhi is actually a scary experience.

I do feel, there is one solution to all the woes for us. We need to respect ourselves and work collectively towards our betterment. We are too judgemental in our nation and we waste time criticising the entire world for everything without looking at each other. As a nation we should stop that. It hurts my self-esteem to see that we elect selfish jerks to our parliament and we can do so little to make them work for us.

Even I am not sure what exactly shall solve these problems but I hope something comes up. As far as being happy completely, I guess it has become a bit of a compromise. Few people shall accept that and provide theoretical arguments but until and unless we accept certain things as realities, make peace or turn a blind eye at them we cannot be happy.

I know I may sound completely pessimistic but yes thinking positive does help but thinking positive with actually doing something positive and making that happen is an overrated oft repeated theory.

Thus, at this moment I feel small things should be done – say even organising a tree plantation day by getting everyone involved can make many happy. At least I feel so. However I don’t know whether one has to go through a huge process of taking governmental permission for that.

Regards

Tanmoy

In search of a certain something... said...

That line about a dukhobhilashi set me thinking; I think perhaps many of us may be like that without ever having pondered about it.
Personally, I used to feel unhappy a lot but then realised that unless I did something about the things that I complained about, I would just be wasting a lot of time and energy in the process of feeling unhappy. Life is really very simple; it is we who have complicated it with numerous frills and then end up feeling miserable because we have not got our share of those frills.

Sumitha

Dutta said...

Sir, I have attended two classes in a couse called "UTSAV" organised here in Kolkata by the famous NGO named "The Art of Living", and it is very interesting that I am posting my comment on your post about HAPPINESS now, and only yesterday were we being told about happiness in the class. You have mentioned so many things that are to done by someone to be happy. In the class, the person who was telling us to be happy did not mention such a big list, but he said that with the help of "pranayams" one can forget a lot of his or her sadness, throw away a lot of frustration and can be much more happy than he or she is at present.

We were told a very interesting fact of life about how people persuade happiness but end up in getting nothing. The fact is very funny also. I shall tell you what the person said, but before that, I must first give a brief introduction about the person. His name is Dinesh, he is an ex-student of IIT Mumbai, and he holds a Master's Degree in Mettalurgical Engineering. He has passed out of IIT seventeen years ago. At first, he asked us, "Are you happy"? We replied, "No". Then he said, "Why are you all not happy? This is what you have been trying to be since you were a child - your parents have been instructing you to be happy for the past 20 or 22 years. The serious phase of life starts from Standard X onwards. Before the class X exams, parents say, 'Beta, par lo thik se. Yeh pariksha agar thik se de diya tumne, to life settle ho jaayega. Iske baad fir koi tension nehi hai.' The 'beta' is a fool, and he believes his parents. He works and works and works, and after the exams, he gets good results. He is very happy. Then comes Standard XII. Parents again play the same old record, 'Par le beta, iske baad aur koi tension nehi. Yun sochle ki life settled iske baad. Ekdam bindaas.' Again the hell of a fool, the 'beta' works very hard, and gets good results in the Class XII exams also. Then comes college life, and along with it comes the period of ragging. The 'beta' has to wash 18 pairs of dirty underwear belonging his seniors (Dinesh said that he had to actually wash 18 pairs of dirty underwear of his seniors), and while washing the dirty underwears, the 'beta' says, 'Is this HAPPINESS? Well..., I shall be the senior next year, and I shall be happy when I am going to make some junior of mine wash my dirty underwear.' A very optimistic person, the 'beta' becomes very happy at this thought, and waits for a year. But next year, the college puts a ban on ragging, and the 'bets' says, 'Ok.....! Chalo, kya kare!' Parents are now able to convince the 'beta' that he will be happy after he gets a good job, but as it rarely happens, the obedient 'bets' is not happy. Then the parents convince him that he will be happy after marriage, but after marriage, as usual, the 'beta' does not find happiness. Then he feels, 'Well, when I shall have children, I shall be happy.' But even after becoming a father, he is not happy. And now, it is his turn to make his children happy exactly in the way that he tried to be happy following his parents' instructions. He tells his children, 'Maine apne poore jeevan tapasya kia hai, to tum kyon nehi karoge? Zindegi mein khush hona hai ki nehi?' Still unhappy and frustrated with life, the 'beta' feels that he will be happy when he will have grandchildren, but by the time he sees his grandchildren, his life is already finished, he has no more time to be happy."

