Happiness is a state of being, not a status symbol

People often pretend to be happy. No matter how distressed they are, they plaster a smile on their face in front of others and say they are fine.

Why the facade? Because in today’s world happiness has become a status symbol. People who are successful are expected to be happy. As everyone wants to be considered successful, they act as if they are happy.

Does the foregoing mean we always go around with a long face? No, certainly not. The point here is that we need to unsentimentally re-examine our conception of happiness.

We often equate happiness with the trappings of success such as possessions and positions. These can titillate temporarily, but they can’t satisfy sustainably. We may have the best sensual pleasures, but if we are internally agitated, we just can’t be happy. Happiness requires, first and foremost, a calm consciousness, a steady state of being. Unfortunately, as long as we conceive of happiness as a status symbol, that conception blocks us from pursuing real happiness.

We need courage to shed the pretense of happiness so that we can enquire about real happiness. Arjuna demonstrates this courage at the start of the Bhagavad-gita. He had been following the standard chart to a successful life for a warrior: fight heroically and gain a flourishing kingdom. But when circumstantially he had to fight against his venerable elders, he was overwhelmed by ambivalence (02.06) and agony (02.01). Acknowledging that no victory, however glorious, would dissipate his distress (02.08), he determinedly sought spiritual enlightenment (02.07). Thus emerged the Gita’s wisdom that helped him understand his essential identity and ultimate purpose. Being thus illumined, he became situated in a state of divine harmony that brought him calm, clarity and confidence (18.73)

By similarly seeking spiritual realization, we too can attain the state of lasting happiness.

Think it over:

  • Why do people pretend to be happy?
  • What is wrong with pretending to be happy?
  • How was Arjuna’s crying a courageous act?

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