This article is dedicated to Swami Sukabodananda who enlightened me through his LIFE programme. I have attempted to articulate his wisdom which has given me a direction in my life.
There are two dimensions to Life; one is accomplishment and the other is fulfillment. The accomplishment is the measure of our success in acquiring wealth and fulfillment is the measure of how peaceful we are within. We say someone is successful based on their wealth, fame and power. We are all aware of accomplishment as we have been programmed to get mentally obsessed about it right from our childhood.
Probably the one thing our parents, teachers and society have done consistently and correctly is conditioning us for pursuing material wealth in our life. At the time of getting into our play school or kindergarten, we have been conditioned to compete for survival. I remember, when my daughter went to her LKG in a convent, my wife and me along with many other young parents used to stand at the school gate, eagerly waiting to know what marks she had got in her “cycle test”.
We were very upset when she had got nine and a half out of ten and hurriedly investigated where she committed a mistake to lose that half a mark! The poor young child was confused to see why we are not appreciating her for the marks she has got while we are busy in our research to find the reasons for the loss of half a mark! We used to see some parents screaming at their child who is helpless and confused to figure out what is the message? We as the parents programmed our child as “poor in mathematics” or “dumb in learning” while they are “born to win” in their chosen field. For instance, my daughter whom we have pushed hard for half a mark is leading our firm playing major role as a strategist.
Situation gets worse when the child reaches its 10th or 12th standard during which period the parents become hysterical. I remember one of our friends was rolling in the floor and crying as though someone have passed away when her son got low marks in 12th standard. Her concern was how she could tell anyone that her son was studying in an average engineering college? In this process, we have all conditioned our off-springs as per Darwin’s theory- “Survival of the fittest”. This has created a mental map, attitude or paradigm in us that we have to fight for our survival.
The other aspect the society programmes ourselves is the definition of “success” or “settling in our life” – having a decent degree, job with decent salary, buying a decent property, marrying a decent girl or boy, and having two children; one boy and one girl is the common man’s definition of “success” or “settling in life”! Alas! What a mediocre definition of life’s objective? In a developing economy, all these are very much within the reach of a common man. When India was below poverty line, people have migrated to US for getting these “free of cost”.
An educated youth who cannot achieve these “decent” things in life in India could get them the moment he/she lands in the US. Irrespective of social position, one could have all these in a developed economy. A person who cannot get a decent salary in India could own an apartment; drive a Mercedes and so on in a developed economy! If everyone possesses all these, then what success means?
What is the main point?
If the success is defined narrowly as “accomplishment”, as we have discussed above as “settling in life” like a common man or aggrandizing material wealth as we have all understood, it must give us a lasting happiness. In these so called developed economies like US, the statistics shows that 15 % of the people are consuming anti-depressants as they have forgotten how to sleep and lost track of their cool !! Sleeping is a natural state which all of us were doing, right from the time we have been created in our mother’s womb! There is nothing to be learnt for sleeping which is a natural process? If grown up people have to depend on drugs for forgetting themselves for doing mundane things like sleeping, it means that there is something fundamentally wrong with their being which has led to a non-alignment with the nature.
If material wealth can give everything we want, then why people who have reached the pinnacle of fame, wealth and power like Michel Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Marlin Monroe have killed themselves at the end? One common factor that had driven them crazy was “seeking solace” through drugs! This proves the point that they were the most “un-happy people” on earth. The so called causes for the happiness like wealth, fame and power did not work for them as we all believe. Come on; let us learn from other’s mistake as we have no time to commit all of them by ourselves!
One of my friend has told me about a friend of his, who is a professor in one of the famous B-schools in the US. He was grinding his teeth while he was asleep and lost three fourth of his teeth in the process! In the definition of modern people in the US, he is said to be most accomplished and successful professor! His loss of teeth is the proof of the “hidden” un-manifested feelings in his sub-conscious mind.
I just saw the latest movie “Karthik calls Karthik” in which the hero who is schizophrenic with suppressed emotions records his own thoughts in the telephone and listens to it as though it is an advice from a good friend!! He ends up believing that it is an advice from an external source till his girl friend brings him back to reality. We are all in a way Schizophrenic within limits like Karthik. It means that we have “accomplished” but not “fulfilled” in life. Fulfilment would give you peace of mind and centring of our being irrespective of your accomplishment.
Then what is fulfillment? Let us explore little bit.
Fulfilment is a state of a being where for no reasons we are happy! Vedic literatures say that our original state of being by default is “Bliss” – “ananda”. Unfortunately, due to wrong conditioning we have lost our ability and got into this syndrome of believing that “accomplishments” will make us happy! Somewhere down the line we are lost and got ourselves mixed up with “comforts” and “happiness”. Comfort is a physical need and happiness is an emotional state. I may be sleeping in a waterbed which may make me comfortable, but I may be miserable emotionally; this makes me “comfortably miserable” as Swami Shukabodananda used to say. We need to clearly demarcate between comfort and happiness.
The main problem with our understanding is, we believe that “we will be happy after the accomplishment” such as possessing a house or a car. For our surprise, the car or the plasma television which gave that “feeling change” on the day of acquiring lost its ability to do the same a month later!! Vedanta asks the question that if the material objects have the perennial ability to make us happy; it has to do the same all the time; which is not true!
The message is “the feeling change” called happiness has happened internally which we started believing that was a result of an external object! This has led to the next chase for another “Object” to create the “feeling change” once again and this chase for the wild cat in a dark room starts while there is no cat in the room!! Like our friend Karthik in the movie we start recording the next voice of ourselves for the next bout of happiness. In the process, we create our own misery and end up in “Elvis Presley syndrome”.
Then, am I advocating not chasing wealth? No way! All that I am advocating is “don’t chase wealth believing that it will make you happy”. There is no cause and effect relationship with objects and happiness! There may be cause and effect relationship between “comfort” and “objects / gadgets”. An air-conditioner can make you comfortable but not happy! Chase air-conditioner for comfort and not for happiness.
“Don’t Chase Happiness from material objects” instead “Chase material objects since you are happy”; this is the message from all learned people of Vedas. If you can understand the deep insight in this statement, it will transform your life dramatically. The result will be different from these two different paradigms. When you accomplish something for happiness will be different from accomplishing since you are happy!
As Rishi Prabhakar used to say “The quality of food cooked by a mother who is happy while cooking will be different from a mother who will be happy after cooking!” The former is happy before the cooking and the later is happy after the cooking!! This also applies in a corporate world where people working for their livelihood are different from happy people working to build the institution.
- Accomplishment is aggrandizing wealth, power and fame
- Accomplishment is a wrong measure of success
- Accomplishment can never make you happy for ever as it has no ability to do so
- Accomplishment gives you a temporary sense of joy which is a “feeling change in you” and is illusive like a “mirage”
- The so called accomplished people are the most miserable people as more they accomplished more they became miserable
- The accomplished people were searching for happiness from their accomplishments and got disappointed as it is not there!
- Don’t mix up happiness and material pursuits as they are independent and have no cause and effect relationships
- Fulfillment is a sense of satisfaction within without any external factors
- We are born with fulfillment as ananda is our very nature
- Don’t postpone your happiness in anticipation of a material object. It is like “preparing your bed the whole night to sleep!”
- Many people are “preparing to live” and don’t live!
- Life is a fleeting experience and postponing to be happy is like chasing a mirage for water
- Don’t do things hoping for happiness; instead Do things since you are happy. The former will give mediocre result and the latter will yield spectacular outcome.
- Live here and now with happiness as that is all the reality