Then Dinesh said, "You all have believed your parents' lies for so long a time just to be 'HAPPY'. Will you teach your children to be happy and spoil their lives in the same way? You all have different sorts problems that make you unhappy. You are the ones who need to find solutions to those problems. You have to be happy by yourselves. No one can bring happiness to you - you have to decide whether you want to remain happy or you do not want to. Just make a promise today, 'Come what may, I shall remain happy.'" All the people made the vow, and then Dinesh said, "It is so easy to say. Can you implement it today? What will happen to you if you go out of here only to find you shoes lost and you have to go all the way home here from Babughat? Or, while going home, you lose your mobile phone that you bought just yesterday for Rs.20000? Will you be able to remain happy?" All the people fell silent.....

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Happy coincidence, Shubhadip! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I hope a lot of people would read it. Here you are paying to attend 'Art of Living' classes to hear the same sort of thing I have been telling thousands of pupils all my life, and I get roundly abused by not only parents for my pains, by even by some students and ex-students, who cannot imagine that a teacher can be a greater well-wisher than their parents. That's fate!

I wish I could force all parents to read your comment.

Sriranjani Datta said...

sir,
I would like to thank you on behalf of my father who is presently going through a tough time and is under medication. your post have really helped him.

thankyou sir. and yes I know that you are a greater well-wisher than parents but I do not agree that all teachers are well-wisher. if that would have been the case then there would have been better students. yes the fault also lies in the students as to how much they can understand their teacher's effort.

Regards,
sriranjani datta.
e-mail i.d.-sriranjanidatta@gmail.com

Supra said...

If we analyze people’s activities, we will come to the conclusion that they all seek happiness. Every act is infact a search for it, even if on the surface it doesn’t look so. Happiness is always the supreme desire. If one is feeling happy one doesn’t have to speak about it. But the instant one starts to say “I am happy”, one creates a gap however small between him and the genuine feeling. People go to all extremes o be happy; from going to movies (even the senseless ones), eating at restaurants or going o parties, getting the latest bike, mobiles and other electronic gadgets. ‘Happiness’ comes but is fleeting. The motive is happiness, but the results don’t fulfill the original desire. It is always a matter of choice whether one wants to be happy or unhappy. It is true that we meet all kinds of situations during a day, and some of them may not be conducive to happiness. But we can choose to keep thinking about the unhappy events and can chose to refuse to think about them.
What is happiness? It’s a feeling of inner peace and satisfaction. It is usually experiences when there are no worries, pains, fears or obsessive thoughts, and this usually happens, when we do something we love (remember not forced to! So how can a student be happy studying when he hates books, or how can a man be happy with his job when he dislikes it ) to do or we get, win, gain or achieve something that we value. Though happiness seems to be an outcome of positive events, but it is actually comes from inside, triggered by outer events. Self possession is vital for happiness and the sad fact is that most of us are constantly in a state of distraction and never get a moment to concentrate on knowing what we truly want. What are the things that keep us unhappy and how we can movie towards a happier state of being.Infact most of us are so ‘busy’ living the same dull, boring and empty lives that we don’t have time and patience to be happy!
Most of us fail to accept leave alone understand our true, hidden desires (I said most of us don’t have time for such an uninteresting activity) and hence regard them as unimportant. What can be worse than if I have to go to some ‘guru’, management, messiahs and a host of others offering quick-fix solutions, spiritual paradigms and instant nirvana to learn how to be happy! How many of us have felt happy being with someone we love, while reading a book or while lying on the sand at a beach? Few or should I say a few?
There are two causes of unhappiness in average human being-regrets over the past and apprehensions about the future. How true! How many times have we not wondered-if only I had married someone else, why did I not accept the other job, if only I had taken my examinations more seriously etc etc.And thus we constantly make ourselves unhappy! So it is not he or she or that bad day or this but we ourselves who keep ourselves deprived of the happiness.

