When I was growing up, I noticed that everyone around me was trying so hard to find happiness, but no-one seemed actually happy, including me. My spiritual teacher, Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda, once described that in our search for happiness in this world, we are like nomads wandering through the desert in search of a cool, shady oasis where we can quench our burning thirst. Every now and then we see a mirage and dash towards it. But as soon as we get there, we realize it’s only sand. If we dig deep enough we might find water, but the few drops aren’t enough to satisfy our thirst.
Similarly, in our journey through life, we strive to achieve that which we think will bring happiness only to realize after attaining it, the anticipated happiness doesn’t materialize. Whatever happiness we experience isn’t enough to truly satisfy us. The secret to achieving lasting, deeply satisfying happiness is a mystery that’s baffled people since the beginning of time. But the key to real happiness can be found in the ancient science of yoga.
Yoga wisdom sheds light on the different kinds and degrees of happiness available to us. There’s the happiness derived from relationships, sensual pleasures, material acquisitions and achievements, wealth, power, name, fame, and so on. But there’s also a completely different type of happiness known as transcendental happiness.
By contemplating upon the following yoga wisdom, reflecting on your own experiences, and observing the lives and experiences of others, you can come to realize that the happiness derived from sense enjoyment, wealth, power, fame, and so on, is imperfect.
The first imperfection of such happiness is that it’s temporary. For example, yesterday, you may have enjoyed watching a movie or enjoying a tasty meal—but where is the happiness you experienced now? You may have felt happy after buying some clothes last season—but how long did that “happiness” last?
The second defect of material happiness is that it comes with suffering. You may have heard the saying ‘every rose has it’s thorn’. The rose, although beautiful and fragrant, has sharp, piercing thorns. Similarly, the happiness we experience in this world comes with pain and suffering. There are endless examples of transient happiness followed by misery.
For example, you may enjoy shopping, but as soon as the thrill of the purchase wears off, you feel guilty for spending too much. Finding the romance of your dreams may have you walking on clouds, but inevitably, you’ll have to suffer the agonizing pain of separation at death or before. The bundle of joy who once brought great pleasure into your life breaks your heart if he becomes a self-centered, self-destructive teenager, or when he moves away from home.
The third flaw with worldly happiness is that it doesn’t satisfy our hearts. Even when we experience some happiness, we feel empty deep inside. This inner emptiness may manifest as loneliness, a craving, a gnawing, or feeling that something is missing or wrong in our lives. We might try to fill our inner emptiness with food, movies, or sex or we may avoid facing it by staying endlessly busy.
Even celebrities who “have it all”—name, fame, power, and the means to acquire every imaginable sensual pleasure—find they’re still empty. This is why the Rolling Stones, after decades of enjoying a life of fame, power, and every imaginable pleasure, are still singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”
In addition to the imperfections of worldly happiness, our happiness is generally dependent on our external circumstances. Using the analogy of the ocean, our sense of well-being depends on the condition of the “ocean.” When the ocean is calm and things are going our way, we feel happy, sometimes elated. When things get rough, we may feel depressed and worry that our lives are falling apart. When the ocean water is frigid and waves tower over us, we may fear we won’t survive.
The secret to achieving ever-lasting, ever-increasing happiness
The happiness derived from sense enjoyment, fame, wealth, power, and so on isn’t inherently evil or bad—it’s just imperfect.
The question is, does perfect happiness exist? Is there such thing as happiness that isn’t temporary or a cause of suffering—a happiness that actually does completely satisfy our hearts? The answer is yes—absolutely!
You have in your heart an unlimited reservoir of happiness that’s so sweet and pure, it’s beyond your power to imagine. When you drink this life-giving elixir of happiness, you’ll be freed from the shackles of material cravings and the darkness of fear. As you relish more of this sweet nectar, you’ll experience ever increasing blissfulness and joyfulness beyond imagination.
The happiness I am describing is different from that which is commonly known as a happiness which is the opposite of sadness. Rather, I am speaking about a transcendental happiness—a happiness which is so deep and constant it remains whether we are in an external condition of “unhappiness/distress” or “happiness.”
As long as you are in this world, there will be times when you’ll experience a variety of emotions and feelings, including “sadness” and “happiness.” But deep inside, in the core of your heart, you can possess a deep happiness and sense of well-being. It is this deep happiness that transcends the ups and downs of material existence. Real happiness is like the ocean depth that remains calm in-spite of the turbulence on the surface.
To be immersed in an ocean of blissfulness is your natural condition. It’s the goal of yoga to achieve such transcendental happiness.
Wai Lana is an internationally recognized, beautiful & charming yoga teacher. She is a mother of three, grandmother of six, song writer, author, and genuine advocate for helping people from all walks of life attain inner peace and well-being. Wai Lana was honoured in 2016 with India’s prestigious Padma Shri Award for her extraordinary achievements in popularizing yoga globally through her television series, videos and books. Wai Lana Yoga TV series has been broadcast daily to hundreds of millions of people around the world, on five continents including North and South America, Asia, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Wai Lana has produced several yoga DVDs for people of all levels, published books, designed kids’ yoga products, recorded music albums, released a meditation kit, developed a complete line of yoga gear, and has her own line of all-natural snacks.