It is said that we are lucky to be born as human beings, the only living creatures who can enjoy the natural environment around us. What we notice however is that most of us, whether rich or poor, are unhappy. There is a constant feeling of incompleteness in our lives. We feel unfulfilled, without knowing why. We are not happy or content being just as we are. In Hindu philosophy, this is referred to as ‘Maya’, meaning ‘delusion’. We are told unless we achieve victory over ourselves, whatever we may do, feelings of inadequacy, sorrow and fear will always remain.
I once heard someone saying, to make progress in life, you should be satisfied being unsatisfied. The whole process, I find, always remains a delusion. The search for unending desire and ambition keeps us in the vicious cycle of relativity, where we are constantly in a flux of momentary periods of happiness and sadness. We may have all the worldly comforts, yet discomfort still remains in some form or the other. Most of us, in fact, enjoy this duality of life, so long as the materialistic comforts remain. I am one such example, but the aspiration to get out of this delusion is always there.
The reason for this is our unpredictable mind which is constantly changing, with thoughts, emotions and actions, leading to unending problems. Inspite of all our wants being fulfilled, the dilemma remains. Nature has also endowed us with the gift of choice, and choice creates conflicts. Animals don’t have to use their minds, but act only by instinct. Man’s intellect leads him to be judgmental, as well as his actions make him proactive and reactive. Unfortunately, this kind of living with constant inner agitation makes us feel inadequate. The happiness we seek is never complete.
Moreover, our values keep changing. What was desirable once may not be so now. We want to acquire, then renounce, then reacquire something else. Once again we are torn between practicality and emotional needs. Unable to handle this, we wish to get away and achieve peace and tranquility in our lives. The desire for more is relative, as there will always be more of what one has. Eventually we have to stop chasing “Maya”, always a delusion. The ones who have, or those who don’t, neither are happy. That is the dichotomy of life.
The answer to this, if explained philosophically, is equally complex. In order to have peace and tranquility within, actions must be performed without reaction. An attitude of offering, along with silent acceptance of the outcome, is needed. To further elaborate, we can control our actions through choices, but we cannot control the results. Removing the urge to want more for ourselves, we will become compassionate and selfless. Certain practices we may follow can lead us on this journey, away from the rollercoaster of choices and conflicts, on a more peaceful and relaxed path.
Firstly, we can start by being more observant in the choices we make, which should always be positive. Then bring in compassion and love, emitting not only for near and dear ones, but for all around us. From here we move on to the art of giving, rather than being concerned only about ourselves. Truth comes next, being true to ourselves and making it a habit, even when we are pushed into a corner. Have faith, as without faith life seems hollow, with constant doubts and suspicions, thus increasing our doubts and conflicts.
Now comes the most difficult path, that of detachment, removing the Ego – I, me and mine – from everything. The root cause of our problems is the attachment to possessions and desire for more. If we can somehow be mature enough to separate ourselves from all this, we will enter a new world altogether, a world without fear of loss. Fear is the most negative emotion, having the power to destroy us completely. So lastly, control fear by controlling the need to possess. Hence the saying – Fearlessness is next to Godliness. Another way to understand this is from our semiconscious state of mind. We also live through our dreams, choices, comparisons and compulsions.
We are told there are three levels of Reality. The first is illusory, where the real is, in fact, unreal, but our conviction makes us believe otherwise. Second is relative Reality, where the whole universe does exist, apparently real. However, for each of us, its existence is relative – happiness to sadness, good to bad, truth to lie, God to the devil, etc. Nothing is good or bad, unless it is related to something meaningful for you. To live in harmony, everything has to be compared to, or evaluated against, it’s opposite. For e.g., to appreciate ‘hot’ we have to be aware of ‘cold’. Something that is good for me may not be the same for someone else. This again is relative and not necessarily real. Here lies the delusion. We are living in relative reality, which is constantly changing, thereby bringing periods of happiness and sadness in our lives.
The third is Absolute Reality, which exists only in the present. It has no link to past or future, emotions or planning, comparing or judging. It does not connect to attachments or fears. It is reality in its purest form, with total consciousness and awareness. In Hinduism this is referred to as ‘Satchitanand’, meaning, to exist (sat) in consciousness; (chit) is bliss (anand).