Regards,
Supra

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Interesting and sad that though some people write in to air their views and experiences, nobody seems to want to ask questions - despite my saying explicitly that I shall be glad to answer sensible and serious questions! Is there some reason for that which I don't know about? - My viewpoint is that these things could become less of lectures and more of discussions (which is just what I'd like most) if some questions were raised.

Kaushik said...

Well, as an offshoot of the entry I had earlier typed in, and in the context of some of the allied sentiments voiced by fellow contributors, I would like to make this poser:

Why is it that in our multi-layered mosaic of religious, mythological, anthropological, socio-cultural texts, ideas and ideals ,from the Buddha, Bhakta Kabir, Sufi saints, the Chaitanya, etal, the notions of indigence, sacrifice, deprivation etc and the resultant agonies of suffering of the multitudes have always been given a godly halo and accorded an implicit societal/ moral imprimatur, while physical wealth and opulence, contentment and pleasure, improved standards of living, born out of industry and a rashness of spirit, irrespective of their origin, causality and nature, invariably chided at and cursed?

You’d remember, Nehru, in his “Discovery of India”, if I remember right, has raised his agony in that if the oriental/pan Indian mainstream disposition (barring the occasional, isolated instances of Sankhya/ Charvaka and other hedonistic schools, which were few and, empirically speaking, quite ‘marginal’ in their influences) of this conscious self-abnegation, other-worldliness, perceived detachment from anything physical and remotely epicurean and satisfying to the senses, had actually morphed our national psyche and made us languid, un-enterprising, wallowing in self-pity, happy to look for alibis in defence of perpetual sloth and slovenliness, and savouring an enormous relish in the blame game!

There are countless tales, poems, allegories, wise disquisitions, running across the entire genre of our culture, philosophy and language ( think of the ‘Duyorani’ whose ‘dukho’ and ‘daridryo’ have always been hailed as heavenly and self-redeeming, vis-a-vis the apparent ‘sukh’ and physical comforts of the ‘Suyorani’, who, because of her apparent wealth, has been stereo-typically and unfailingly, labeled as cruel, avaricious and loathsome or consider, Nazrul’s passionate call, “ He Daridro, tumi more korechho mohan”, or even in Tagore’s schema where wealth and vice were often, unquestioningly, assumed as the despicable twins, born out of the same step-mother, “Sukh” ) whose underlying messages have possibly seeped into our collective conscience, making us, and at least a couple of generations, ‘up the line’, perfectly apathetical to dreaming big , venturing beyond the known pastures, in pursuit of fame, recognition and yes, you guessed it right, worldly possessions !!

As an interesting parallel, you would also recollect that even the concept of corporate profits, (always a dirty word, even till the mid-eighties) resulting out of honest and indigenous, hard labour and entrepreneurship was routinely derided by the socialist savants (not to speak of the rabid neo-liberal leftists), waxing fine on the virtues of ‘state welfarism’ and social justice!! [citing the anachronistic and absurd logic :“Sot bhabe byabsha korle profit hobe keno?”, and promptly lapped up by the middle class Bengali intelligentsia, to turn its back, as always, on self-driven business ventures ]

Is this why, ironically though, and as a historical tweak of sorts, moving to the other extremity of the fulcrum, we and our generation next/s (we, you would often admit, have been caught mid-way , struggling to make a bargain for the bests of both the generations, up and down the time line and eventually settling for a weird and a confused combo of the same) are obsessively tempted towards the sheer physicalities of life (the mantra of ‘khao, dao, piyo, jeeyo’) to satiate ourselves, to the exclusion of cultivating all the finer and enduring lessons of life, tragically “lost in living”!!


Regards,
Kaushik Chatterjee
(chatterkaus@gmail.com)

Aki said...

Dear Sir,

I was going through some of your old posts randomly. Really liked going through them again. I also started reading The Conquest of Happiness after reading this post. It is sad that I waited this long to read a book by Bertrand Russell. I am half way through it and am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Regards,
Arnab