On Attaining Happiness
by Paramhansa Yogananda
To seek happiness outside ourselves is like trying to lasso a cloud. Happiness is not a thing: It is a state of mind. It must be lived. Neither worldly power nor moneymaking schemes can ever capture happiness. Mental restlessness results from an outward focus of awareness. Restlessness itself guarantees that happiness will remain elusive. Temporal power and money are not states of mind. Once obtained, they only dilute a person’s happiness. Certainly they cannot enhance it.
The more widely we scatter our energies, the less power we have left to direct toward any specific undertaking. Octopus habits of worry and nervousness rise from ocean depths in the subconscious, fling tentacles around our minds, and crush to death all that we once knew of inner peace.
True happiness is never to be found outside the Self. Those who seek it there are as if chasing rainbows among the clouds!
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Like the short-lived roses, countless human beings appear daily in earth’s garden. In their youth, they open fresh, hopeful buds, welcoming life’s promises and nodding with eager expectancy to every breeze of sense-enjoyment. And then—the petals begin to fade; expectancy turns to disappointment. In the twilight of old age they droop, gray in disillusionment.
Mark the rose’s example: Such is the destiny of human beings who live centered in the senses.
Analyze, with understanding born of introspection, the true nature of sense-pleasures. For even as you delight in them, don’t you sense in your heart a chilling breath of doubt and uncertainty? You cling to them, yet know in your heart that someday they cannot but betray you.
Closer scrutiny reveals that sense-indulgence actually mocks its votaries. What it offers is not freedom, but soul-bondage. The way of escape lies not, as most people imagine, down moss-soft lanes of further indulgence, but up hard, rocky paths of self-control.
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People forget that the price of luxury is an ever-increasing expenditure of nerve and brain energy, and the consequent shortening of their natural life span.
Materialists become so engrossed in the task of making money that they can’t relax enough to enjoy their comforts even after they’ve acquired them.
How unsatisfactory is modern life! Just look at the people around you. Ask yourself, are they happy? See the sad expressions on so many faces. Observe the emptiness in their eyes.
A materialistic life tempts mankind with smiles and assurances, but is consistent only in this: It never fails, eventually, to break all its promises!
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As a man allows himself to depend increasingly on circumstances outside himself for his physical, mental, and spiritual nourishment, never looking within to his own source, he gradually depletes his reserves of energy.
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Possession of material riches, without inner peace, is like dying of thirst while bathing in a lake. If material poverty is to be avoided, spiritual poverty is to be abhorred! It is spiritual poverty, not material lack, that lies at the core of all human suffering.
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The material scientist uses the forces of nature to make the environment of man better and more comfortable. The spiritual scientist uses mind-power to enlighten the soul.
Mind-power shows man the way to inner happiness, which gives him immunity to outer inconveniences.
Of the two types of scientist, which would you say renders the greater service? The spiritual scientist, surely.
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Pure love, sacred joy, poetic imagination, kindness, wisdom, peace, and happiness are felt inside first in the mind or the heart, and are then transmitted through the nervous system to the physical body. Understand and feel the superior joys of the inner life, and you will prefer them to the fleeting pleasures of the outer world.
All physical pleasures arise on the surface of the body and are experienced by the mind through the nervous system. You love the outer pleasures of the senses because you happened to be captured by them first, and then you remained their prisoner. Even as some people get used to jail, so we mortals like the outward pleasures, which shut off the joys from within.
For the most part, the senses promise us a little temporary happiness, but give us sorrow in the end. Virtue and inner happiness do not promise much, but in the end always give lasting happiness. That is why I call the lasting, inner happiness of the soul, ‘Joy’ and the impermanent sense thrills, ‘Pleasure.’
Outer environment and the company you keep are of paramount importance. The specific outer environment of early life is especially important in stimulating or stifling the inner instinctive environment of a child. A child is usually born with a prenatal mental environment. This is stimulated if the outer environment is like the inner environment, but if the outer environment is different from it, the inner environment is likely to be suppressed. An instinctively bad child may be suppressed and made good in good company, and vice versa, while an instinctively good child placed in good company will, no doubt, increase his goodness.
Have you thought seriously why you love fleeting, deceiving pleasures in preference to the lasting peace and joy of the Soul—found so distinctly and ever-increasingly in meditation? It is because in the beginning you happened to cultivate the habit of indulging in sense pleasures and did not cultivate the superior joy of the inner life found in meditation. Understand and feel the superior joys of the inner life, and you will prefer them to the fleeting pleasures of the outer world.
It is important to differentiate between your needs and your wants. Your needs are few, while your wants can be limitless. In order to find freedom and bliss, minister only to your needs. Stop creating limitless wants and pursuing the will-o’-the-wisp of false happiness. The more you depend upon conditions outside yourself for happiness, the less happiness you will experience.
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Fostering the desire for luxuries is the surest way to increase misery. Do not be the slave of things or possessions. Boil down even your needs. Spend your time in search of lasting happiness or bliss. The unchangeable, immortal soul is hidden behind the screen of your consciousness, on which are painted dark pictures of disease, failure, death, and so forth. Lift the veil of illusive change and be established in your immortal nature. Enthrone your fickle consciousness on the changelessness and calmness within you, which is the throne of God. Let your soul manifest bliss night and day.
Happiness can be secured by the exercise of self-control, by cultivating habits of plain living and high thinking, and by spending less money, even though earning more. Make an effort to earn more so that you can be the means of helping others to help themselves. One of Life’s unwritten laws is that he who helps others to abundance and happiness will always be helped in return, and he will become more and more prosperous and happy. This is a law of happiness which cannot be broken. Is it not better to live simply and frugally and grow rich in reality?
Excerpt from How To Be Happy All The Time
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