Decide to be Happy
To some, the idea in the title of today’s blog sounds too simple, or sentimental to be true, yet I have found that happiness, or sadness, or a host of emotions, are a state of mind, or more correctly, are a result of whether we remember our spiritual, joyful nature, or not. Happiness is a choice we make, moment by moment, by what we focus on, and who we think we are. Many great persons in the world also know the power of our focus. Abraham Lincoln once wisely observed that “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” and he was a man who underwent many reverses, and hardships in his life. We all have tremendous power to be happy and to help others, but this power comes from the soul, who is a spark of Krishna.
As eternal spiritual beings our nature is joy, peace, satisfaction, and in relationship to Krishna, everlastingly, blissful celebration. While we live in the world, and strive for various goals, or solutions to personal or world problems, one of the most important components of our success is the joy and spiritual consciousness we bring to life. In spiritual, or Krishna consciousness, we will have peace and clarity, and the detachment necessary to uncover real and lasting answers. The light of spirituality can illuminate the world. Our guru’s teacher, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati taught us that the only scarcity in the material world, is the lack of Krishna consciousness. Part of our task, as aspiring devotees of Krishna, is to realize the truth and profundity of such statements, seeing them not as pious clichés, but as deep realities to live our life by, in the most practical, everyday sense.
All the books written by Shrila Prabhupada, our previous great teachers (acharyas), and those who represent them, are to share how to revive our Krishna consciousness. Such great personalities and their followers understand that for every problem there is a spiritual solution, and for many persons, finding happiness is a serious problem! If we study our body and mind, we find that our habituated nature is to be dissatisfied, and our quest is to alleviate our feeling of incompleteness or perception of lack in our lives. Most of us are conditioned to think that our happiness comes from achieving something, or getting something. This is a recipe for failure since all material accomplishments and things are temporary, and we are left with our unfulfilled self, even with many titles and possessions. If we are fortunate, our perception of dissatisfaction and misery will be a catalyst for searching for a source of fulfillment beyond matter.
If we are to be aware of our spiritual, blissful nature, then we have to change our consciousness, or awareness, from matter to spirit. Albert Einstein reflected that, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking which created them.” And the best “level of thinking” is to be on the spiritual platform, from which all illumination comes. Thus, beginning the day with spiritual practice, by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, and reading books such as the Bhagavad Gita, is essential. Then our task throughout the day is to remember Krishna, and what we have understood. Life is the field of practice, to apply spiritual principles. This is not a one day affair, but a minute by minute, everyday practice.
Although associating with advanced spiritual devotees of Krishna is essential for our progress in bhakti, challenges and difficult people are our also our great benefactors. The very situations and people we want to avoid can help us remember Krishna, and to choose the energy of higher consciousness, love, understanding, and spiritual radiance. Spiritual consciousness means to apply the maxim that whatever person or situation I find myself in is meant for my highest good. This requires practice, prayer, study, and meditation, and seeing life with a spiritual eye beyond external appearances. While we will naturally experience sadness and disappointment with persons and situations, inside we can be joyful in any environment, by remembering that we are a spiritual being, connected with Krishna. From the spiritual platform there are no problems, only opportunities to serve, love, and remember Krishna.
In the beginning verses in the Bhagavad Gita we are encouraged to tolerate the dualities and problems of life: “O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed. O best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.” [ Bg 2.14-15]
While this seems daunting enough and can only be done for the long term through spiritual consciousness, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is the post graduate study of God, takes us further. More than tolerating dualities or reverses in life, we are encouraged to actually welcome them, seeing the Universe as friendly, being the energy of Krishna. “My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words, and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.” [Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.14.8] Bhaktivinoda Thakur teaches us that all troubles encountered in Krishna’s service are, with spiritual consciousness, perceived as the cause of great happiness. In devotional service joy and sorrow are equally great riches, for they both destroy the misery of ignorance.
Therefore, for those on the path of bhakti, as we live our life, strive for goals, obtain an education, develop a career, or work for the good of our family—or the world—our spiritual occupation is to remember and serve Krishna, and to be a cause of upliftment, encouragement, and light for others--at the very least, for those in our immediate circle. Thus we can be a joyful, compassionate spiritual being living in the temporary world, full of forgetful, suffering souls. The higher our spiritual vibration, or the more we remember, love, and endeavor to serve Krishna, the more we help ourselves and everyone else. We can choose to be happy by remembering our spiritual nature and connection to the most blissful, loving, all-attractive Krishna, and this is a great contribution to the world!