Our happiness depends far more on the thoughts within than on the things without
Our culture makes us believe that we will become happy by improving the things around us – clothes, cellphones and cars, for example.
We might get the best car in the market, but if greed soils our thoughts, our joy will evaporate away as soon as a better car appears. If envy muddies our thoughts, that evaporated joy will return as the searing steam of jealousy towards those who own that car.
A feverish, even fanatical, obsession with improving externals is characteristic of the mode of passion. And this mode breeds misery, as the Bhagavad-gita (14.16) states succinctly:rajasas tu phalam duhkham.
Real happiness begins with improvement of our thoughts. However, reforming thoughts is not simply a matter of choosing better thoughts, as many self-help teachers propagate. Our thoughts have run along certain grooves like those of greed and envy for years, decades and even lifetimes. Even if we choose to think differently, our thoughts will return to their habitual grooves as soon as we stop choosing conscientiously.
To help make this process of choosing less laborious, we need to find alternative grooves that take our thoughts to equally if not more attractive destinations that those alluring us externally. The various limbs of bhakti-yoga offer us multiple such grooves that take our thoughts to the all-attractive Supreme Person, Krishna. The more we hear about Krishna and serve him, the more our thoughts become habituated to running through the grooves of devotional service towards Krishna. When we are thus spiritually enriched within, then we can intelligently choose which things to improve without.
And ultimately improving the thoughts within brings about the best improvement in the things without – it elevates us at the end of our life to Krishna’s abode for everlasting happiness.
“The result of pious action is pure and is said to be in the mode of goodness. But action done in the mode of passion results in misery, and action performed in the mode of ignorance results in foolishness.”